obligatory 9-11 post

I blogged about 9/11 on September 12, 2001. Here's what I wrote back then:

I watched the second World Trade Center tower collapse from a friend's sixth floor apartment window. It was very surreal and scary: it disappeared in seconds.

I can't watch TV or listen to the radio anymore -- Day One was news; Day Two it's all platitudes and jingoism, with "America Under Attack" graphics and theme music. The 24-hr. news radio station WINS has a sickening montage they play every half hour or so, of professionally edited sound clips from yesterday: (Dirge-like musical chords under) "Oh my god, the building's collapsing!" "There were bodies falling..." "I saw people linked arm in arm..." (Little girl's voice): "Why did they have to die?" (Actually that last bit is probably from the sound library, or maybe it's the station owner's daughter.)

In an early speech, Bush referred to the terrorists as "cowards": uh, I don't think so. Those acts took nerves of steel and utter conviction that the US was an enemy.

The conservative columnist David Horowitz says "America is in denial that much of the world hates us, and will continue to hate us. Because we are prosperous, and democratic and free." They hate us, all right, but it's because we're perceived as a bully and an empire-builder; they (rightly) abhor the corruption and repression of our client states (Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, etc.). Personally, I think we just paid a price for the cynical realpolitik we've practiced in the Middle East: one minute we're propping up Saddam, the next minute he's our sworn enemy, etc. It's all about the oil, isn't it? We act like we're entitled to it, so we can drive SUVs and run our air conditioners around the clock.

Here's an interesting quote from Michael Zanini, a graduate fellow at the RAND corporation, from a Salon interview: "Bin Laden actually issued a declaration of war against the U.S. in the mid-1990s. For his organization, the larger aim is to liberate the holy sites. Their problem is the U.S. military occupation of the countries of the greater Middle East. They want the Middle East to be free of unbelievers, among other things. And they probably also have an opposition to U.S. hegemony worldwide. They've declared war, and up to this point, they've targeted government assets and infrastructure: U.S. embassies and the destroyer USS Cole. That's U.S. government property, which is what an army would target."

Another friend has been listening to the call-in shows, lest he be out of touch with the Real America: he says it's all "let's kill the towel-heads." Great.

20 years of afghanistan war skepticism

I searched "afghanistan" in my last 20 years' blog posts and found:

October 26, 2001:

Instead of confronting our real problem [Saudi Arabia], we're bombing and starving one of the weakest countries on the planet, to satisfy a desire for instant revenge. Our war against Afghanistan, commenced with only four weeks' planning and against a country not one of whose citizens was alleged to have been a hijacker, is just plain stupid, and has all the signs of a Vietnam-style quagmire.

January 6, 2002:

"Given a choice between protecting American civilians and protecting the client regimes that sponsor and coddle those who murder them, the Bush Administration has taken the second option every time. This seems to me impeachable in the profoundest sense of the term." So says Christopher Hitchens in this week's issue of The Nation, criticizing the catering to the Saudi princes that occurred before and after the massive intelligence failure that was 9/11. I'm glad that Hitchens is finally waking up to how the Bushites put the interests of their business buddies ahead of the lives of Americans -- he actually uses the "I"-word! -- after he wasted energy the last couple of months bashing Chomsky, Sontag, et al. Now, if he could just extend his own logic to the War Against Afghanistan (which he supported) and see that it was also a case of Bush "taking the second option..." [Obviously written before Hitchens turned to the dark side and supported Bush II's Iraq invasion.]

March 28, 2003:

Noam Chomsky is one of the few people who bucked the conventional wisdom that bombing Afghanistan was good -- before and after we "won."

April 8, 2003:

The "hands off the Saudis" edict to intelligence agencies obviously contributed to the 9/11 tragedy, and so far no one's been fired. The military takeover of Afghanistan, and now Iraq (and soon Syria, Iran, etc.) are the worst things to happen to this country since Vietnam. Suddenly after 9 years of (relatively) low-level conflicts, we're in total, pumped-up, IOU-funded war mode, with most of the world hating our guts. And our economy, which depends largely on selling products and rendering services around the globe, is sucking hard. (The war's been great for war profiteers, though.)

April 9, 2003:

With the news media announcing victory over the hapless Iraqis, the right wingers and '"liberal hawks" are dancing in the aisles. Finally, we can start imposing liberal democracy over there at gunpoint! Yippee! (Just like we did in Afghanistan!) Evidently a war is considered successful, or a "cakewalk," if American casualties remain low.

August 27, 2003:

This WaPo editorial articulates a number of [Howard Dean's] positions: it's really disappointing that he wants to be Nixon to Bush's Johnson and keep the good fight going in Iraq and Afghanistan "now that we're there." Screw that. You'll never convince me that policing countries half a world away keeps us safer than competently monitoring known terrorists here at home.

May 25, 2004:

[Susan Sontag] talks about our "quite justified" invasion of Afghanistan, something lefties love to throw as a sop to the right to make complaints about Iraq seem reasonable. Justifed how? By not catching Bin Laden? By jumpstarting the heroin trade over there again? Killing and bombing for women's rights? That war wasn't the right response to 9/11 any more than Iraq was. It was just to make the majority of Americans feel better after the government failed them on 9/11, by bombing some Muslims.

July 5, 2005:

One of the things [Karl Rove supporters] do to discredit certain liberals is say "They opposed Afghanistan!" "Afghanistan was good" is supposed to be the conventional wisdom but not everyone thinks invading that sovereign albeit crappily-run nation and destabilizing it further was any better of a response to 9/11 than "doing" Iraq. When the attacker is a shadowy group as opposed to a nation the only (still) relevant question was whether the severity of 9/11 justified the use of (internationally) extrajudicial means such as commando raids, or whether there were other ways to bag terrorists and pressure countries "harboring" them. Invading meant precisely this: Osama got away, and we now have troops permanently stationed in yet another damn country. Why is this good exactly? ...For the cost of dropping daisy cutters on Afghanistan we could have increased vigilance at home -- say, by actually reading airport passenger manifests -- and been a lot safer. And perhaps it wasn't such a hot idea to let the incompetents who allowed 9/11 to happen be the ones to "go hunt down the terrorists."

August 12, 2007:

Some of us opposed the Afghanistan war because no clear proof existed that "terrorist training camps" were the cause of the 9/11 attacks (did they teach them to fly jet aircraft there? or how to move freely around the US?), at least enough of a cause to justify attacking a sovereign state, especially a state that fairly recently proven to be the quagmire that hastened the end of the Soviet Union. In the eyes of the world it just looked like hitting back in anger -- any Muslim would do -- and that's just not smart.

March 8, 2009:

The US' rationale for invading and destabilizing [Afghanistan] never made much sense. At the time the propaganda was a strange mix of "if they hide terrorists they must be annihilated" coupled with "and besides, we will really be helping the women of Afghanistan." It seemed pretty obvious that Bush and Cheney were trying to deflect attention away from their own failure to protect US citizens from the 9/11 attacks and took advantage of the nation's riled up mood. Now the Obama administration appears to be compounding the problem by committing more troops with no clear mission goals.

March 29, 2009:

Dear President Obama,
"The task of securing Afghanistan and Pakistan from Al Qaeda influence," as you described it on Face the Nation, is a seriously poorly defined mission.
And invoking "al Qaeda" that way is so George Bush. Is it the same "al Qaeda" that was operating in Iraq all those years?
Afghanistan/Pakistan will be your Vietnam -- correction, ours -- if you keep this up.
Please bring those troops home and use the money to employ people in the homeless camps springing up in the US.
Your friend,
Tom

June 6, 2013:

We have the liberal hawks and their precedent of the "good" Balkan bombing to thank for Iraq and Afghanistan. The "kill for peace" pundits provided Democratic cover for the Bush and Cheney invasion plans. Saddam gassed his own people, the Taliban are sexist monsters, so, as caring folk, we needed to invade. It wasn't just about oil or misplaced revenge for 9/11, see.

m.po memorial list of banal phrases

Sadly reader m.po (short for mashedpo or mashedpotatohead) died last year so I will no longer be receiving updates to his astute list of garbage phrases everyone uses such as "game changer," "optics," "don't go there," and "my bad."
In honor of m.po I will do my best to keep the list alive by adding items I know he would hate such as "baked in" and "in the weeds." Reader suggestions are also welcome.
One phrase from the list that jumps out, added by m.po in February 2017, is "new normal." This appears to an artifact of the early Trump Derangement Era that was repurposed for covid. Either way, it's a dumb thing to say (or write).

russiagate narratives (with realistic adherents)

An article in the American Conservative about the "deep state" helpfully breaks Russiagate opinion into two camps. Annotations (in bold) provide further elaboration.

One narrative -- let’s call it Narrative A -- has it that honorable and dedicated federal law enforcement officials developed concerns over a tainted election in which nefarious Russian agents had sought to tilt the balloting towards the candidate who wanted to improve U.S.-Russian relations and who seemed generally unseemly. Thus did the notion emerge, quite understandably, that Trump had “colluded” with Russian officials to cadge a victory that otherwise would have gone to his opponent. This narrative is supported and protected by Democratic figures and organizations, by adherents of the “Russia as Threat” preoccupation, and by anti-Trumpers everywhere, particularly news outlets such as CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

It is also very popular with DC bureaucrats worried about their jobs, military contractors, and people not skeptical of the Clintons (who originated the story).

The other view -- Narrative B -- posits that certain bureaucratic mandarins of the national security state and the outgoing Obama administration resolved early on to thwart Trump’s candidacy. After his election, they determined to undermine his political standing, and particularly his proposed policy toward Russia, through a relentless and expansive investigation characterized by initial misrepresentations, selective media leaks, brutal law enforcement tactics, and a barrage of innuendo. This is the narrative of most Trump supporters, conservative commentators, Fox News, and The Wall Street Journal editorial page, notably columnist Kimberley Strassel.

It also happens to be the view of normal, levelheaded people all over the world who aren't dependent on a DC job. This includes Sanders supporters, Green voters, assorted libertarians, and what might colloquially be called "anyone with a brain."

the far center

Bill Clinton biographer Joe Conason begins a recent article with this sentence:

In certain precincts on the American left — and especially in some places where the far left blurs into the far right — it is considered clever to dismiss the Russia investigation as a relic of the Cold War, an opportunistic Clintonite ploy, or both.

Yes, Joe, that's the "far center," where reality blurs into reality. Dismissal of the New Red Scare isn't half as clever as the scare itself, concocted by Clintonites to distract from their incompetent campaign, where they insisted the US was in great shape after eight years of Obama. The scare isn't so much a Cold War relic, though, as McCarthyism 2.0 -- an attempt to use foreign enemies to distract from corruption at home, while justifying an ongoing military buildup.