Wednesday, April 14

Voting for life. Suspecting Liberal Bias.

[The brief introduction to this exchange is posted on April 19 as VOTING FOR LIFE: PREAMBLE. The following was written on April 7.]#4
Fanni writes: thanks for the substantive replies. I will address them when I get time to. The statistical points are minor, but I will address them to your satisfaction, I hope.

I look forward to your addressing the principle I was questioning you about. Till this point, I have no reason to believe that, were Hitler in power today and had he declared himself anti-abortion, he would not have your full support. If that is not so, I would like to know on what basis that would not be so. That's the sort of thing I'm wondering about: whether it is possible for you to take a critical view of an anti-abortion politician or issue or whether, on the contrary, according to the principle you announced in a recent e-mail, the "right to life" trumps all other rights and therefore cannot be viewed in a larger context of things such as corporate-driven warfare, fascist politics, the corporate-driven devastation of the environment, preventable diseases running wild due to corporate indifference, etc. At what point can you weigh the balances for and, most importantly, against a declared anti-abortion politician? Or can't you? Do you feel you have found the one issue in respect to which you can assure yourself a righteous vote in every case? Do you feel it is possible for there to be such an issue? Is abortion that one issue? Are there others that would do equally well for the same ends? Or does the issue of abortion stand alone in that respect?

In your message, you wrote: "The innocent civilians in that mosque were firing on U.S. troops."

Where did you find this summary explanation for the deaths in the mosque? I couldn't find it anywhere. In any case, it seems a little suspicious to cast the U.S. troops as victims in the midst of their offensive, cleansing action designed to root out what the administration thinks or tries to make us think are isolated, radical, insurgents. It also reminds me of the Gdansk anecdote I brought up yesterday. How many times have tyrants succeeded in convincing the masses that they were in fact the victims, the innocent ones? It's a very old strategy that we should be more critical of. The question with respect to this anecdote is not: Who shot first? It is: What is the U.S. doing in Iraq? Should the forces be there? Should they be confronting entire communities with violence? Bombing civilians?

If you think that I or some group is grossly exaggerating, consider that I did find this report on yesterday's activity in Iraq at

"Over 150 Iraqis have been killed including 26 in Falluja where US warplanes bombed a residential Sunni area. 16 children and eight women were killed in that attack."
And I invite you to show this assertion to be false.

Disputes over sources aside, are you willing to assert that U.S. forces have not killed many innocent civilians recently and over the past year? That would be a tall order. It would be a weak way out to seek justification for this violence by saying, well, a few innocents will die inevitably. There was nothing inevitable about our manner of assaulting Iraq. There was no imminent threat; many, including the Germans and the French, made that assessment before our first bombs were dropped; and if you still believe there was an imminent threat, a "mushroom cloud" in the offing, you are living in a state of willful blindness and sucking up to the worst sort of propaganda ever invented by US leadership (because it has almost all been proven false, and was used to further what is arguably the most counter-productive aggression every undertaken by U.S. forces anywhere).

Robert: "In studying the abortion question, I have learned to be wary of unsubstantiated statistics."

Fanni writes: I will substantiate the numbers I used in previous e-mails (I have to go back and check the sources again). But, first, I want to ask: what is the point of this part of your message? Do you think that, if you manage to discredit certain numbers of dead that I have cited, you will have defeated the merits of my view of what is going on in Iraq, and by the same stroke justify your support for Bush's war? I highly doubt the strategy, if that is indeed the one you intend to employ here. The REASON I doubt it is because you have yet to make clear the basis on which an accurate death toll would be meaningful to you. If the actual toll were known conclusively to be 20-30,000 (the most liberal estimate I have found), and not 2,000 (the most conservative I have seen at any point in the conflict), would that change your view of the war to any degree? What if it were known conclusively -- a hypothetical, for sure, but please grant me it -- that 600,000 innocent civilians had been killed, would that cause your ambivalence to the war to grow, and would it cause you to consider withdrawing your support for Bush? If not, why not? If numbers matter to you (and I can't see yet why they would, given your previous arguments), is there a limit -- say, a rough number of innocent deaths caused by U.S. forces -- beyond which you would find that a vote for Bush would ring more loudly as a vote for violence than as a vote against it? This is the most important question I keep returning to.

Robert: "Some groups just seem to make them up as they go along. For example, you stated, ‘Calling the death by US firepower and cluster bombs of tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq ...'"

Fanni writes: I will quote the source later. You can decide what the "group" is in this case, determine whether they are pro- or anti-abortion, and make your decision as to the figure's merit on those bases, if you like. But my point remains. Where is the limit to the amount of violence (military, ecological, etc.) you are willing to support, to keep the violence of abortion from being perpetuated? Have you ever conceived of one?

Robert: "To the best of my knowledge, cluster bombs were not used in cities in the 2nd Iraq war."

Fanni writes: You are wrong. Your knowledge on this point is fictional. Did it come from Fox News? I will find several sources that provide evidence that cluster bombs were used. It was a big point of dispute before the hostilities broke out, and Rumsfeld in particular refused not to use them. On this point, as on others, I would ask whether you get your information from Fox News principally. The point is relevant because there are good reasons for finding this state-friendly news engine to be suspect. I sent you a link to a recent report to that effect and you didn't say anything about it.

Robert: "Smart bombs were."

Fanni writes: That's a cute expression. "Smart bombs." Do you think it matters to the parents of a young boy whose skull has been knocked off whether it was removed by a smart bomb or a cluster bomb? I invite you to take the euphemistic jargon of the military less seriously. War is not a "smart" or "surgical" process. It is violent and imprecise by nature. No amount of dressing up by Fox News or the Pentagon will ever change this basic fact. Enemies are not more easily identified by improved technology, because non-hostile entities swiftly become hostile in changing conditions. And there can be much more to be said on this, but I simply reject your facile reception of this jargon. I am even disgusted by it. As a student of warfare, you should have learned to be more critical of bogus language designed to make war sound neat and economical from the point of view of more powerful forces and with the intent of sparing its supporters any pangs of conscience.

Robert: "'Tens of thousands' is a gross exaggeration. If you can document otherwise, let me know."

Fanni writes: I will let you know. In the meantime, since you don't yourself have conclusive evidence (which may not exist, likely for strategic reasons that benefit current U.S. foreign policy), it might be hasty of you, at the very least, to declare that "tens of thousands" is a gross exaggeration. More to the point, it is irrelevant to our discussion if tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis have actually died because it would have no effect whatsoever on your assessment of the present administration and its foreign policy in particular. That is, unless you say otherwise.

Robert: "A second possible example: You stated earlier that something like 10.5 million children died because Bush would not send them needed aid. Without documentation, this again sounds like a figure that someone pulled out of the air."

Fanni writes: I will track down the source. But, again, even if it were pulled out of the air, it doesn't yet matter to our discussion, because you haven't yet said that, in the case where such a number of children had been left to die as a direct consequence of neglect by U.S. and other powers (I take your point there, that other nations are responsible, too), it would affect in any way your estimation of Bush. The contrary seems to be the case. What would you care if 10.5, or 600 million were known to have died in such a way? You could rationalize that number of deaths easily. By blaming the Germans and French, for instance, or making subtle distinctions between direct and indirect causes of death, or between "killing" and "letting die," and, on the basis of these subtleties, by washing your hands of all responsibility in your support of Bush and imagining that in supporting a thug you have embraced an angel.