Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Why I Don't Read the Trib

Today, stuck waiting for a falafel with nothing to read but some copies of the Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh's "other" paper, the one owned and mismanaged by our own local wingnut extraordinaire, Richard Mellon Scaife, I caught too notable things in the paper.

First, this Midweek Briefing, which runs directly beneath the Editorials, contains something so unconscionable I was nearly speechless:

The Boston Herald says Teddy Kennedy tried to save six fisherman stranded on a breakwater near his Hyannis compound on Sunday. Rough waters forced him to turn back. A rescue official says Mr. Kennedy was familiar with the water and "thought he would do the right thing." Thirty-six years too late, some might say.

Seriously, I feel dirty just reading stuff like this. I mean, I try not to use the word "shameless," just as I try not to use the word "hate," but in this case I must say that I hate, nay, despise this shameless pandering to a fringe of the right so pitiful that they have to dredge up non-scandals from 36 years ago to tear down one of this nation's great public servants (love his politics or hate them, he's done more for this country, and for his constituents, than most people can imagine).

Then, a surprise (because frankly the above disgrace is not at all surprising): I'm pretty sure I actually agree with the Pat Buchanan column run in the paper today (and it's worth noting that Buchanan's syndication in the paper is another reason to refuse to read it). In the column, Buchanan castigates Bush's faith-based presidency, alluding to Bush's apparent unflagging faith that democracy in itself cures all ills.

Speaking three weeks ago to the 20th birthday conclave of the National Endowment for Democracy, Bush recited the true believer's creed: "If the peoples (of the Middle East) are permitted to choose their own destiny ... by their participation as free men and women, then the extremists will be marginalized and the flow of violent radicalism to the rest of the world will slow and eventually end."

Upon this faith Bush has wagered his presidency, the lives of America's best and bravest, and our entire position in the Middle East and the world. But as the Los Angeles Times' Tyler Marshall and Louise Roug report, U.S. field commanders George Casey and John Abizaid are skeptical that any election where Iraq's Sunnis are dispossessed of pre-eminence and power will ensure an end to terror. It may, they warn, bring new Sunni support for the insurgency.

He goes on to enumerate a few of the many data points defying Bush's faith.

But the most sweeping challenge to President Bush's faith-based war comes from F. Gregory Cause III in Foreign Affairs. Writes Cause: "There is no evidence that democracy reduces terror. Indeed, a democratic Middle East would probably result in Islamist governments unwilling to cooperate with Washington."

In Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria, anti-American Islamists seem positioned to seize power should it fall from the hands of the authoritarian rulers the National Endowment for Democracy and its neoconservative allies seek to destabilize and dump over. If Cause is right and Bush wrong, the fruits of our bloody war for democracy in Iraq could mean a Middle East more hostile to American values and U.S. vital interests than the one Bush inherited.

That would be a strategic disaster of historic dimension.

Not only does democracy offer no guarantee against terror, writes Cause, democracies are the most frequent targets of terror. Not one incident of terror was reported in China between 2000 and 2003, but democratic India suffered 203. Israel, the most democratic nation in the Middle East, endured scores of acts of terror from 2000 to 2005. Syria's dictatorship experienced almost none.

Researching 25 years of suicide bombings, scholar Robert Pape found the leading cause was not a lack of democracy, but the presence of troops from democratic nations on lands terrorists believe by right belong to them.

The United States was hit on 9/11 because we had an army on Saudi soil. Britain and Spain were hit for sending troops to occupy Iraq. Russia was hit at Beslan because she is perceived as occupying Chechnya.

All of this sounds about right to me in most respects. Of course, it's worth recalling that this supposed faith is a rhetorical device, something we heard very little about until the WMD rationale for the war collapsed under the weight of the administration's lies and wishful thinking. It seems likely, however, that the rhetorical device has become a cart before its horse, as Bush more and more subscribes to and seeks to universalize his own post hoc rationale. In any case, an interesting read. And if anyone want to point out why I shouldn't like this column at all, I'd be happily indebted. I don't like agreeing with Pat Buchanan about anything.


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