Thursday, February 09, 2006

What Did We Know and When Did We Know It?

As America revisits the rationales for war in the aftermath of Plamegate, the topic of revisionist history has been repeatedly highlighted in the mainstream media . A barrage of charges has been hurled into the public forum these past several months, emanating from Left and Right alike, that Bush Administration and Democratic leaders are engaging in “Cover Your Ass” revisionist historical accounting.

It got me thinking. Just what is it that we were actually thinking and saying back then? And what is it that we have simply come to believe we were thinking and saying? That curiosity, along with a personal desire to be intellectually honest in myself as I continue to oppose the Bush Administration’s militaristic impulses, provoked me to poke my head back in to old email bins and review correspondences from those days just before “Shock and Awe” streamed American might across a billion television screens worldwide.

After reviewing that correspondence, what most strikes me with respect to current day rhetoric, even more so than the continuing lack of transparency and seemingly deliberate obfuscation of the Bush “cabal,” is the constant Democratic refrain these days that “we didn’t know then the things we know now.” By and large I see more clearly than ever, after reviewing my own thinking, and knowing that I was not alone, that we did know then much of what we now know, or at least we knew enough then to know that we weren’t sure. The truth was out there, or at least plausible alternative views were, for anyone willing to look for it beyond the Bush Administration spoon-fed front pages of the New York Times.

We knew that we believed Iraq had WMDs, not that they had them. We knew, or felt strongly, that we would only find out “yay” or “nay” if Saddam Hussein were to be confronted with credible use of force. We knew then, based on the available, now discredited, intelligence, that Congress did not vote for “war,” but had authorized war only as a last resort if weapons inspections failed. That’s what we knew even if that sinking feeling in our guts told us the Dems had just given away the store and turned the prospect of violence into the inevitability of it.

After all, anyone paying attention then could also see plainly that the rationale for war was shifting on an almost daily basis, that U.S. engagement with the U.N. was not sincere, or was not coming across as such, and that, short of Saddam relinquishing the reins of power, we were setting up Herculean milestone measures for the Iraqis that a reasonable person knew they could not possibly meet especially if they were telling the truth that they had no WMDs.

Simply put, it was clear to me then, as it was to many others, that the Bush Administration was rushing our nation to war. It was as clear to me then as has only become clear to me since that, while we were busy tossing out ideas of how best to deal with Saddam, our nation’s leadership was busy tossing out, quite literally, State Department plans to deal with the post-war Iraq they knew was on the way.

In early March of 2003 I sent out an appeal encouraging friends and family to sign an online petition in support of continued U.N. diplomacy backed by force. I received back a scathing reply from a male relative two days later, a missive in which I was charged with offensiveness for advocating continued diplomacy, a preconceived dislike for Bush, and, perhaps most hurtfully at the time for someone who prided himself on going out of his way to be well-informed, naivete.

Would that this matter were so trivial that I could tell him “I told you so” a little more than two and a half years later. I know I can’t and wish I couldn’t. For that matter, I imagine he thinks he was not wrong based on what he knew at the time. He may even still believe we did the right thing. In any case, there is no glee in being right about an issue wherein being right has meant unnecessarily lost lives, an expansion of the very terrorism the military action was intended to curb, and an unprecedented loss of American prestige. Or to put it another way, I would gladly grant my relative a smug smile and an “I told you so” in return for just one single American soldier’s lost leg or one Iraqi child’s lost mother.

As for the charges my relative leveled my way? I stand by my views on diplomacy over force as easily as I will grant him his point on Bush. As for naivete, I thought him wrong then, but now recognize the truth in what he said.

Back in 2003, the last thing in the world I was thinking was “insurgency” and a Vietnam-like quagmire. I was not thinking outright lies, misdeception and cover-up by high-ranking government officials. I was most certainly not thinking Internet televised beheadings of Americans, the “outing” of our own post 9/11 intelligence assets in the interests of partisan gain, or, absurdly, even the glimmer of the idea of torture by Americans and attempts by our own Vice-President to codify that torture into law.

Back in 2003 we as a nation were divided on means, bitterly so; but, by and large, we were still unified in purpose, the knowledge that 9/11 had changed everything, and in our beliefs in the indominitability of American force and our determination to do good in the world, even if we get it wrong sometimes. Doves and hawks alike back in 2003 believed we would “win” the war if fought and, while I was not certain, and didn’t think we could assume, that we would be greeted with cheers and bouquets and flowers as my relative had suggested, I was still on some level surprised and saddened when we weren’t.

So, yes, he was right on that count. I was more naïve then. I think we all were. I’m less so now, but think of that lost part of me as just the most minimal of the most minimal casualties bestowed upon us by the “Law of Unintended Consequences.” I can’t say I mind that loss, particularly when placed against, just to name one example, the 600 lives lost on an Iraqi bridge when inaccurate reports of a suicide bomber created a stampede, the effects of which were worsened dramatically by concrete barriers at an American checkpoint. As for me, I still sit here from the same safe perch I sat on then and toss out words to the world. I consider myself fortunate. I mind very much, however, the reasons behind that loss, all the thousands upon thousands who have lost so much more because we chose not to know all those things we could have and assumed we knew all those things we didn’t.

Related Post: The Things We Really Thought And Said Before The Iraq War

Libby May Be Dumb, But He Ain't Stupid...

"Cheney 'Authorized' Libby to Leak Classified Information" the National Journal reports:

Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records.

Read the full article here. And then go make yourself a nice cup of tea, settle in to a chair, read some or all of the 776 comments on Huffington Post regarding the news and ... WAIT! STOP! ****** !!!!!!! NEWS FLASH !!!!!!! ******


... in 2002. Oh.

Where were we? Good lord, did I just say up above 776 comments? Could somebody just give all those conspiracy crazy Dems a chill pill?

Sad as hell and not going to take it any more

You know, an interesting thing happened on the way to this pen in my hand. Or, rather, the keys beneath these fingertips. See, I was a Dramatic Writing Major in college. And then I graduated and wrote, well, just about NOTHING. For years. After a time I stopped even calling myself a writer because, after all, writers write. Right? And I wasn't writing.

Except songs. They were always my therapy. And it never really mattered to me if people heard those songs because they made ME feel good and, when I was lucky, they made the people closest to me feel good too. Or at least think I was really, really deep.

And, yes, it's true, in case you're wondering, just about every guy who can play guitar and sing okay gets laid because of it if he wants to, especially if he write songs too. That's another one of those things we never admit to. After a while you don't even need the guitar... And writers? Everybody is a writer the second they sign a check, so you don't necessarily get the benefit of the doubt there, unless that is, you get paid to write or use really big words and wear glasses and wait for chicks who dig that sort of thing to come up to you and say "Hey, what are you writing?!?"

So what makes a writer? Necessity.

Writers write because they have to. Because they have so much gunk in their heads and will explode if they don't get it out, but people get friggin' tired of listening to it (and rightfully so), so they have to start telling the whole world. Ironically, that is precisely the moment those closest to writers are likely to start hating them. And why is that?

Because at least one form of writer -- the form that applies to me anyway -- is a completely selfish on some level, certainly self-absorbed, creature in terms of being aware of the world around them. Beyond that, the one who writes is often writing about what he or she knows and needs to work out of his or her system. In other words, reason #1 for why many writers don't write is this:

Happy people just don't write because they have nothing to work out of their systems.

Just as I didn't write over the course of a 10 year relationship from my early 20's to my early 30's. Which, of course, being a writer by nature, made me miserable. Which, of course, helped sabotage the relationship eventually. But still I didn't write. Even though I was miserable and even though I had a lot to say, which, of course, is reason #2 many writers don't write:

They never live life enough to have anything to say.

But that's obvious. Everybody knows that. Let's get back to being miserable and having something to say, but not saying it. Is that retarded or simply stupid? I can't speak for all writers, but as for myself, I was afraid to blithely attack people who had wronged me and afraid to humiliate those I had wronged, especially when, armed with eloquence and a Roshomonistic point of view that would likely favor my own position, I might humiliate those people even further. Which brings me to reason #3 many writers don't write:

We don't like to hurt the people we love.

reason #4...

We don't want to lose the people we love.

and reason #5...

We don't want to hurt the people we loved and lost.

In other words, writers often don't write because they care, as much as those closest to us may think we don't, and we know the things we have to say, even if fictionalized, might hit too close to home.

So, you might ask "how is it that you're writing? To make a long story short, it's as simple as this: I finally came to a point where by not writing I realize I will do more harm to those around me than if I do.

As a country we are hurting the people we love and we are losing the people we love. And the more I see it happening on a grand scale, the more I recognize it all around me on a personal, not just global level. Everywhere I look, in personal relationships even, I see hopeless, defeated people who say "you can't," not "you can." I see people who say see idealism as hubris, integrity as self-righteousness, honesty and fairness as a value add in business dealings, and failures of the past as proof positive of failure in the future.

And fighting against that, my friends, is why I am writing again after almost 15 years. I'm sad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more.