micah holmquist's irregular thoughts and links
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Sunday, August 18, 2002
Propaganda Acceptance and Rejectance
Ladies and gentlemen, attention please
Call me skeptical of public opinion polls, as well as what I saw from Americans during the Persian Gulf War and in the weeks after September 11, but I have a hard time believing that the majority of Americans support attacking Iraq. It is just hard for me to accept that a majority actually believes Iraq is a threat or are comfortable and supportive of the United States military picking on a country so that the world knows who’s in charge.
I think you need to think harder about where, exactly, the injustice lies. Presumably it's not that the goal of US policy toward Iraq — replacing a brutal dictator with someone better — is unjust it's just that the means by which Bush proposes to accomplish this (war, with its attendant loss of human life) that are unjust. Therefore, you need to consider what you could do to reduce that injustice. Acts of civil disobedience (refusing to pay taxes, for example, which I think is what Thoreau did) is not going to prevent the war from happening and thereby spare the lives of Iraqi civilians. All it will do is increase the odds that either (a) the war will be long and bloody or (b) that the US will lose the war. You may think that both of those outcomes are worse that (c) the war never begins but they're both worse than (d) the US wins a short and sweet campaign. If you think war is inevitable, then (c) is off the table and we should be working to accomplish (d).Well there is an argument to be made against any entity having the right to impose its rule on others but it seems more important to note right now that Yglesias, who usually comes across as an intelligent guy, believes “that the goal of US policy toward Iraq” is “replacing a brutal dictator with someone better.”
That’s right, U.S. policy isn’t about oil, political and military power or protecting Americans from an attack. It is about improving governance in Iraq, according to Yglesias.
This seems absolutely ridiculous in light of U.S. history and the fact that, as Yglesias has acknowledged there are plenty of other countries that are controlled by brutal leaders. “Now who’s being naïve?” Homer Simpson once asked Marge.
Now who’s accepting propaganda as fact?
I remember a long lecture that my seventh grade shop instructor gave about the Gulf War the week after the bombing had begun. The teacher, whose name I don’t recall, blustered on about his experiences in the Army and the nobility of America and the U.S. cause. “It’s about freedom not oil,” he shouted.
At the time I was opposed to the war but unsure of my position. I didn’t believe that the U.S. was justified in attacking Iraq but I also wanted to fit in and, for better or worse, I once wore a yellow ribbon to fit in with the other kids at Cadillac Middle School.
It would have been easy for me to welt under the pressure of this guy’s verbal waving of the flag, oiling of the guns and launching of the missiles but I didn’t. Having read just a few magazines and seen an episode or two of Donahue on this topic, I knew that Kuwait had not been a “free” country prior to August of 1990 and that Saudi Arabia was anything but free. In other words, I knew there was no reason to believe the Gulf War was about freedom and that this instructor was wrong.
I’d given up trying to fit in by eighth grade and perhaps just drifted so far away from the “mainstream” that I have a hard time imagining how anybody could believe as this instructor did, and probably still does, about Gulf War or how Yglesias believes about its much awaited remake after inconsistently entertaining sequels. And yet people do.
The thing about believing that the U.S. is primarily interested in helping the Iraqi people is that if you accept that, you’ll follow the war on terror wherever Bush and the future salesmen take it. And that will lead to plenty of injustice.