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point/counterpoint: today's required readings

Atrios takes his millionth stab against Bush and how he handled 9/11: bq. September 11th happened on Bush's watch, after his administration completely ignored the threat of terrorism. Right now, We All Know that George Bush showed "great leadership" after 9/11. How do we know that? Well, because the goddamn Democrats keep saying it. Truth? Bush ran and hid and then didn't stop wetting his pants until 3 days later. I'm not touching this one, because it's been done with perfection. Ed Moltzen gives Atrios a pretty good Fisking, backed with facts. bq. Where to start? If Bush "completely ignored the threat of terrorism," than how did President Clinton react to it? By letting street cops do all the work. After the first World Trade Center bombing, Clinton never even used the word "terrorism" to describe the attack. Go read the whole thing. Ed's a master at this stuff.

Comments

These people just love to rewrite history in their own eyes. I am just waiting for the day twenty years from now when my son asks me about 9/11 and to see what version of history exists. My guess is that it will not match up to what really happened.

My only comment is that the response in the example you provided (and most of Ed's piece) doesn't address the issue. Atrios is criticizing President Bush. Rather than attack the criticism, Ed seems to be attacking Clinton in hopes of deflecting attention from Atrios' point. Did I miss something? Would you ignore or equivocate poor behavior on one kids' part if he/she said "But my brother did it too!"?

Mike, Atrios' points are so far off the mark they are undebatable. Do you really think George Bush went through four pairs of underwear on 9/11? Do you think Bush scheduled that trip to Florida because of his "advanced knowledge" of 9/11?

There is well documented proof that Bush was where he says he was on 9/11. Atrios also claims that we have bombed two countries back to the stone age and left them to fend for themselves. Seeing as how both countries are now governed by constitutions and are moving towards free elections, this claim is just some sort of delusion in his head. I don't know if you actually read Ed's rebuttal...he clearly points out where Atrios is on crack and only compares Bush to Clinton since Atrios wants to make believe that Bush is a bad president and that Kerry would do a better job.

If you want to rewrite 9/11 from a tragedy to a political statement; that's your choice. It's also the same reason why I left the Dems back in 1998.

History really is the victor's story to tell. You only have to look at how the right is currently rewriting Vietnam so that that abomination is now somehow justified.

You only have to look at how the right is currently rewriting Vietnam so that that abomination is now somehow justified.

Oh my Lord, why would the right rewrite a war that was started by two Democrats (Johnson and Kennedy). Are you guys really that out of touch with reality? When was the last time you picked up a history book?

Brian -

you're not addressing my question. If you want to say that Atrios makes spurrious claims and cannot validate his points, that's one thing (you do so in your response - Ed doesn't seem to); I was questioning how Ed's argument is actually an argument given that he doesn't directly counter Atrios' points for the most part, and instead falls back on attempting to dispel Atrios' criticism by pointing to Clinton's (and Gray Davis'? What's the point in bringing him up?) perceived inadequacies. Again, how does that address Atrios' criticisms of Bush?

Also, where in Atrios' piece did he question whether Bush had prior knowledge of the attacks? He may have done so earlier (I don't read him regularly), but not in this post.

I think you can see the wars both ways: I agree (and supported) with the wars as ways of freeing oppressed populations, but given what we know now how necessary was the Iraq war to our continued security? Don't get me wrong - I love the fact that we did what we did and took out one of the more ruthless thugs in power, but did it materially affect terrorism against the U.S., or was it simply an effort of RealPolitik intended to showcase U.S. hegemony in military matters? As far as Afghanistan is concerned, you're being incredibly naive if you believe that we've truly engaged in nation-building there and that the 'government' has any power outside of Kabul. It's certainly safer for U.S. interests, but is it truly free and democratic? Karzai himself made several pleas to the U.S. and U.N. to live up to their lofty promises of aid, and has been rebuffed and ignored many times over the last year or so. We're certainly doing something in Afghanistan (and now more than before), but there has been a serious lapse in attention to that country.

Regardless, i'm getting off track. The point is, Atrios' makes several specific points, and Ed fails to argue most of them effectively (in my opinion). Instead, he spends most of his piece comparing Bush's accomplishments to others'. How is that supposed to be an effective argument?

Anyone that seriously puts in their screed that Bush wet his pants and hid deserves no serious consideration of any other point. Period.

It's akin to arguing to take seriously the "specific points" of someone against samesex marriage who begins their line of attack by calling gays "fudgepackers".

Phobia is phobia .... be it homophobia or bushiephobia -- irrationality rules.

The very fact that Ed's reaction to Atrios is extolled as "a pretty good Fisking, backed with facts" lends credence to the worthiness of discussing Atrios' piece. Dismissing Atrios' argument based on minor demagougery (no one actually believes Bush weed his trousers) is hardly an answer to his relevant points. That is, actually, one of the worst forms of logical fallacies, IMHO.

Sorry, I'm in an argumentative mood this morning. Care to actually debate?

So Mike, would you like to address specific debating points on same sex marriage with an revealed homophobe?

Not here, you won't.

Sure Mike, let's git it on.

Atrios asserts that Bush ran and hid. The record shows, as Ed points out, he didn't. At Ground Zero a few days later, standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium when the whole world watched and more than a few of us wondered "is he in danger"?

Atrios attempts to smear Bush as a coward - the record shows he demonstrated leadership. Ed gave those examples.

Atrios claims the administration blew away a nothing country, let everyone get away, and didn't provide enough resources to rebuild it. No facts offered to support the assertion, but that's not your argument. Ed offers the fact that the Taliban was completely driven out of political power in Afghanistan.

Atrios says now we know we didn't do enough to find Osama because we're doing more. We couldn't do it anyway because we can't possibly handle Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time. No facts offered to support these assertions.

I will concede here that Ed argues this point using "Clinton did/didn't" comparisons.

"Utter lack of planning" Ed refutes with the facts of known accomplishments in Iraq.

I could go on. It really seems to me that your only argument is that by using "Clinton failed" comparisons, Ed doesn't take Atrios on very well, and therefore Atrios has a lot of good points.

I'll give you the "Clinton failed" comparisons are weak arguments. But where Ed argues the facts, they are compelling, they are difficult to refute, and they are a hell of a lot more substantial than Atrios' name calling and "nyaa nyaa" crap, followed with no facts or relevant supporting examples.

Can we agree on that?

The only thing I have against this point / counterpoint is that you have already said Atrios is so far off the mark as to be undebatable ;) If you truly believe that, then a point / counterpoint with him is... pointless.

It adds nothing to the debate. I find Kos to be a little more filled out in his information and a lot less demagougic in delivering it.

Know what I think would be a cool? A moderated debate on an IRC channel between left-leaning bloggers and right-leaning bloggers. I really think it'd be a great exercise because there would also be a huge fact-finding expedition before hand. Perhaps some people would be inspired to look at primary documents and stuff like that.

I dunno... just throwing ideas out ;)

Finally!

Actually, Atrios specifically limits his first comment/snipe to "Bush ran and hid and then didn't stop wetting his pants until 3 days later." Therefore, showing up at the WTC site 3 days later had been acknowledged. The implication (to me) was that Bush was indecisive, and that seemed highlighted by his reaction during the photo op with the class he was visiting. I can't know what he was thinking, but my view was that a truly strong leader would've excused himself at that moment (even allowing that he couldn't have known we were under terrorist attack after the first plane hit) and gotten further information, then addressed the situation. Bush chose differently (at least initially), and Atrios characterizes that worse than it perhaps deserves to be. Additionally, it's been well reported that the White House engaged in a campaign of disinformation regarding Bush's and Cheney's whereabouts at the time, from where they were to the reasons for their movement. Atrios again characterizes that poorly, but I've personally not seen a fair accounting of what the President was doing at that time and why. It's entirely possible Atrios' characterization is correct; as with all beliefs, its the basis of your prejudice that decides which way you'll go. Atrios hates Bush, so he thinks Bush "ran and hid"; Ed likes Bush, so he scoffs at that notion. However, traditional "Fisking" would require a link providing source material for Ed's assetions, wouldn't it? As far as Bush being a coward and showing up in NY being brave, I think both perceptions are colored by the prejudices of the perceiver, hm? The President should have been in NYC at that time, and perhaps earlier (security permitting). A truly effective leader isn't showing much bravery by walking into a city (then basically on lockdown) with the sort of security attachment the President has.

Atrios' assetion about Afghanistan has some truth to it, as does Ed's. The Afghan War was effectively run from a military perspective, the Taliban were routed, and 20 million people do indeed live freely, if by 'free' you mean 'not harassed by the Taliban much'. The Afghan people are better off in many ways than they were, but there has been a decided lack of follow-up support in many ways from the U.S. and the rest of the coalition involved (there's enough blame to go around). So Ed's right, but he fails to address Atrios' assertion: that the Administration has not lived up to it's assertion of Bin Laden as a great threat and it's pledge to eradicate that threat, and it's promise to rebuild Afghanistan. We've done a lot, but have we truly done enough?

As for Atrios' assertion of an "utter lack of planning," he's engaging in demagougic exaggeration with a basis in truth. The Administration did indeed take a few months to get everything going, and didn't seem to have a handle on what to do with Iraq once they had it. Many factors may have played into that: the quickness of the victory, a political distaste for planning the rebuilding of a country that we hadn't yet toppled (and were still debating whether or not to), simple lack of foresight into the size of the task. Replacing administrators and fumbling around to establish the different commissions for civil administration with no clear plan, however, does not engender confidence in the Bush Administrations nation-building strategies.

My view is not that Atrios' has good viewpoints because Ed doesn't effectively argue them, but that Atrios' has valid points that Ed fails to effectively address. Particularly in the examples Michele cited, I don't see anything that disputes Atrios' point.

There are a lot of great reasons for what the U.S. did, but there are a lot of concerns about the way we did it as well. Atrios may clumsily highlight those concerns, but that doesn't make them any less valid.

Ed does do a better job when he sticks to facts and eschews the attacks on Democrats, but I think much of his argument still misses a lot of the points. This goes on with both sides of the debate about the war(s): some see the ends justifying the means, and some dislike the means so much they can't see past them to see the great outcome. A lot of what Ed argues is "the end justifies the means." I don't think that's very effective, personally. Not in politics, anyway. Militarily, hell - history's written by the winners, right?

Gotta pack for a trip so this is it Mike, best regards..

"Atrios limits his first comments/snipe to Bush hid and wet his pants". Not in my world, "can't chew gum and walk, they aren't grownups" .. more of the same.

"Characterizes it worse that it needs to be"? Yeah, saying Bush pissed himself is characterizing it worse than it needs to be. His point, 'he's a coward' is refuted by facts. You think the Secret Service said "yeah boss, jump up on that pile of smoking rubble"?

Here's a characterization. The Secret Service detail feels strongly about their charge to protect the President, as a responsibility to the people of this nation that we have a secure and functioning government. You need an accounting on that?

Afghanistan: "Did we take Bin Laden's threat seriously"? Yes. "Have we truly done enough"? I don't know, what else you think we need?

"Utter lack of planning...demagouguery with a basis in truth". I measure results. You seem to be measuring style. We aren't far off here, but hell if I just concede utter lack of planning I still admire the results. Luck? Planning? The stars? I'm of the opinion that very good results in a difficult situation are a result of planning and execution, with adjustments as necessary. In either case, hardly "ineptitude". Unless, you want to talk about how the results reflect failure.

You didn't address my basic summation, which was 1) Atrios has diddly squat for supported assertions, and 2) Ed refutes some with facts, some with "Clinton Clinton".

Maybe I did a better job of refuting Atrios than Ed did? I don't know. But I can't see any Atrios point supported by a fact he put on the table. It's opinion (he has a right) or outright assertion with no supporting data.

Are you and I in violent agreement?

... I was gonna say something after Dave's post, but really, I got nothin ;)

Dave,

I didn't intend to imply that Atrios made only one snipe, only that the comment in question limited that specific point to the first three days after the attacks. Both you and Ed made a point of mentioning that Bush appeared at the WTC 3 days after the attacks, which falls outside of the comment Atrios made (and which he addressed later in his post).

I don't think Bush is a coward (and agree that Atrios goes too far in that regard), but I also don't see his showing up to make a speech at the WTC as 'brave' so much as 'expected'. The Secret Service may not have been happy about it (or his overnighter to Iraq, for that matter), but since when do they dictate where the President can go? Certainly they have significant input, but they're not the President's masters. If it were up to the Secret Service, I'm sure he'd be in a locked-down bunker somewhere 24/7. I don't need an accounting of the reasons for his movement or whereabouts, but you and Ed both brought up that "facts" have shown that there were reasons he wasn't where the White House said he was initially. I don't know what those "facts" are, so I'm honestly questioning their validity. No offense intended, of course.

You're absolutely right (and I've concurred previously) that the results were golden in many ways. However, there are still many questions not yet answered. For example, if a major part of the reasoning for attacking Iraq was because they possessed WMD and our intelligence was so faulty, we HAVE to question everything about the decision-making process involved. Cagey answers and bogged-down investigations don't help the administration's credibility in that area. You're obviously of the 'end justifies the means' camp but, while I tend to lean toward that camp, I feel it's necessary to have an honest accounting of why the means were employed. If you cut through all the bile and hate in Atrios' post, I think you'll find that basic premise as well.

Sorry about missing your basic summation - I think Atrios' "facts" had as much validity as Ed's "facts" because Ed tries to vet Atrios' post not so much by refuting his points so much as arguing different points and deflecting argument with a "him too" approach when he couldn't do that. Yeah, you've done a much better job of refuting Atrios' post (some of it, anyway) than Ed did. As was my original point, Ed needed to do a better job of attacking Atrios' criticism and spend less time attacking Democrats.

Cheers. Have a good trip.

Mike, you are an utter fool. I can well believe if you were president, you would have jumped up in the middle of a classroom of little kids and left, to their utter confusion and fright.

Actually, Andrea, I would have politely informed the class that I was needed to do something else and moved on. I'm sorry, babe, but given that the President could've possibly spearheaded an effort to prevent the additional attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon over hurting some kids' feelings, I would've gone for excusing myself from the classroom. That's not to say he could've altered the outcome of that day, but his behavior at the time did leave something to be desired.

I may be a fool, my dear, but you're a complete idiot if you think the possibility of saving those lost lives is trumped by the feelings of some schoolchildren.

I just wonder about the fact that the report about terrorism compiled under the Clinton Admin was put off and eventually shelved without being shown to Bush.

I don't think it's fair to say that Clinton etc. were lax against terrorism without saying that pre-911 Bush was as well.

Mike,

thanks. I like this dialogue.

I misunderstood your first sentence (Atrios specifically limits his first comment/snipe to "Bush ran and hid and then didn't stop wetting his pants until 3 days later.) to mean it was the limit of his snipes. You say you didn't mean that and I accept you at your word.

Brave/expected. I would say brave and expected, you say expected. Ok. Maybe even a gesture that avoided later criticism... I can't discern motive, but I can say he did what was expected (I call that leadership). If the detail dictacted his moves, we would have never seen him. It's a balance.

I still haven't found an assertion that Atrios backed up with facts. Yes, he's a critic. I have no problem with that. But backing it up - his position sounds more like analysis/opinion than facts.

On WMD, you and I agree, we have to question why we were wrong about them. I have no problem investigating them. I'm not saying Atrios said "Bush lied", but many have, and I'm not prepared to agree without facts to back it up. At any rate, I wholeheartedly support digging through our intelligence services on this, and improving their capability to determine what's what.

I'd add that, evidence to the contrary, the intelligence services of many nations reported concerns about the WMD. I'd ask that you consider your suggestion that I am an "ends justifies the means" guy in light of my elaboration. I do like the results, but I don't want to get there the wrong way.

I think we conclude on some agreement - I'm tired of "Clinton too". It's not relevant, at least not to the issues I care about. Sounds like you feel the same.

best

Dave

The common myth is that Clinton did nothing against Terrorism. This is untrue. The following is taken from : http://www.truthout.org/docs_03/101303A.shtml

"Starting in 1995, Clinton took actions against terrorism that were unprecedented in American history. He poured billions and billions of dollars into counterterrorism activities across the entire spectrum of the intelligence community. He poured billions more into the protection of critical infrastructure. He ordered massive federal stockpiling of antidotes and vaccines to prepare for a possible bioterror attack. He order a reorganization of the intelligence community itself, ramming through reforms and new procedures to address the demonstrable threat. Within the National Security Council, "threat meetings" were held three times a week to assess looming conspiracies. His National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, prepared a voluminous dossier on al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, actively tracking them across the planet. Clinton raised the issue of terrorism in virtually every important speech he gave in the last three years of his tenure. In 1996, Clinton delivered a major address to the United Nations on the matter of international terrorism, calling it "The enemy of our generation."

Behind the scenes, he leaned vigorously on the leaders of nations within the terrorist sphere. In particular, he pushed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to assist him in dealing with the threat from neighboring Afghanistan and its favorite guest, Osama bin Laden. Before Sharif could be compelled to act, he was thrown out of office by his own army. His replacement, Pervez Musharraf, pointedly refused to do anything to assist Clinton in dealing with these threats. Despite these and other diplomatic setbacks, terrorist cell after terrorist cell were destroyed across the world, and bomb plots against American embassies were thwarted. Because of security concerns, these victories were never revealed to the American people until very recently.

In America, few people heard anything about this. Clinton's dire public warnings about the threat posed by terrorism, and the massive non-secret actions taken to thwart it, went completely unreported by the media, which was far more concerned with stained dresses and baseless Drudge Report rumors. When the administration did act militarily against bin Laden and his terrorist network, the actions were dismissed by partisans within the media and Congress as scandalous "wag the dog" tactics. The TV networks actually broadcast clips of the movie "Wag The Dog" to accentuate the idea that everything the administration was doing was contrived fakery.

The bombing of the Sundanese factory at al-Shifa, in particular, drew wide condemnation from these quarters, despite the fact that the CIA found and certified VX nerve agent precursor in the ground outside the factory, despite the fact that the factory was owned by Osama bin Laden's Military Industrial Corporation, and despite the fact that the manager of the factory lived in bin Laden's villa in Khartoum. The book "Age of Sacred Terror" quantifies the al-Shifa issue thusly: "The dismissal of the al-Shifa attack as a scandalous blunder had serious consequences, including the failure of the public to comprehend the nature of the al Qaeda threat."

In Congress, Clinton was thwarted by the reactionary conservative majority in virtually every attempt he made to pass legislation that would attack al Qaeda and terrorism. His 1996 omnibus terror bill, which included many of the anti-terror measures we now take for granted after September 11, was withered almost to the point of uselessness by attacks from the right; Jesse Helms and Trent Lott were openly dismissive of the threats Clinton spoke of.

Clinton wanted to attack the financial underpinnings of the al-Qaeda network by banning American companies and individuals from dealing with foreign banks and financial institutions that al Qaeda was using for its money-laundering operations. Texas Senator Phil Gramm, chairman of the Banking Committee, killed Clinton's bill on this matter and called it "totalitarian." In fact, he was compelled to kill the bill because his most devoted patrons, the Enron Corporation and its criminal executives in Houston, were using those same terrorist financial networks to launder their own dirty money and rip off the Enron stockholders.

Just before departing office, Clinton managed to make a deal with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to have some twenty nations close tax havens used by al Qaeda. His term ended before the deal was sealed, and the incoming Bush administration acted immediately to destroy the agreement. According to Time magazine, in an article entitled "Banking on Secrecy" published in October of 2001, Bush economic advisors Larry Lindsey and R. Glenn Hubbard were urged by think tanks like the Center for Freedom and Prosperity to opt out of the coalition Clinton had formed. The conservative Heritage Foundation lobbied Bush's Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, to do the same. In the end, the lobbyists got what they wanted, and the Bush administration pulled America out of the plan. The Time article stated, "Without the world's financial superpower, the biggest effort in years to rid the world's financial system of dirty money was short-circuited."

----

"Over and above the theoretical questions regarding whether or not Clinton's anti-terror policies, if passed, would have stopped September 11 lies the very real fact that attacks very much like 9/11 were, in fact, stopped dead by the Clinton administration. The most glaring example of this came on December 31, 1999, when the world gathered to celebrate the passing of the millennium. On that night, al Qaeda was gathering as well.

The terrorist network planned to simultaneously attack the national airports in Washington DC and Los Angeles, the Amman Raddison Hotel in Jordan, a constellation of holy sites in Israel, and the USS The Sullivans at dock in Yemen. Each and every single one of these plots, which ranged from one side of the planet to the other, was foiled by the efforts of the Clinton administration."