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Monday, January 17, 2005



Marc, I was about to post the difference between Pitt's description of the "insurgents" when you answered his charge with verve and perspicacity. Good on you buddy, good on you.

The rationale for or against the war is debateable among people of good will; but the anti-intellectualism of many of the left and of the right may keep that from ever coming to fruition sad to say.


"In other words, those who engage in beheading, how have imposed Sharia fundamentalist law in areas they control, who have set off countless car bombs (including against houses of worship) killing hundreds (or by now thousands) of Iraqi civilians, who have assassinated emerging trade union leaders and who are now gunning down anyone struggling to pull together an election are, in reality “patriotic fighters” just like Charlie Sheen and Patrick Swayze."

I'm curious where you find Pitt saying that, or are you just putting words in his mouth? You associate him with positions that aren't evident from what he wrote. He is asking a simple question, which is why are Iraqis resisting to the extent that they are? The ol' dead-enders line doesn't work anymore, nor does the 'foreign terrorists' line. Nor is it arguable proabably that the majority of the resistance is involved in beheadings. So is it not possible to argue that it's entirely possible that elements of the resistance have politically repulsive positions/tactics *and* that Iraqis are resisting the current US occupation of Iraq because, well, they like the idea of having their country back without an unnecessary US presence on their soil?
What you've done with Pitt here and what Henwood et al did in their article are entirely different things.


Steve, it's obvious that Marc was interpreting what Pitt wrote. Not putting words in his mouth. Pitt was drawing a parallel between the "wolverines" in Red Dawn and the insurgents. The insurgents are NOTHING like the kids in the Red Dawn movie. The insurgents TARGET civilians, the insurgents TARGET helpers like the recently kidnapped Catholic archbishop and beheaded the truck drivers, the aid workers (who had been helping the Iraqi people for decades.)

These too groups are no more equivalent than the politics of John Birch and Gus Hall, and neither Pitt nor Cooper wrote that.


"The insurgents are NOTHING like the kids in the Red Dawn movie. The insurgents TARGET civilians, the insurgents TARGET helpers like the recently kidnapped Catholic archbishop and beheaded the truck drivers, the aid workers (who had been helping the Iraqi people for decades.)"

No, not really, it's a little more than your black and white. to argue that all or even the majority of the insurgents engage in what tactics you cite is simply not the reality. And what you're calling 'insurgents' is also pretty murky, are you referring to gang activity when you're talking about the kidnappers? Are you saying the kids throwing rocks at American tanks, a pretty common affair actually, are chopping off heads?
I guess I just wonder why the resistance in Iraq is necessarily as uniformly behind such tactics as you presume?


I'm headed for bed, long day tomorrow, but steve, your argument here "Are you saying the kids throwing rocks at American tanks, a pretty common affair actually" is nonsense. No one, left or right cites kids throwing rocks as examples of "armed" insurgents. Except for you perhaps. You are a true polemicist and an amazing young man. Get real!

Yeppers, I think I'm gonna have to get innoculated against that dread disease "Respondtosteveitis" I understand that even with proper psychotherapy and medication the disease can leave you subject to apoplectic fits, bouts of depression and carpal tunnel syndrome as well as near fatal callouses of the fingertips from the keyboards. In fact, I've worn the letters off of two keyboards just responding to him.

Marc, is there a 12 step program for this?


"No one, left or right cites kids throwing rocks as examples of "armed" insurgents."

Hey Gm, call up Sharon and tell this too this Israeli army. Sorry, off topic but i couldn't resist. And Marc, surely there's space, somewhere, betweeen the world of exocticed romanticisation of freedon loving rebels and crude cultural arguements, rooted in demogogue like rhoetoric of monolothic sharia enforcing koran thumpers. In the widespread opposition to the US occupation is rooted mostly in nationalism and a growing distaste for the haevily armed and often belligerent US army. And yes, to a great extent nationalism has fused with religion and ethnicity. The rise of confessinal politics in the region shot up in the 1970's with the faliure of national secular projects, and political Islam as practised by bin laden and others is itself a calamity of differene sorts, one of which is the proxy battles of the colkd war. So the US presence has strenthened those who with to impose sharia and govern Iraq like the Taliban. But to simply say that resistance to the US is purely a product of "islamo facism" is absolutely asinine and willfully ignores the fact that the main source of violence in Iraq comes from the occupiers, and imperial invasions, which always go along with cultural dehumanization, and colonialist assumptions is going to produce resistance. this is a fact. the sooner of humanitiarian bombers and liberation torturers realise that we can't occuppy the whole world, the better off we all are


"No one, left or right cites kids throwing rocks as examples of "armed" insurgents. Except for you perhaps."

uhm, yeah, i know that, this is a rather banal response. I cited them as but one type of resistance activity. The point I make is a valid one, namely you, Marc, I have no way of stating with any sense of certainty that the majority of the resistance to the occupation, armed or unarmed, is supportive of the tactics that Marc believes Pitt is overlooking. There is, however, good empirical evidence that a large number of Iraqis oppose the current and future US occupation of Iraq and certain types of armed resistance to that occupation.


There are more than likely three layers of armed resistance to the U.S. occupation. One is, as the recent CIA report suggests, the logical locus for al Qaeda-type Islamic extremism which has, predictably, found a natural breeding ground in Iraq since the invasion. The second is obviously the Sunni "neo-Baathist" resistance, which is mostly based on ethnic paranoia (justified, given the decades of Saddamism with which Sunnis were complicit) and nostalgia for fascist "stability" - this is the "civil war" component. Third is the now-dormant Shiite resistance, as exemplified by Sadr, who is apparently still tenuously on Sistani's leash.

I find each of these groups abhorrent in varying degrees, but to express any shock at their emergence is either naive or hypocritical. (I think the "shock" of the neo-cons at Iraqi resistance is pure hypocrisy - frankly I doubt that they gave much of a damn how much turmoil their gamble would generate and possibly believed the more the better, as in the "flypaper theory".)

What we do at this point is obviously the most pertinent question, but I have to say that I've not encountered any "anti-war" sentiment that doesn't take into account the need for, at least, some phased withdrawal or that fails to recognize a responsibility for what we leave in our wake. I'm sure I could find "immediate withdrawal" advocates by websurfing if I tried, but it's not an interesting proposition and this isn't a trivia contest.

Howard Dean didn't advocate simple withdrawal from Iraq and John Kerry actually advocated more troops to stabilize the situation - which puts the pro-Kerry liberals to "the right" of Bush consiglieri James Baker on how to proceed in Iraq. But I don't read any critiques of Baker as irresponsible for focusing on withdrawal.

Everyone I know or read who is anti-war rallied behind Dean and Kerry (with varying degrees of enthusiasm) and no one I'm aware of in the liberal anti-war camp assumes there is an easy answer or magic bullet to what BushCo has wrought.

When some of the usual suspects on this blog claim that we're not "anti-war, we're anti-Bush", there's some truth to it. If we blame the war on Bush, more than "Islamofascists", it's because he's our goddam President and he's turned out to be wrong about every major premise on which he took us to war. Every one. Are we supposed to just grin and thank massa for this shit ? Not likely.

I don't trust the people who got us into this mess and I don't trust them to have either the competence or the courage to get us out without first making things worse. There's a part of me that's damned glad the Democrats aren't responsible for this mess come January 20, and I can't say that the sympathy I have for the Iraqis and the coalition troops extends to the scumbags who precipitated this madness. If this is the debacle that takes them down, it's their own goddam fault and when they more than likely end up in one of history's garbage cans like the architects of the Vietnam war, they fully deserve it. It's just too bad they aren't the ones taking the large daily doses of pain and bloodletting. The BushCo cretins certainly deserve to be at the head of any casualty list - but, alas, that's not the way the world works.
There's no way to put this delicately - most professional Republicans are so far up Bush's ass that the democratic political process is irrelevant to this issue. And Bush doesn't give a damn what the left or liberal "anti-war" people think. What happens next is more than likely dependent on how hard Daddy's boys turn the screws on the little shit and the hardliners in his cabinet and to what extent the majority of sentiment that believes the war was a mistake creeps into his hard-core "base" and begins to erode "political capital" (which means the ability to maintain a veneer of credibility for the bogus "WMD-esque" bullshit and deception essential to enacting his crackpot, pernicious domestic agenda.)


come on Marc -- AlterNet is often more than a "demi-world." Sure it's perhaps inconsistent... and often old-left, but it has a pulse, and has done some things (its iraq coverage aside) that were later copied elsewhere. If you're going to call AlterNet a demi-world, you ought to show just what you mean, and that includes the good articles.


come on Marc -- AlterNet is often more than a "demi-world." Sure it's perhaps inconsistent... and often old-left, but it has a pulse, and has done some things (its iraq coverage aside) that were later copied elsewhere. If you're going to call AlterNet a demi-world, you ought to show just what you mean, and that includes the good articles.


Marc, speaking of "The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq", i was curious of your take on Robert Scheer. Would you lump him in with the anti-intellectual crowd? I listen to "Left, Right, Center" most weeks, and enjoy listening to Matt Miller, but i have a hard time listening to Mr. Scheer, mainly for his lack of sense of humor. But he seems to know what he's talking about, and a lot of his predictions (on the war, at least) have turned out correct.

I know Kevin Drum is not his biggest fan, and would like to see him replaced at the LA Times.

Anyway, just curious on your take on him.

Josh Legere

Mr. Cooper

Great posting. As I have told you personally, I was duped by the professional activist cult in my college years (I was young.. allowed to be stupid… not that I am ANY smarter now). These are fantastic postings. The best in a real long time.

It is especially nice to see Doug Henwood acknowledge the failures of professional activists and the anti-war movement. I would love to see this debate extend to left wing publications (like the Nation). Of course, it will not. That is the problem. Activists ARE indeed significant because they are the public representation of the Left.

I would also love to see some questioning of idol worship in the left. Polemicists, journalists, and intellectuals no longer seem to be figures who share ideas, but rather in the average lefties mind, they are sacred, almost god like figures that are to be followed and praised. No sarcastic comments can be made or you will be told to “shut the fuck up.” You see it in the struggle to free Mumia, Chomsky/Zinn worship, etc... One of the redeemable qualities of the New Left in the beginning was that they questioned the cranky Old Left intellectuals. Not today. My generation seriously has a failure of imagination.

GM asked an important question in the comments section of the last posting. Generally, what do the "left" want? After Seattle, the 2/15 protest, the election, it remains unclear. The more my thinking has become free of the cultish left, I gain more of a realistic idea of change and a desire to criticize the accepted vision in the pages of The Nation (I read it every week) or any other lefty publications. I am far from competent for this task, I wish more Left journalists would do this. The Nation for one could do one of those forum issues (and not ask the usual suspects, rather get some fresh critical opinions).

What troubles me most is that if you question Che idolatry (the success of the Motorcycle Diaries, if you acknowledge the massive failures of communism, if you are horrified by the damage of Pacifica, if you think Mumia did it, if you question the Chomsky cult, and if you read a books by authors on the Right because it is a good exercise, you get condemned and called a neo con or "horwitzian." It is scary. I mean, REASON published opinions on why Bush should get dumped. So the other side is not as boxed in as the Left.

I almost got fired from my job for criticizing a Rock n' Roll voter registration .org for demagoguery in an online opinion forum--I was invited to write a contribution! What kind of movement can you have if you do not have freedom? Professional activists, intellectuals, and many opinion makers on the left live in a certain kind of La La land that might very well prevent them from thinking clearly. Lack of humility seems real difficult for them to admit that they are alienated.

Nor can you have a successful movement if upon loss after loss; you simply convince yourself that you are somehow winning. Or if you convince yourself that the grasp of the elite is just to strong to break. Sooner or later if the Left wants to win, they will have to learn from the Right and actually think about strategy and politics.

Check out a badly written piece on the Yes Men at www.gooie.com

Marc Cooper

Chris... Ive known Robt Scheer for 35 years ... not a close friend. But I know him well. Let me say only that Robert is currently an able spokesman for Liberal Democrats... if that is ur cup of tea he's perfect.

To Alter-Neter... You misinterpret what I said. I am not disparaging Alter-Net. The demi-world I refer is the environment of "alternative" papers and lefty subscribers and followers that Alter-Net serves. That is not a friendly atmopshere for the sort of controversial piece that Lakshi wrote and that is why I commend her for the effort.


"I'm sure I could find "immediate withdrawal" advocates by websurfing if I tried, but it's not an interesting proposition and this isn't a trivia contest."

I don't have any problem with the idea of withdrawl immediately combined with negotiations with leaders in Iraq that have credibility with the people on the terms of reparations for the invasion. I also don't see why that couldn't work frankly. The reasons motivating the 'phased' withdrawl are mainly fear of letting go of Iraq after having 'won' there and fear that letting Iraqis determine for themselves what they want might lead to a government that would not do as current American policy sees fit in the region. However, as the numbers of American deaths approaches 2,000 it is likely that the pressure will increase to withdraw quickly.
In this month's Monthly Review (an actual existing left publication, Marxist, independent, one that Doug Henwood and Christian Parenti have both published in...), an excellent assessment of the terms of the current dilemma facing the US:

Marc Cooper



Steve - I think that by your proposal that a withdrawal be conjoined with negotiations with "Iraqi leaders", you're acknowledging that we have created a situation in which we have responsibilities to the country to help pick up the pieces and can't just leave. Where we would no doubt disagree is whether there is a relatively simple, clean way to do this, given the Pandora's box that's been opened. I don't think there is a neat solution, which is why I was at one point a believer in more troops. I think we're probably past that as a practical alternative, and I don't pretend to have a peace plan in my pocket.

josh legere

The simple fact of the resistance is that liberal democrats or social democrats are not leading it. The resistance is led by the most violent and reactionary forces in Iraqi society that are on a mission to kill union organizers and socialists. Yes the war gave rise to the ugliness of the resistance but the resistance is supported by the likes of Iran and Syria along with ex-Baathists. Yes the US has a "neo-liberal agenda." Yes Bush lied and is a failure.

The ugly forces will not throw down the guns the day the US leaves. The choice is between 1. Leaving the letting the Iraqi's fend for themselves, a rather isolationalist argument and 2. Staying with the likelihood that things will get much worse before they get better, or not get better at all.

Not much of a nice choice, but acknowledging the truth about the character of the resistance and the real choices in the matter are important. Convincing yourself of that the resistance has any redeemable qualities is an exercise in futility. Believing in utopian fantasies about the emergence of a just society from the ashes of the resistance is also futile.

Many times, out side in the real world far away from La La land, there is NO good choice to make.

I have yet to see one single advocate of immediate withdrawal (including all in the Left professional intellectual/pundit/activist core) acknowledge the instability that will follow immediate withdrawal. Nor have I hear any of them acknowledge the fate of liberal democrats, socialists, the Kurds, Christians, and other minorities when we leave. I think they owe it to themselves to think honestly about that and be willing to openly acknowledge the ugly reality of the fate those people will meet.

I am going to ignore the snarky postings that will follow and hang out with my Basset Hound.

John Moore (Useful Fools)

I read Lakshmi Chaudhry with interest. A quick summary is:

Bush and friends are the cause of all evil

Americans bomb hospitals for the sheer fun of it, apparently.

the goals of the anti-war movement should be - as it turns out - the goals of the Bush administration in Iraq, just done a differently by people who imagine they know how to fight a war having never done so.

This is hardly a useful message, folks. Demonizing A btw, just reported in a few left wing outlets and a weak American troops with the hospital incident (I found no evidence or corroboration, btw). THen there are those evil Americans who wouldn't let Baathist doctors into Fallujah - could they have had a reason, or is this just more troop bashing? The citing of these examples say that, in spite of all the precautions and casualties Americans take to avoid civilian casualties, they kill folks for no good reason. I'm sure that stirs the souls of the left, who to a large extend seem ultimately to hate our troop (from their rhetoric) or perhaps imagine that some "superiors" cause all the mayhem, but it ain't gonna go far with anyone else.

So I see several problems here: (1) it is essentially an argument for the status quo, just give the reins to the left. (2) it gratuitously attacks one of the most respected groups in our country - combat soldiers. (3) it looks like the left in search of a cause, as opposed to something that rises from principles.

On a positive note, it recognizes that just bailing out from Iraq would be morally wrong. On a negative note, it imagines that a unilateral cease fire would cause the terrorists, Baathists, and agents of hostile countires to turn into saints and reduce the violenc.

John Moore (Useful Fools)

I meant to say "Demonizing American troops" but a last minute edit cut out part of it.

jim hitchcock

John, your comment raises a question I've had for a while. Remember the daily morning briefings during the first Gulf War?
They seemed a highly effective way of getting the miltary viewpoint across (due at least part to a remarkable job the Lt. Col.(?) doing the briefings. Maybe a regularly scheduled briefing
would better serve the military the the scattershot reporting done now.

Anyway, enjoy the party. And try to visit the Air and Space Museum for me.


Your autobiography is not only unintersting, but also woefully off topic. For someone who called me out for, briefly, referecing my South African backdrop, can i suggest that you save that stuff some other venue. And by the way I found motorcycle diaries to be a somewhat nostalgic, but yet, beautifully shot and engaging film. We must have went to a different film, either that, or i was out getting popcorn during the pro Castro state socialism apologetics. And for someone who claims to despise pundit land mimickrey, you come off as a poor man's Berman, Gitlin, Hitchens borrowing from the hysteria of Marc's fromidable foe. As much as i have disagrements with them, at least those writiers are sharp, original, bright and engaging. You just crib some of their ideas and toss them out, eliciting little enlightenment nor thought. When, caught in your own contricdiction, or taken to task for saying something silly you never respond, choosing instead to operate on generalizations or absurdities. On the question of integrety and honesty, i'll take John Moore over you in a second

"people who imagine they know how to fight a war having never done so."

I'm laughing John...perfect description of the Prez & Veep chickenhawks, the neo-cons and their mascot, Condi...

rog the frog

Heh, lefties accused as out-of-touch intellectuals and now anti-intellectuals. Gotta love it.


sorry for the anon - an error of haste.

And Ahmed, I think it's unfair to lump Gitlin in with Berman and Hitchens. He's very cranky regarding much of the left (I think with considerable personal credibility and justification) but he's not been a bitch for BushCo as regards the war...


Fair enough reg. The argument was more of an attack on Josh, rather then a nunaced anaylysis of the politics of that quartet. My point was that Josh's opinions always struck me as a disconbobulated combination of thoughts from those writers, lacking their eloquence or originality. Interesting, for someone who always blast others for being obsessed with pundits.

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