Q: Is the White House concerned about the protests that are planned in Salt Lake City today?
MR. DUFFY: The President addressed that directly. He can understand that people don't share his view that we must win the war on terror, and we cannot retreat and cut and run from terrorists, but he just has a different view. He believes it would be a fundamental mistake right now for us to cut and run in the face of terrorism, because if we've learned anything, especially from the 9/11 Commission Report, it is that to continue to retreat after the Cole, after Beirut and Somalia is to only empower terrorists and to give them more recruiting tools as they try to identify ways to harm Americans.
So he believes that people have a fundamental right to express their views. That's one of the reasons we're fighting this war on terrorism, to protect our fundamental rights. But at the same time, he disagrees strongly.
And via the Progress Report again, here's Donald Rumsfeld comparing critics of the war in Iraq to those who praised Stalin and Communism during World War II:
Of course, some are arguing that the effort in Iraq is doomed. Recently we've again been told that Iraq may prove worse than Vietnam, and it's been alleged that we're not winning...
Throughout history there have always been those who predict America's failure just around every corner. At the height of World War II, a prominent U.S. diplomat predicted that democracy was finished in Britain and probably in America too. Many Western intellectuals praised Stalin during that period. For a time, Communism was very much in vogue. It was called Euro-Communism to try to mute or mask the totalitarian core. And thankfully, the American people are better centered. They ultimately come to the right decisions on big issues. And the future of Iraq is a very big issue. So those being tossed about by the winds of concern should recall that Americans are a tough lot and will see their commitments through.
For more on attacks on dissent since 9/11, see my Spinsanity column from Sept. 2004, All the President's Spin, and Henry Farrell's updated list of claims that the left is rooting for the other side in Iraq or the war on terror.
Update 8/25: Readers seem to think my objection to these comments wasn't laid out in enough detail, so here's a bit more. (I try to keep it brief generally since I've written so much about the smearing of dissent that I don't want to repeat myself. See what I've written in the past [linked above] for more information.)
Duffy's quote uses a key tactic that is employed in attacks on dissent - blurring the distinction between a handful of people on the fringe who actually want the US to lose the war on terror and the vast majority of Americans, who do not. Duffy, speaking generally about anti-war protests and opposition to the war, says that Bush "can understand that people don't share his view that we must win the war on terror." That is a smear. You can protest against the war in Iraq and still believe we "must win the war on terror" -- indeed, that is undoubtedly the position of most opponents of the Iraq war.
Another tactic that is frequently used is to associate political opponents with hated figures -- Saddam Hussein, Nazis, North Korea, etc. We wrote about this frequently on Spinsanity. And I believe Rumsfeld's statement is very much in that vein. Yes, he is making a historical analogy, but it disguises an attempt to liken war opponents to Communist sympathizers. That analogy implies that war opponents sympathize with the other side. That, again, is a smear. With the exception of a handful of fringe figures, it is not a fair statement about those who question the war in Iraq.
Various readers will undoubtedly respond by saying that obscure extremist X or Y said something favorable about the insurgency. And they may be right. Such statements are loathsome, but they do not excuse making sweeping generalizations about a huge swath of people. 56% of Americans believe the war in Iraq is going badly -- are they sympathizers with the insurgents? Do they believe we don't need to win the war on terror?