What If I Told You…

…that for a million bucks you could dramatically impact a Presidential campaign?
Would you take the deal? Most likely, yes. Per Open Secrets, the total spend on the Presidential campaign through May 27 is $877,722,907. Of that, the amount spent on media was $282,796,155.

So my million-dollar spend is .3% – three-tenths of a percent – of the media spend in the campaign to date.

I noted an interesting thing when I wrote about listening to Samantha Power:

And it’s interesting to me how the media indirectly shape our discourse – Power could write the book in part because she had a deal to sell the film rights. And George was intimately involved in the process of writing the book – looking at the drafts as they came off her computer.

For very little money – in film terms – but a lot of money – in journalistic terms – he managed to have a hand in shaping the story she wrote, and indirectly, shaping the political discourse about the UN and humanitarian aid, and America and Iraq.

In business, I’m always looking at those discontinuities – where what would be a small investment in one context becomes a meaningful one in another.

And I think there is probably a very meaningful one here, as writers about events and politics may have an incentive to shape their stories – and hence our perceptions – to meet the worldview and demands of Hollywood.

Of course, I’m talking about Scott McLellan’s book, and the furor surrounding it.

From my point of view, there’s very little shocking in the book. The fact that the decision to go after Saddam was made shortly after 9/11 is consistent with my opinion on why we went after Saddampour l’ecourager les autres, with the side benefit of stopping Saddam’s thugs from nailing people’s ears to walls.

The fact that the runup to the war was accompanied by political maneuvering and publicity would only be shocking to someone who’s never read a biography of FDR, or to someone like me who is pissed off that Bush did such an inept job of politicking and public salesmanship around the war.

So I don’t doubt that McLellan saw what he wrote about, and that there is a core of truth to his stories. But I’ll also suggest that the existence of the book itself is an interesting story, and one that we ought to think about.

I can’t find the details of his book deal, but George Stephanopoulos got a $2.7 million advance for his tell-all about the Clintons, and it’s likely that McLellan got something similar.

I don’t think he lied or had words placed in his mouth. But I’m willing to bet that his publisher made it clear that unless the book was ‘sexy’ in the right ways, there would be no deal, and I don’t think it was hard for McLellan to find the tone and points he needed to make to sex the story up appropriately. And I’m willing to bet that – as a political play – searching out the people who leave an Administration and trolling them with book deals is both good politics, and potentially – if you can make the controversy big enough – good business.

It’s the perfect marketing campaign. It cuts through the clutter with vast amounts of earned media, it’s credible at levels no ad campaign costing ten times as much would be, it shapes the dialog in a deeply meaningful way – and as a bonus, it might just earn back what you invested in it!

44 thoughts on “What If I Told You…”

  1. This fits right in with all these media revelations of hindsight- these people are admitting to being stooges or dupes because they can’t stand to have just been WRONG, as virtually everyone was. It was groupthink, and everyone from the President, to both sides of Congress, to the media, to the citizens was guilty of it in the runup to the war.

  2. bq. But I’m willing to bet that his publisher made it clear that unless the book was ‘sexy’ in the right ways, there would be no deal, and I don’t think it was hard for McLellan to find the tone and points he needed to make to sex the story up appropriately.

    Whatever. Truth is often stranger than fiction you know.

  3. And regardless, published material such as McClellan’s book are still bound by legal constraints, so while it is probable or even likely that the truth might have been stretched or amplified somewhat in some cases, it is highly doubtful that it is an entire fabrication and as such cannot be so easily dismissed.

  4. Wow, $75k, this guy can’t get no respect. He better make it on the residuals because he ain’t ever going to be respected on the Left or forgiven on the Right. (And he don’t have anywhere near Stephanopoulos’ charisma)

  5. Sorry A.L., consistently wrong, on anything Bush or Iraq related, as usual.

    As is pointed out by Sepp, 75K, isn’t quite enough to sell out one’s principles. So there goes the “big advance” argument.

    And of course, your reasons for supporting the Iraq invasion, as we all know by now, are completely specious.

    Why invade Iraq?

    “It is that we need to unravel the knot presented by the interfaces between Islam and the West and do so quickly and aggressively.”

    So we do that by – inflaming and deepening the knot!

    By invading a country that wasn’t identified as Islamic!

    Now, actually, some of the deeply problematic elements of the Middle East, I agree with – mainly, the oil wealth in the hands of a suppressive elite, who, we in the West, are allied with. Saudi Arabia being the prime example.

    So at any rate, the diagnosis of the frozen-ness of the Middle East is accurate.

    How invading Iraq, is a supposed solution?

    Crazy.

  6. hypo – as Glenn points out, the deal would kind of determine whether the advance matters a lot; and it’s funny but have you noticed a while bunch of articles recently about – wait for it – the partial collapse of Al-Qaeda?

    A.L.

  7. $75,000!

    Along that same line, take a look at how cheap Duke Cunningham went for (compared to what he was able to deliver, at least for awhile). And he was the biggest (or at least most expensive) bribery case in Congressional history.

    I never cease to be amazed at how little it costs to corrupt our government – but that may be related to how big and powerful our government has become. I am sure foreign governments have noticed also and I would not be surprised if they have tried to take advantage of this (cough, China, cough).

  8. George W. Bush consistently hired – or with Albert Gonzales for the Supreme Court (rumored) and Harriet Miers actually nominated for the Supreme Court, he attempted to hire – people who were widely thought not to be up to the job, and who were too often old cronies. When events confirmed that his preferred incompetents were incapable of carrying out their public duties, he kept them in place (Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General), praised them (“Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job!”) and lavished state honors on them obscenely beyond their merits (Presidential Medal of Freedom winner George Tenet). The implied bargain of indulgence in return for loyalty didn’t work: from Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill to White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, George W. Bush’s reward has been treachery. Thus the republic was ill served and the president was disgraced.

    The main reason I indulged a hope that Mitt Romney might become American President, despite his coming off as too slick and a fake conservative, was that I think he’s the un-Bush as a super-competent chief executive. I think he would appoint competent people and fire failures. I think that is his strong habit, and I don’t think he could have had the career he’s had if it wasn’t. (This is not true of his rivals, including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain. All of them could have gotten where they’ve gotten today without having iron hard good habits on the hiring and firing front.) It would have been sweet relief to have someone be president who could almost be guaranteed to hire and maintain in place mostly competent officials, but it was not to be.

    Since Scott McClellan only acted with the normal shameless disloyalty common to the beneficiaries of George W. Bush’s tacit affirmative action program for bumblers, there’s no need for speculation about the possible distorting effects of financial motives on his message.

  9. I think the two important questions on Scott McClellan’s book are:
    1. Is what he said true?
    2. Is this part of the winning story – the one that will prevail with historians and the public, regardless of what actually happened?

    On the first, I can’t speak, since I haven’t read the book. But I don’t remember the Bush White House selling the war to the public with anything like sufficient vigor or efficiency, much less what Scott McClellan seems to be saying. Nor do I remember George W. Bush selling his war with perfect freedom in an environment where he was cocooned by a press under orders to glorify him. In future, it will be possible to stick to to this story only by ignoring a tediously vast amount of data on public record.

    Regardless of its truth, Scott McClellan’s story is likely to be part of the winning narrative. First, there’s a growing mountain of anti-Bush testimony that is in detail credible. McClellan was there, as were Colin Powell, Richard Clark and others.

    Modern historians, like others of the academic class, lean left on the issues of the present day: give them the straws they need to weave the basket they want, and they’ll do it. (Sorry – no link. I’m going by a wide-ranging whip-around of the views of academic historians during John F. Kerry’s presidential run. I wouldn’t try to hunt it up again, but when historians are finding John F. Kerry of the secret mission to Cambodia fame a credible person, I think that we can take it that “history” in the sense of “what actually happened” has ceased to be relevant and that it’s more practical to recognize that academia leans left, and that academic historians are academics first.)

    And in the popular imagination, I think someone has to be blamed for all the nastiness of that which is not to be called a war on terror because it might offend Muslims. And it can’t be the enemy that’s to blame, because George W. Bush instituted official political correctness, defining the enemy ideology as friendly to us. If the problem is not the enemy, and yet we still have a wearying war, who is to be blamed if not our leaders?

    And so anything negative on Dubya the warmonger will get something of a pass from the public. They might not remember the story the way it’s being told, but they won’t contest it, and so the received story will in time push memory aside.

    I think the ugly statue of George W. Bush that’s being chiseled out for history is in large part untrue. But in another way I think it’s deserved.

  10. I don’t always assume that the problem is bumbling not bias. We have a steady river rolling of anti-American war movies that lose money, and that’s got to be bias. People are making and backing the movies they want to make and back, despite the steady evidence of the box office that the public doesn’t want to know about the Iraq war, and it certainly isn’t willing to spend money on being lectured on this unhappy topic by lefties.

    The amount of money that’s being squandered is small by movie industry standards, but it’s vast by other standards. That means there is indeed a fund of support for ant-America, anti-military, anti-war and anti-Bush bias that in a changed context could be huge. Armed Liberal has a point there.

    It’s just that it’s a point that’s not needed in view of the pattern of disloyalty by various former George W. Bush appointees.

  11. McClellan is the correct spelling of his name – same as the little creep who betrayed Lincoln.

    His father “Barr McClellan”:http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKmcclellan.htm is a Grassy Knoll-class sick-thinker, who wrote a book claiming that LBJ killed JFK, and is currently writing another book claiming that LBJ killed JFK. He also accused his former law partner of being an accomplice.

    McClellan Sr. describes his work as “faction”, mixing fact and fiction, which allows you to get much more truthiness than just sticking to documented facts.

    But that’s just his funny old dad, and I’m sure young Scott is much smarter, less vengeful towards personal acquaintances, and has much higher respect for the truth.

  12. Should have nailed Saddam when he tried to take Bush Sr., out or better yet, why didn’t Sr., finish the job in the first place? Not to mention the UN debacle. Hmmm, the dog(Saddam) that bites the hand(US) that fed him???

    The only positive thing about the Middle East is Israel, which is the ONLY democractic society located in the Middle East. Even Jordan is suppressive by western democratic standards.

    Take a long look at Saudi Arabia and you’ll see the truth. islam, by the quran’s own words, dictates hate and conversion by the sword! PERIOD! The quran leaves no room for any other religion or philosphy, other than islam. Therefore it is contrary to the idea of freedom and democracy. The two can not survive as one. That means islam must be eliminated before it eliminates Western Civilization. Those who believe in a moderate islam are only fooling themselves or biding their time until islam has become the dominate force in this world.

    I say, ANY religion that preaches hate and conversion by the sword should be outlawed and removed from civilized society. Any nation not ruled by the people through a democratic process should be considered the enemy and should have it’s ruling dictatorship removed by force, if necessary. Then, leave it up to the common people to decide through a honest democratic process. Not like the sham Hugo Chavez pulled with the help of Jimmy Carter, Danny Glover, etc. He, for example has managed to nationalize corporations wthin his country to line his own pockets under the guise of socialism. Sorry folks, he’s just another thug dictator who fooled the foolish!

    Long story short. The democratic nations of this world must unite to defeat oppression by those who think they know better than the people.

    God Bless the free nations and free peoples of this world!

    Well, anyway. Venting can be theraputic, but one can not escape the truth which will.., set you free!

    p.s. You’ve probably noticed the lack of upper caps when addressing isalm. That’s for good reason.

  13. #15 from Glen Wishard:

    bq. _”McClellan is the correct spelling of his name…”_

    You’re right. I goofed.

    I’ll edit to correct my spelling of his name, because I think playing games with wrong spellings of people’s names is cheap.

  14. #17 from Rj:

    bq. _”Whoa, that was severely off topic! Sorry, wrong article!”_

    Yes.

    If you agree, I’ll delete that and these following posts, and you can post your rant in the thread where it belongs.

    All part of the service.

  15. Hmmm… Bit of a problem with those numbers, I fear. The second-term Bush election spend is $650,000,000,000 – and counting. Possibly a couple of hundred billion of that can be attributed to the Republican election effort this time around, however. And they even got American taxpayers to pay for it!

    Of course, somewhat over 4,000 Americans (and 176 British) have paid a lot more than that.

  16. “_From my point of view, there’s very little shocking in the book. The fact that the decision to go after Saddam was made shortly after 9/11 is consistent with my opinion on why we went after Saddam – pour l’ecourager les autres, with the side benefit of stopping Saddam’s thugs from nailing people’s ears to walls._”
    -A.L

    which led me to…

    _”1) That invading Iraq is a good idea, and that the most likely consequences are good ones, and that the potential risks are themselves better than those which follow from taking no action;

    2) That the current Administration hasn’t done a good job of ‘rallying the troops’ – even in light of the unassailable fact that many countries would be opposing action even if there were a ‘smoking gun’ in the form of airline tickets for the 9/11 hijackers bought with Saddam’s American Express card (does he have one, I wonder?)”_
    -A.L circa March 2003

    I’ll only take a few obligatory cheap shots here A.L then move on. Obviously invading Iraq could never have been a “good idea” since to do so constituted the war crime of aggression in that (i) Iraq posed no credible threat to the US or its neighbors in the region for that matter thus no Article 51 defense was plausible, and (ii) there was ample evidence that an attack would result in massive civilian casualties given the fact that Iraq was virtually defenseless following the destruction of critical infrastructure during Gulf War I and the decade of sanctions that followed. 1.2 million Iraqi deaths and 4 million Iraqi refugees have only verified what was obvious to those of us who gave a damn back in 2002 when Team Bush began beating the war drums in ernest.

    As to your second point from 2003 I think the Bush administration, with critical assistance from the stenographers of the MSM, were extraordinarily successful in “rallying the troops” since most believed the puppy-shit being peddled about Saddam’s involvement in 9/11 and his non-existent WMD threats.

    Surely you don’t mean to suggest that the decision to invade Iraq was made _after_ the attacks of 9/11 A.L. After all, the desire to crush Saddam after his disobedience of August 2, 1990 was put to paper and delivered to President Clinton way, way back in 1998 in the form of an open letter by the “Project for the New American Century”:http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Project_for_the_New_American_Century (PNAC), the neoliberal “think” tank which included such Team Bush stalwarts as Donald Rumsfeld, Robert Zoellick, Paul Wolfowitz, and the Dark Lord himself, Dick Cheney. In addition to laying out a blueprint for permanent American hegemony, the letter made the preposterous assertion that Saddam posed an existential threat to the US. Never mind the murderous sanctions regimen and air assaults under which Iraq toiled at the cost of an estimated one million citizens (half of them children) by the end of the Clinton administration. Again this was back in 1998 at a time when the the levers of power were safely out the Insane Clown Posse’s reach. Fast forward to the Great Presidential Selection of 2000 and that all changes of course–for the worst.

    What I find amazing in all the media wrangling over McClellan’s book is how quickly the MSM “forgot” about the earlier revelations of former Team Bush member and Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, who in his memoir _The Price of Loyalty_, indicated that Bush and his handlers began planning the war in Iraq at the very first National Security Council meeting. Wow, what a coincidence! The Insane Clown Posse makes it to the mountain top and the first thing on the agenda was… Iraq. Isn’t it funny how all of this dovetails perfectly with the Downing Street Memos? Just wondering.

  17. A little clarification is in order. The “for that matter” in my first paragraph was meant to infer that Iraq was not threat to its neighbors at the time of the US attack as well. Note that the two victim’s of past Iraqi aggression, Iran and Kuwait, were not pining away at the UN for relief from potential attack at the time.

  18. Coldtype – few fast points before I head away from the keyboard…

    1) “War Crime” – puh-leeze. He was in an armistice – meaning we were at war, had ceased hostilities contingent on behavior – which Saddam failed to do.

    2) Yes, I’m sure there was ‘interest’ in attacking Iraq pre 9/11 – lots of people saw the problem, and saw Iraq as a keystone that could ‘shake up the Middle East’. There were doubtless plans drawn up; there’s a whole five-sided building full of people who draw plans up for things like, say, invading Canada. It’s useful to have a plan on hand in case you need it.

    But the shift from ‘interest’ to ‘intention’ clearly took place after 9/11.

    And I love the “murderous sanctions were working” trope; if they were murderous and immoral, we had to stop them. What do you think Saddam & co would have done then?

    We obviously see the world somewhat differently here…but keep on plugging.

    A.L.

  19. A.L.:

    The fact that the runup to the war was accompanied by political maneuvering and publicity would only be shocking to someone who’s never read a biography of FDR

    Or “Honest Abe.” Knowing that the North would almost certainly not go to war, or lose close to a half-a-million men just to free a few million dark-skinned folks in the South he invented the modest fiction that the war was about preserving the Union. As though he couldn’t have preserved the Union by simply backing off the slavery issue a little.

    But what I want to know is whether Scott is related to George B. They spell their last name the same way, and have about the same grasp of the salient issues.

  20. bq. Hmmm, the dog(Saddam) that bites the hand(US) that fed him???

    Point of information, according to the “Stockholm International Peace Research Institute”:http://www.command-post.org/archives/002978.html

    The US during the period of 1973 to 1990 supplied Iraq with about 1% of it’s arms placing us between Libya and South Africa.

    While over 90% came from the USSR, *France* the People’s Republic of China and Warsaw Pact Nations
    *In THAT Order*

  21. “The US during the period of 1973 to 1990 supplied Iraq with about 1% of it’s arms placing us between Libya and South Africa”
    -Dan Kauffman

    How cute. So by these spurious statistics you hope to explain away the critical and commanding role the CIA played in Saddam’s rise in the thoroughly US supported Ba’ath Party from 1963 on? I get it, it was the Soviets who were largely responsible for the decimation of the Iraqi Left. How novel.

    Dan a major flaw in your rendering is that it conveniently skips over America’s role in Iraq’s worst atrocities, including war crimes and major human rights abuses. For example, it was the US who encouraged and supported Saddam’s aggression against Iran by providing diplomatic, economic, as well as direct military assistance for the tyrant’s efforts. Clearly you’re completely unaware of the purpose or relevant history surrounding Rumsfeld’s visit to Saddam in 1983, but then of course that hardly makes you unique since most American’s are utterly clueless about what’s been done in their name abroad.

    Dan to be perfectly frank, no dialogue between us on this topic is likely to be productive while you remain in your present state of ignorance regarding US/Iraqi history for, in short, you have a great deal to learn. In hopes of bridging this gap I’ve provided links below that I trust will illuminate some of the outlines at least.

    part 1 “Monarchical Iraq and the growth of social antagonisms”:http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/mar2004/iraq-m12.shtml

    part 2 “The Iraqi nationalist movements, the permanent revolution, and the Cold War”:http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/mar2004/iraq-m13.shtml

    part 3 “The Iraqi Baath Party, from its Origins to Political Power”:http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/mar2004/iraq-m17.shtml

    part 4 “Iraq in the 1970’s and the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War”:http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/mar2004/iraq-m17.shtml

    part 5 “Donald Rumsfeld and the Washington-Saddam Hussein connection”:http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/mar2004/iraq-m19.shtml

    part 6 “Reagan administration deepens ties with Hussein”:http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/mar2004/iraq-m24.shtml

    part 7 “US financial assistance for Hussein in the 1980s”:http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/mar2004/iraq-m26.shtml

    part 8 “The end of the Iran-Iraq war”:http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/mar2004/irq8-m29.shtml

    part 9 “American policy after the Iran-Iraq war”:http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/apr2004/irq9-a02.shtml

    I look forward to hearing from on this Dan–when you’re better prepared.

  22. Coldtype:

    You’ve really done nothing to counter Dan’s point other than post a series of links to Chomskyesque accusations about the US. It seems that Dan, rather convincingly, dealt with the idea that the US was largely responsible for the conditions in Iraq during the Saddam era, unless you think our level of involvement was somehow an order or two of magnitude larger than our actual contribution in finance and materiel. We played a part, of course, but obviously not on the scale you imply, which is certainly rather inconvenient for one wedded to your theories about the evil US. Moreover, it’d be fair to ask that you read Mackey’s The Reckoning before venturing much further along these lines. It’s a far more objective rendering of that history than what one is likely to find on the World Socialist Web Site. You should also check out Robert D. Kaplan’s The Arabists. Let us know when you’ve finished.

  23. David Blue:

    And in the popular imagination, I think someone has to be blamed for all the nastiness of that which is not to be called a war on terror because it might offend Muslims. And it can’t be the enemy that’s to blame, because George W. Bush instituted official political correctness, defining the enemy ideology as friendly to us. If the problem is not the enemy, and yet we still have a wearying war, who is to be blamed if not our leaders?

    Well, that’s pretty cynical. It may even be too cynical. Lawrence Wright doesn’t seem to think that Islam is inherently an “enemy ideology.” In fact, his latest work seems to imply that our military success coupled with the astonishing cruelty of the jihadists is resulting in a pretty broad change of heart in the Ummah… including descension within the ranks of Al Qaeda.

    There’s something funny about Islam, and by that I mean funny peculiar. The escape clauses aren’t the same as escape clauses from harshness that one sees in other religions like Judaism or Christianity, which are generally a matter of hermeneutic interpretation. Within Islam the harshness is part of the black letter, and difficult to dismiss (especially given the principle of abrogation). However, neither the Quoran nor the Hadith are all that clear about who has the sovereignty to actually carry out the harsh judgments dictated by the black letter. The result has sometimes been a kind of paralysis, in which no one has the appropriate authority. And this paralysis would be a good thing to cultivate, I should think. Eventually the process could result in the separation of church and state that is currently favored only by the Shi’a Quietists.

    About McClellan, I still don’t understand why anyone should care about his opinion of the Iraq War. He was a deputy press secretary, which is to say a kind of dramatist. What would he know?

    And I still wonder if he’s related to George B. That’d be ironic. George did invent a rather good saddle.

  24. Re: #30 from Demosophist,

    Please read me more simply. I wasn’t trying to be cynical, or strike a pose, or take a shot, or make another point besides the one I ostensibly made. If you wage protracted war, especially in a country where the privileged war story is “we have met the enemy and they are us”, and if you officially declare the enemy your friends, then as killing, wounds, costs and weariness continue to distress the public, you invite the your enemies to promote the idea that the real enemy is you.

    #30 from Demosophist:

    “There’s something funny about Islam, and by that I mean funny peculiar. The escape clauses aren’t the same as escape clauses from harshness that one sees in other religions like Judaism or Christianity, which are generally a matter of hermeneutic interpretation. Within Islam the harshness is part of the black letter, and difficult to dismiss (especially given the principle of abrogation). However, neither the Quoran nor the Hadith are all that clear about who has the sovereignty to actually carry out the harsh judgments dictated by the black letter.”

    This is the basis of Mahathir bin Mohamad’s argument: that terror organizations don’t have the ultimate authority over making war on infidels and especially the Jews, because that authority (and, by implication, with it the ultimate political legitimacy in Islamic states) belongs to Muslim rulers, who must be equipped with every modern device of war: tanks, bombs and so on.

    The problem is that Islamic rulers haven’t been effective enough. For one thing, Israel hasn’t been wiped out. So the contest for moral authority is more open than Islamic rulers such as the former Prime Minister of Malaysia would like it to be.

    All this doesn’t shock me, and it’s basic to why I direct my attention to the system of Islam rather than to any particular villain. I don’t care who temporarily wins the perpetual intra-Islamic contest for moral authority. The point is, the character of the contest itself dictates that whoever wins it will not be our friend.

  25. _You’ve really done nothing to counter Dan’s point other than post a series of links to Chomskyesque accusations about the US_
    -Demosophist

    On the contrary, Dan implied that the US played a minor role in Saddam’s depredations which is a position that flies in the face of what we now know from the declassified national security record, it’s really that simple. Dan is incorrect. Chomskyesque is a compliment I do not deserve, but thank you.

    _It seems that Dan, rather convincingly, dealt with the idea that the US was largely responsible for the conditions in Iraq during the Saddam era, unless you think our level of involvement was somehow an order or two of magnitude larger than our actual contribution in finance and materiel_
    -Demosophist

    Dan of course has done no such thing, but this is clearly the horse _you’ve_ chosen to ride. And your dismissal of the World Socialist Web material in no way obscures the fact that its analysis was derived primarily from the declassified national security record as compiled by George Washington University’s “National Security Archive”:http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv. Since we’re now recommending reading material Dem, may I suggest that you peruse those archives? I’ve no doubt that you’ll find them illuminating.

  26. David Blue #31:

    If you wage protracted war, especially in a country where the privileged war story is “we have met the enemy and they are us”, and if you officially declare the enemy your friends, then as killing, wounds, costs and weariness continue to distress the public, you invite the your enemies to promote the idea that the real enemy is you.

    I understand that you’re not striking a pose, so neither will I. That seems a little cynical to me. :-)

    This is the basis of Mahathir bin Mohamad’s argument: that terror organizations don’t have the ultimate authority over making war on infidels and especially the Jews, because that authority (and, by implication, with it the ultimate political legitimacy in Islamic states) belongs to Muslim rulers, who must be equipped with every modern device of war: tanks, bombs and so on.

    Well, that is one claim to sovereignty. There are others. Twe examples that concern the punishment for apostasy. The second is more promising than the first:

    The Chief Mufti of Egypt, Ali Juma, says the death penalty doesn’t apply to apostasy, but to sedition. He brings a couple of traditions together by suggesting that the reasoning behind the original hadiths concerning apostasy was that they applied to individuals attempting to undermine the state through treason. This is clearly a shift in emphasis from the the Wahabist notions about a Sovereign Deity whose interests the state represents, to the unvarnished interests of an autarchy. But, while it’s true that the emphasis has shifted, the lack of separation between the state and the Sovereignty of Allah remains. It is promising not because it resolves the problem in a liberal way, but because it implies a separation of interests that could evolve into a separation of powers.

    The second example, which I’ve mentioned before, concerns how the two primary branches of the Shi’a, the Quietists and the al Faqih, deal with the lack of availability of legitimate sovereigns (the infallible Imams). The al Faqih insist that the sovereignty of the Imams has been delegated, temporarily, to a series of Grand Ayatollahs. The Quietists, who are the more traditional branch, believe believe in an implicit separation between church and state that derives from the absence of a sovereign. That is, until the revelation of the hidden Imam there is no religiously sanctioned state sovereign. Hence, no one has the authority to carry out the punishment for apostasy, etc..

    There are other sects that take yet a different route, by insisting first that abrogation applies only to events within the lifetime of the Prophet, but also insisting that suspension, commutation, and inapplicability mitigate strict adherence, depending on specific circumstances.

    Finally, I think believers of any faith are impacted by the battlefield, and a split has now developed between the former Emir of Al Jihad, Dr. Fadl, and Zawahiri. Fadl has issued an opinion that the killing of innocents as part of jihad is not only illegitimate, but that those who practice it may now be damned in an afterlife. This was probably the most influencial figure among the violent jihadists next to Qutb himself. Lawrence Wright has an article in the New Yorker on this topic, and reading about the intense debate between these two icons and their followers seems like a mirror of the split going on in the West. The “peace wing” has emerged chiefly because of the perception that they’re losing the fight. How ironic! Beliefs and convictions change, just as they changed with the Calvinists once Oliver Protector was demoted. The Fifth Monarchists (analogous to the al Faqih) lost nearly all of their influence, the community then shifted in the direction of Weber’s “Spirit of Capitalism.”

    This is what could be thrown away, if we choose to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  27. Coldtype #32:

    Since we’re now recommending reading material Dem, may I suggest that you peruse those archives? I’ve no doubt that you’ll find them illuminating.

    I have a better idea. Since you’re making the claim that Dan is incorrect regarding the percentage of materiel and other hard contributions why don’t you peruse the documents you cite and find the corrected percentages? That would address the issue Dan raises in something like a direct and substantial way. It seems to me that if Dan is correct, that most of the aid to Saddam was supplied by the French, Russians, and Chinese then those would also be the people with greatest influence on him. Of course, we could have been acting through the French… but that would still be rather indirect, and our interests didn’t always converge with theirs. And I hardly think we’d have been acting through the Russians and Chinese, attempting to meet our own policy objectives. By merely citing a source, without bothering to provide countering data yourself, you leave the impression that your waving a “magic” wand around, in a way rather reminiscent of Noam’s followers, if not Noam himself.

  28. Coldtype: _Another nail: McClellan promises to donate part of his book profits to Iraq Vets._

    Boy, you’re a cheap date.

    He’ll probably make even more money now.

  29. I have a simpler question- _Why_ didn’t Iraq boast M-16s and M60s instead of AK-47s and T72s? If we were such big Saddam supporters, why in gods name wouldnt we get some good ol defense contractor cash out of the deal?

    This is a problem i have with the blame america firsters, they are inconsistant. If the military industrial complex was backing Husseins horse, why werent they selling the bridles? There is a logical disconnect there. I thought the MIC ran this country? Did somebody lose their membership at the country club for missing the boat on Iraq arms sales? Heck, we even managed to trade arms to Iran during the 80s.

  30. _”For example, it was the US who encouraged and supported Saddam’s aggression against Iran by providing diplomatic, economic, as well as direct military assistance for the tyrant’s efforts.”_

    Question number two- do you support having President Carter brought up on war crimes charges? You might want to check your dates, always a bit of a sticking point in the whole ‘US encouraged Saddam to invade Iran’ scenario.

  31. _I have a better idea. Since you’re making the claim that Dan is incorrect regarding the percentage of materiel and other hard contributions why don’t you peruse the documents you cite and find the corrected percentages?_
    -Demosophist

    Dem, since you are clearly not dim I’ll attribute your misreading of my post as a strategic choice. My position is that the source of Saddam’s weaponry was completely irrelevant to the framework of US geo/political imperatives. What mattered to the US were Saddam’s *policies*. For example, his crucial role in the destruction of the Iraqi Left and, most essentially, the trade unions of the critical oil sector. It’s important to note that one of the few Ba’athist era laws to survive the Coalition Provisional Authority’s unilaterally imposed new Constitution were those that prohibited the rights of collective bargaining. Furthermore, Saddam was seen as an essential bulwark against newly independent Iran (post Revolution). Nevertheless, Dem your request that I provide direct evidence in the National Security Archives supporting my position is a valid one so,

    “here goes”:http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB107/index.htm.

    While all eleven of the documents presented here are important, I would ask that you pay particular attention to documents #4 thru #7. Document #4 gives us a revealing look at the Grand Master, Henry Kissinger, at the top of his game. In this meeting with one of Saddam’s most trusted chieftains, Kissinger smoothly assuages any concerns the Iraqis may have regarding the US and clearly signals that we’re willing to do business. This sets the stage for what follows in documents #5 thru #7 (the critical period during the Iraqi war crimes of the Iran/Iraq War). Enjoy.

  32. _”Henry Kissinger, at the top of his game. In this meeting with one of Saddam’s most trusted chieftains, Kissinger smoothly assuages any concerns the Iraqis may have regarding the US and clearly signals that we’re willing to do business. “_

    Isn’t this what the Democrats have been screaming for for the last 8 years? Kissinger was willing to sit down with anybody without preconditions? That sounds somehow familiar. I thought multilateralism and engagement were the good ol days, not the bad ol days.

    All these documents show is that our state department bends over backwards not to offend scumbags. Which apparently is the Obama Doctrine as well.

    Clearly it was in US interest not to see Iran conquering Iraq and becoming hegemons of the Persian Gulf… after all they were holding US civilians hostage at the time and had just conspired to kill over a hundred US marines. I’m struggling to see what any of this ‘proves’. Jimmy Carter was president when the war started, i think its a tough sell that he precipitated it. State Dept flunkies played footsie with Iraqi diplomats, thats what diplomats do. And the Reagan administration made half hearted gestures to ensure Iraq wasnt conquered by Iran when Iranian troops where ringing Baghdad. Realpolitic? Damn right. Proof of some neo-con conspiracy and imperialist intention? Proof that Hussein has been our bagman for 30 years? Just the opposite i’d say. These documents if anything prove how strained and schztofrenic our relationship with Iraq has always been. Certainly this was nothing like our deal with the devil with Stalin in WW2.

  33. _Isn’t this what the Democrats have been screaming for for the last 8 years? Kissinger was willing to sit down with anybody without preconditions? That sounds somehow familiar. I thought multilateralism and engagement were the good ol days, not the bad ol days_
    -Mark Buehner

    Mark, though I’ve made this point elsewhere on this blog, it’s certainly worth repeating again: US foreign (and domestic) policy is largely a bipartisan affair. Fundamentally there is little difference between the two camps on matters of US hegemony. For example, our aggression against Vietnam begun in ernest under Kennedy, was extended under Johnson, then radically escalated under Nixon whose “secret” plan to end the war was to expand it into neighboring Laos and Cambodia. My point being that this was a seamless process which had no difficulty traversing from one administration to the next regardless of the political party in power.

    Likewise for example, the Samozas of Nicaragua, the Duvaliers of Haiti, the Shah of Iran, and Indonesia’s Suharto all enjoyed generous bipartisan support from Washington right through the period of their worst atrocities. Mark, the list of monstrous US-supported tyrants goes on and on. So let the Democrats scream all they wish but don’t expect these hysterics to obscure in the slightest their complicity in US foreign policies which have exacerbated mass inequality, environment degradation, and sectarianism wherever its shadow has fallen. Running away from the historical record while substituting fairy tales in its place doesn’t change this.

    As far as what the links to the National Security Archives that I’ve provided proves? Well that should have been obvious at once. At a time when the Iraqis were committing war crimes via the use of chemical weapons against Iranian forces and the Kurds[1] (Saddam’s “own” people) the US provided Saddam with the diplomatic, economic, and military assistance he needed to prevail when the proper response was to condemn his actions before the UN as much of the world had done. It was therefore the height of hypocrisy for the US and the Iraqi “government” to try, convict, and hang Saddam for crimes, many of which, he committed with our assistance. Let’s put it this way, there were a number of notable men carrying American passports who should have been sitting in the doc beside him.

    [1] To paraphrase Chomsky on this matter, the Kurds were Saddam’s own people in the same sense that the Seminoles were the “people” of Andrew Jackson–not that these distinctions serve to justify the treatment of the victims in either case.

  34. Coldtype:

    Dem, since you are clearly not dim I’ll attribute your misreading of my post as a strategic choice. My position is that the source of Saddam’s weaponry was completely irrelevant to the framework of US geo/political imperatives. What mattered to the US were Saddam’s policies.

    Clearly the issue isn’t US intentions, but US leverage. I want people to live forever. My leverage in the matter is limited. Just as obviously, if Saddam was supplied by nations not under US control it’s rather exotic to claim that the US exerted the lion’s share of influence. Of course you can just presume that because it’s the US we control the course of regional and world politics, and you can always invoke some sort of conspiracy if you happen to obviously fall short of that. But you seemed to be claiming that Dan was simply wrong, and you’re apparent not able to back up that accusation.

    I’m shocked. Just shocked.

  35. _Clearly the issue isn’t US intentions, but US leverage_
    -Demosphist

    Dem, let’s try to be serious. The US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines acting outside the bounds of international law as well as over 800 US military bases garrisoning the entire globe accounts for more leverage than that enjoyed by any nation in recorded human history. That not invoking a “conspiracy theory” but merely taking note of concrete facts on the ground.

  36. #33 from Demosophist:

    “The Chief Mufti of Egypt, Ali Juma, says the death penalty doesn’t apply to apostasy, but to sedition.”

    Good.

    But in combination with Muslim ideas of what a well-formed state is, and what freedom is – that freedom is essentially living under Muslim rule, with all obstacles to the spread of Islam removed, and that the good state consists in a Muslim ruler, efficient force, and Allah as the supreme legislator – there would still be problems even if this opinion came to be widely accepted.

    But let me not be too grudging. The right thing to say is: good.

    #33 from Demosophist:

    “The second example, which I’ve mentioned before, concerns how the two primary branches of the Shi’a, the Quietists and the al Faqih, deal with the lack of availability of legitimate sovereigns (the infallible Imams).”

    If that was the solution, our troubles with Islam would have ended an age ago.

    #33 from Demosophist:

    “Finally, I think believers of any faith are impacted by the battlefield, and a split has now developed between the former Emir of Al Jihad, Dr. Fadl, and Zawahiri.”

    Absolutely, believers of any faith are impacted by the battlefield, and everybody is human before they are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or anything else.

    #33 from Demosophist:

    “The “peace wing” has emerged chiefly because of the perception that they’re losing the fight.”

    Absolutely. And so let us sing praises to (the relevant) god. (link) (link) ;)

    I think the objective for which the war in Iraq is being fought is worthless, but there is more than war to what you intend, and if unintended good effects of the fighting in Iraq are sufficient, then I’m all in favor of keeping the fight there as opposed to trying to take the initiative in Africa.

    (Obviously, I don’t support the idea of not taking the initiative in the jihad wars at all. Leaving it to your opponent to initiate the fighting on his terms is one of the surest formulas for defeat in war.)

    There is evidence emerging that the war is doing us good.

    If the war in Iraq proves a costly and dispiriting distraction for the Iranians to the extent that it impacts on Iran’s progress to nuclear armed status, then once again Otto von Bismarck will have proved correct: “God has a special providence for fools, drunks, and the United States of America.” I’m all for that. We can use all the divine favor we can get.

    Also, I want all Australian and allied troops committed to war to come home to parades and rewards, having done the job well, at a minimum cost in deaths and wounds. Yay America, UK AOK etc..

    I would want that even if we were going around shedding blood to build states that took the Communist Manifesto as a constitutional source of law – which would not be worse than what we are doing in shedding our blood to build up successful states in Iraq and Afghanistan that take Islam as a source of law.

    But if it turns out lucky for us: great.

    Shall we get back on topic for this thread now?

  37. _”At a time when the Iraqis were committing war crimes via the use of chemical weapons against Iranian forces and the Kurds1 (Saddam’s “own” people) the US provided Saddam with the diplomatic, economic, and military assistance he needed to prevail when the proper response was to condemn his actions before the UN as much of the world had done”_

    But via those very documents, the US DID condemn Iraq publically. And lets not put this in a vaccuum, Iran was committing atrocities as well. This wasnt a question of us deciding which side was the ‘good guys’, it was a decision to allow Iran to conquer Iraq, or not. That, again, is independent of the fact that Hussein started the war. Would you have been comfortable allowing Iran to conquer Iraq? Thats the ONLY question that ultimately had importance. Its easy to second guess with white gloves and silk napkins 25 years later, but at the time things were considerably more serious. US national security was very much at risk allowing an acknowledged enemy of the US to conquer the Persian Gulf. Sorry if that doesnt line up with whatever pristine ideas you have about how the real world works. Sometimes you have to make a deal with the devil, and it retrospect, it was STILL a smart move.

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