Friday, July 08, 2005


Fast and Loose Facts

I have heard on several occasions recently some statements by conservatives that have desperately needed rebuttal. I know, I know- Just one? Well, more than that, but in this case I am talking about the people who try to argue that there was precedence for preemptive action in Iraq. I was going to put up a post sometime explaining why all of their arguments were based on factual figments of their imaginations, but fortunately for me, a retired judge in my town, Duane Peterson, did it for me in a guest op-ed piece he wrote for the newspaper.

"On the June 14 editorial page there appeared a column by Michael Reagan, columnist and son of Ronald Reagan. In the column he makes several comments about John Edwards, the recent Democratic candidate for vice president. He goes claims that Edwards should be aware of a few historical facts, and then proceeds to enumerate and describe such facts.

Reagan claims that Sen. Edwards had the identical information before him that the president had when the Senate voted "for the war in Iraq." That would appear to me to be factually incorrect, since the administration had been bending the facts that came to it from the CIA. The Senate had the administration's version of the information which, at best, was colored to favor military action.

He then compares the fact that there were 39 combat-related killings in Iraq in January and 35 killings in Detroit in the same month. The problem with that comparison is that there were no combat-related killings in Detroit that month, and we don't know how many civilian killings there were in Iraq in that same month. He is not comparing apples to apples.

He then states that a large segment of the Democratic Party tries to tell us that since Iraq never attacked the U.S. we had no reason to attack Iraq. He then goes on to cite instances where the U.S. went to war without being attacked. His first example is World War II, about which he states that FDR led us into war against Germany but that Germany had never attacked us.

The problem with that analysis is that after the U.S. declared war against Japan following Pearl Harbor, Germany declared war on the U.S. The U.S. was pulled into that war by Germany, even though it had not directly attacked the U.S. before that. (That fact, of course, implies that German U-boat attacks on American shipping were not acts of war.)

He later says that Harry Truman took us into war against North Korea even though that country had not attacked the U.S. That analysis ignores that American troops were occupying South Korea as part of the defeat of Japan (Korea had been a Japanese colony) and that North Korea invaded South Korea and attacked both American and South Korean military personnel.

He then states that John F. Kennedy started the Vietnam war in 1962 without the U.S. ever being attacked. That statement ignores the fact that the conflict in Vietnam began as an indigenous revolution against the French colonialist's who had occupied Vietnam since before World War I. It was President Eisenhower who first sent American troops (advisers) to Vietnam in the late 1950s. President Kennedy escalated the American presence there after he was elected president. Lyndon Johnson did the biggest escalation after the death of Kennedy.

In conclusion he lauds the accomplishments of President Bush as having liberated two countries, crushed the Taliban, crippled al-Qaida, and put nuclear inspectors in Libya, Iran and North Korea without firing a shot. The problem with those claims is that the Taliban is alive and well in Afghanistan (though not in power as before),

al-Qaida may or may not be crippled (we just don't know), and there are no nuclear inspectors in Iran or North Korea. I don't know about Libya.

Mr. Reagan is entitled to express his own opinions in his columns, but he is not entitled to his own facts or history."

Finally somebody has set the record straight! But here's what I don't get... Why are conservatives even bothering with alternative histories? Did we attack Iraq because we'd done similar things before and it had all worked out? Do they need to defend their actions completely on historical precedence? If so, then those are some pretty lame reasons for a conflict that has killed 1,741 Americans (CNN, 7/3/05)). If not, then why bother with the counter-argument? When liberals talk about this being the first time America has ever been the original aggressor why not point out that times have changed and we're not fighting WWII anymore. Or just follow the President's lead and blather on unintelligibly about freedom being on the march.

The only reason for conservatives to try to make up their own version of history is simply that they can't stand to let liberals say anything with out attempting to contradict them. I know this happens on both sides; I don't know whether it is the cause or an effect of our political polarization. But I do know it has to stop. We all need to grow up.

On a side note: Conservatives, you can't call liberals the "blame America first" crowd for complaining about it being too militarily aggressive when you yourselves try to argue it's even more aggressive than we say it is. I dont care which you'd rather whine about, but you can't have it both ways.

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