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Friday, July 30, 2004

ARGUMENTS THAT MAKE SENSE, AND ARGUMENTS THAT DON'T MAKE SENSE 

AND HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE

Well, the Los Angeles Times consistently proves it has a liberal bias by providing so much space to lame right-wing commentators. How else to explain the recent addition of "Mallard Fillmore" and "Prickly City" to the comics section of the Los Angeles Times? I think it is very unfair of the Los Angeles Times to claim balance by offering these simplistic, humorless comics in contrast to perceptive and funny comics like "The Boondocks" and "Doonesbury." I also think it is very sneaky of the Times to display the political cartoons of Michael Ramirez so prominently. The Times looks like it is providing a conservative voice on the opinion page, but by using very stupid and very shallow cartoons from Ramirez, they create an impression that right-wingers cannot be clever and that they cannot form logical or rational arguments.

Surely the Los Angeles Times can find a right-wing commentator who knows how to use facts and details to present a strong argument. Surely, there is a right-wing commentator somewhere who doesn't resort to the despicable tactic of attaching labels like "traitor" to critics of the Bush Administration, who doesn't try to disguise the weakness of his or her arguments by claiming that citizens who disagree with them must necessarily hate America. Someone like, uh, well, let me see ...

(Let's move on.)

The regular right-wing commentator for the Times, Max Boot, is a prime example. Surely, all intelligent right-wingers roll their eyes when they see another Max Boot editorial. "Oh, God! Not another editorial from Max Boot! With guys like him and Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh representing our views, no wonder so many Americans think we're stupid."

In a recent column, Boot made the following comment: "Michael Moore is making out like Louis B. Mayer, raking in more than a hundred million smackeroos with a film (I hesitate to call it a documentary) that implies Bush invaded Afghanistan at the behest of Big Oil. It may not make any sense, but who can argue with the bottom line?"

We will ignore how misleading it is to imply that Michael Moore personally made a hundred million dollars from "Fahrenheit 9/11" and just jump into Boot's assertion that "it may not make any sense" to say that Big Oil had anything to do with the War on Afghanistan. (Notice that Boot very carefully doesn't mention the possibility of a connection between Big Oil and the War on Iraq when he says it doesn't make any sense.)

Why doesn't it make any sense? Typically for his breed of sloppy, partisan right-wing commentators, Boot doesn't offer a single statement saying why it doesn't make any sense to suggest a connection between Big Oil and the War on Afghanistan. It doesn't make any sense just because Boot say it doesn't make any sense. Unfortunately, too much right-wing rhetoric doesn't evolve very far beyond tactics like this.

Central Asia has a lot of oil. Bush Administration support of a repressive regime in oil-rich Kazakhstan is only one aspect of U.S. foreign policy that reflects this geographic fact. Negotiations for the Afghanistan pipeline are real. The pipeline has not yet materialized, but this may be because Afghanistan did not cave in and magically accept a US-style democracy according to the Bush Administration timeline. (You knew that the election has been postponed. Again. You knew that, right? Surely, you saw it on Fox News? Or were they too busy criticizing Michael Moore because he is overweight or because he doesn't shave or because he understands that the First Amendment is for everyone?) The Bush Administration is composed of numerous former oil executives, including the president, the vice president and the national security advisor, and the oil companies, like Haliburton and Bechdel, are making a killing in Iraq. News reports have offered very compelling evidence that there is a certain amount of corruption involved. And there's Hamid Karzai, the interim president of Afghanistan, who was a consultant to a consortium seeking to develop projects in Central Asia, a consortium that included Unocal. (Surely, you heard that.)

Maybe there's nothing to the Afghanistan-Big Oil assertion. Maybe the Bush Administration decided to wage war on Afghanistan with totally pure motives. But to say that it "doesn't make any sense" to make that assertion is absurd. The Bush Administration has been very protective of Big Oil and Big Energy and its practitioners. And they are all making money off of the war. And many Americans, not just myself and Michael Moore and the Dixie Chicks, are wondering why the Bush Administration thinks that former oil executives are the only people qualified to run governments. We're also wondering why they think Michael Powell, Colin Powell's son, is the person most qualified to run the Federal Communications Commission.

So let's talk about some other arguments, arguments that really don't make sense. I'm referring to those right-wing commentators who like to examine the motives of the anti-war commentators and use words and phrases like "treason" and "traitor" and "coward" and "they must hate America."

Because that's what it comes down to for many influential and popular right-wing commentators. The people who oppose the war are committing treason because they are critical of the president and his policies. And they are critical of the president because ... they just hate the president. They hate freedom. They hate America. They love Saddam Hussein. And ... they want the terrorists to win!

Does that make sense to you? Anti-war protesters oppose the war merely because they hate America. Why do they hate America? Well, the commentators seldom venture into this territory. It's just a given for them. The Bush Administration has been appointed by God to save the world and everyone should support President Bush and recognize his purity and goodness. Even Britney Spears can see that!

Some Americans (those of us who have the ability to think independently, without checking Bill O'Reilly's Talking Points every day) think that dissent may be a tad more complicated than that.

We don't oppose the war because we hate America. Speaking for myself, I have grave doubts that the War on Terror, as it is being waged by the Bush Administration, is making a dent in global terrorism. Tell the Spaniards that the world is safer. Tell the people of Saudi Arabia, or the people of Iraq, or the people of Afghanistan, that the War on Terror is ending terrorism. It is my feeling now, as it was in September 2001, that conventional warfare against civilian populations will not end terrorism. Thousands of civilians have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. These civilians have been ignored by the so-called liberal media. But they haven't been ignored by the hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan who have seen their husbands, their wives, their parents, their children, their neighbors, their friends killed by the American-led war effort and its ostensible War on Terrorism.

Why is terrorism bad? Is it bad because it destroys property? Is it bad because it twists ideologies and takes advantage of discontent to provide a power base for clever and unscrupulous leaders?

I think it's bad because it kills innocent people. And I think that the survivors of the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan may look around at the death and destruction in their communities, destruction caused by American military power, and they might not be willing or able to consider that there may be a difference between the terror that struck New York on September 11, 2001, and the state-sponsored terror that has destroyed their homes and killed their loved ones.

I think that it might generate such a feeling of anger and hatred (such as Americans felt after September 11, 2001, remember that?) that it might actually promote more terror!

Does this feeling mean that I hate America, or that I am a traitor, or that I hate freedom? It is despicable and unforgivable to say so.

If the right wing can't come up with a better argument (i.e., one that makes sense) to attack the views of the anti-war movement, maybe they should just admit that patriotism does not exclude dissent (except in a dictatorship). And we can argue the merits of the war in a free and open forum, instead of in a McCarthyite environment of fear and suspicion.

But I'm not sure that the right-wing can survive without this divisive and hateful tactic. Please make an effort to prove me wrong.

Tony Seybert, July 30, 2004


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