Free Dartmouth
1/28/2003 03:33:00 AM | Justin

RE: An ANSWER to Justin (response to Tim's posting at [1/21/2003 9:00:43 PM])

I'm finally responding to Tim's reply to me which he posted about a week ago. Wish my response could have been more timely. But anyway, let me address some of Tim's criticisms:
"Oddly, Justin cites evidence by Ramsey Clark, without mentioning that Ramsey founded another WWP offshoot and defended people like Milosevic." -Tim

First off, I think Tim has misconstrued the purpose of my references to Ramsey Clark. My first reference to Clark was meant to be an example of something coming from the left that was just as unfairly accusatory as Tim's link. If you'll notice, I even summarized this link as "Images of terrible suffering without the least bit of explanation or context; Fingers pointing vaguely at scapegoats without much explanation." I don't see how this became grounds for Tim to pigeonhole me as a Ramsey Clark supporter, and expect me to answer for every one of Clark's opinions. Does Clark's defense of Milosevic automatically nullify everything else he has to say? For readers to accept the validity of this type of debate tactic amounts to an invitation to the debaters to answer all questions by changing the subject. (ie: Bush can't be guilty of the war crimes Clark accuses him of because Clark has defended Milosevic in the past... The latter point has nothing to do with the validity of the former point, and can only be understood as a diversion.)

This gets to a larger problem I have with Tim's argumentation. Altogether too much of it is based on guilt by association. I think I should be allowed to post links to information on demonized leftist sites without having to answer for everything members of those leftist sites have ever said or done. Sometimes even people who believe ardently in "Maoist Agrarian reform" can have useful information that is difficult to find elsewhere. It almost seems that by choosing to pigeonhole me with Ramsey Clark, just for two non-endorsing links to his sites, Tim is doing to me exactly what he has suggested Dartmouth pro-Palestinians have done to Rocky.(see [1/20/2003 4:16:46 PM | Timothy Waligore]) Must I follow my posting with a tepidly repulsive letter of disclaimer, just so no one gets the wrong idea about what I, as a politically-neutral Dartmouth organization, stand for?

This ties in with a problem I have with the types of accusations I've read on Tim's link attacking ANSWER. The accusers never argue about the validity of their opponent's case; instead, they choose to attack the opponent himself for issues that are completely unrelated. My summary:

Question: Why are the protesters against the war on Iraq wrong? Answer: Because some of them question whether Milosevic is guilty of massacres. Case closed. Question: Is it possible that some of them might have had grounds for believing what they do about Milosevic? Answer: We don't know because we've already tuned them out.

I was not as disturbed when they did this with the Milosevic case, because I'm mostly in agreement with them on this issue, but when they used this utterly disingenuous argumentation tactic to pin the blame for the Kurdish genocide on ANSWER, I was enraged. I followed the link for their defense and found nothing but a flimsy, unrelated piece on how ANSWER supporters opposing sanctions met once with OSFI, an Iraqi organization, whose leader is quoted saying something about how Kuwait is worse off under US control then it would have been under Saddam's control. Gosh. One might as well assume Clinton is guilty of apologism for Palestinian terrorism, simply for having met with Arafat. They present no legitimate evidence of how ANSWER could be even remotely tied to Kurdish genocides. I'm much less likely to trust this website's other accusations after reading this halfass "proof" of ANSWER's "apologism" for Kurdish gassings.

Another issue:

"Justin complains that the site I linked to had crimes that could be attributable to the U.S. government. If Justin wants to say ANSWER is as bad as the government they condemn, fine. If he wants to call Rumfeld-lovers and the Bushies hypocrites, fine. But hypocrites can also be pointing out your own hypocrisy. Furthermore, I hope Justin will realize the original reports on ANSWER came from David Corn of The Nation. If he doesn't feel he has to answer to right-wing bloggers, how does he answer lefties like him and Eric Alterman?
" -Tim

Indeed, I coexist peacefully with such people, and give credence to much of their criticism of the more radical left. But I feel that Tim's question misses a larger point I was making. The line of my argument does not lead one merely to criticism of the American right, as Tim suggests. Neither the right *nor* the left advocated the "forceful overthrow" of the US government for its support of Saddam Hussein in the 80's. Anyone who opposed such an overthrow (ie: almost everyone, including me) should be able to understand how ANSWER could oppose the overthrow of the Iraqi government for comparable crimes. It might just have been the U.S. right-wing leading the charge to ransack sovereign South American countries, but we all allowed ourselves to be dragged along in their crimes to some extent. Once the Iraq situation is understood as a power play between two forces exhibiting comparable evils, then ANSWER's defense of Iraqi sovereignty begins to make more sense.

Tim asks why this argument does not lead me to the conclusion that Americans should overthrow their own government. My answer is that this sort of forceful action is disproportionate to the crimes, and would threaten to cause a great deal more suffering than the crimes themselves. It is much more productive to work within the system for change. The same is true for Iraq: the suffering of war and its aftermath could very well be disproportionate to the crimes of Saddam Hussein. So in this case too, I think it is important to work within the system, with inspections, and most importantly, the prospect of real rewards in the form of ending sanctions in the event of Iraqi compliance.

Regarding leftist apologism:

Tim has a point about certain spokepersons of radical leftist groups, like Ramsey Clark, being guilty of apologism. I agree that by taking their opposition to US foreign policy too far, they all too often end up unjustly defending the crimes of the US's enemies, perhaps even to the detriment of their own cause's credibility with the American public.

What we miss when we evaluate these "apologists", though, is that they sometimes end up making charged statements like "Iraq never did anything wrong" (see Tim's posting) simply because they don't want to provide moral fodder for US military action (a worthy cause, by some estimates). A statement like this can either be understood devoid of context, in the sense that this man is trying to beatify Saddam to sainthood, or it can be understood to mean that the international actions of the Iraqi leadership were on a moral par with those of its neighbors and those of the U.S. government. Disagreement on this is both reasonable and expected. Regardless, the point is that past US military actions are quite relevant to our evaluations of other country's leaderships, because US actions help to set the moral standard for the rest of the world. If one perceives that Iraqi actions, while heinous, are in line with U.S. standards of international action, then I don't think it is "apologism" to oppose a U.S. war whose driving force is rooted in a (false?) sense of moral highground.

Lastly, Tim suggested that the US government, by virtue of its democratic system, holds an intrinsic moral superiority over the Iraqi dictatorship. I agree with him 100%. But as far as moral highground in the international community goes, America's internal democracy is hardly relevant as long as the US opposes any semblance of democratic process among countries. How is an Iraqi, or anyone else outside the US, to see our country as having a democratic spirit while we continue to insist on the right to wage unilateral, unprovoked warfare on countries we internally deem rogues? People talk about the "democratic peace", and its sanctifying effects on international relations, but as long as the democratic ideal does not include any spirit of democracy among nations, then I don't think it is very relevant to the debate.


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