Monday, April 07, 2003

The Authoritarian Impulse

For the last several days, C-SPAN has been featuring a discussion by several historians regarding the historical fallout of the War in Iraq, plus the efforts of the historians (most of whom appear to strongly oppose the war) establish organizations opposed to intimidation of free speech in the schools and universities. I was especially impressed by Eric Foner, who kept his remarks narrowly focused on the issue of intimidation. I was less-impressed with most of the others, who wanted mostly to rail against what they saw as the Bush Administration's "immoral, illegal, unwarranted" war, with less attention to questions of intimidation. Interesting, informative, etc., and not terribly pertinent, I thought, since intimidation in the universities and schools, with a few exceptions (an egregious example being the adventures of my former history professor at UNM, Richard Berthold), has not been a major issue.

Yet, as the following E-Mail exchange with my brother-in-law Ken Newman illustrates, there is an impulse for harsh measures in our society at this time. I lament the authoritarian impulse he showed regarding the right of former Presidents to speak their minds regarding the war. Maybe some of the histrionic history professors weren't so far off the mark after all...

(in usual reverse order)

From: Marc Valdez, Sent: Thursday, April 03, 2003 2:14 PM, To: 'Newman, Ken', Subject: RE: Asia Minor Quagmire

Yes, but WHICH speaking engagements? What EXACTLY did Clinton and Carter SAY? I need names, dates, cities, countries, venues, guests, audience size, etc. Do you have links to news articles? I can hardly say much if I don't have the info., and I can hardly compare what they said to the French position.

Remember, Carter is responsible for what HE says, and the Iraqis are responsible for what THEY do. Dissent has a long and glorious tradition in democracies, and if the Iraqis somehow take heart from Carter's statements, a man who has not held office in 22 years, when faced with several hundred thousand apparently implacable troops at their door, that's an indictment of THEIR judgement, not Carter's. 'Giving encouragement' is too broad a term and can be construed in myriad ways. So if a tax cheat inflates his deductions, is he 'giving encouragement' to Hussein, because he deprives the U.S. government, and hence the military, of sustenance? Where do you draw the line?

There is little indication that Hussein would have reconsidered his options in response to world opinion, whether led by Carter, or anyone else. That's what's fun about being an absolute dictator - you don't have to listen to anyone's opinion. Iraqi state media have used demonstrations in the West to try to boost Iraqi morale, much as we use whatever support we get in Iraq (thus the inflated reports of a revolt in Basra when the war was just starting) to boost our morale, but much of that falls way short of 'giving encouragement' to the enemy - it certainly wouldn't pass a legal test. Do Carter or Clinton advocate people to take up arms against the U.S. government? If prominent Democrats or others miscalculate their opposition, and go too far, public opinion will finish off their influence - the virtue of a democracy.

The cartoon was of conservative bent, because it portrays the media as whiny, irresponsible children harassing a responsible adult (Rumsfeld). I can't imagine how you see it as having a liberal bent.

Most of the media I see these days are on Fox or MSNBC, and they don't seem to have the same bent as "peace" protesters. Conservative media, not liberal media.

In my understanding, most of the teach-in at Columbia was interesting and informative, but Professor de Genova had crossed the line. He will be rebuked or disciplined.

I thought it was Berthold who had decided to resign, not that he had been fired by UNM......

From: Newman, Ken [], Sent: Thursday, April 03, 2003 1:41 PM, To: Marc Valdez, Subject: RE: Asia Minor Quagmire

In their speaking engagements overseas they have taken to task the administration's position on the war. In other words, carter and klinton are french. This gave encouragement to those like the french and those like the iraqis.

No, that cartoon was of liberal bent. And, I'm glad you explained it because I didn't understand it. So, you admit that the media feels the same as the "peace" activists. I thought it was the "peace" protesters shouting at President Bush about his Vietnam war to be. Come to find out from you that you think it's the media shouting at President Bush about his Vietnam war to be. So the media and the "peace" protesters are one and the same.

You are a smart guy. I don't have to explain to you about the behavior of some very prominent democrats to those overseas who also condemn the Bush administration? Let's say Saddam would have reconsidered in the face of world opinion against him. However, here are carter and klinton telling Saddam that the world is for him to encourage him to think the world's condemnation of Bush will stop the destruction of Saddam's regime. So, how many lives did that cost?:

Next can o' worms. The "teach-in" at columbia university. What do you know about it? Here is a hint -- Professor Berthold, UNM, was fired, but not for his hate speech concerning the deaths at the Pentagon. Will the professors at columbia be fired or even rebuked for their advocating murdering of US citizens who happen to be in the armed forces.

From: Marc Valdez [], Sent: Thursday, April 03, 2003 1:58 PM, To: Newman, Ken and others, Subject: RE: Asia Minor Quagmire

Gee, Ken, it's a joke! I thought you'd like the cartoon because of its conservative slant!

Sorry about labelling it "Asia Minor Quagmire." I had something in mind like 'A minor Quagmire in Asia' or 'a quagmire in Asia Minor' (except of course Iraq is not precisely IN Asia Minor, just next to it, just - never mind!) The quagmire being, of course, NOT the war in Iraq, but Rumsfeld's daily press briefings. But, you see, if you have to EXPLAIN humor, it ceases being funny!

You condemn Carter and Clinton on the war, but I haven't seen any quotes from them in the press, although I understand (from somewhere) that Carter is against the war. What, precisely, are you condemning? If Carter wants to be against the war, let him express his opinion - it's his right as an American citizen, whether or not Bush or anyone else 'appreciates' it, and it certainly ain't treason! It certainly costs no lives.

From: Newman, Ken [], Sent: Thursday, April 03, 2003 12:40 PM, To: Marc Valdez and others, Subject: RE: Asia Minor Quagmire

Don't see the humor. Maybe because it's an old joke. I suspect that the answer is "No". We will know by the time of the 2004 election whether the "Asia Minor Quagmire" is another Vietnam. We know that the un-peaceful "peace" activists would just love this to become George Bush's Vietnam and are willing, in their wild imaginations, to sacrifice our troops to that effort.

However, the cartoon does show that the media are out of step. Doubt that you changed any minds with the use of this stupid cartoon. Nope. We saw enough of this in the streets of ABQ.

I'd recommend fox news network.

It is at best a moral for former presidents to verbally attack and undermine a sitting president in the international forum during a time of war. This amounts to aiding enemies of our country. Iraqi leaders could actually think the war could be won on the streets of America. You can call it freedom of speech, but how many lives did it cost? I'm sure that carter would not have appreciated ford condemning carter during carter's efforts to free the hostages. No? But, I digress. We won't know until November of '04 whether carter and klinton were successful in their efforts. I hope the liberal establishment is unwinding. Imagine that. It happened to the Soviets. Could it happen to American liberals? Naw, that's my wild imagination.

Gerard, Vicki, Zane: Marc is my usually nutty brother-in-law. Lately, he has not been very funny.

From: Marc Valdez, Sent: Wednesday, April 02, 2003 11:55 AM, To: 'Newman, Ken' and others; Subject: Asia Minor Quagmire

Cartoon link: Date 03/28/03

A Discussion About Michael Moore

Here is an interesting E-Mail exchange (in usual reverse order) regarding Michael Moore, with my friend Walter Kubilius....

Marc (speaking to Walt):
I agree with you regarding the Saudi relations problem affecting the entire U.S. government, both parties, and for many years now. I also agree that it is very much an over-simplification to talk about Prince Bandar being cozy with Bush (although it should be noted that an invitation to Crawford Ranch is given only to the world's most important guests - a prime perk). But these problems are not going to be addressed unless someone takes the political initiative, unless someone puts the Administration (of whatever party it happens to be at the time) in a very tight, uncomfortable corner, and that's where a very articulate party hack comes in handy. Michael Moore might be intellectually dishonest (I was impressed with the mental cartoon he rendered of the Lockheed Martin facility just outside Littleton, CO, where I was once employed), much as Rush Limbaugh has been similarly dishonest on different issues, but the arguments of both hacks charm through their simplicity and directness. It's a useful skill, leaving enough out of an argument to make it direct and easily digested. After "Bowling for Columbine", no one can look at Charlton Heston quite the same way again. Bye Moses, hello heartless creep.....

It's Moore's primo chance. I hope he doesn't blow it with narcissistic blarney.

Which reminds me - The Atlantic magazine just arrived, with the cover story: The Fall of the House of Saud, by Robert Baer. Looks like an interesting article!


After sending this, I thought about it some more:

Michael Moore is basically a very articulate party hack, in the same way that Vladimir Posner was in the 1980s, or that Rush Limbaugh is today. However, the question of how should the US deal with the Saudis is an important one, which does need to be addressed, very soon.


I think your assessment of the Saudis is right on target. They are truly playing both sides, and I am sure that many Saudi individuals who make pleasant conversation with Americans at dinner parties support militant Islam quietly at the same time. However, this problem with the Saudis is a problem that the ENTIRE US Government is failing to face, together with previous US administrations, and governments of our allies. I suspect that our presidents, senators, congressmen, and their advisers don't really know what to do about it, because, after all, the Saudis are selling us oil, and cooperating in some of our endeavors against other problematic Arabs. They're even cooperating with us now. The OPEC embargoes of the 70s are not being repeated, even though we are conquering an Arab country!

To reduce this very difficult problem to the level of "Bush is cozy with the Saudi ambassador -- he invited him to his ranch" or even "Bush is soft on Saudi because he owns stock in Saudi companies" is an unworthy oversimplification; exactly what I would expect from Michael Moore. If Moore's thesis was even halfway true, then Bush's policy toward Saudi Arabia would be in stark contrast from the position of the Democratic Party, it would be different from what most of the Republican party would advise, it would be different from Clinton's and Gore's approaches, as well as the policies of the other coalition members. But what I actually sense is that everyone in both parties of the US government, Canadian government, British government, etc, all our ex-presidents, presidential hopefuls, etc, as well as President Bush, are uncertain of what to do about it.

Michael Moore is intelligent and entertaining, but he is intellectually dishonest. His work reduces complex problems to "Vote Democratic" bumper stickers. If Al Gore were President today, would US policy towards Saudi Arabia be different? I think not. Would Michael Moore make a documentary criticizing it? I think not.


As evil as the Iraqi regime is, it is probably only the second or third most dangerous threat to the USA at present. Al Qaeda is first on my list, not just because of its ruthlessness and skill, but because it gets plenty of support from official circles in Saudi Arabia. For example, the New Republic has been reporting for several years now the consequences of an apparent deal between Al Qaeda and the Saudi government in the mid 90's - no attacks by Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia that target Saudis, in exchange for surreptitious material support for Al Qaeda's foreign adventures. Two of the Sept. 11th hijackers took refuge at a safe house in San Diego, operated at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars a year, using "charity" money provided by the sister of the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Thus, money funneled directly from Saudi government circles was used to help destroy the World Trade Center. It would be extremely naive to believe that officials in Saudi Arabia didn't know exactly what they were doing with their charitable contributions.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan has been the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. for 20+ years, and is arguably one of the most powerful people in the world. His influence is everywhere - I'm extremely interested in his recent important role in getting Richard Perle - one of the most influential people in the U.S. - removed as chairman of the Defense Advisory Council. Using carefully calculated innuendo, he can easily deflect the growing impatience within the U.S. government with Saudi policies.

President Bush is very cozy with Bandar bin Sultan - the Saudi ambassador is probably the only person in the diplomatic corp assigned to the U.S. ever invited as a guest to Bush's Crawford Ranch. Bush has invited only about three heads of state to the ranch (Mexico, China, Russia) - I don't think Bush ever bothered inviting Tony Blair to the ranch. The Prince clearly is more important than even Blair!

The bin Laden family is quite important in Saudi Arabia, and the clan is so large that it would be hard to believe that many in the clan knew much about Al Qaeda, yet some family members probably did have useful information, and it is suspicious that those family members in the U.S. on Sept. 11th were spirited out of the country before the FBI could interview them.

No, the basic problem with Bush/Saudi connections seems to be that the Administration is helping shield our direct enemies from our wrath. Out of ignorance or naivete, Bush, Cheney, et al. feel they have great influence with the Saudis, even feeling friendship towards them, but the Saudis are playing a double game, and they are definitely NOT our friends in any meaningful way. Not precisely our enemies, since the pact with Al Qaeda will be dispensed with by the terrorists at the most convenient time, opening the Saudi monarchy to attack, but definitely not our friends. I heard of some recent public opinion poll from Saudi Arabia stating that 90+% of the people there strongly oppose our venture into Iraq: even the monarchs can't ignore such a lop-sided margin. The monarchs likely feel they must surreptitiously attack the U.S., as dangerous as that is, just in order to maintain their own power base in a youthful (average age in the population is about 20), idle (high unemployment rate), incensed (particularly by the Israeli/Palestinian conflict), increasingly radicalized society.

How will all this get the full public expose it deserves? Well, after the success of "Bowling for Columbine", Michael Moore is fishing around for something to do, and his acid attack may be just what is needed. Bush/Saudi connections are Bush's greatest weakness - a great political opportunity for any Bush opponent. Moore may blow his chance - he's a bit of blowhard after all - but all I can say is that I envy Moore's opportunity!


I guess its no secret that the US Government and Bin Laden had a common enemy in the USSR during its invasion of Afghanistan, and therefore we helped him fight the Soviets. Its also no secret that Bin Laden comes from a family which runs a large legitimate business connected with the oil industry. Although I have not heard the details of that company's ties with US business interests, it wouldn't surprise me if some US oil interests did business with that company. And since it is common knowledge that the Bush family has been in the oil business for 50 years, I guess its possible that Bush senior is/was involved with a US company that is/was involved Bin Laden's father's company.

What I'm not clear on is what all this means to Michael Moore, and why I should be outraged by it. Does Michael Moore think that Osama Bin Laden is not really a terrorist, but rather a legitimate businessman? Or does Michael Moore think that Bush Jr. secretly supports Osama Bin Laden? Is Michael Moore advising us to leave Bin Laden alone? Does Bush think that by bombing Bin Laden, he can get in good with Bin Laden's family? Was the WTC bombing a Bush/Bin Laden plot to make money for George W. Bush??

Actually, I think the Trilateral Commision and the Masons were behind the whole thing.