Willful blindness - A bipartisan tradegy

I've run across statements from President Bush and Senator Kerry that are so outrageous to me that I can't keep quiet. These two statements, taken together provide anecdotes of the political/moral blindness that's driving this country downhill:

1) President Bush's Saturday Apr 17 Radio address, on the need to renew the USA Patriot Act:

"Some politicians in Washington act as if the threat to America will also expire on that schedule. Yet we have seen what the terrorists intend for us, in deadly attacks from Bali to Mombassa to Madrid. And we will not forget the lessons of September the 11th. To abandon the Patriot Act would deprive law enforcement and intelligence officers of needed tools in the war on terror, and demonstrate willful blindness to a continuing threat."

Part of the reason that I sometimes claim that the President violates Christian conduct is his seeming inability to ascribe any positive motives to his opponents. This statement is perfect. If you oppose his PATRIOT Act, you are either stupid - "as if the threat to America will also expire on that schedule" or evil - "deprive law enforcement and intelligence officers of needed tools in the war on terror, and demonstrate willful blindness to a continuing threat."

NONE of the many people I know believe for a second that the terror threat is going away. Some of us think there are other ways to fight terror besides gnawing away at our constitution. Some of us would rather die on our feet than live on our knees in fear. Other people think that existing laws and procedures weren't followed on September 11th and that passing new laws won't be effective.

All of these people, the President consigns to naivte or evil, for a simple disagreement on policy. We as a society cannot have a clear-headed discussion on these issues as long as the Administration maintains this attitude.

2) Kerry's repeated assertions that he will "Get the UN and other nations to pick up the burden in Iraq -- taking the targets off our soldiers and relieving the pressure on the American taxpayer. One story that repeats some of these assertions can be found in the Indianopolis Star:

"Bush, the Republican incumbent, went about the Iraq war in a way that has left the United States and its troops shouldering too much of the burden. He said he would build an international alliance to share the responsibility for rebuilding Iraq."

If Kerry truly believes this, then he is living in a fantasy world not unlike the one that the President lead us into when he and his advisers claimed that the Iraqis would welcome us as heroes and pay for their own reconstruction out of their oil revenue.

If Kerry doesn't believe that the UN et al will pick up Iraq and try to put it back together, he should stop trying to deceive us.

You don't need a top secret clearance or PhD in foreign policy to see that internationalizing Iraq is a dream. The fact is, the world doesn't want the job. Most countries opposed us going to Iraq in the first place, and the ones we armtwisted, like Spain are running like mad out the exit door. Even if we bowed and scraped before France and Germany, I think they'd say "you broke it, you fix it." Especially now that Iraq (with the exception of Kurdistan) is a roaring flame. There's no percentage in it for anybody. If the US wants out, we have to find our own way.

For those still reading this cry of anguish, FAREED ZAKARIA, a war advocate, has some very sensible advice for ways to get Iraq back on track. The core of his advice is:

"First, it must make the lives of Iraqis more secure. Iraqi security forces and police should be pulled off the streets and properly trained. In the meanwhile, the United States will have to bulk up its forces and use them to patrol, prevent crime and provide a general sense of law and order."

Sadly, I don't think we'll do this. It would mean valuing Iraqi lives as highly as our own. It would also mean putting out enough translators so that the American street prescence would genuinely helpful. It would lead, in the short run, to far higher causalties than at present. Also, it would mean swallowing our pride and I don't think either a President Bush or a President Kerry could do that.

If we can't do this and the other things that Zakaria suggests, we should cut our losses and get out*. We can give the enemy victory now, and choose our future battles more carefully, or we can bleed lives and treasures until some young vet asks, "How do ask the last man to die for a mistake."

*Except for the Kurdish areas. We should declare an independent Kurdistan and help them fortify their new state from all comers in exchange for their promise not to pursue new terrority for 30 years. The Kurds have shown themselves to be a fairly democratic, moderate people who like us. Let's build a modern country on that.

I'll pick something more gentle for my next post. Part 2 of the PATRIOT Act challenge will appear Sunday night.


First off, Bravo! It's rare these days to find anyone willing to look at both sides of anything with a fair, even mind. This is a great entry.

I'm curious about your thoughts on how we can fix this political ignorance. Reading these articles and quotes makes me want to bash my head on my desk.
Short of firing everyone in Washington, how can the average person fix this? It seems like the politicians have forgotten that we're their bosses, they work for us but they don't listen to us. How can we make them listen again?

Like so many in this country, I'm much better at naming problems than fixing them. I share your frustration and sometimes it drains me of humor.I've got some ideas, some gleaned from others, but not guaranteed to work.1) Respect others and try not to assume their intentions. - This is hard work and I often fail at it. But if we don't start with respect, we end with shouting.2) Try to get your opponents to explain why they think a certain fact is true. For example, last fall, the Weekly Standard published a story based on a "secret pentagon memo" that established hard connections between Saddam and al-Qaeda. The allegations were very specific and would have convinced me if they were true. HOWEVER, the Department of Defense itself issued a press release saying the claims were made in an appendix and did not reflect the view of the Defense Department. They went as far to say that no definite link existed. I have commented on the article and DoD response several times in LISNews, so if you're curious, try a search on "weekly standard."3) When providing information that contradicts someone's assertion, try to get information from a source of similar political orientation or at least a non-partisan source. You can't convince a conservative with clippings from the Nation and you can't convince a liberal with clippings from the National Review. In a perfect world, people would check sources from the articles rather than say "oh, that's just a Nat_____ screed."Since I find myself arguing with conservatives than liberals, I often use these sources:Cato Institute (Individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace) www.cato.orgDefenselink (main DoD site) www.defenselink.milRand Corporation (center-right think tank)www.rand.orgFactcheck.org (non-partisan site which routinely attacks both parties' distortions)4) If your faith tradition includes prayer, pray for discernment. For yourself and your opponents. You may find out they have points more often than you'd like to admit.5) Try to thank your elected officials when they do something right and disagree respectfully when they're wrong. Just accept that most of the time, your words will go unheeded if they're not the right party line.I'm not sure my thoughts are more valid than others, but there they are.