Arianna Huffington’s Aristophanean Wit Against The War

I’m republishing the following piece for the browsers  of this new website.                  

 A retort: By Con George-Kotzabasis to

Bush and the Truthiness Taliban By Arianna Huffington 

 Huffington Post-February 27, 2006

Arianna, coming long ago from an ancient philosophical stock, always presents her arguments with cogency and “tinsel town” wit. But whilst her Aristophanean wit has the power to lift even a great philosopher, the basket – laid Socrates into the clouds, she is no Athena, and lacks wisdom to bring the great philosopher down to earth from her politically idealistic clouds. . She argues that the Bush administration “sold us the invasion of Iraq” with false claims and half-truths, which she satirizes as “truthiness”, and she jeeringly says that the  “’Saddam unleashed mushroom clouds’ could be the logo for the truthiness society”, i.e., the Bush administration. But after the lethal attacks on New York and Washington, the Bush administration, or any administration, would hardly need to sell the war to Americans by sleek and crafty Madison Avenue techniques, as a majority of Americans would have bought the war, and did, at any price.

The fact is, that Bush invaded Iraq not because Saddam had a link to the 9/11 attack but because of the high probability of his link with a future 9/11, that would have been more devastating than the first one. No responsible and insightful political leadership could disregard and discount this probability of a connection between terrorists and rogue states in the near future, and do nothing about it. The war in Iraq had as its primary aim the prevention of this ominous coupling of suicidal fanatic terrorists with rogue states, the latter being willing and able to furnish the former with the lethal weapons that would mortally endanger America and the rest of the West. Only someone who was living in a state of pathological complacency and moral and intellectual indifference, enjoying the stupefying and ephemeral glittering comforts of ones narrow and egotistical existence could have mocked and lampooned the above “truthick” threat as “truthiness”. In times of danger, it’s utter foolishness to indulge in the rambling diversions of witty political satire or in gloomy broodings instead of taking firm action. 

Moreover, to bring in Halliburton’s corporate shenanigans, which for many Americans is justifiably an emotional issue, is to bring into the debate of the war the American public “roaring like an oak on fire”, to quote Aristophanes, when more than ever, in face of some US strategic errors, cool deliberation is needed.  Especially when, the question as to whether the US should stay the course in Iraq or should cut and run, must be answered by the public and its leaders from the Congress and the House, soberly and wisely. Probing to the highest possible degree whether a premature withdrawal from Iraq would bring in its wake dire and catastrophic consequences for the people of Iraq and of the region in general, and whether it would also embolden the terrorists to perpetrate even more deadly attacks against the US and the West in general. With such high stakes in place, Arianna’s insinuation that corporate greed is a major cause of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq is ethically and intellectually irresponsible. It’s also, historically and economically benighted. In all economic systems of demand and supply economic units prosper. In war when the demand reaches astronomical heights only the biggest and the most possibly efficient corporations can supply these huge demands. And by the irreversible laws of economics they are the biggest beneficiaries. But does this economic reality in any way impugn a just war? If I’m allowed to remind Arianna, Themistocles (I’m using this historical event as an illustration not as a comparison in respect to the personal merits of Bush or Cheney to those of the great Athenian), the victor of Xerxes invasion of Greece that saved the latter from despotism and slavery, was subsequently accused of peculation and was banished from Athens. Did this accusation in any way diminish Themistocles’s illustrious standing as one of the greatest generals of his era of whom Thucydides so admirably had written about?  

It maybe, that all the above examples are for Arianna seeds sown in a barren intellectual soil and she will never reap their invaluable lessons. It seems she is more concerned in vying with comedian Stephen Colbert – whom she calls the “godfather of truthiness” – for the first prize of truthiness, and it’s more likely than not that she will win the Dionysian Oscar for truthiness in this contest of wits.                

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‘Shoot’ Messenger For Telling Lies About Truth

By Con George-Kotzabasis

 A reply to: Don’t Shoot The Messenger For Revealing Uncomfortable Truths

 By Julian Assange, The Australian December 08, 2010

 

 Julian Assange opens his article with adulatory terms for the founder of The Australian and his sire, Keith Murdoch, by quoting “young Rupert Murdoch…’in the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win’.” And he seems to be proud to follow the steps of Murdoch even though the latter long ago has grown horns for many liberal media aficionados. He also proudly states that Wikileaks has “coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism,” (M.E.) which he defines as allowing you “to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on”, and thus by this method you can make a judgment about the veracity or falsity of the story. He further claims that he is not one of the crowd of anti-war as he believes that “Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and taxes on the line for these lies.” He is also justifiably concerned that he is being accused by US officials and others of treason “even though I am an Australian, not a US, citizen,” and of a Republican bill before the Senate “seeking to have me declared a ‘transnational threat’.”

Under this ominous cloud of threats issuing from high echelons of the US government and politicians it is reasonable that Assange would be deeply worried about his safety and his inviolable right to exercise his freedom of speech. But it is totally unreasonable to have expected to be treated otherwise when he exposed secrets of governments in conditions of war. He seems to have had the courage to put in action his convictions without however having the courage to face the consequences of his action that could be seen even by blind Freddie, to use an Australian colloquialism.

Moreover, his riposte is inane and unimaginative to the State Department’s claim: “You will risk lives! National Security! You’ll endanger troops!” “Then they say there is nothing of importance in what Wikileaks publishes. It can’t be both. Which is it?” But it can be both. Imperil in verity national security and risk lives while at the same time diminishing the importance of the leaks for political reasons so politicians and government officials will not be accountable for their incompetence and their propensity to leak.

Furthermore he conceitedly claims that the seeds of the leaks brought a rich harvest of accomplished goals that lay in the original plan of Wikileaks. He states that in its “four-year publishing history…we have changed governments (M.E.) but not a single person…has been harmed.” But if this is one of the goals achieved it is vague in regard to the kind and quality of the “changed governments.” Does he refer to changes in the internal operations of governments that are more transparent to their publics or does he refer to changes in the political colouring of governments? One can assume from the implication of his proud claim he means a change in the substance of governments for the better by their change of colour. But whichever of the two changes he refers to the empirical evidence clearly shows that on both counts his statement is false. Governments have neither become more open to their publics nor have they become better shepherds to their flock in the last four years. Was the transition from the Bush to the Obama administration a substantial change to a better government? When President Obama has rescinded most of his electoral campaign promises and continues a war in Afghanistan, which according to Assange is based on lies, intensifying the drone attacks in Pakistan against al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives that started under the Bush administration, and commenced new clandestine operations against global jihadist terrorists in Somalia, and Yemen, and when in the short time of two years a majority of Americans have turned against their initially beloved Obama, who was going to change America for the better, as the mid-term elections last November have shown?

But while Wikileaks’s failure in these two areas of transparency and betterment of governments is resounding, and therefore his statement is a manifest lie, Assange partially achieved his anarchistic goal of his doctrine of the “corruption of governments’’ by creating mistrust between the top officials of governments and hence enervating the system of inter-communications and sharing of intelligence between them. As he argued in a paper of his few years ago the only way to put a stop to the corruption of governments was to disrupt their communications and to create distrust among its officials that the content and information of their intelligence and advice passed to their political masters would not be secure from public scrutiny. Thus Wikileaks threw a spanner into the mechanism of governments whose secrecy in some matters of paramount importance are the sine qua non of good governance and global security, especially in our contemporary times when Western civilization is under a menacing permanent attack by fanatical Islam. And one must be reminded that one of the major reasons why the perpetrators of 9/11 were not identified and apprehended in time was this lack of sharing intelligence between Federal agencies, which subsequently the Bush administration corrected by setting up The Department of Homeland Security under Tom Ridge.

Thus Assange by achieving his anarchistic nefarious goal has placed countries and their peoples that are under attack by Islamist suicide bombers at great risk whose numbers of casualties would astronomically surpass the numbers that Americans killed “in the past few months, “with Australian government connivance,” if such an attack was carried out by means of biological or nuclear weapons. (Talking about Wikileaks not harming a single person.)

As to his coinage of “scientific journalism” it is empty of substance. Science is not hostage to subjective values and does not pick its evidence by means of ideological fantasies. For example, the content of Assange’s argument about the war in Iraq is not based on reality but on fantasy. To accuse Bush of lying about Saddam’s possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and espouse the Leftist slogan “Bush Lied, People Died,” when all the leaders of the major countries, including President Chirac, Chancellor Schroeder, Premier Zhu Rongji of China, and presidents Putin, and Mubarak of Egypt, also believed that the Iraq dictator had WMD, is intellectually dishonourable and the most dishonest accusation against the former president. Were Chirac, Schroeder, Putin, Zhu Rongji, also lying when they were saying that Saddam had in his possession WMD?  Indeed, were they involved in a conspiracy with Bush against Saddam Hussein when all four were explicitly against the war? And as Bush says in his book Decision Points, “The charge was illogical. If I wanted to mislead the country into war, why would I pick an allegation that was certain to be disproven publicly shortly after we invaded the country?” That Assange is peddling this utterly false accusation in defiance of the above facts clearly reveals his ideological bias that completely incapacitates him to make an objective assessment of the issue according to his lauded standards of  “scientific journalism.” Intellectually disarmed by the lures of ideology he throws his anarchistic bomb on all the principles of science. If he had used his own scientific methodology as to the evidence extant prior to the decision of President Bush to invade Iraq he would have found that the war was not based on lies but on false intelligence. As a thought experiment, had he published in early 2000 the documents of all the major intelligence agencies of the world as to whether or not Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction they would have shown that all believed that he had them. Thus if the public had “read a news story” about Saddam’s WMD and then clicked “to see the original document” it was based on, they would be able to judge as to the truthfulness of the story.

Legally of course, Assange cannot be charged with treason, as such a charge applies to citizens of nations. But Assange by using the global instrument of the internet has by his own choice become a global citizen. The secret documents that he has splashed on the internet do not merely affect or threaten a particular nation but a number of nations that are pivotal to the security of the globe at a time when this security is imperilled by resolute irreconcilable enemies. Assange therefore by revealing this secrecy to the foes of Western civilization nolens volens is conniving with these implacable enemies of the West and hence committing ‘global treason’. The fact, moreover, that he is a messenger of a most dangerous lie, i.e., that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or potentially with Iran, are not quintessentially related to the continuous existential threat that global terror and rogue states pose to Western civilization, rightfully qualifies him  to be ‘shot’ for telling lies about the truth. 

I rest on my oars: your turn now         

 

Debate between American and Australian on the War Against Radical Islam

American says,

For those who think we need to redouble our efforts to “win” the war in Afghanistan, I take it they mean we need to do whatever it takes, militarily and financially, to build a stable Afghan state run headed by a secure and US-friendly government. I have two problems with this idea. First, I tend to doubt that the US has the wherewithal to accomplish such a goal in such a rugged, decentralized and forbidding country – no matter how much our surge surges. The whole idea seems fantastical.

Second, I don’t see how even achieving this fantastical aim would really help with the Al Qaeda issue, since I find it hard to believe that any Afghan government that we can realistically imagine taking shape will have the capacity to prevent Al Qaeda elements from gathering in remote locations and forming bases. As a basis for comparison, can we realistically imagine an Afghan government with even half the capacity of a state like Pakistan? Hardly. And yet Pakistan itself is not in control of large swaths of its country. Pursuing the quixotic state-building plans of the neoconservatives and liberal interventionists is a distraction from the methods that actually work.

My understanding is that we have been engaged in a global campaign against jihadist terrorism for several years now, and the main practical method is to rely on intelligence to stay one step ahead of the folks who actually pose a threat, and then disrupt their efforts, kill their leaders and interdict their operations. We’re probably going to have to keep doing that sort of thing for quite some time, just as the effort against organized crime in the US never really ends. If Al Qaeda cadres build some kind of training base in Afghanistan, we go in and blow it up. If they build another one, we blow that one up too. We use predators and covert methods. The same is true of al Qaeda redoubts in Pakistan or Somalia or Yemen, right? We are going to have to do this no matter what kind of government we get in Kabul.

I can’t believe that at this late date American political leaders and opinion leaders are still deluded by the theory that the chief enabling cause of terrorism is “state sponsorship”, and so that our aim is to manufacture strong states where none exist now. This seems wrong-headed to me. I’ve used this analogy before, but the militant jihadist movement seems something like the anarchist movement of a century ago. Parts of that movement were violent. Was the solution some sort of state-building process in Europe and the United States? No. There were already strong states in Europe and the US. But it is of the nature of terrorist groups to slip between the cracks in the sovereign power of states.

Anarchist terrorism was basically a law and order problem. The idea was just to stay ahead of the perpetrators of terrorist attacks, and outlast the movement as its ideological fervor gradually dissipated and it burned itself out.

We should never have gotten involved in state building in Afghanistan. Now we have a generation of American leaders who are invested in that project, and see their personal honor and the national honor as riding on its very unlikely success. They need to get real.

Australian says,

Ben Katcher’s intellectually malodorous, and disingenuous, argument has reached the other shores of the Pacific. While he claims that “pouring more troops…into Afghanistan means fewer resources to pursue our other national security objectives across the globe,” he does not mention any of them by name other than the economic crisis mentioned by Dennis Blair. Hence his statement that “strategy is about priorities and trade-offs,” while true in general, is a contrived fiction when he applies it to international terrorism since these other priorities remain nameless. The reason why he does not name them is that if he had identified these priorities and contrasted them with the priority of global terror he would embarrass himself for being ludicrous.

Dan Kervick’s paragraph that contains “we use predators and covert methods,” which incidentally is an idea that I suggested myself too eight years ago, is very interesting although he contradicts himself further down on his post when he contrasts present terror with anarchist terror in the past and says for the latter that it “was basically a law and order problem,” which he first ventilated in a riposte to me on TWN three years ago. Surely, Kervick, who has learnt his logic by sitting in the spacious intellectual laps of Hume and Russel, could not cogently argue that “predators and covert methods” fall in the ambience of “law and order.”

American says,

Kotzabasis says:

“Surely, Kervick, who has learnt his logic by sitting in the spacious intellectual laps of Hume and Russel, could not cogently argue that “predators and covert methods” fall within the ambience of “law and order.””

I do. When I say that terrorism is a law and order problem, I don’t mean that the only tools to be used are the methods of the criminal justice system. Those latter tools have proven effective in many cases, including operations interdicted in the UK and Canada. But given the limits of applying these tools across borders and inside rugged countries, sometimes more aggressive means must be employed. What I mean is that terrorism is fundamentally a problem of a limited number of militant “outlaws”, and that the strategy for addressing it should focus on that fact, rather than be distracted by extravagant projects for state improvement and state overhaul.

What I am most skeptical of is the idea that the problem of terrorism is a conventional military problem that calls for the use of conventional military operations – in the form of armies, invasions and occupations – against either states or sub-national “armies”. And I am especially skeptical of the idea that the way to address the problem of terrorism is to launch massive – and generally very unrealistic – state-building operations in the hope that some day the dangerous backward parts of the world will be filled with well-functioning and capable states that will be able to suppress all of the militants operating inside their territories.

There are other means that need to be used as well, including denying the terrorists the ideological foothold that multiplies their influence and capability. That means not doing so many things that provide evidence of the very charges the terrorists make. To counter jihadist charges that the United States is hostile to the interests of Arabs and Muslims across the world the United States should stop behaving as if it is indeed universally hostile to the interests of Arabs and Muslims.

Australian says,

Kervick says:

“When I say that terrorism is a law and order problem, I don’t mean that the only tools to be used are the methods of the criminal justice system.”

Your quote states the obvious. Of course one does not fight terrorism only with police methods but the question is out of all the methods which are the most effective by which one can defeat the jihadists. And while your paragraph in your previous post that mentions “predators” and all the other ‘hard things’ that one has perforce to do against the jihadists is full of strategic clarity, by reverting back to your old argument of three years ago that the present terrorists are similar to the anarchist terrorists of the past and can be interdicted by ‘police’ methods, you unconsciously downgrade the seriousness of your ‘hard things’ position.

Moreover, you are locked in the fallacy of a rational person who premises his actions that his enemies that ‘round’ him up are also rational and if he shows by his actions, in our case America, that he is not against Arabs and Muslims this will bring a definitive change in the attitudes of the jihadists. This is a ‘straightjacket’ delusion that has lost all contact with reality. Islamic fanaticism will not be influenced, soothed, abated, or defeated by moral examples or olive branches but only in the field of battle and that is why a military deployment against it is a prerequisite. In short, it’s just another but more effective method in defeating the jihadists in a shorter span of time.

American says,

C-G Kotzabasis,

I’m talking about the hearts and minds issue. There is a hard core of dyed-in-the-wool militant jihadists with an uncompromising Salafist ideology. They are not going to be swayed by US public diplomacy, or by forseeable changes in US policy. They can only be dealt with forcibly. They must either be captured or killed, and their plans must be disrupted.

But the hard core is surrounded by concentric circles of people who are associated with the hard core by various degrees of fellow-travelling or sympathizing or onlooking. The extent to which the jihadists are able to expand their movement to get material or moral assistance from people in the out rings depends on how well their message resonates.

In my view, the jihadists have been the beneficiaries in recent years of a number of wrong-headed US policies that help their message resonate strongly. If hundreds of innocent people in Gaza have their lives snuffed out in an over-the-top Israeli attack, some as a result of deliberate crimes, with nary a peep from the US Congress, then when your friendly neighborhood jihadist says, “Muslims lives mean nothing to the Americans,” that message is going to get much more play on the street than it would if the US Congress had stepped up and condemned the excessive use of force.

Australian says,

Dan Kervick,

Certainly the “hearts and minds issue” is a core issue. But the “concentric circles of people,” will not be influenced by US Congress pronouncements and condemnations, in this case of Israeli actions, if they perceive, which they will, that this change of American policy arises from the weakness of the latter and from the strength of the “hard core” “militant jihadists” in their war with the US. The concentric circles of support for the militants will only disappear by depriving the latter of the ‘aura’ of being seen as the victors (The ethos of Arab pride trumps all.) against the American hegemon. And that entails the imminent and decisive defeat of the militants in the field of battle, as it happened in Iraq to the Sadrist militias and al Qaeda.

Furthermore, your concentrated reasoning loses its force if your policy contains these two incongruous parts: The first one will destroy by predators and covert operations (Which will be seen in the Muslim world as American excesses) the incubators of “Salafist ideology”, which are the madrassas, while the second, will denounce American and Israeli excesses. Do you seriously believe that such denunciation will have greater influence upon fellow-travellers and sympathisers, than the destruction of the madrassas in which many civilians will be killed, and will win their hearts and minds?

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