...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Friday, May 07, 2004
      ( 11:46 AM )
Dialogue Day

Well, I guess I picked a good day to do some dialogue with LaShawn. This morning she had quite a post on her blog regarding the Iraq war, but more broadly, our country's standing in the world. Please read her post first before you read my response, so that you have the entire context. Remember, this is a dialogue, so neither side needs to convince the other of their point of view, just try to express it in an understandable way so the other side can appreciate the opposite view.

First, my impression from her post is that she believes that what we are doing IS a holy war and we are fighting off Islamic countries whose only intent is to destroy us. She feels that it shouldn't matter what other countries think about us or what we do, and she feels that the press is determined to crucify Bush (but that there was no outcry against Clinton's lewd behavior). It is an example of how I feel baffled by conservatives who see the same information I do and yet translate it completely differently. In the dialogue below, I'm going to answer directly to her as if what she's saying is to me.

LaShawn Barber:
I'd never be president of this
country. My foreign policy would stink. I couldn't care less
what Europeans, Arabs or any other non-Americans think
of the United States.

My blood boils whenever someone starts telling me about
France's opinion of us. France? The same country that let
Hitler march right in and take over? Heaven help us.

Me: The first issue here is that I believe that it IS important what other countries think. We are not the only nation on earth and if we want to maintain our superiority in terms of power, trade, influence, etc., we cannot live in an isolated bubble and not consider the views and needs of the other nations. If we want to give up those things and live isolated and only involved with ourselves, then, yes, we could probably just ignore them. But we would never be able to maintain a place on the world stage if we did so. We can bully and browbeat and invade as much as we want, but sooner or later, we cannot stand up against a united front of the rest of the world if we managed to completely isolate ourselves from all of them.

From another perspective, we NEED other countries. We use up their resources, we buy their goods, we stage military strikes from their land, we get rich from their products and people. Not something I particularly like about us, but conservatives, in their love of the market and "free trade" would not like it if we so alienated those nations and thus were not able to take advantage of them anymore. From my own view, I would prefer that the US look at the rest of the world as partners, so that we could lift up those who are in the worst conditions - and work with others to defeat those that would harm us all. In the end, we are not better than other countries and the more we act like it, the more they will begin to believe that we are disposable. Not a good prospect.

On the comment about France: I have heard this so much since 9/11 - for some reason many conservatives seem to have this all-out disgust for France, the country that actually helped insure our independence from Britain. If "allowing" Hitler to invade them was so bad, why are we not criticized for coddling Chamberlain and agreeing to allow Hitler to invade Austria and Poland? Why are we blameless in that we turned away Jews who were trying to escape Nazi Germany? How are we better than a continent that was overrun by Nazi forces for years before we decided to step in and help? This kind of slamming France for no reason just seems silly. They are a sovereign nation and certainly have as much right as we do to decide for themselves what they will support, how they will protect their people and what they think of being put under more danger due to our invasion of Iraq.

LB: Muslims hate us because we're infidels and their
"holy book" commands them to kill us, not because a
bunch of Muslims were naked in front of a woman. Yes,
I'm generalizing but so what. To Muslims, it's still the 8th
century. Progress (science, technology) and freedom
have passed them by; they make war with their neighbors
and will not stop until we're all dead or they are.
Crusades, my eye!

So Muslim "leaders" and their public relations team in the
Democratic party are dismayed and disgusted by us?
Please! It's vomit-inducing to see leftists and America-
haters pile on a decent man like President Bush yet again.
They are the ultimate player-haters.

Me: In fact, Muslims were the leaders in the world of science, technology, trade, the arts, language, literature and culture. Without them, the western world would never have made the advances needed to step out of the Dark Ages. As for Progress passing them by, I guess that depends on how you look at it. Once the Western world became powerful, it colonized most Islamic nations and so any "progress" those countries could have made would only have been at the mercy of their colonizers. Indeed, colonization breeds very, very deep resentment - the oppression of a people is not something that is cured in a generation (just ask the Irish). In fact, it could be said that, for instance, Saudi Arabia, made the most important "Progress" of all - the Saud family figured out how to enslave the US with oil and became rich from it.

There are several Islamic nations that live with a divided church and state (Turkey, Egypt, Jordan). As for freedom passing them by and only wanting war with their neighbors - take a step back: who has started the most recent wars over there? I think on review, you might find it divided between an insane person (Saddam Hussein), Israel and us. In fact, Arab nations have a very strong leadership alliance and work very hard together as a unit for their best interests - and why shouldn't they? That's what every other country in the world does.

As for Muslim leaders having Democratic party public relations teams, you might want to double check that. In fact, as with Saudi Arabia again, it is REPUBLICAN contributors and sponsors that provide legal defense and public relations assistance.

LB: The media machine is bombarding the world with images,
taken out of context, of naked prisoners of war being
humiliated. We don't know the whole story about what
went on. If I were paranoid I'd think it was a set-up.
Given the America-hatred around the world, who'd be
stupid enough to allow themselves to be photographed?
But I'm not paranoid.

The U.S. is being depicted as a tyrant. There is no moral
clarity among the left in this country. To equate the free
world with brutal dictators, rapists and murderers is
evidence that extreme liberalism is a mental disorder,
to borrow the sentiment from one of my favorite radio
show hosts. These people need psychiatric help before
they get us all killed! They make me sick.

Me: I'm not sure what "context" you want for pictures that are evidence of abuse and torture. As for it being a setup, I think that's just your anger talking. It IS humiliating, embarrassing and shameful and we all feel it. It is our country represented by those fools who did that. You're right, who WOULD be stupid enough to do it? Evidently, there are some. But worse is the fact that the abuse is systemic and that we started off our aggression by declaring last year that we would not be bound by the Geneva Convention. You are also justifying the torture and abuse of prisoners (and homicides in a few cases) based on your assumption that these were criminals of the highest order. Is that how OUR justice system works? In fact, many prisoners being held by the US in Iraq are citizens swept up in internment sweeps and held in order to try and turn them into informers or get information from them. The ones who ARE criminals are not facing any sort of judicial system, something that if we AREN'T tyrants, I would think we would have insitituted to show the Iraqis that we were serious about freedom and democracy.

I'm not sure where your venom for liberals comes from, but if you're only listening to a conservative's viewpoint of what a liberal is saying, then you may not be getting the full picture. I don't know how liberals would kill us, but I do know that Bush's ill-fated invasion of Iraq took away from our efforts to find and fight terrorists, including the one responsible for killing thousands of our citizens, and in fact we are NOT safer because of the actions that have been taken in the last year.

LB: Where was the outrage when Bill Clinton turned the
White House into a whore house? Where is the outrage
that we're a debauched nation where perverts have
taken over the debate and trying everything they can to
destroy our precious freedom?

Me: Okay, this I REALLY don't get. The airwaves, the media, the nation was full of outrage and disgust for 3 straight years over Clinton (actually 8 if you count the stuff before Monica). In fact, the entire Congress and Senate held public hearings, daily voiced disgust and ultimately voted to impeach him! There were daily front page stories from your most hated newspapers villifying him and accusing him of everything from murderer to rapist. His actions were horribly embarassing and this country suffered because of it. But how is it that the "perverts" have taken over and destroyed freedom, when it's the conservatives who have retained total power, and have in fact managed to actually take freedoms away through the Patriot Act? How is it that Clinton's lies and misleading the country about his sex life, which however horrible and disgusting it was (I am no fan of Clinton's) are worse that Bush's lies and misleading the country into a war that has resulted in so much death and misery? How is the Clinton administration responsible when the Bush administration has virtually reversed everything Clinton did, and in addition has distorted the powers of the Executive Branch by hiding away in secrecy evidence of treasonous acts like betraying a CIA officer, quid pro quo dealing with oil companies in designing national policy or lying about the cost of a prescription drug plan that will make things worse for American seniors? How are these few examples NOT evidence of a leadership that does exactly what you accuse the Clinton administration of doing?

LB: Our men and women are not in Disneyland-Iraq;
they are trying to crush a Muslim scourge, a growing
cancer on the world--not just the U.S.--that is trying
to destroy healthy cells of freedom. Does it not occur
to liberals that there is no reasoning with cancer? The
disease does not stop; it must be eradicated. Maybe if
they'd analogize militant Islam to an unwanted "clump
of cells" growing inside the womb, they'd finally get it!

Me: I can totally see that you are angry because I don't think you mean that Muslims are scourge on the world. I agree that our soldiers aren't in Disneyland - don't I know it, especially every time my brother gets sent over. But it would be a lot nicer, in my view, if our government actually provided the troop strength and equipment to make it more probable that more of them would come home alive.

I don't see any liberals trying to "reason" with terrorists. In fact, I have seen a lot of liberals questioning why we didn't keep our resources focused on finding and killing Osama Bin Laden. It would seem to me that if we were truly focused on killing the "cancer" of terrorism, that's where we would have focused our energies. If we were truly concerned about getting rid of fundamental Islamists, then we wouldn't maintain our chumy relationships with Saudia Arabia and Pakistan. If we seriously invaded Iraq to bring freedom to the Iraqi people, why did we not have a plan to do that? Why did we from the get go not listen to military leaders who said we need far more troops? Why did we not stop the looting and lawlessness? Why did we just fire the entire Iraqi army and provide nowhwere for them to go? Why did we install in leadership a man vilified by the Iraqis and the neighboring nations?

I know you were really angry today because you feel your admired leader is being attacked without reason. I get really angry too about things that I see as unjust. But I truly don't think it's in our best interests to make Islamic nations our enemies. Not because they are insane with desire to kill us all. In fact, most of them were moderate and conducting quite a bit of diplomacy with us before this.

Here are my brief summaries of my views on some of the issues you brought up today:

1. Representatives of our country DID do harm to human beings and we should apologize for that and seek to amend the situation as best we can. If we do not want to be known for doing these things, a step might be to completely raze that prison and take immediate steps to process prisoners according to a true justice system.

2. I don't believe it's in our nation's best interest to treat the current situation like a war against Muslim countries, or to assume that all Muslim countries intend harm because they simply hate us for being "infidels." Throwing our weight and power around in a way that alienates other nations does us no good. If we instead fostered cooperation and moderacy, especially in the Arab nations (not all of whom are Muslim), we might find that those who would use fundamental islamist beliefs as a foundation for terrorism would be marginalized to the point where they did not have the influence they are fostering today.

To use my favorite example, after the British committed atrocities and basically took over the governing of Northern Ireland, the Irish nationalist and republican population were behind the IRA as it fought against the British occupation and mistreatment of their citizens. But as soon as the Brits realized that they could foster moderateness (and thus eliminate attacks on themselves) by talking with political leaders, public support for the IRA diminished to where it could not function now if it wanted to. Both sides of the conflict can now sit to debate the process by which they all have equal representation in the government and in deciding their future.

If you look to South Africa, the model there also shows that fostering moderate leadership and cooperation leads more quickly to freedom and democracy, even when it means having to take the step to work with your most hated enemy to get to the point where those in charge aren't the most radicalized.

3. "Liberals" aren't some organized band of marauders of this country. A liberal can be many different things, just like a conservative can be. There are moderate conservatives who are pro-choice. There are liberals who support free trade. Lumping them all together doesn't really accomplish anything. Assuming that Liberals as a whole don't have the best interest of this country in mind is also unfair. Some of the best progress this country has ever seen was because of liberal activism (next time you wear a seat belt, get paid for overtime work or get to take Saturday and Sunday off work, or your grandma gets to use Medicare for her doctor visits, you might think of that).

In the end, one major difference is that I believe dissent IS patriotic. I believe that speaking out against injustice is a way to make this country STRONGER. I believe that disagreement with authority is the way that authority is kept in check. Finally, I believe we are citizens of this world - this world that God made. We all have equal claim to this world, and if we, as the country with the most power, don't lead the way in teaching cooperation, mutual-existence and reliance and tolerance, then how can we claim any leadership role at all amongst the people of the world?

Whew..that was long. But interesting. Happy Friday.

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