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March 08, 2009


I don't know how you measure "attacks" for the purpose of confirming or denying equivalence, but if you want to start accumulating data points: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-schaeffer/open-letter-to-the-republ_b_172822.html

A couple of points in rebuttal:

1. The criticism of Democratic dissenters was quite genteel, compared to the criticism of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld at that time. These people were called "war criminals" and worse. A substantial number of Dems still want to prosecute them.

2. Dissent in war in different from dissenting against peacetime policies. Winston Churchill's uplifting speeches were crucial to preserving England's morale during the darkest days. Churchill obviously did not declare that his country's key war strategy had failed before it was even implemented. That's what Harry Reid said about the surge (and Reid was entirely wrong, to boot.)

Put another way, it's literally true that during war dissent does provide aid and comfort to the enemy. (However I'm with Brendan in disliking that phrase, since it seems to accuse the dissenter of commiting treason.)

IMHO, for those two reasons, the Dems current criticism of policy dissent deserves more censure than the Republicans' criticims of dissent during the height of the war in Iraq.


1.) The attacks on those who criticized Bush's actions (not limited to Democrats) were hardly genteel.

Leaving aside all the attacks by the press and pundits, dissenters were constantly accused of "giving aid and comfort to the enemy" by officials in the Bush administration, including the Attorney General. I'm sure you're aware that's the definition of treason with the implication that those guilty should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And that dissenters were cordoned off from public events, arrested and threatened with prosecution for nothing more than suggesting that they disagreed with official policy.

2.) Churchill's Britain was under constant bombardment and at real risk of being conquered by their enemy. There is simply no equivalence to today's conflict. Your standard would guarantee that any president who wants dictatorial authority simply declare war, in perpetuity.

3.) Finally, dissent does not give aid and comfort to the enemy. Stupidity and incompetence, do. In their failure to object to and criticize the war policy of president Bush, our Congress and our press aided the debacle of the Iraq war and allowed Afghanistan to fester. The fault falls particularly on Republicans, many of whom knew better, but refused to challenge their party leader. Bush's idiotic strategy lasted until 2006 when voters finally stripped the Republican party of it's majorities in Congress.

1. Jinchi, "giving aid and comfort to the enemy" is only a part of the definition of treason. Check the Constitution. Nevertheless, I do agree with your point that it's a nasty accusation, which sounds like a charge of treason.

I'll stick with my assertion that the attacks on Democratic dissenters were milder than the attacks on Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld. Also, Dem attacks on these three were picked up and repeated by media to a greater degree than the attacks on Democratic dissenters. (Off point, but IMHO the main stream media tend to follow the Dems' lead in who to attack. E.g., consider the attacks on Rush Limbaugh. Or, look at Frank Rich's unfair attack Jim Cramer, based on a quote taken out of context. Cramer is a Democratic Obama supporter, but he had the temerity to predict that Obama was taking the wrong economic approach.)

2. Of course you are correct that England had far more at stake in WW2 than we did in Iraq, which was a war of choice for us. However, I would contend that morale is vital in any war. Fighters on all sides are offering the ultimate sacrifice. If they think their cause is hopeless, they won't fight as well.

3. Sorry to be ultra-logical, but I would contend that stupidity and incompetence aid the enemy and so does dissent. However, since you raised the point, I would add that most of the Democratic dissent was also stupid and incompetent. The obvious example was their opposition to the surge and to General Petraeus, who Hillary called a liar. Thank goodness President Bush had the good judgment and the cojones to pursue this successful approach in the face of so much wrong-headed belly-aching.

However, long before that, as soon as the occupation started going badly the dissenters criticized willy-nilly anything, major or minor, that they could find to complain about. I will give the dissenters credit for complaining that things weren't going well. However, few of them focused on the solution that ultimately proved correct, namely the surge. Dissenters rightly complained about Abu Ghraib, but to an inordinate degree. At the same time, they downplayed far worse atrocities committed by our enemies and which had been committed by Saddam. We even saw Scott Beauchamp, the so-called "Baghdad Diarist" for The New Republic, making up stuff that was supposedly going wrong.

Dissent is worthwhile in some cases, even though it encourages the enemy and discourages our side, because dissent might be necessary to convince our leaders to change to a better policy. In the case of Iraq, the dissenters mostly pushed for worse policies. Even the New York Times, which favored a rapid troop withdrawal, admitted that such a withdrawal would have led to a full-fledged civil war and widespread genocide.

However, few of them focused on the solution that ultimately proved correct, namely the surge.

If by "the surge" you mean the increase in troop levels that followed the 2006 elections, you might remember that Eric Shinseki was famously fired for telling Rumsfeld that he was sending too few troops to secure Iraq and this was one of the principle objections to the war both before and after the invasion. Bush, Rumsfeld, etc. stated continuously that we had "exactly the right number of troops in Iraq" up to the day the Republicans lost the midterm elections, so to congratulate him on his "good judgment" and "cojones" on that point is absurd.

If by "the surge" you mean the outreach to Sunni Baathists in Anbar, this again was a major critique of the Bush policy and again Jay Garner - the original leader of the reconstruction - was abruptly dismissed for refusing to implement Bush's de-Baathification program.

Suppression of dissent is entirely about protecting the powerful from embarrassment, not protecting our troops or the country from its enemies, and I fundamentally disagree that dissent discourages our side and couldn't care less if our enemies find it amusing. It's democracy's biggest asset, not a liability.

Yes Jinchi, Bush was wrong to ignore Shinseki's advice. It took Bush much longer than it should have to recognize that his occupation strategy was not working and to switch to something that did work.

However, Dems who favored withdrawal tried to have it both ways. They blasted Bush for ignoring Shinseki's advice to add troops, and they simultaneously blasted Bush for not withdrawing troops. Dems who took these contradictory positions appeared to be focused on making Bush look bad rather than finding the best strategy for Iraq.

As it turned out, both sides got what they wanted. The Dems succeeded in making Bush look bad, and Bush succeeded in Iraq.

I think you're conflating critics who wanted more troops in Iraq with those who wanted no troops in Iraq. Yes, there were many people who thought the correct number of troops in the country was zero. There were others who thought it was 300,000. These are not the same people.

Also, I'm happy you think that Bush succeeded in Iraq. But I sincerely doubt you could have presented the situation in Iraq as it is today as the definition of success to Americans in 2003 and convinced anyone that the war was worth fighting.

It's only been 2 months. Just wait. You should start collecting Nancy Pelosi quotes about 'unpatriotic' Republicans or 'un-American' law enforcement officers. And keep it up for as long as the Democrats hold power. Make sure to go through all the comments Democrats have made about Rush Limbaugh in the last 2 months. And keep a list. Otherwise, this 'false equivalence' crying is nothing but partisan BS on your part.

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