Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Sunday, September 3rd, 2006.

The Power of Populism

Democratic Party

Please see this guest post at Talk Left by Big Tent Democrat on the value of populism. Big Tent says politics is not a battle for the middle; it’s a battle to determine what the middle is.

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Why Righties Piss Me Off

Bush Administration, War on Terror

A rightie blogger describes how he thinks liberals remember 9/11:

I gotta tell ya, the mind of a liberal is a scary place.

They want to live in a pre-9/11 world, pretend it all didn’t happen. Close to 3,000 of our citizens died that day but since it wasn’t one of them…who cares.

One of them? Who is the “them” here? Is he saying that liberals can’t be citizens, or that no liberals died in the 9/11 attacks? Considering that the WTC towers were in New York City, in fact it’s probable a majority of the victims leaned more Left than Right.

A large part of the population of New York City is made up of survivors, eyewitnesses, and those who lost a close friend or loved one that day. And New Yorkers live under a greater threat of terrorism than any other Americans outside Washington, DC. (If you go by the DHS’s terror alert system, in fact, I believe New York has had more “orange” alert days than Washington.) Believe me, New Yorkers are ever aware of this. Yet in 2004 New Yorkers preferred Kerry over Bush, 74.3 percent to 24.5 percent.

New Yorkers did not reject George W. Bush because none of “them” died on 9/11. They did not reject George W. Bush because they live in a pre-9/11 world. Memories and emotions about 9/11 remain raw here. (Reminders of the day still are all around us; we can no more “pretend it all didn’t happen” than we can control the weather.) And New Yorkers did not reject George W. Bush because they don’t understand the threat of terrorism. Few Americans fully comprehend, on a personal and intimate level, what terrorism is better than New Yorkers.

In fact, New Yorkers rejected George W. Bush because they’re not rubes. They caught on faster than the rest of the nation that the strutting little pissant in the White House is not defeating terrorism, but growing it.

I wrote about how I remember September 11 here. There’s another eyewitness account by Lynn Allen in today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Five years ago, I was at Ground Zero, teaching a class in the Marriott Hotel, WTC 3, the third building on the World Trade Center Plaza.

After what felt like a huge earthquake, we were ushered out of the building by the Marriott staff and stood watching in fascination the fire burning in the upper reaches of WTC 1. It was hard to believe the story that was circulating: A helicopter had crashed into the building on this very clear morning. Then we saw the second plane come in, belly angled slightly toward us, and crash into WTC 2. This was a terrorist attack! We bought water and talked strategies for survival. We decided to head toward the Brooklyn Bridge and began making our way through the people running in every direction.

Just as we began going up the ramp to the bridge, WTC 2 collapsed, sending clouds of debris and hundreds of screaming people in our direction. We continued on, single file, covered in a fine, gray dust, like refugees in a war zone. Eventually, we reached Brooklyn and sunshine, and the beginning of a new phase in our personal and national history.

Five years ago, Allen says, she imagined writing a book about September 11 with alternate endings. In the first ending, the United States first identified and punished those responsible for the September 11 attacks. Then, working with moderate Muslims, the U.S. looked for ways to reduce rage and alienation in the Middle East and “pull the bulk of the hate-filled Islamists back to a responsible participation in the world.” In addition, we initiated “a massive national energy conservation and alternative energy program.”

And then there was the other ending:

The other version of the book foretells a war-wracked world where the West is drawn into conflicts it does not understand and cannot win. The most fanatical Muslims would be strengthened in an already torn Muslim world. The position of women in Muslim nations would be set back a generation or more. We would be advised (as would our “enemies”) that we could only be safe by fighting others. Conflicts would go unattended in Latin America, Africa and South Asia. We would be no closer to safety but we would deplete funds that would otherwise go to educational and health care systems. Access to oil resources would be curtailed, but by that time we would lack the financial muscle to fund alternatives easily. The economic dislocation would be severe and our quality of life would suffer.

The Bush Administration’s “global war on terror” is creating more violence and less safety, Allen says. Is that what we want?

I would add to Ms. Allen’s list that we need vast improvements in our intelligence gathering and analysis. But instead of confronting what’s wrong with our intelligence agencies, the Right wastes time with phony, straw-man claims that liberals don’t want to wiretap al Qaeda. (Yes, we do. That’s not the issue. This is the issue.)

As I wrote last year, I agree with President Bush when he says (note emphasis on says) this:

The fifth element of our strategy in the war on terror is to deny the militants future recruits by replacing hatred and resentment with democracy and hope across the broader Middle East. This is a difficult and long-term project, yet there’s no alternative to it. Our future and the future of that region are linked. If the broader Middle East is left to grow in bitterness, if countries remain in misery, while radicals stir the resentments of millions, then that part of the world will be a source of endless conflict and mounting danger, and for our generation and the next. If the peoples of that region are permitted to choose their own destiny, and advance by their own energy and by their participation as free men and women, then the extremists will be marginalized, and the flow of violent radicalism to the rest of the world will slow, and eventually end. By standing for the hope and freedom of others, we make our own freedom more secure. [President G.W. Bush, October 6, 2005]

The problem is that what Bush says and what Bush does are light years apart. The Administration’s course of action in the Middle East is taking us in exactly the opposite direction from where Bush says he wants to go — it is growing hatred and resentment, not reducing it. And instead of being marginalized, radicals have become more powerful and influential as a result of Bush actions in the Middle East. And don’t get me started on what Bush is doing that is not making “our own freedom more secure.”

And you want to talk about pre-9/11 thinking? This week the damnfool Bush Administration was selling the fantasy we are re-fighting World War II. And no end of righties continue to complain that we’re not pursuing a “total war” strategy without confronting the fact that World War II-style total war theory can’t be applied to the kind of enemy we’re facing now.

I’ve written before that I think the 9/11 attacks represent something very different for those of us who were there and those who watched on television. People watching from a distance could indulge in feeling victimized. New Yorkers had to face and overcome their fears and sense of victimization to get on with their lives. This is why, IMO, there is more, not less, irrational hysteria about terrorism the further one goes from New York.

This is not to say there isn’t some hysteria on the Left as well. The “inside job” conspiracy theorists probably infuriate me more than they do righties. Those of us who are serious about answering the many unanswered questions do not appreciate having the issue of what happened on 9/11 turned into a joke. I agree with John Homans that the “inside jobbers” suffer from the same infantile daddy complex as the Right, albeit with an evil daddy instead of a strong daddy who protects his children from monsters.

The rightie blogger quoted at the top of this post displays a YouTube video that presents scenes of September 11 as an episode of “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” It is utterly disgusting. Naturally, the rightie blogger and his readers conclude the video is representative of liberal thinking, never mind that it isn’t. To righties, we liberals are the Boogieman. They hate us more than they hate al Qaeda.

Righties also are still blaming 9/11 on Bill Clinton, and I see I will have to do a blog post soon on how bogus that is. For now I will point out only that Bill Clinton is not the one who fought the Clinton administration’s air travel security proposals (airline industry lobbyists were the principle perps). Bill Clinton is not the one who kneecapped recommendations of the Hart-Rudman Commission. (That was one of the first things Dubya did when he took office.) Bill Clinton is not the one who decided Osama bin Laden could be downgraded as a threat; Colin Powell made that announcement in April 2001 (CNN Transcript):

The State Department officially released its annual terrorism report just a little more than an hour ago, but unlike last year, there’s no extensive mention of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. A senior State Department official tells CNN the U.S. government made a mistake in focusing so much energy on bin Laden and “personalizing terrorism.”

Still, Secretary of State Colin Powell says efforts to fight global terrorism will remain consistent.


POWELL: The results are clear: state sponsors of terrorism are increasingly isolated; terrorist groups on under growing pressure. Terrorists are being brought to justice, we will not let up. But we must also be aware of the nature of the threat before us. Terrorism is a persistent disease.


And Bill Clinton didn’t piss off a report entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” That was President Bush’s doing, not President Clinton’s. See William Rivers Pitt for more.

Greg Gordon, Marisa Taylor, and Ron Hutcheson write for McClatchy Newspapers that the nation remains vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

The nation has spent more than $280 billion on the domestic side of the war on terrorism over the past five years to hire thousands more FBI and Border Patrol agents and buy high-tech devices to secure the nation’s planes, trains, ports, nuclear reactors and other potential targets. U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost $400-plus billion more.

It’s a commitment that far exceeds the post-World War II Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe, but it’s not nearly enough to close off every possible line of attack. Some experts say part of the money has been wasted on efforts to combat nonexistent or highly unlikely threats, while other, more pressing risks, were ignored.

In the frenzied attempt to patch holes in the nation’s defenses, government agencies seemed to buy a device for everything: from computerized fingerprinting systems to trace explosives detectors to full body scanners to sensors that pick up deadly germs and radiation. Some of it works as advertised; some of it doesn’t.

“The problem with much of this technology is that it’s valuable only if you guess the plot,” said Bruce Schneier, author of “Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World.” “We could sit here and come up with millions of identifiable risks. If we had infinite money we could address everything. But we have finite money and we should pick and choose carefully.”

Note this:

Independent security experts say the government should sharpen its priorities and adopt a long-term strategy that reflects a deeper understanding of the enemy.

Instead, we dump billions of dollars into a war that didn’t need to be fought and assume that all Islamic violence is being perpetrated by the same gang. And that “they hate us for our freedoms.”

Federal officials take pride in the fact that the United States has avoided a major terrorist attack since Sept. 11, but they’re under no illusions that it couldn’t happen again. … Some counterterrorism experts think it’s only a matter of time before terrorists unleash weapons of mass destruction on an American city.

I hope those counterterrorism experts are wrong. But it’s a damn shame the President and his minions care less about real national security than about exploiting fear for political advantage and acting out their well-nurtured victimhood.

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