Polemics and Genuflection


Political buzzwords, empty slogans, narrative framing – Whatever you want to call it. Right or wrong they are proving effective.
Three issues immediately come to mind where this is significant:
  1. Wars of Aggression
  2. Torture
  3. Healthcare
Wars of Aggression – We fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here!
Warmongers and their squawking parrots (and those who tune in religiously to hear them squawk or roam rallies with semi-automatics) want us to believe that our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are necessary. With not having a leg to stand on when it comes to the legality of the wars or how liberation and democracy are shams, they pull another card out of their sleeve: If we don’t fight them there then we will have to fight them here! The narrative gets framed in terms of commitment to our security. Whether the slogan has a bearing of truth to it or not is irrelevant. It’s pure emotive.
What reason do we have to believe those from Iraq or Afghanistan want to fight us or are even capable of bringing the fight here?
Intent and capability – that is the enemy of this slogan.
The US is more than ten times the size of Iraq and Afghanistan and has access to considerable more weapons and money – which are important to sustain an armed attack. The differences between our military strength and our strategic positioning (they are bordered by enemies that provide us with bases in which to attack them from) from theirs also highlight the idiocy of the capability claim. We are having difficulties sustaining our occupations. How could anyone conceivably believe that they could do otherwise, especially when considering the asymmetry?
And what of intent? What is there to show that they, the Taliban or the former-Ba’athist regime, even want to? There isn’t. We are more likely to prove String theory than to prove the Taliban or Saddam Hussen planned to bring the fight to our shores. Even if there was intent, there is the issue of ability.
So let’s assume for the sake of argument that they intended to but the asymmetry is still in place. That is hardly a threat warranting our armed attack.
Even the terrorist attacks on September 11th don’t measure up. The UN Charter gives member states the right to use force in case of an armed attack or if the UN Security Council (UNSC) authorizes the use of force. While there is no dispute on the criminality and horror of what al Qaeda did there is no proof that this translates into an existential threat legitimizing pre-emptive war. Isolated terrorist attacks are not the equivalent of an armed attack.
We are better served by addressing the grievances that lie behind why terrorists attack than by launching wars which only fuel anger, hatred, resentment and hostility. In fact, Pentagon and CIA studies have shown just that. Our wars and policies have played big factors in the increasing popularity of terrorist groups and have provided rich training grounds for “professionalized” terrorists to sharpen their skills.
Between September 11th and October 7th there was not another attack or any sign of one. Whatever the terrorist attacks were they were not an armed attack, and whatever our responses were they were not defensive.
Torture – It’s no coincidence that we haven’t been attacked again!
Advocates for torture want us to believe that the policies have worked since we haven’t been attacked. Well this argument runs counter to the previous one because if torture suffices then wars of aggression are unnecessary. And it follows that if wars of aggression are necessary to keep the fighting from here then torturing isn’t working!
Torture has long been known to be ineffective since victims will likely confess to anything to get the torture to stop. Waterboard me and I will tell you where Jimmy Hoffa is buried. Shoot, I can tell you the coordinates of where Saddam hid his WMD.
Torture also increases anger and hatred against the culprits so if we use torture to keep ourselves safe then it doesn’t take a genius to figure out this is bunk. The French used torture in Algeria and with the same result: it fueled the resistance.
Torture also dehumanizes its oppressor. The act instills in the culprit certain adverse attributes about others and themselves. Just look at what happened at Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo or France in Algeria.
Healthcare – I don’t want a bureaucrat between me and my health!
Private insurance proponents also argue against any government-operated program because they don’t want some bureaucrat getting between them and their health.
The obvious rhetorical question is: So you prefer an unelected lawyer or accountant hired by the insurance company to save them money?
We are lagging in health standards to the rest of the developed world and the link between private and social insurance is the indisputable answer. Countries with single-payer spend less and are healthier. It shouldn’t be any simpler than that.
It’s always interesting to hear private insurance supporters talk about political corruption. How many scandals have been revealed about corruption, ineptness, bribes, kickbacks and so on?
Very true, but if you encounter one who tosses you this line call them out on it. Ask for a particular example. The odds are that they will give you an example, if they do at all, that centers around the corrupt relation between “an unelected dictatorship of money” (Ed Herman and David Peterson) and the politicians whose campaigns they finance. That is to say, like the folks from private insurance companies.
If corporations play a big role in political corruption, which they most certainly do (see here for a list) and for obvious reasons, then why would we want corporations getting between us and our health? If the profit-seeking, anti-social behavior induced by private enterprises weasels its way into political scandals all too frequently then why should we believe that private insurance companies will play nice when it comes time for us to receive care?
There we have it. The “fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them here” crowd ignores intent and capability. The torture contradicts the former and ignores that it doesn’t work, but is counterproductive and dehumanizes us as well. The private insurance advocates ignore the bull in the china shop. It’s fine and good to say they don’t want a bureaucrat between them and their health, but explaining how a corporate accountant is okay is necessary, and it also helps to know the facts on healthcare. Unfortunately, these empty slogans are effective if recipients to their messages don’t question them. Opponents to wars of aggression, torture policies and prevailing healthcare system can’t just conduct defensive, rearguard actions. We must go on the counter-offensive and disarm our opponents of their bunk arguments. Of course this is easier said than done when considering media access.

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