Tuesday, February 17, 2004


I always thought that "lame" was a lame way to say that something meets with your disapproval. After all, "lame" literally means that you have difficulty moving. How does a lame person feel when you say something is lame? I'm not lame yet, though I'm supposed to be headed that way, but so far it doesn't hurt my feelings.

So my Clinton-hating acquaintance has been sending me more forwarded emails which state the conservative viewpoint rather poorly. Actually, I should say, the "pro-Bush viewpoint," because I am hopeful that a number of conservative voters are becoming somewhat dissatisfied with the lame mutt fouling all over their boat.

Herewith, the email, and then my reply. If my acquaintance can come up with some sort of response that addresses my points (even if I disagree with them), I can continue to respect him. But if he just fires the Liberal blunderbuss at me, or forwards more emails that he didn't write, I'll filter him to the trash.

The forwarded email:

The following appeared in a newspaper as a letter to the editor and will put things in perspective:
The Facts

Some claim President Bush shouldn't have started this war. They complain about his prosecution of it. One person recently claimed Bush was the worst president in U.S. history.

Let's clear up one point: We didn't start the war on terror. Try to remember. It was started by terrorists on 9/11. Let's look at the "worst" president and mismanagement claims.

FDR led us into World War II. Germany never attacked us: Japan did. From 1941-1945, 450,000 lives were lost, an average of 112,500 per year.

Truman finished that war and started one in Korea. North Korea never attacked us. From 1950-1953, 55,000 lives were lost, an average of 18,333 per year.

John F. Kennedy started the Vietnam conflict in 1962. Vietnam never attacked us.

Johnson turned Vietnam into a quagmire. From 1965-1975, 58,000 lives were lost, an average of 5,800 per year.

Clinton went to war in Bosnia without UN or French consent. Bosnia never attacked us. He was offered Osama bin Laden's head on a platter three times by Sudan and did nothing. Osama has attacked us on multiple occasions.

In the two years since terrorists attacked us, President Bush has liberated two countries, crushed the Taliban, crippled al-Qaida, put nuclear inspectors in Lybia, Iran and North Korea without firing a shot, and captured a terrorist who slaughtered 300,000 of his own people.

We lost 600 soldiers, an average of 300 a year. Bush did all this abroad while not allowing another terrorist attack at home.

Worst president in history? Come on!

My reply:

Wow! All other considerations aside, it would be phenomenal if you could send me the source for this:

> Clinton ... was offered Osama bin Laden's head on a platter three times by Sudan and did nothing.

None of the email is sourced, but I gather that wasn't the point. It seems to attempt to undertake these missions:

1. Show that the U.S. of often involved in wars without the U.S. being attacked.

2. Refute the "worst president" charge mainly on the basis of casualty run rate.

3. Conflate the war against terrorism with the decision to invade Iraq.

Objective number 3 is attempted by quoting an unsourced letter which states that "Some claim President Bush shouldn't have started this war." On the face of it, one knows the writer must be referring to the attack on Iraq. The email then reminds us that Bush did not start the war on terror. One of these things he did start, but the objective is to conflate, not to clarify, and so the email moves on.

Then the email begins listing wars, defining who started them, and listing the casualty rate. First there is the assertion that Japan attacked the U.S. but Germany never did. Germany formally declared war on the United States on Dec. 8, 1941. Perhaps better than anything, this glaring gaffe dismisses the relevance of the subsequent series of dubious half-truths about who started each war.

An informed person would be aware of a few notable points, such as that Truman did not start the Korean war, as the email states. It was started by North Korea, and the U.S. was drawn into it as part of a United Nations action to contain aggression. The email states that Kennedy started the Vietnam conflict, dodging the fact that major U.S. air strikes and ground-troop presence began only in the Johnson administration after the putative Tonkin Gulf Incident in which it was believed that North Vietnam had attacked a U.S. naval vessel.

The term "quagmire" in used in this email to describe Vietnam is poorly considered. While I believe that the term is accurate, there are those who believe Vietnam was an essential holding action against the spread of aggressive Communism. The idea was to fight them there before we had to fight them here. Exactly the sort of justification that Bush is using in Iraq now that the WMD charge has evaporated. I believe that someone with the intellectual advancement of a high school sophomore crafted this email. Further evidence is the careful calculation of casualty run rates as if they were relevant to the "worst president" charge.

It would seem to matter more whether each war was a justified war. For example, if we invaded Canada, that would be unjustified. If we invaded Afghanistan after 9/11 that would be justified. If we invaded Iraq after 9/11, there would be opinions on both sides.

But the real point of the email is to tout Mr. Bush.

So let's address those points. Contrary to what the email states, rather than having liberated two countries, we are in the process of trying to liberate two countries. Progress has been made, and so have mistakes. It is quite right that Al Qaeda has been crippled, as have the Taliban, and we would have expected any president to unleash the U.S. military and intelligence people to perform this mission in Afghanistan after 9/11. To his credit, Bush did allow it. However, as far as nuclear inspectors go, the U.N. put inspectors in Iran and Libya. And the sporadic U.N. inspection regime in North Korea pre-dated Bush. All the while, the Bush administration has attempted to undermine the credibility of the U.N. inspectors, in Iraq and in Libya.

Continuing the conflation effort, the email refers to a "terrorist" who was captured, presumably meaning Saddam Hussein. He's certainly a murderous dictator, and in that sense a terrorist, but while there was arguably good cause for removing him, his support for Al Qaeda remains undemonstrated.

If Bush actually prevented more attacks on U.S. soil, then more credit to him. Any president would have striven to do the same.

I suspect that the charge of "worst president," for those who make it, may be based more on the charge that his untutored unilateralism and opposition to treaty obligations per se has weakened our usual alliances and made us less effective in prosecuting the war on terrorism or leading the world. Not to mention his attacks on the environment and working people. Or the huge surge in the national debt. And crippling effect on civil rights. In ignoring those elephants in the room, the enthusiastic but poorly-considered school of emails of which this is an example, does more to harm Mr. Bush's cause than it does to help it.

I would be most honored if you would favor me with a considered reply.

Yours faithfully,

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