Jewish World Review June 28, 2004 / 9 Tamuz 5764
Justifications: Where have all the Dems gone?
Of all the commentaries on Michael Moore's propaganda film Farenheit 9/11, the most acute comes from the New York Times' David Brooks. Brooks begins his facetiously titled column, "All Hail Moore," with this tongue-in-cheek observation: "In years past, American liberals have had to settle for intellectual and moral leadership from the likes of John Dewey, Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Luther King Jr. But now, a grander beacon has appeared on the mountain top, and, from sea to shining sea, tens of thousands have joined in the adulation." Moore's "documentary" is at the top of the box office, out-grossing on its opening day (Friday)"White Chicks," "Dodgeball," Stephen Spielberg's new pic, "Terminal" and "Shrek 2."
The source of this impressive reception lies in its maker's success in capturing the imagination of the Democratic Party's activist core, not to mention its heart and soul. This is the really significant dimension of the Michael Moore moment. Others have focused on the fact that the Pied Piper of Flint is a cynical manipulator of audience emotions, an irresponsible auteur and a compulsive liar. Beyond that as Christopher Hitchens has shown in a blistering review in the liberal magazine Slate Moore is also a world class phony, attacking the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq for derailing the War on Terror despite the fact that Moore is on record as opposing the attack on the Taliban as fiercely as he does the war on Saddam.
What is momentous in the Moore phenomenon is that the Democratic Party or at least its political core has embraced a piece of Marxist agitprop and made it an election campaign spot. David Brooks provides readers unfamiliar with the Moore Weltanschauung with some chillingly precise quotes. According to Moore: "The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not 'insurgents' or 'terrorists' or 'The Enemy.' They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow and they will win." In other words, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the beheader of Nicholas Berg, is not really America's enemy (unless you are misled by the deceiver in the White House); he is actually an Islamic reincarnation of Ethan Allen or Paul Revere, a harbinger of a new global freedom which will only be achieved by the overthrow of the Great American Satan. This obscene fantasy is of course just an excessively vulgar version of the same Marxist fantasy that radicals like Moore (and Kerry) were peddling in the 1970s about totalitarians like Ho Chi Minh, prior to delivering their Vietnamese allies to the Communist gulag from which they have not yet escaped.
Not surprisingly, Moore's "analysis" of the rationale for the war is a vulgar Leninism (if that is not a redundancy). In an interview with a Japanese newspaper, cited by Brooks, Moore explained: "The motivation for war is simple. The U.S. government started the war with Iraq in order to make it easy for U.S. corporations to do business in other countries. They intend to use cheap labor in those countries, which will make Americans rich" In other words, the war in Iraq is "blood for oil," from the slogan made popular by the North Korea-aligning Workers World Party which as it happens was responsible for all the early mass demonstrations against the war in Iraq.
What is disturbingly new in this political season is not that there exists a large radical culture which has learned nothing from the fall of Communism and which identifies Americans as agents of evil and George Bush as their Fuehrer-in-Chief. What is new is that they have been joined in this electoral campaign by the Democratic Party establishment along with sensible anti-Communist veterans from the Cold War era like Arthur Schlesinger and Kennedy speechwriter Ted Sorensen, both of whom attended Moore's Washington opening along with Senators Tom Harkin and Barbara Boxer and DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe.
It is fair to ask how far has this group derangement progressed. Well, Salon.com, an Internet journal which, unlike Moore, supported the war on the Taliban, now compares Moore favorably to Solzhenitsyn, Dickens and (of course) Bruce Springsteen.
These eye-popping developments have been progressing with disturbing velocity since the moment American troops entered Baghdad after a three-week war and House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi complained that the liberation of 25 million Iraqis was already "too costly." It has proceeded with alarming speed from this high ground to underhanded not to say reckless accusations that the President has betrayed his country, concocted lies to lead Americans into a war for the benefit of Texas corporations, and wasted the lives of American youth in uniform, while killing and abusing innocent Iraqis for no particular reason a point Moore pounds home with all the subtlety of a cluster bomb.
The impact of these irresponsible and poisonous attacks not only on the tenor of America's political discourse, but on the war itself has been profound. As a result of the left's propaganda war against the war, the American government is now almost as hamstrung as it was during the post-Vietnam era (when it could not send troops to Afghanistan to block the Soviet invasion) and until the War on Terror. The Bush Administration, realistically speaking, cannot raise another 100,000 troops even if that should be required to pacify Iraq or deal with other terrorist threats without threatening to bring the political house down. The world's most powerful nation state cannot threaten, let alone invade, Syria or Iran even if these terrorist regimes were shown to have hidden Saddam's weapons or were engaged in plotting a terrorist attack on the United States. If the commander-in-chief went before the American people to request such authority, who would believe him now? Nor can the United States rescue hundreds of thousands of black Africans being slaughtered by the Muslim Arab government in the Sudan. That would be an unwanted exercise of imperial power and undoubtedly "too costly" as well. Michael Moore and his "liberal" friends and their campaign of reckless distortion and phobic insinuation have seen to that.
In this election year, it is unlikely that the "popular front" between once sensible liberals and mischievous leftists can be broken by any argument. The power stakes are simply too high. But if there's a way to induce any second thoughts it is to confront those in the Moore audience who are still possess their faculties with the absurdity of the fundamental premise of their argument. This premise is succinctly summarized in an intelligent but ultimately tortured review of Moore's film by David Edelstein, which also appeared at Slate.com. Edelstein shows that he understands the squalid duplicity of Moore, but nonetheless can't extricate himself from the seduction of the idea that the ends of this film sabotaging the current war effort/dethroning the Prince of Deceives justify the disreputable means: "[Moore's film] delighted me. It disgusted me. I celebrate it. I lament it."
The crux of Edelstein's cave-in to bad sense is encapsulated in this sentence: "Farenheit 911 must be viewed in the context of the Iraq occupation and the torrent of misleading claims that got us there."
The attacks on the rationale for the war are the real bad faith in the debate over Iraq not anything that George Bush or Dick Cheney are alleged to have claimed. First, because none of the allegedly misleading claims as identified by the left are claims that actually "got" us into the war. Specifically, the rationale for the war was not WMDS, or an al-Qaeda connection, or an imminent threat (Bush actually said that confronting Saddam was necessary to prevent the development of an imminent threat). The rationale for the war was a unanimous Security Council Resolution (1441), which was drawn up in the form of an ultimatum that passed on November 8, 2002 and that instructed the regime in Iraq that it would have to provide proof to the U.N. by December 7 that it had destroyed its Weapons of Mass Destruction "or else." There is not the slightest question that Saddam failed to meet this ultimatum, and indeed that he tried to deceive the Security Council by providing a false report on his WMD arsenal. Even Hans Blix, the UN chief weapons inspector concedes this in his recent memoir Disarming Iraq.
In fact, we know that there were WMDS (and have found some). Even if there were none, this was not a "deception" of the Bush Administration, but a contention of the intelligence agencies of the western world, the UN inspection team, the Clinton Administration and the Democratic Party nominee, John Kerry, as well. Nor was the war initiated by an Administration determined to pursue a unilateral policy. The war deadline was imposed by a multilateral coalition of nations acting through the UN Security Council. This was a war sanctioned in its legality by the international community, which proved too cowardly and too corrupt to carry it out. It is true that the UN Security Council failed to enforce its own deadline, but we also know now that $10 billion in Oil-for-Food money stolen by Saddam with the collusion of UN officials was used to bribe the nations who withheld their final votes.
We know and have established that there is indeed a link between Saddam and the War on Terror, although the left would prefer to argue about "operational" links between Saddam and al-Qaeda, an exercise in election year scholasticism inappropriate to a matter as serious as war and peace. The question of Saddam's links to al-Qaeda at whatever level is largely irrelevant to the question of whether Iraq was part of an Axis of Evil behind the war on the terror, because al-Qaeda is only one organization dimension of this war. Nonetheless, in addition to ten years of provable links between the Saddam regime and al-Qaeda and the testimony of the Clinton Administration, which identified both as parties to the bombing of two U.S. embassies in 1998, there is the presence of Abu Musad al-Zarqawi, as the commander of the terrorist forces in Iraq. If Zarqawi an international terrorist linked to al-Qaeda but more importantly to Islamic jihad is heading the resistance in Iraq, then Iraq is the central front of the war on terror, just as Bush insists. Is there anyone in the sensible opposition that would like to argue that it is a bad idea for the United States to have a military base and a very large CIA station in Iraq, which is centrally located in the terror heartland, rather than the regime of Saddam Hussein? If so, make the case.
Notwithstanding the emptiness of the left's arguments against the Bush Administration's rationale for the war in Iraq, they are irrelevant to the question of whether to support the war (now that we are in the war) and the Administration that launched it. To make this absolutely clear: the rationale for the war (which is the focus of the entire political debate) is irrelevant if the war is just.
Do David Edelstein and all those who are now engaged in this unseemly dance with a Leninist crank want to argue that the war itself was unwarranted and unjust? Do they want Saddam back in power? Do they think it's a bad thing that America now has a military platform and a very large intelligence facility bordering Syria, Afghanistan and Iran? Do they want the President to pull American forces from this front? If so, let them say so, and we'll know who we're dealing with. Otherwise they need to stop talking about the "justification" for the war as though it was a substantive issue or even something that mattered.
Franklin Roosevelt claimed that Pearl Harbor was a "sneak attack." Yet the United States had broken the Japanese code and therefore should have known the attack was coming. Would it make a difference to anyone if Roosevelt had known? Would that have justified a massive assault on Roosevelt as a liar and a traitor in the midst of the war to employ the language that Al Gore has used against George Bush? Suppose Lincoln had clandestinely sent a special force of Union soldiers to attack Fort Sumter and blame it on the Confederacy. Would that change liberals' view of the Civil War that freed four million slaves? Would reviewers like David Edelstein celebrate (while also lamenting) a scurrilous propaganda effort by a pro-slavery miscreant like Michael Moore, defaming Lincoln and attempting to turn the free states against the war? But that is exactly what is happening here.
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