[sixties-l] Replying to a progressive hawk (fwd)

From: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu
Date: Mon Mar 04 2002 - 18:58:47 EST

  • Next message: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu: "[sixties-l] U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam (fwd)"

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    Date: Sat, 02 Mar 2002 14:03:28 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Replying to a progressive hawk

    Replying to a 'progressive' hawk


    by Bill Berkowitz

    A response to Michael Shuman's Weekly Standard piece criticizing the Left

    Michael Schuman, former director of the Institute for Policy Studies and
    author of "Going Local:
    Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age," recently wrote an
    article for The Weekly Standard
    extremely critical of the Left's response to the president's war on terrorism.

    Dear Michael,

    I read your piece in the Weekly Standard ("My Fellow Lefties . . . Stop it
    with the American-bashing" February 18, 2002) and I was flabbergasted. It
    wasn't so much what you said although much of it was inflammatory and
    plainly wrong, but rather the venue you chose to publish it in and the
    distortion of progressive positions on the president's "war on terrorism."
    The Weekly Standard? Rupert Murdoch's right-wing publication? Come on guy!
    If you were trying to convince your "fellow lefties" that they are dead
    wrong about phase one of Bush's "war on terrorism" you would pick some
    publication a little bit more left-friendly and one that your "fellow
    lefties" might actually read. Given your progressive credentials, I'm sure
    there are a number of publications that would print an opinion piece of
    yours. And if not the left press, I'm sure you could have gotten an op-ed
    or letter to the editor published in some mainstream newspaper.
    But, The Weekly Standard? Cheerleader for the permanent war on terrorism?
    Come on, guy!
    I don't engage in food fights with "fellow lefties." You can read any of
    the hundred-plus columns I've written over the past year
    <http://www.workingforchange.com/column_lst.cfm?AuthrId=1> at Working
    Assets' workingforchange.com and you won't find any inside baseball-type
    columns. I'm not going to psychoanalyze your reason for writing this nor
    your misguided choice of venues. And, I won't attribute your column to a
    solid payday.
    First, I've appreciated your past work and I'm certain that I will again.
    But your Weekly Standard piece is preposterous. We'll get to why later.
    Second, I deplore the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade
    Center and the Pentagon. Unequivocally. I have grieved for the American and
    non-American victims. And, I have been very grateful for the heroic efforts
    of firefighters, police, port officers and fellow citizens who bravely
    stepped forward for the rescue and recovery efforts.
    Third, I also believe that while it is important to deal with terrorism and
    terrorist threats of all kinds -- whether from individuals, organizations
    or state-sponsored, one also must deal with causation. You can hold two
    different thoughts at one time!
    Fourth, your article. Let's engage in some honest assessment about the war
    on terrorism. On the plus side: The "war on terrorism" has rid Afghanistan
    of the dreaded Taliban. Al Qaeda is on the run, although the United States
    has yet to kill or capture major al Qaeda leaders including the "evildoer"
    himself, Osama bin Laden.
    It has also unleashed a rabid Pentagon and an insatiable military, most
    clearly represented by the president's recent budget outlining the largest
    increase in military spending in more than two decades. At the same time
    the budget calls for major cutbacks in domestic spending for social service
    Can you honestly answer in the affirmative that the "war on terrorism" has
    been successful? Doesn't the specter of phase two, three or four, guided by
    neo-conservative intellectuals and the "Rumsfeld Doctrine"the build-up of a
    fighting force prepared for permanent war with unnamed and untold numbers
    of countries using any means necessary (including preemptive strikes
    against whichever target it chooses) -- give you pause?
    Let's move on to some of your points:
    I don't know of any progressives, unless their quotes have been twisted or
    taken out of context -- who believe the terrorist attacks were a good
    thing. Some may argue that the attacks had "a political purpose," but no
    one that I am aware of excused them. Since you place Noam Chomsky, Bill
    Blum, Susan Sontag, John Pilger and Robert Fisk in the same war-criticism
    stew, it's difficult to discern when they said or written what you accuse
    them of. But, I very much doubt they expressed any sympathy for the
    terrorists. Your comments reflect a longtime conservative tenet:
    accusations, when repeated often enough by the right-wing press, become
    "Justice not vengeance," a slogan you characterize as "suggest[ing] that
    any use of force was tantamount to revenge and therefore unjustified.," as
    I understand it, was a call for a measured, non-unilateral response to the
    horrific attacks, and not a pretext for doing nothing. While the use of the
    World Court or other international bodies might have brought more
    legitimacy, I basically agree some sort of force was necessary to bring
    Osama bin Laden to justice. That force could have been an international force.
    You write: "When the bombing started, progressive commentators sounded
    humanitarian alarms. A halt to U.S. bombing was essential, the argument
    went, to respect Ramadan and to ensure that millions of Afghans did not
    starve over the winter. Yet virtually all those progressives making this
    argument were largely unaware of the desperate plight of Afghan civilians
    before the war, and have all but dropped the issue since. The position of
    the Bush administration, that the best way to prevent a humanitarian
    disaster was to quickly oust the Taliban regime, turned out to be correct."
    Yes, from the onset of the bombing progressives argued for a halt to the
    bombing and an increase in humanitarian aide. It was clear from the outset
    that indiscriminate bombing was killing many more civilians than the
    Pentagon was willing to admit. Events over the past few weeks have proved
    that many innocent civilians were targets: In late January, close to twenty
    innocent civilians were killed by U.S. bombs, some were arrested and later
    reported being beaten by U.S. troops. Just as the numbers of dead at the
    World Trade Center has been downsized as time has passed, the number of
    civilian deaths in Afghanistan will most certainly be upsized in the coming
    You write: "Then progressives shifted arguments once again, this time to
    decry the civilian casualties from 'indiscriminate' use of force by the
    U.S. military. Currently circulating in progressive Internet listserves is
    a cut-and-paste catalogue of civilian casualties put together by Professor
    Marc Herold at the University of New Hampshire, who estimates that more
    than 3,000 Afghan civilians were killed by the U.S.-led campaign.
    "The former intended to kill civilians; the latter didn't. The former
    intended to perpetrate attacks on U.S. civilians (and still may do so); the
    latter intended to prevent them. The former increased the chances of
    civilian deaths by hiding among civilians; the latter sought, however
    imperfectly, to avoid civilian targets. To ignore these distinctions seems
    to be but another slap at the victims of September 11."
    This part of your critique is really troubling. To write off Prof. Herold's
    work as an Internet "cut and paste" job does a tremendous disservice to his
    effort and to the hundreds of reports that he has monitored since the
    beginning of the bombing. Anyone who is familiar with his work knows that
    he has painstakingly checked, double-checked and checked again civilian
    casualty reports for accuracy. If anything, he has erred on the side of
    caution. You can bet that when the final numbers are in, the death toll
    from U.S. bombing will be much closer to Prof. Herald's figures than the
    You write: "While any civilian casualties of war are deplorable, and some
    of the criticisms of errant U.S. bombing, such as hitting a clearly marked
    Red Cross warehouse twice, are legitimate, the attempt to draw moral
    equivalence between the terrorists and U.S. troops is reprehensible."
    This is the straw man of all straw men arguments.
    Prof. Herold is not arguing about moral equivalency. He's trying to record
    what happened before the information is irretrievable. He's doing what the
    U.S. press refused to dotrack the deaths of innocents in Afghanistan. Do
    you think Prof. Herold should have ignored the civilian deaths in
    Afghanistan, not mentioned them as the mainstream media was wont to do.
    (For more on Prof. Herold's "A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United
    States' Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Accounting," see
    "Bring out your dead: Tallying up the casualties in the face of
    indifference." --> <http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?ItemID=12694>
    Prof. Herold has also written on the long-term danger and potential damage
    of unexploded cluster bombs left behind in Afghanistan. (See "Bombs 'r' us:
    Cluster-bombing Afghanistan and the critics of the ^A'war on terrorism")
    To ignore civilian deaths diminishes the victims of September 11. What
    links the casualties of September 11 with the dead civilians in Afghanistan
    is their common humanity. One life is no more valuable than another. Ask
    the orphans of Afghanistan if they think that the deaths of their parents
    by errant bombs is any less hurtful.
    That you label dissent "irresponsible" is astounding.
    Writing that your "fellow lefties" have "sullied more worthy progressive
    causes for years to come" fails to recognize the "new" New World Order this
    administration is creating. It also fails to acknowledge that phases two,
    three or four of the war on terrorism, built on the back of a mistaken
    analysis of phase one, will prove to be far more dangerous and lethal.
    Chris Matthews, host of CNBC's "Hardball" and a San Francisco Chronicle
    columnist, recently wrote about the hijacking of the war on terrorism by "a
    coterie of ^A'neo-conservative' thinkers, led by Weekly Standard publisher
    William Kristol and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz."
    Michael, how much better off are we today than we were September 10? Now
    that reporters are being allowed to do their jobs, they are reporting on
    the chaotic return to Afghanistan's special brand of warlordism. Warlords
    attacking warlords; anti-Taliban forces fighting other anti-Taliban forces;
    government officials assassinating other government officials. Chaos and
    confusion reigns. U.S. bombing continues and now the bombs are being
    dropped on former allies.
    On February 15, the San Francisco Chronicle's Anna Badkhen reported:
    "Although the war is over, some of Dostum's soldiers, who are mostly ethnic
    Uzbeks but include ethnic Tajik fighters, go out almost nightly to rob and
    rape Pashtuns, the ethnic group that composed most of the Taliban militia
    but is a minority in the north. Such abuses are a clear illustration that
    the interim government of Prime Minister Hamid Karzai has been unable to
    stem lawlessness throughout much of Afghanistan."
    The allies the United States bought and paid for include some of the most
    anti-democratic leaders around. Pumping money into Pakistan has exacerbated
    the India/Pakistan conflict. As Human Rights Watch has reported, some
    countries are using the excuse of terrorism for their own callous political
    purposes. A new "Drug War" has been unleashed on Latin America. U.S. forces
    are plotzing down all over the globe. Is this the safer and saner world you
    At home, every new proposal by Bush's Justice Department carving away at
    our civil liberties is justified by the "war on terrorism." Domestic budget
    cuts to pay for this "good war" will disproportionately target the poor.
    The legion of military hawks swooping around our country are unfettered by
    political opposition. The debate, as the Heritage Foundation termed it, is
    not why the "war on terrorism" but who to attack next. For them, the battle
    cry "let's roll" means let's roll out Star Wars.
    Is this the world you envision? One you support?


    Bill Berkowitz
    Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement.

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon Mar 04 2002 - 19:10:54 EST