Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Must reads: fair and balanced edition
One fine item from the Reality-Based Community (more specifically, Daniel Benjamin and Gabriel Weimann, writing in today’s Times), offering a Reality-Based Assessment on the situation in Iraq:
There has been a drastic shift in mood in the last two years. Radicals who were downcast and perplexed in 2002 about the rapid defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan now feel exuberant about the global situation and, above all, the events in Iraq.
For example, an article in the most recent issue of Al Qaeda’s Voice of Jihad - an online magazine that comes out every two weeks - makes the case that the United States has a greater strategic mess on its hands in Afghanistan and Iraq than the Soviet Union did in Afghanistan in the 1980’s. As translated by the SITE Institute, a nonprofit group that monitors terrorists, the author describes how the United States has stumbled badly by getting itself mired in two guerrilla wars at once, and that United States forces are now “merely trying to ‘prove their presence’ - for all practical purposes, they have left the war.”
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist now wreaking havoc in Iraq, sees things in a similar way. “There is no doubt that the Americans’ losses are very heavy because they are deployed across a wide area and among the people and because it is easy to procure weapons,” he wrote in a recent communiqué to his followers that was posted on several radical Web sites. “All of which makes them easy and mouthwatering targets for the believers.”
Clearly, the president’s oft-repeated claim that American efforts are paying off because “more than three-quarters of Al Qaeda’s key members and associates have been killed, captured or detained” - a questionable claim in itself - means little to jihadists. What matters to them that the invasion of Iraq paved the way for the emergence of a movement of radical Sunni Iraqis who share much of the Qaeda ideology.
Among the recurrent motifs on the Web are that America has blundered in Iraq the same way the Soviet Union did in the 1980’s in Afghanistan, and that it will soon be leaving in defeat. “We believe these infidels have lost their minds,” was the analysis on a site called Jamaat ud-Daawa, which is run out of Pakistan. “They do not know what they are doing. They keep on repeating the same mistake.”
. . .
It seems clear that, while the administration insists that we are acting strongly, our pursuit of the war on terrorism through an invasion of Iraq has carried real costs for our security. The occupation is in chaos, which is emboldening a worldwide assortment of radical Islamists and giving them common ground. The worst thing we could do now is believe that the Bush administration’s tough talk is in any way realistic. If we really think that the unrest abroad will have no impact on us at home - as too many thought before 9/11 - not even a vastly improved offense can help us.
Now, I’m not exactly helping this argument find a wider audience. But I do want to point out one important feature of the Reality-Based Community: we actually think that the “judicious study of discernible reality” (you remember that phrase) involves knowing what the other side thinks about us. No, not the wolves. The actual people, people. Because of our doggedly empiricist approach to the world, we think it’s important to know what the other side is doing and saying, and we think it’s perfectly all right-- not flip-floppy at all-- to respond to the news of the day. So when a Bush campaign flack charges that John Kerry is “basing his attacks on the headlines he wakes up to each day,” we think, ah, that would be nice-- a President who reads the news!
BUT IN THE INTERESTS OF FAIRNESS AND BALANCE, we can’t let the Reality-Based Community have the last word. So, then, this once-humble but now increasingly self-aggrandizing blog turns you over to Ken Mehlman, who recently sent the following letter to my friend and colleague Charlie Bertsch:
I am appalled.
In Missouri, a flyer shows a photograph of a young black man under a fire hose in the 1950s. The flyer tells African-Americans this is an example of how Republicans have kept voters from the polls. In Colorado, Republican voters got calls telling them their family members in Iraq had died. The callers claimed that call would be real unless Kerry was elected.
In these final days, we can only expect more of this filth.
I urge you to turn on your answering machine. If you get a call from an unknown number, let the machine pick it up. It may be the latest campaign of smear, fear and lies from our opponents.
If you get one of these disgusting calls, or an outrageous flyer or mailing, save the message, call our hotline and let us know.
Just a few weeks ago we saw a Kerry campaign manual that told their staff to allege intimidation even if no evidence existed. Now their allies have begun an incredibly dishonest and disgusting campaign of shadowy calls and misleading flyers.
We need to know immediately if you get one of these calls. We need to know the lies, threats, and distortions those allied against us are spreading.
With very few days left, we need you to be our eyes and ears on the ground.
Call our hotline at 1-888-610-8170 if you get any suspicious messages.
Thanks for all you have done, and all you continue to do.
Now, let’s admit this much-- if any Missouri Democrats are circulating flyers like that, they need to get with the program. Republicans did not even begin to suppress the black vote until black voters started to vote Democratic, and of course the 1950s would be way too early for that in the major fire-hosing states. But aside from that, I think we should read this letter as the second part of a two-part strategy: first, the little Karl Roveans in the Non-Reality-Based Community wage a dishonest and disgusting campaign of shadowy calls and misleading flyers (attributing them, as is their wont, to Democrats), and then they follow up with an outraged letter asking their supporters to report these calls and flyers.
So Charlie suggests: “Call the number and report the sort of verifiable facts that the Kerry campaign has been hammering Bush with, like numbers on the budget deficit etc. Claim it must be a terrible lie. See what happens.”