Saturday, February 23, 2013

They don't hate us for our freedom. Meddling, slaughtering, lies, and hubris...well, yeah.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, whom I generally admire--and who, to her endless credit, has pushed a lot of social issue envelopes on her show--recently occasioned and narrated a documentary called Hubris (you can watch all six parts here). Hubris was advanced as reporting on "how the Bush administration viewed the terrorist attacks of 9/11 as an opportunity to remove Saddam Hussein from power", and promoted as a thorough analysis of:  the utterly false casus belli (the metal tubes, the mushroom cloud threat, etc.) for the American invasion of Iraq in 2003; the evidence presented to Congress (that would eventually be completely discredited); the use and abuse of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell by pushing him to make an under-informed and flawed case for war; and finally, the horrifically poor management of Iraq subsequent to the removal from power and execution of Saddam Hussein.

The same Saddam Hussein who, it must be noted (if not discussed too often, if ever, on MSNBC), was on the C.I.A. payroll since 1957 and to whose Ba`ath party the U.S. provided monetary and intelligence assistance--first in the coup of 1963, and again in that of 1968, about which David Morgan of Reuters wrote:
In 1968, Morris says, the CIA encouraged a palace revolt among Baath party elements led by long-time Saddam mentor Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, who would turn over the reins of power to his ambitious protégé in 1979. “It’s a regime that was unquestionably midwived by the United States, and the (CIA’s) involvement there was really primary,” Morris says.
Thus would Hussein, in 1979 and with the blessing and backing of the United States, occupy Iraq's highest office. Come the 1990's, however, he was regarded as less and less useful for "America's national interests" (read: those of Big Oil).

All that said, you might conclude--correctly--that my opinion of Hubris is not a uniformly positive one. I felt a few extremely important concerns--the most important ones, in fact--were either skipped over during the writing process itself or, more likely, edited out of the narrative on the orders of higher-ups (but who can say?).

Anyway, in order to better express--and to augment--my own complaints, I'm going to share with you, dear readers, some luminous observations and criticisms of Hubris by two writers I deeply respect.

First: the following is a letter to Rachel Maddow and MSNBC by my friend Geoff Wheeler, a fellow Briton by birth as well as a retired merchant seaman. Geoff lives in Florida. (Published here with his permission.)
Subject: Letter to Rachel Maddow, MSNBC
Ms. Maddow: I was looking forward to your program ‘Hubris,’ which aired on MSNBC on Monday night, based on the book of the same name written by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, which I bought soon after it was published in 2006. I could ask why you waited so long, but I prefer to ask why you blew your chance to nail the Bush Gang in the very first minute by saying that Saddam kicked the U.N. weapons inspectors out of Iraq, which he never did. Your program was intended to indict Bush, yet right at the beginning you falsely indicted Saddam. In 1998 Richard Butler, head of the U.N. weapons inspectors, accused the Iraqis of obstructing their work, so Clinton said he would use air strikes, and out of concern for their safety Butler withdrew his team. I repeat: they withdrew voluntarily - Saddam did not kick them out. 
So you blew that, and then compounded your error by not mentioning that it was Bush who ordered Hans Blix and his team out of Iraq just before he invaded in 2003. As the reporter you think you are, how could you miss that? I saw and heard the bum on TV say that the reason he invaded was because Saddam would not let Blix and his team in, when they had been in the country for more than two months and had found nothing! Which of course was not what Bush and Cheney wanted, which was a reason to invade Iraq, so it was they who kicked the inspectors out, killed 60-80,000 Iraqi civilians a few days later with ‘Shock & Awe,’ which grew to untold thousands of Iraqi dead in the ensuing eight years, not to mention a trillion American dollars down the drain and our reputation mud around the world. Bush stated exactly the opposite of what actually happened, and you let him get away with it! 
You had a chance, Ms. Maddow, to educate the millions of viewers on Monday night who tuned in to your show, particularly those who lost loved ones in Iraq and continue to delude themselves that they died for this country and not for Iraq’s oil and the lying bastard (make that plural to include Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice and the rest of the gang) who sent them there. You will probably never get the chance again, leaving Bush-lovers to wallow in their selective ignorance of the facts, and for that you should be ashamed. 
R. G. Wheeler

Second: Some notes on the documentary Hubris by Driftglass (he of the acuminous political lens that is his eponymously-titled blog), wittily live-tweeted for our edification (where witty = tear-evoking gallows humor):

  • Republicans watching "Hubris" 2night out of nostalgia 4 watching a dry-drunk war criminal trying to wrestle the word "nuclear" to the ground.
  • Except of course history did not begin until 01/20/09. All "events" before that are rumors created by Evil Liberals
  • Remember David Brooks' column calling people who opposed Wolfowitz antisemitic? No? That's the fucking problem.
  • Remember David Brooks' columns mocking Liberals who opposed Iraq war as deluded Bush-deranged posers? No? That's the fucking problem
  • Remember David Brooks calling people cynical assholes who objected to Dubya's flightsuit tango? No? That's the fucking problem.
  • Remember when the collaborators at the NYT gave a fucking weekly column to Bloody Bill Kristol? No? That's the fucking problem.
  • Remember when David Brooks leveraged his Liberal bashing tripe into a column-for-life at the NYT? No? That's the fucking problem.
  • Remember [* the late & brilliant blogger] Steve Gilliard? No? That's the fucking problem.
  • Remember when the wingnutosphere went nuts trying to discredit every alarming report out of Iraq? No? That's the fucking problem.
  • Remember when palette-trucks of shrink-wrapped taxpayer cash just fucking vanished into Iraq? No? That's the fucking problem.
  • Remember when everything that is now settled history was America-hating surrender-monkey treason? No? That's the fucking problem.
  • Remember when a gay hooker Conservative "reporter" w/ a fake name sat 100 ft away from Dubya for 2 yrs? No? That's the fucking problem
  • Remember when Halliburton made $$ selling American soldiers in Iraq toilet water? No? That's the fucking problem.
  • Remember when the GOP make "Fuck Reality" into American national policy? No? That's the fucking problem.
  • Remember when Phil Donahue got fired for telling the truth and Conservatives got promoted for lying? No? That's the fucking problem.
  • Remember how the Cheney clans got really, really rich sending kids off to die for their lies? No? That's the fucking problem.
  • Remember when 60 million Americans re-elected these deficit-creating war criminals? No? That's the fucking problem.
  • Remember the incompetent children of GOP campaign contributors were put in charge of governing Iraq? No? That's the fucking problem.
  • Remember when Fox News told soldiers rolling into battle to look into the camera and say "Fox Rocks!" No? That's the fucking problem.
Remember writing, thinking, speaking, marching, screaming against the coordinated, deafening roar of the Conservative hate machine and Beltway press?
Well, for what it's worth, Driftglass, I do.

I remember landing and disembarking in Vancouver that winter evening in early 2003, only to see a number of customs personnel thereabouts openly weeping; concerned--horrified, actually--I asked them what was going on, and they replied that that the U.S. had just started bombing Iraq, something they had hoped against hope would not happen. (Oh, those idealistic peace-loving Canadians!) I remember coming home later that week and writing what would be the first of innumerable letters to Florida's representatives in Congress, as well as the White House itself, exhorting them to put a stop to this war built on obvious lies. I remember screaming and crying, too.

I remember aging a lot in the years thereafter. I remember the hiding of flag-draped coffins at Dover; the smearing of bereaved mothers who dared to speak out against Bush and Cheney; the disgusting and widespread incidences of torture that came to light, like Abu Ghraib; and the horror stories about innocent young men of middle-Eastern descent being swept up from the streets and, along with actual terrorism suspects, being shipped to the shameful prison in Guantánamo, Cuba, where they would all languish, uncharged and untried, choking on the putrid fumes of some evil, gray-area incarnation of the law, for years to come (indeed, a great many are still there, as yet uncharged and untried.)

Hubris? More like Malefaction, the magnitude of which, in terms of treasure squandered and American and Iraqi blood spilled, is unprecedented in modern history.

[* Like Driftglass, I highly recommend reading the incredibly prescient writing of the late, great Steve Gilliard; here's an especially good post from August 2003.]


  1. Remember the war crimes of the Bush Gang, which were horrific and its perpetrators deserving of prosecution and imprisonment, but not the war crimes of the current administration? No? That's the fucking problem.

    1. I also remember the current administration saying they wanted to "look forward" and not backward, thereby (in the president's mind) exonerating the war criminals of the Bush administration.

      And, as it turns out, exonerating himself and his administration. Because they are keeping torture going (i.e. black sites like Benghazi), they haven't closed Guantanamo (which could be done by the same executive order by which it was opened in the first place, yes?), and they continue to send troops to sovereign nations, flying drones over them and killing suspects and innocents alike, all without official declarations of war from the congress who ostensibly represent us (AS IF).

      Those are the fucking problems, too. It started with Bush et. al., kept going when no-one went after Bush et. al other than a few outspoken politicians in Europe, and now expands and continues under Obama.

    2. Indeed. All true. And do the cocktail-party liberals care? Don't hold your breath.

      Excellent post, by the way.

    3. Thank you for your protests, LitBrit, and for including the early piece by Gilliard, may God rest his soul.

      Malefaction is correct. Darts to the heart of our nation's soul. GWB was correct when he said the "nation's psyche" was stressed ... by his actions, of course. This is the sad endgame of hubris, for Bush believed in it, without cause.

    4. You're welcome. I think it's quite a testimony to Steve Gilliard that people are still quoting him and/or posting links to his writing, all these years later.

      He got it, and he got it long before the vast majority of the country did. His writing is clear, plain, powerful, and logical. If nothing else, he'd be gratified to see how many liberals he inspired to take to the Intertubes. Would that more of them who've broken through to the mainstream would be faithful to their populist roots.

  2. Obviously you are not aware that Pres Obama tried to close Guantanamo BUT the republicans blocked him.

    Remember, google can be your friend.

    1. You are assuming I blamed President Obama, but I was stating one of several reasons contributing to the US being hated not for its freedom, but for its "Meddling, slaughtering, lies, and hubris", as per the title of this post.

      Obviously the actuating power behind this is multifarious. What I stated is the fact that many "detainees" were still being held in Guantanamo, to this day. Which is unassailably true. You assume I blame a single person; you are wrong.

      Here's what I wrote: "[...] young men of middle-Eastern descent being swept up from the streets and, along with actual terrorism suspects, being shipped to the shameful prison in Guantánamo, Cuba, where they would all languish, uncharged and untried, choking on the putrid fumes of some evil, gray-area incarnation of the law, for years to come (indeed, a great many are still there, as yet uncharged and untried.)"

      Remember, reading comprehension is your friend.

    2. Sammy, let's see, how do you say in English?


      Obama executes people, including American citizens, by fiat. He bombs by fiat. He goes to war by fiat. He does whatever he wants by fiat. Or have you missed the events of the past four years?

      As for the myth that he couldn't close Guantanamo if he wanted to, that was handily eviscerated long ago:

      "Most of the 168 detainees at Guantanamo have been imprisoned by the U.S. Government for close to a decade without charges and with no end in sight to their captivity. Some now die at Guantanamo, thousands of miles away from their homes and families, without ever having had the chance to contest accusations of guilt. During the Bush years, the plight of these detainees was a major source of political controversy, but under Obama, it is now almost entirely forgotten. On those rare occasions when it is raised, Obama defenders invoke a blatant myth to shield the President from blame: he wanted and tried so very hard to end all of this, but Congress would not let him. Especially now that we’re in an Election Year, and in light of very recent developments, it’s long overdue to document clearly how misleading that excuse is . . . ."

    3. Lisa, you are correct. As I said above, the actuating force behind the disgrace that is Guantánamo is multifarious in nature. And it is.

      Its existence was established by Bush et. al.; that it continues to exist now is due to the policies of the current US government, including the executive branch AND the legislative one. To which degree either is guilty is unknowable, but given that President Obama has the power to order a number of other actions by fiat, and has drawn on that power--as you point out and as the Salon piece points out--to imprison and execute people without affording them due process, the greater responsibility and power to close it down falls to him.

      What I'm also saying, though, is that in this post I was blaming the United States--its government, and by extension, the citizens who keep putting them in power--for those various things which have led certain countries to "hate" us. It isn't our so-called freedom that they resent; its what our government does, and does in our name. Not pointing a finger at any single person, something that deserves its own post.