Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Moderate Voice

I used to enjoy The Moderate Voice a lot more when it was mostly Joe Gandelman's voice. He does have a voice. It's moderate in the best sense, standing back far enough from what he reports to not be bombastic and vituperative about it, and standing back far enough from his own ego to be always a bit jocular, a bit self-effacing.

But now it's mostly guest-bloggers, and it's getting harder and harder to tell from the rest of the anti-war movement blogs. Look at the recent offerings: David Shraub writes that he was shocked by the right side's reaction to this Minneapolis Star-Tribune column about U.S. medics working equally hard to save the lives of U.S. soldiers, Iraqi civilians, and wounded terrorists. From the column:

... Buhain tells of one badly wounded terrorist who had received a tracheotomy, or breathing tube. "Every day for months, the nurses and respiratory therapists would patiently suction him to make sure he didn't choke," he says. "We tried everything to help him get better: coming up with novel breathing techniques, walking around with him."

Shraub was shocked to see many of the sites that supported the U.S. military in its overthrow of Saddam and work toward a free Iraq take an approving view of this piece of writing. "If you told me this story would be getting a positive mention from Powerline and Captain's Quarters, I wouldn't have believed it for a moment." Does he really believe that the people who support this war effort do so because we hope our medics will be giving lethal injections to captured insurgents?

Does he think reasonable, but strongly opinionated, sites like Powerline and Captain's Quarters drink blood and care nothing for the integrity of the U.S. military? If so, what's the difference between "The Moderate Voice" and "Democratic Underground," except the failure, so far, to employ the phrase "Shrubbie McChimplerburton Boy King the Death Merchant"?

He writes:

"As much as anything, this is why we are going to win the war against Islamic fanaticism." Absolutely. Like any party in an armed conflict, there will be times when U.S. military forces commit excesses, even horrible ones. What makes us different from them is that these excesses are aberrations, not policy. And that is our greatest weapon in this conflict (which, of course, makes it all the more important that we resist the effort to make dehumanizing tactics part of our policy).

And, though of course Shraub omits this part, of course it's all the more important to us to make sure the world knows this kind of story as well as it knows the Abu Ghraib story. Which is why the supporters of the war like this kind of story. And why we wish it was told more often.

The columnist at the STrib -- one of the most reliably anti-war media outlets in the nation -- ends her piece with a question:

We've grown used to news media reports that portray U.S. troops as a malign influence. In recent months, the words prisoner and torture have frequently appeared in the same sentence. Is Buhain the odd man out in an army that is otherwise an oppressive occupying force? Or does our military have countless soldiers like him?

That should not be a question. Any journalist who doesn't know the answer to it, or is too lazy to find out, doesn't know much. And it's disingenuous. It turns the image problem into a military problem. "... [T]he words prisoner and torture have frequently appeared in the same sentence ..." What sentences? Written by whom? Published where? You can't hide the media, try as you might, because it is an element in this story. The critic keeps ending up on stage.


On the same site, a few posts earlier, another poster, Michael Stickings, slams the blogging right for its enthusiastic response to the president's latest, and most praiseworthy, speech on Iraq. It seems in their rallying, Michelle Malkin et al threw a few elbow digs at the defeatists. This didn't sit well with Mister Stickings.

It's just that sort of political and ideological correctness that has taken over so much of American conservatism in recent years. The not-so-subtle message is that all criticism of the war, aside from the desire for more war, is defeatism -- worse, it's nothing short of anti-Americanism. You oppose the war... you even oppose the way the war is being conducted... you challenge the powers-that-be in any way... you're un-American... and you'd impose "dire consequences and costs" on "all Americans".

Still missing the point. But at least he's got the right essential words. Here's what it should have said:

The not-so-subtle message is that if all you have to offer is criticism of the war, if all you have to say is negative statements without even acknowledgement that there's a real, and serious, and determined enemy to be defeated, as well as years of home-grown bad policy to unbdo and make right, then that's defeatism. If you devote all your political capital, and public presence, and brainpower, and waking hours, to devising lists of everything Americans are not allowed to do in the war, and take no consideration of the nature and brutality of the other side, or to devising alternate strategies that work better than the list of ones you wish to forbid, it's nothing short of anti-Americanism. You oppose the war... you even oppose the way the war is being conducted... you challenge the powers-that-be in any way... and you offer nothing as an alternative except "bring the troops home, leave the poor jihadis alone, announce to the world that we lost the war," how on earth are we supposed to tell the difference between "you" and a fifth-columnist. I mean if we really had nothing to go on but how you devote your energy in the public arena, how would a neutral observer tell the difference? Because if that's all you're about here, you're un-American... and you'd impose "dire consequences and costs" on "all Americans".

Mister Stickings goes on to say,

America is a nation born of dissent. To be American is to be able to dissent -- to say no, to seek alternatives, to refuse to be told what to do and to think and to say. Is that not the American way?

And he concludes, "Those like Malkin and her ilk on the right simply don't know their history. And they certainly don't know what it means truly to be an American."

Which is, pardon me, a historically ignorant thing to say. Hell, it's ignorant overall. Nothing can be built entirely of dissent. America was born in common visions, in awareness of common enemies and common goals. It was built by active pursuit of new ways of living and governing a nation. The "dissent" in the Revolution was the Loyalists.

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