As many of you know, it’s often as much as (and often more than) I can do to keep the blog completely current. I often don’t have much time to spend on it, and that often results in me getting behind a few days and not responding to the kind comments made by readers (especially those of you who give me regular and enthusiastic encouragement). For that I apologize.
I sort of make up for things this time around, although it means taking a slight detour from my Hyman-centered writing. I’ve finally gotten some posted comments from someone who’s a big Hyman fan! I have been a bit surprised not to hear more from “Point” apologists, but a recent reader has made up for some of this by posting a lengthy commentary on my most recent posting. He even apparently has his own blog, “Sick of Spin,” which has a playful, Orwellian irony that emerges from a comparison of the blog’s title and its contents.
Unfortunately, it’s enough to keep up with Hyman that I doubt I will have time to get into long debates with Mr./Ms. Sick-of-Spin (assuming he/she chooses to become a regular reader and comment maker). But I appreciate the readership, and acknowledge the gumption it takes to wade into the fray when you’re outgunned and on hostile territory (even if you do it anonymously). I’d love to have Sick-of-Spin and other Hymanites out there contribute to the discussion, and I apologize in advance for not giving you the personal responses your time and effort deserves.
Having said that, I can’t resist the temptation of what we in the education biz call a “teachable moment.” “Sick of Spin” offers a cavalcade of fairly common conservative points, and does so in a way that more or less typical of conservative rhetoric. Given this, I thought I would devote just one commentary to responding to Spin’s lengthy posting. By going through the posting point by point, I hope to help Spin tighten up his/her persuasive skills a bit, and offer some responses to what are probably commonly held ideas among those in the Hyman camp.
So thanks again for taking the time to comment, Spin, and my apologies if this is the only time I have to really give you your due in terms of feedback. I hope that doesn't dissuade you from coming back regularly to read and post. Please let me know if any of my comments or suggestions are unclear.
[I have excerpted some of Spin’s text below and responded point by point beneath each excerpt. If you haven’t yet, you might want to read the previous Counterpoint for the sake of context.]
Ted fabricates: Both the Vietnam conflict and the war in Iraq were based on
faulty information, if not outright lies, that policy makers refused to
acknowledge (Gulf of Tonkin, WMDs).
While I would agree on the
faulty intelligence, the claim of 'if not outright lies' is outrageous,
unproven, unsubstantiated, without a basis in fact when it comes to the war on
terrorism. You folks like to pretend Bush lied, but you have no evidence, all
you have is black helicopter theories. The 9/11 commission didn't uncover any of
these so-called lies and neither did the Senate Intelligence Committee
investigation. Quit spinning!
Please make note of the language I used--I chose the words I did for a reason. I said "if not outright lies" precisely because we don't have any memo that shows us the president saying, "Yes, we know they don't have any WMDs or links to terrorism, but we will say they do so we can go to war." What we do have, however, is a memo (courtesy of the British) that tells us that intelligence was being "fixed" around the desire to invade Iraq. We also know from former Bush administration official Paul O'Neil that literally before the smoke had cleared at Ground Zero, members of the Bush administration (notably Donald Rumsfeld) were actively pushing to find connections between 9/11 and Iraq to fit into their longstanding goal of ousting Saddam Hussein. Whether administration officials knew what they were saying was factually false, or whether they simply refused to acknowledge or consider any evidence that contradicted what they wanted to believe, they acted unethically and immorally.
Ted fabricates: In both conflicts, American politicos equated imposing
American-style democracy on a people with allowing them the freedom to govern
Iraq now has its own Constitution, structured as THEY see fit,
they've debated, protested and held elections. Their culture, their rules, their
ballots, their creation of laws - how is that NOT an example of freedom and
It's not an example of freedom when the entire political apparatus used to create the constitution was put in place by Americans, not Iraqis. The current constitution (to give just a couple of examples) is open-ended when it comes to U.S. occupation and pointedly makes Iraqi oil fair game for foreign companies. The constitution itself mandates a sort of federalism which is in many ways antithetical to Iraqi culture.
But you don't need to take my word for it. Ken Pollack, an expert in Mideast affairs at the Saban Center recently gave a talk at the Brookings Institution outlining the pitfalls a hastily-constructed constitution based on a time table that serves American, rather than Iraqi, interests could cause. The Asia Times recently ran a piece detailing how the Iraqi constitution was systematically mutated in its construction from a truly Iraqi document to a neo-conish work of nation-building. Joe Conason has written a brief but insightful commentary on the problems the current American-styled constitution may bring. Too liberal? How about conservative stalwart Charles Krauthammer? He's also recently noted the problems of mandating a slap-dash constitution on Iraq. Too American? How about Haifa Zangana, an Iraqi novelist and a woman who was imprisoned by Saddam Hussein? In a recent article in the Guardian, she noted that the constitutional process has largely disregarded women's rights and that the process has always been based on U.S. interests, not those of the Iraqi people. Perhaps all of these people are wrong, but to suggest that questioning the wonders of the Iraqi constitution is simply a matter of empty political spin is not a tenable position.
Ted fabricates: In both conflicts, those who opposed or even questioned the war
were labeled as "un-American" by supporters.
Those who fly
flags upside-down, slander our military, stereotype our forces as 'inherently
evil', call the administration stupid while ignoring the obvious fact of success
that we haven't had another 9/11 like attack - ARE un-American.
Even if we grant your point, the problem is that it doesn't address what I said. Many supporters of the Iraq war (Mark Hyman among them) suggest that those who oppose or question the war "hate the troops" and are un-American. The problem is that, according to every poll on the subject, most Americans now question the wisdom of the war. Perhaps those who fly flags upside down or call our forces "inherently evil" are un-American, but to suggest that everyone who objects to or questions the war is un-American is not a valid claim. Remember that many of those who are most vocal in their objection to the war are families of servicemen, veterans, and those who have served in Iraq themselves.
Perhaps most disquieting is your statement that those who call the administration "stupid while ignoring the obvious facts that we haven't had another 9/11 like [sic] attack ARE un-American."
Do you really believe this? Since when did thinking the current administration were right, smart, or even competent become a litmus test for being a good American? You might say that people who believe this are wrong or deluded (and, for the sake of argument, let's say you're right about that), but to say that criticizing the president and his administration is by definition un-American is the sort of over-the-top rhetoric that's not going to help your credibility. Keep in mind, for example, that had the same test applied in the 1990s, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, and most conservatives would have been considered un-American. As much as I disagreed with these folks and thought their words and actions were damaging to the nation, I would never say that simply criticizing the administration makes them un-American. Criticism of those in power is about as American as it gets. You need to be careful of making your argument in a way that is inconsistent with your own beliefs or that could easily be turned around on you. It communicates weakness and/or sloppiness of thought to your audience. (As does, by the way, making regular use of all caps to emphasize points. This seems to be a common problem--all my freshman composition students love doing it for some reason.)
Ted fabricates: In both conflicts, opposition to the war started out small, but
grew as casualties mounted and the truth about the motivations and
rationalizations for the war emerged.
Where is your TRUTH in the
motivations for the war against terrorism? Hmmmm? I haven't seen any coming from
you. And regarding casualties, this war (remember, it IS a war after all) is
being managed quite well and casualty rates are WAY below the rates for Vietnam.
You want to play the numbers game with the truth right? Why won't you do a
number by number comparison if you care to be intellectually honest?
I'm not sure what you mean by asking, "Where is your TRUTH [sic] in the motivations for the war against terrorism?" That's a grammatically unclear statement. On a logical level, it also is presuming facts not in evidence. You seem to assume that the war in Iraq (the topic under discussion) is part of the war or terrorism. For many of us, one of the big problems with the war in Iraq is precisely that it is taking away from the war on terrorism. There are no links between Iraq and 9/11, and as we all know now, there were no WMDs that Hussein was somehow going to smuggle to al-Qaeda. While Osama bin Laden is still free, we continue to be bogged down in a war we chose to start. Unless you provide evidence that the war in Iraq should be seen as being part of the war on terror (rather than providing the perfect recruitment and training tools for terrorists, which is what it seems to be doing), the question doesn't seem germane to the topic under discussion.
On the casualty issue, notice that all I said was that in both Vietnam and Iraq, opposition to the war grew along with the numbers of casualties. I did not state that as many soldiers had died in Iraq as died in Vietnam. I didn't even suggest that as many soldiers *will* die in Iraq as in Vietnam. Complaining that I didn't acknowledge the lower casualty numbers between Iraq and Vietnam is not a compelling point, given that I made no comparison between the raw numbers.
But if you want to do a number by number analysis (as you suggest), we can. But if we do such a thing, we have to be technically accurate and compare apples to apples (again, this is something you seem in favor of, and rightly so). Given that, it would be distorting and inaccurate to compare casualty rates for the first few years of American occupation in Iraq to the casualty rates of the Vietnam conflict at its height. To be fair, we have to compare numbers starting at the beginning with each conflict. The first American military casualty in the Vietnam conflict was in 1957. It wasn't until late 1965 that the number reached the current number of U.S. military fatalities we now have in Iraq. That's 8 years vs. 2.5 years. Even if you decide not to start counting until a significant number of U.S. personnel were sent to Vietnam (1961), we are still ahead of the Vietnam schedule in terms of raw numbers of casualties. I stress that this is unrelated to the point I made in my post, but since you want to make this comparison, I thought it would be helpful to really do an honest, side-by-side analysis rather than just talking about it.
The larger point is that any number of young people who are killed in a war waged for misguided and less-than-honest purposes is too many. I certainly hope we don't need to get to 58,000 dead before we are willing to consider the possibility that the invasion was a mistake, and I hope you would agree.
Ted fabricates: In both conflicts, when the majority of the American people
disagreed with government policy, apologists for the policy still attempted to
portray those who were against the war as an out-of-touch
You don't debate honestly, so it's a fair statement to
say you and your ilk are out-of-touch.
In response to my statement that supporters of the war still attempt to portray those who oppose it as an "out of touch" minority, you say, "You don't debate honestly, so it's a fair statement to say you and your ilk are out-of-touch." Two problems here: first you haven't given a valid example of me not debating honestly. In fact, as I've shown, most of your criticisms are straw-man appeals that misinterpret or misrepresent my argument and then attack the misrepresentation that you've constructed.
But let's say for the sake of argument that you're right and that I haven't debated honestly. How does that make all of those who question the war "out of touch"? Have all people who disagree with the war not debated honestly, including those who have fought in it themselves? Or are you saying that it might not be fair to say that all people who disagree with the war are "out of touch," but that since I don't debate honestly, you don't have to either? This isn't made clear. In either case, you're running the risk of being unintentionally humorous given the fact that your statement itself is an unfair generalization.
Ted fabricates: In both conflicts, those who advocated sending young people do
die in large numbers also claimed that they were "supporting the troops" and
that those who advocated bringing troops home were "giving comfort to the
Perpetuating and exaggerating Abu Grahib WAS giving comfort
to the enemy. Putting all military members into an 'inherently evil' pot IS
giving aid to the enemy. Liberal Dick Durbin putting the U.S. military in the
same class as Nazis and Russian death camps WAS aid and comfort to the enemy.
Never mind his statement was posted on Al Jazeera huh?
You're committing the same logical fallacy here that you did earlier with the comments about people being "un-American." Hyman and other right wing commentators suggest that to question the war is by itself helping the enemy. In your statement, however, you choose very specific examples: people who were "perpetuating and exaggerating Abu Grahib," an unnamed source whom you quote as saying that the U.S. military is "inherently evil," and Dick Durbin. Even if one were to grant that all of these people are giving aid and comfort to the enemy, it doesn't justify the vastly larger suggestion that anyone who voices opposition to the war is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Picking a specific example or two doesn't prove the larger point.
Moreover, even the specific cases you identify are problematic. I would humbly suggest that what gave aid and comfort to the enemy with regard to Abu Grahib was not those who reported on it, but those who committed it ( a group that goes far beyond the men and women who have been scapegoated by the administration, but includes those who have tacitly and/or explicitly condoned such practices, including our current Attorney General and current Secretary of Defense). Through actions of this group of individuals, Islamic extremists were given the best PR they've gotten since, well, the U.S. unilaterally invaded an Islamic country. Shooting the messenger doesn't help. It's the actions themselves that are despicable, damaging, and that dishonor America, not the reporting of them. It's called accountability.
In the case of Dick Durbin, you seem to be referring to a statement where he read a description of the treatment of inmates under U.S. control and said that the description would seem more at home in an account of Nazi or Soviet prison camps. Simply as a matter of grammar, Durbin was not, "putting the U.S. military in the same class as Nazis and Russian death camps [sic]." Durbin compared the specific events in the account with what we might assume were commonplace events in Nazi or Soviet camps. His point (as clumsily as it might have been worded) was that we could and should expect more from our military than we would expect under such regimes, and that when such aberrations occur, they need to be roundly criticized and dealt with. How is protecting individuals who dishonor the military and their country by participating in immoral acts a good thing? How is criticizing such people slandering the entire military?
As far as those unnamed voices who you claim say the U.S. military is "inherently evil," I agree that saying such a thing is both immoral and factually wrong. I certainly have never said it, nor would I. I know people (including several former students) who are currently serving in the military, some of them in Iraq as we speak. Not only do I not believe the U.S. military is inherently evil, but I know that the overwhelming majority of those who serve are decent, patriotic people to whom we owe a great deal. It is exactly because of my respect, admiration, and love for those who wear the uniform and serve our country that I find the decision to send them into harm's way for no just reason a horribly immoral and personally infuriating act. No, the U.S. military is anything but inherently evil, but war (even when it is justified) is inherently evil, as is the act of starting one preemptively.
Ted fabricates: In both conflicts, the media paid relatively little attention to
the horrible toll civilians were paying in the course of their
That's blatantly false. The left leaning media has
done everything it can to paint a negative picture of the war despite the many
successes such as new and/or rebuilt houses, schools, hospitals, roads,
community centers, etc. Don't get me wrong, civilian tragedy has occurred, but
we are talking about war after all. Why do you totally ignore how the U.S.
military goes out of its way to avoid the very thing you're crying foul on?
As you might say, "examples please?" In fact, a study by the Project on Excellence in Journalism (a creation of the Columbia School of Journalism) has done a detailed content analysis of the media coverage of the war and determined that it was overwhelmingly neutral, and that positive and negative stories were roughly equal.
Of course, the study said nothing about the fact that the supposedly liberal media (and the supposedly ultra liberal New York Times) actually played a key role in supporting the war by unquestioningly mouthing administration talking points about the issue of WMDs. This was done to such an extent, that the Times actually had to issue an apology for its limply acquiescent coverage of the build up to war.
In any case, you are again making an apples/oranges comparison. My statement specifically dealt with the issue of civilian casualties. Perhaps I've been missing the regular tributes to the Iraqi civilians killed in the war airing on TV, but I honestly have not seen a single mention of the overall death toll on network or cable news. The only place I can find such numbers are at the websites of human rights groups and other organizations devoted to cataloging this information. If you can cite examples of mainstream news outlets paying significant attention to the number of Iraqis killed (beyond the occasional body count figure for specific attacks), I'd be happy to stand corrected, but I honestly don't think the average American has even a vague sense of the human cost to innocent Iraqis of the war.
I also never suggested the U.S. military doesn't do everything it can to minimize civilian casualties. Again, you're creating a straw man to knock down. I feel confident that as a rule, the military does what it can to minimize civilian deaths. But when you start a war, you know that it will be messy (or, at least, you should). No amount of precautions is going to keep innocent men, women, and children from dying horribly. If we are going to honestly discuss and decide what to do about Iraq, we can't pretend that this isn't a reality. As far as blame goes, I don't blame the U.S. military--I blame the Bush administration for starting the war and the rest of us citizens for letting them do it.
Ted opines: In both conflicts, policy makers and their supporters argued that,
once all other rationales for the conflicts had disappeared, we needed to stay
the course in order to "honor" those who had already
'Rationales'for the war against terrorism have disappeared?
Folks are saying we should stay the course simply to 'honor' the dead? Examples
You say you want an example of war supporters using "honoring the troops" as a rationale for continuing the war? How about the number one war supporter himself?
"[N]ow we will honor their sacrifice by completing their mission"
-- President George W. Bush, August 24, 2005.
Of course, he couldn't be bothered to honor the sacrifice of Cindy Sheehan's son by explaining to his mother why he died, or even attending a single funeral of a fallen soldier, but that's a whole other matter.
As far as disappearing rationales go, a recent study cataloged no less than 27 different rationalizations for going to war in Iraq that were offered up by various administration officials and their supporters at various times, all of which have been revealed to be suspect to some degree or other.
Ted fabricates: In both conflicts, members of the Bush family vocally supported
the war, but no one in their family actually served.
Bush served his country and did so with honor as a fighter pilot in WWII. He
left the service nearly two decades before heavy U.S. involvement in Vietnam. To
say 'members of the Bush family did not serve' is a bogus charge. George W. Bush
was in the National Guard during the Vietnam era and it is simply intellectually
dishonest to say he didn't serve. Oh, and never mind that he is currently the
Commander In Chief huh? That to, is serving. Your distortions are
I understand the point you're trying to make, and I apologize for disgusting you, but I have to point out yet again that you're constructing a straw man here. I never questioned George H.W. Bush's service in World War II. What I said was that no member of the Bush family served in the Vietnam War or the war in Iraq.
George W. Bush, as you point out, was in the Air National Guard (well, sort of). Even if we ignore the mountain of evidence that shows he got in to the guard via family connections and didn't fulfill his minimal obligations while there, it's still the case that he didn't serve in the conflict in Vietnam (unless there were MiG sightings over Texarkana that I'm unaware of).
To say that being president is "serving" in the same way as a uniformed soldier in a combat zone is stretching awfully far. I don't remember Clinton getting much acknowledgment for serving as commander in chief by the folks who liked to call him a draft dodger. But I'll concede your point: President Bush should be honored for his valiant service, risking life and limb clearing brush in Crawford for five weeks at a time.
By the way, I can't help adding in a tangential point here. Yes, Bush Sr. served in WWII. But do you remember that when he was running for president in 1988, a gentleman who served in the same unit as Bush and who was on the same mission as Bush when the former president was shot down (and for which he was given a medal) came forward to say that he had seen Bush abandon his stricken plane and bail out while his two crewmen were still trapped inside, allowing them to plummet to their death? Someone rightly pointed out that Bush should be honored for his service and that it was ridiculous and wrong to try to discredit his record to score political points. That someone was Michael Dukakis. Given what we saw last year, I can't help but wonder why the Bush family seems to think honoring those who served for their service only applies when they are on your side politically.
Ted boasts (false sense of bravdo [sic] ): And that's The Counterpoint.
really, you don't seem to have a valid point and with such weak rhetoric I can
see why Hyman exposed you for the fake you are.
Mark Hyman has exposed me? Where? When? Did I miss something? As far as I'm aware, the only time has Hyman uttered my name was when he attacked me for being soft on plagiarism by taking something that I didn't write out of context (and not saying a thing about the true motivations behind his words).
Oops, my mistake--he did mention my name one other time: when he was forced to retract what he said about me on the air because it was a lie.
And that's the Counter-Counter-Counterpoint.
Spin Index: Enough strawmen to populate a Ray Bolger fan convention.