Actions have consequences

I actually started writing this item on June 6 and set it aside, but the subject of my column today reminds me to finish and post it — that, and the fact that I keep getting more feedback from readers along the lines of that which prompted these thoughts to begin with.

On June 5, I posted an item about a dilemma we had over whether to publish a certain cartoon by Robert Ariail. In reaction to that, Phyllis Overstreet filed the following comment:

Frankly, I find this one much less offensive than the one in today’s (6/5/05)paper. Maybe Mr. Arial needs to be reminded that there is such an animal as patriotic dissent in this country.

She was referring to this cartoon, which makes the point that the Iraq insurgents could findGitmo_4 no greater friend in their cause than American opponents of the war. It was a provocative cartoon, and it succeeded in provoking a number of readers to respond passionately. Ms. Overstreet’s reaction was among the more restrained. For instance, Happy Dawg followed up her comment with the following: "I agree with Phyllis. Arial lost me when he started smoking wingnut crazy weed. Note to Arial: point your toe when goose stepping."

But let’s go back to what Ms. Overstreet said. There is, indeed, such a thing as "patriotic dissent in this country." In fact, if we don’t have it in this country, it’s doubtful you would find it anywhere else. One of our goals in Iraq is to help the people of that country build a system in which they can disagree — peacefully — with their government without fear.

If you oppose the war in Iraq, you have every right to say so. But here’s the rub: The fact that you have the right to do it doesn’t negate the fact that your vocal opposition does indeed give encouragement to the enemy. This puts sincere opponents of the war who also sincerely care about U.S. troops over there in a bit of a moral dilemma. There wouldn’t be much point for insurgents in continuing to kill Americans in Iraq unless they knew each act of terrorism would get big play in U.S. media, and would thereby further weaken the American public’s will.

The sincere protester doesn’t want to help the insurgents. (At least, most don’t. There are some — the sort of folks who would wear Che T-shirts, I suppose — who have such a muddled notion of whom we’re fighting that they confuse the Baathist thugs and foreign fanatics with some sort of popular movement to throw out the "American imperialists.") I know that. Robert Ariail knows that. That’s why, in his cartoon, the protester is looking extremely uncomfortable at being embraced by the insurgent. But no matter how unwilling an ally the protester is, he is still an ally of the terrorist. It’s a matter of having converging goals: Both would like the United States to get out of Iraq. Therefore, no matter how much they may detest each other, if the cause of one is advanced, so is the cause of the other.

There’s nothing anyone can do to change this dynamic. It’s simply the way the world works. Sometimes doing something you have every right to do — something that your conscience tells you you must do — can lead to evil results.  These realities have to be weighed carefully in deciding whether to exercise that right.

I’m sorry if pointing this out causes distress to good people. But the point is to provoke thought, which can often lead to discomfort. You may or may not end up agreeing, but the process of having one’s assumptions challenged is ultimately a salutary one.

For her part, Ms. Overstreet understands that. After posting her initial comment, she came back later to say,

I’d like to add that I think Robert is a great editorial cartoonist and that even though I didn’t care for his 6/5 cartoon, I was glad you ran it. He does exactly what he is supposed to do, and he does it eloquently and elegantly, with just enough wiseacre to make it entertaining …

I would say the same about her criticism of the cartoon. I appreciate her posting it. That’s what the editorial page, and this blog, are all about — people of differing views coming together to try to understand each other a little better.

8 thoughts on “Actions have consequences

  1. Mark Whittington

    Dear Mr. Warthen,
    The comparison you make between the current war in Iraq and the heroic struggle against fascism, which our fathers and grandfathers fought-is false. Fascism (the corporate state) was the inevitable result of unchecked republican government. The right-wing ideology of one leader, one people, one party, one nation was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people and the near extermination of Jews in Europe.
    The Nazis were funded by German corporations and they took control of Germany by eliminating trade unions and the right to strike. They cut inheritance taxes and passed the burden on to the middle class. German corporations were rewarded with massive government subsidies while the property of cooperatives was confiscated. The pay of German workers was drastically cut while the public treasury was raided by private capital. Minimum wage and overtime pay laws were diminished or abrogated. Nazism was fascism with a racist makeover-the Nazis scapegoated the Jews for Germany’s problems because of the Jew’s support for strong social welfare policies. Nazis considered Eastern Europeans to be “sub-human”, and they implemented their horrific ideas with utmost efficiency.
    American New Dealers and Social Democrats (and many conservatives) had every reason to believe that not only was America at risk militarily, but that Western Civilization itself was under attack. The Nazis had prepared for war for many years and had developed the blitzkrieg (lightning war) to which every continental western democracy fell. American and British intelligence agencies knew just how close the Germans were to making an atomic bomb and that the Germans had the capability of making dirty bombs with uranium oxide. The Germans had already demonstrated their capability with the V-2 rocket, and they had the A9/A10 assembly (a two stage intercontinental ballistic missile which could reach the US) on the drawing board. If the British had lost the Battle of Britain, and if Hitler hadn’t attacked the Russians when he did, then it was very conceivable that the US would have faced eventual attack. As for the Nazis not having the landing craft for an invasion, it would have been no problem for them to build sufficient shipping once they controlled all of Europe.
    The problem with comparing Iraq to WWII is that in WWII, western democracies were attacked by a fanatical right wing nation. The war with Iraq, on the other hand, was perpetrated by fanatical neo-conservatives (not real conservatives) against a country which never attacked us, and which represented no military threat against us. Granted, Saddam is the scum of the earth and he needed to be removed from power, and he and his regime need to be tried and executed for their many crimes-but Saddam wasn’t responsible for 9-11 and Bush lied about it. There were no weapons of mass destruction, Bush knew it, and he lied about it. I would have supported a war against Saddam if we had gone through the U.N. and created a real coalition of western and Arab countries to support his removal so as to create a palatable Arab democracy in the aftermath. Of course, that was impossible because the very people who started the war hate the U.N. and the entire concept of international law. They hate the idea of due process and jurisprudence. They’ve demeaned the US to the point where we are actually torturing detainees. We’ve refused to even listen to more rational people in Western Europe concerning the foolhardiness of unilateral invasion-especially concerning the Arab sentiment against neo-liberal globalization policies which are bound to destroy their way of life, and what most Arab countries consider anti-Arab bias against the Palestinians. Neo-conservatives have damaged American standing in the world to the point where a pan Arab war against the west may one day ensue-an Iraqi civil war seems inevitable and could spread throughout the entire region-all because of a failed nightmarish vision of global Pax-Americana shared by people like Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Perle. Iraq is turning into a quagmire because the war was based on a bunch of lies to begin with and because the people here who started the war hate pluralistic democracy themselves. They talk a big game of democracy and liberty, but their actions show otherwise.
    Mark Whittington
    P.S. Vocal protest of the war has not given encouragement to the “enemy” nearly as much as our virtual unilateral presence within Iraq has. I told you what would happen long before the war started, and you refused to publish it. Do you remember all of those Friedman pieces you ran in support of the war-remember how you shut those of us who opposed the war out of the debate? Take responsibility man!

  2. kc

    But no matter how unwilling an ally the protester is, he is still an ally of the terrorist. It’s a matter of having converging goals . . .
    I’m dumbfounded that you actually believe this.
    I guess you also believe that George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden are allies, since they shared a goal: The removal of Saddam Hussein from power.
    the insurgents . . . I know that. Robert Ariail knows that. That’s why, in his cartoon, the protester is looking extremely uncomfortable at being embraced by the insurgent.
    Your interpretations of his cartoons certainly are generous. Maybe you could put a good face on Mr. Ariail’s recent cartoon comparing filibusters of judicial candidates to murder by lynching of black Americans.

  3. Mike Cakora

    I understand that you don’t like Bush and are willing to ascribe nefarious motives to him, so let’s try a little reason and truth.
    Many on the left, most recently Tom Turnipseed in his column “Reason And Truth Can Prevail” published in The State 6/11/2005 cite the Downing Street memo from mid 1992. Nowhere in the memos do participants mention Bush connecting 9/11 with Saddam. What is cited is the Bush Administration’s connecting Saddam to terrorism. But Mr. Turnipseed ignore a fact that’s quite clear in the memos – the Brits believed that Saddam had WMD and would likely use them against Kuwait and invading forces. When you assert that Bush lied about WMD, you imply that he knew something that the Brits did not and hid his knowledge from them. You have no evidence, nor is there any in the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Iraq that the administration lied about the existence of WMD.
    As for the existence of WMD in pre-war Iraq, even Charles Duelfer’s Iraq Survey Group has not ruled out the possibility that they existed. Their report notes that people, money, and materials, possibly including WMD, were smuggled out of Iraq in the months before March 2003. They were unable to complete its investigation and are unable to rule out the possibility that WMD was evacuated to Syria before the war. There’s also the bipartisan Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction whose report came out a few months ago. It doesn’t support your assertions about Bush lying about WMD either. If you are going make an argument, please find supporting facts.
    You write that you “would have supported a war against Saddam” and then state conditions that in retrospect are impossible, but not because Bush and crew hate the UN, international law, and the ideas of due process and jurisprudence. Er, didn’t Bush get the Senate to go along, and didn’t he even get the UN to resolve again? As for allies, the self-interest of Mid-East rulers, the politics of some European countries, and Saddam’s talent for sharing his wealth kept a lot of folks on the sidelines. But we did have a majority of European nations, the silent help of some Arab states, most of the Anglosphere (what’s up with them Canucks, eh?), and the Mongolians, the kind of folks I’d like on my side when the going gets tough.
    But throughout your poorly supported tirade it’s evident that you’re allowing ideology and hatred to fuel your thinking. Why not try taking apart Robert Kagan’s column it today’s Washington Post (free registration required)? In a way it’s a great companion piece to Brad’s column because he asks “what if” about other wars too.
    America’s enemies know we’re strong, but they know well our big weakness – we can have trouble maintaining focus over the long haul. We’ll not be defeated on the battlefield, but in our minds. So when the idiot Senator from Illinois equates Gitmo detainment with that of a Hitler, Pol Pot, or Stalin, it should be no surprise that he becomes al Jazeera’s favorite US legislator. Brad’s right – it’s good to criticize, just remember that your words may be cited by our enemies. I’d caution that one should take some care in how one expresses one’s opposition to avoid being quoted by the enemy.
    kc – Cute. Fill in the blanks

  4. kc

    America’s enemies know we’re strong, but they know well our big weakness – we can have trouble maintaining focus over the long haul. We’ll not be defeated on the battlefield, but in our minds.
    Mike, Mike. You really should be careful before you say things like that. Such comments give aid and comfort to our enemy, don’t you know?
    Your lack of faith in the resolve of the American people is disappointing. Maybe if the administration had been more honest upfront about the sacrifices this war would require, or maybe if the administration had taken the time to do a bit more planning, we wouldn’t be seeing this continuing drop in support for the war.
    So when the idiot Senator from Illinois equates Gitmo detainment with that of a Hitler, Pol Pot, or Stalin,
    Not quite. Did you read what he said (or hear it)? Read the report Senator Durbin cited, and then you tell me if you think that kind of behavior is worthy of America.
    We’re better than that. And one of the things that makes us better is that we (at least for now) have the freedom to speak out in criticism of our government and our military.
    As Lindsey Graham said (I paraphrase), we’re the good guys, that means we have to ACT like the good guys.

  5. Ted Duvall

    Dear Mr. Warthen,
    I write to compliment you on the June 19 Editorial pages. I’m smart enough to realize that it may just be that I agreed with much of what was written this particular time. Still, the “Party registration disenfranchises thinking voters,” and “Giving up will never…,” were good editorials, right on; and both Krauthammer and Will’s pieces were top notch– Mr. Will perhaps at his very best. Good day’s work pulling these various pieces together. It was a pleasure reading them.

  6. Mike Cakora

    Nice try, kc. Try starting off your morning off with Wheaties instead of Bud Light.
    I read what Turban Durbin had to say – I watched the video too. So did al Jazeera, and they promoted his remarks. I agree with Mark Steyn and do give points to Durbin for originality: none of Bush’s opponents – the far left, the foreign anti-Americans, or the Jihadists – has used the Pol Pot analogy before, so he scores a point there. But this fisking of a New York Times article on the extreme measures applied at Gitmo pretty much sums up my feelings, and I’m a sensitive, New Age kind of guy.
    I think that the big difference between you and me was best summed up by David Gelernter in Friday’s LA Times (free registration required):

    There is an ongoing culture war between Americans who are ashamed of this nation’s history and those who acknowledge with sorrow its many sins and are fiercely proud of it anyway. Proud of the 17th century settlers who threw their entire lives overboard and set sail for religious freedom in their rickety little ships. Proud of the new nation that taught democracy to the world. Proud of its ferocious fight to free the slaves, save the Union and drag (lug, shove, sweat, bleed) America a few inches closer to its own sublime ideals. Proud of its victories in two world wars and the Cold War, proud of the fight it is waging this very day for freedom in Iraq and the whole Middle East.

    I’m pretty durned proud even though my forebears were relative latecomers.
    I’ll conclude with a screed from James Lileks who, reacting to activists at Democrat HQ who passed out leaflets this past week suggesting that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks, offers this:

    In any case, I don’t expect what I say here will change minds; if chaining terrorists to the floor and messing with the thermostat is the Gulag, the new Auschwitz, then your head is protected by a thick cap of beliefs that can only be penetrated by, oh, a nail expelled by a suicide bomber’s dynamite belt.

    The Democrat convocation I cite in the preceding paragraph was something that fits within Brad Warthen’s broad definition of “not helpful to the war effort” because it was a mock impeachment inquiry over the Iraq war. Perhaps you saw or read about it.
    The WaPo’s Dana Milbank, no friend of the current administration, reported on the grand time had by all here. Note this:

    The session took an awkward turn when witness Ray McGovern, a former intelligence analyst, declared that the United States went to war in Iraq for oil, Israel and military bases craved by administration “neocons” so “the United States and Israel could dominate that part of the world.” He said that Israel should not be considered an ally and that Bush was doing the bidding of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
    “Israel is not allowed to be brought up in polite conversation,” McGovern said. “The last time I did this, the previous director of Central Intelligence called me anti-Semitic.”
    Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), who prompted the question by wondering whether the true war motive was Iraq’s threat to Israel, thanked McGovern for his “candid answer.”

    I understand that unnamed activists can cause embarrassment by handing out leaflets at the HQ (and it’s to his credit that DNC Chair Howard Dean disavowed their message), but the folks who called the meeting must have had a fair idea of what the witnesses were going to say, otherwise they would not have invited them. I’d dismiss this as an aberration were it not for things like the comments in this.
    Yes, we are the good guys, and we do act like the good guys. We even tolerate this because we have citizens – heroes – who do things like this, proving only that the good don’t have to die young.

  7. Mike Cakora

    For what it’s worth, over at the group-lawyer blog David Kopel suggests that the “more plausible analogy to Guantanamo is British interrogation of Irish Republican Army suspects in the early 1970s.”

    Then, the British extracted confessions through “the five techniques”: wall-standing, hooding, continuous noise, deprivation of food, and deprivation of sleep. The European Court of Human Rights, in the 1978 case Republic of Ireland v. United Kingdom, ruled that the techniques did not constitute “torture,” but were “inhuman and degrading,” in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

    Admittedly, accusing poitical opponents of behaviors reminiscent of UK treatment of IRA prisoners does not pack the punch that allusions to Nazis, Soviet gulags, or Pol Pot do, but that’s the point of civil discourse: making accurate, not sensational, charges.
    Both (all?) sides tend toward outrageous claims; here’s a great argument for toning down the debate from an unlikely source.

  8. Phyllis

    Imagine my shock to discover I was the star of your post today. Beyond that, staying out of the fray here, because it’s a prime example of what patriotic dissent shouldn’t be–name calling and sez you and so’s yer ole man. The ultimate issue is that we have become so rancorous and downright hateful when we disagree that the real issues are lost in the mire.

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