August 12, 2002
Ann Coulter's America

By now you've probably heard of Ann Coulter's latest contribution to civil discourse:

HOW IS IT that the New York Times managed to locate the only eight people in America opposed to attacking Iraq? (By "America," I obviously mean to exclude newsrooms, college campuses, Manhattan and Los Angeles).

Call me crazy, but I suspect there may be more than eight people in Ann Coulter's America who have misgivings about attacking Iraq. In fact, I'm willing to bet I can find more than eight such people all by myself. I'll open the bidding with Jim Henley. For the rest, I look to you, my readers. If you meet the following criteria, please say so in the comments:
  1. You oppose attacking Iraq.

  2. You do not live in Manhattan or Los Angeles.

  3. You are not a college student.

  4. You are neither an employee of a newspaper nor do you work for a news broadcaster.

Let's see if we can find at least nine such people. I'm sure Ann will appreciate the clarification.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 12, 2002 to Other punditry

I fit all 4.

Does simply dropping a spread of nuclear bombs and not attacking in the traditional sense count?

Posted by: Laurence Simon on August 12, 2002 10:26 PM

One fifth-columnist over here...

Posted by: Oliver on August 12, 2002 10:58 PM

I'd really like to pile on Ann here, but sadly I support an attack on Iraq, live in New York City when I'm not at college and work for a student paper so I can't contribute much on this score.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias on August 12, 2002 11:10 PM

Sorry, Oliver -- I'm no Coulter fan, but I can't help you out. I don't live in Manhattan or Los Angeles, I'm not a college student, nor am I an employee of a major media outlet.

But I think Saddam has a major ass-kicking coming his way.

Good luck.

Posted by: Scott Koenig on August 12, 2002 11:18 PM

Oops, I meant Charles. I followed Oliver's link here -- sorry 'bout that.

Posted by: Scott Koenig on August 12, 2002 11:20 PM

I hit the quadra-fecta.

Posted by: etc. on August 13, 2002 12:03 AM

Checking in. (Unless "may be grad student within the next 2 years if all goes according to plan" disqualifies me.)

Posted by: Karin on August 13, 2002 1:32 AM

I'd help if I could, but as an academic, I'm apparently Canadian, or something.

I'm also not particularly opposed to the idea of attacking Iraq, but I am opposed to the blundering half-assed approach to the problem we seem to be getting. Most of the strong proponents of the war seem to think we're in a Star Wars movie, and that once the Evil Dictator is dead, peace and freedom will reign throughout the Galaxy, and there will be much rejoicing by CGI aliens and midgets in furry suits. It doesn't work that way, not for long.

I'd be all for the war, and thus stand a chance of earning honorary American citizenship, if I had seen any inkling from those beating the war drum that we have a clear idea of who or what will replace Saddam Hussein, and that we're willing to make the committment to see this through. Given the hash we're currently making of Afghanistan, where we couldn't ask for better than Hamid Karzai (and we're hanging him out to dry while the country slides back into warlord-ism and banditry) I don't have a whole lot of confidence in the Iraq project.

Hussein is scum, and needs to be removed, but the need is not so urgent that we should go ahead without thinking things through. We shouldn't attack Iraq until we have a clear idea how we'll handle the aftermath.

Posted by: Chad Orzel on August 13, 2002 7:12 AM

Frothing-at-the-mouth-lad and I were discussing this recently and I agreed with him completely, so I'll just paraphrase his argument:

I have no doubt that Bush is receiving intelligence that has convinced him of the utter necessity of going to war with Iraq. However, he has not provided this information to the American people and I refuse to support a war solely on the grounds that the President thinks it would be a good idea. War may be necessary and justifiable, but my support for a war requires that I understand the necessity and the justification. The Bush "don't worry your prettly little haid about it" mentality does not inspire sufficient confidence.

What he said.

Posted by: Michael on August 13, 2002 7:26 AM

I have yet to see a case for Saddam Hussein's nastiness that amounts to sufficient provocation for regime change.

Based on the current prosecution of the endgame of the war in Afghanistan, I have no confidence that Team Bush can win the war they're in, much less the one they're trying to start.

The more I hear of the arguments for the war, the more compelling the arguments against it become.

Posted by: Ginger on August 13, 2002 9:08 AM

I'm reading a lot of comments here that really strike me as odd.

Michael - I definitely see your point about making the case to the American people. I'd like to see more of that. But we're not at war yet, and I can't imagine that before the first shots are fired, Bush doesn't tell us why we are taking action. Even having said that, I believe there are several compelling reasons today to consider invasion.

If Bush fails to make a case before taking action, however, I'm totally with you -- but I just can't see that happening.

Ginger and Chad - You seem to be implying that we have somehow "lost the peace" in Afghanistan. My question to you: What on Earth did you imagine a post-war Afghanistan would look like? Aside from the Loya Jirga, the country has absolutely NO democratic tradition. It's always been a cultural backwater, and warlordism is the normal state of affairs there. The fact that they held a Loya Jirga for the first time in many, many years and nobody was killed is an amazing accomplishment. Also, despite the infighting, Karzai is widely admired and respected amongst the various Afghan tribes.

So please tell us all, what was your "vision" for a post-war Afghanistan? Do you actually believe that we are LOSING the war there? On what facts do you base your assumption?

Oh, and Ginger, what would Saddam have to do to be nasty enough for you? He's already massacred his own people, had literally hundreds of his aides executed on a whim, attacked neutral non-combatants, tried to assasinate an ex-President and his wife, made war on three of his neighbors, violated the Gulf War Cease Fire agreement, shunned several UN resolutions (which if the US or Israel even thinks of doing, you would be all over them), and kicked out weapons inspectors. Oh, yeah, he's had cousins and in-laws executed as well, for not being loyal enough. In fact, this guy's crimes are so legion that I can't even begin to put them all down here.

Nah, you're right. We should just let him be.

Posted by: Scott Koenig on August 13, 2002 12:07 PM

If America was going to start wars with every potentially dangerous regime, they'd have their work cut out. Where does it stop?

The one thing I'd say is that Bush and his rating polls cronies better get it 100% right, otherwise it's going to be a very dangerous situation.

Posted by: arseblogger on August 13, 2002 12:23 PM

Scott, I think what Ginger is referring to is articles like this, in which Afghanistan is shown to be more an anarchy with competing warlords than anything else. There's hope, but the obstacles are large and there's not much attention being paid to it right now.

We're not arguing about whether or not Saddam is a Bad Man. He is, and the world would be a better place if someone took him out. The question is whether an invasion is our best course of action. As things stand right now, my answer is No. That can certainly change, but Bush is not addressing my concerns, and until he does, my answer will stay No.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on August 13, 2002 1:15 PM

I oppose. The administration has failed to make a case for why we should go in -- and more importantly, no one talks about what happens next. I think we should listen to the military folk on this one - they really really don't want to do this.

Posted by: Atrios on August 13, 2002 1:27 PM

Atrios - What military folk are you talking to? I'm a vet and a weekend warrior myself, and actually run a moderate risk of being called up for such a conflict. Sure, I have READ about some people in the military who oppose this, but I'm willing to bet that I know a lot more "military folk" than you, and I have yet to MEET one who thinks taking out Saddam is a bad idea. Most, in fact, are frustrated that we didn't do so in '93, after the Bush assasination attempt, or '94, when he massed troops on the Kuwait border, or '98, when he kicked out the weapons inspectors... shall I go on?

Charles and Ginger - My point is that it will be many years before Afghanistan even begins to resemble a modern, coherent nation state. Anyone who believes otherwise has been smoking some really good s--t. To judge the success of the war effort in Afghanistan by the current effectiveness of the brand spankin' new central government is to be seriously out of touch with reality.

The war has been successful because our enemies have scattered to the winds, Usama has lost all credibility (if he is even alive), the evil Taliban regime is but a memory, and al-Qaeda itself has devolved into a handful of small, independent(and largely ineffective, remember the Morocco operation?) cells. In fact, some have speculated (myself included) that the Arabic-speaking "Hezbollah" thugs who were breaking up student demonstrations in Iran last week may have been former al-Qaeda. The remnants are being hunted down all over the globe, including North Africa, Georgia (the country not the state), and Yemen.

Arseblogger - Of course we can't attack all the bad guys at once. But do you think we should wait until all of their evil plots unfold before taking action? Sure thing, Neville.

And finally, back to Charles. Yes, I think Bush owes us more of an explanation before the tanks start rolling. But why should he tip his hand early?

Like I said before, if Bush fails to make the case to the public, I'm with you -- but I seriously doubt it will go down that way.

Oh, yeah -- Coulter is a stupid gassbag. There's obviously way more than eight people who fit that description.

Some of them are even rational human beings.

Posted by: Scott Koenig on August 13, 2002 2:37 PM

I fit none of Ann's criteria.

Posted by: Jessa on August 13, 2002 4:08 PM

Scott, this article talks about dissent in the military over invading Iraq.

This article in NRO covers the case against pretty well.

It's interesting that you talk about Bush tipping his hand. The whole reason this is an issue is precisely because there's no casus belli. We didn't need to talk about the reasons for invading Afghanistan beforehand (though we did anyway) because our reason and justification were obvious. The reason and justification here is not obvious (some would say nonexistent), which necessitates talking about it.

All in all, I find the case against to be more compelling.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on August 13, 2002 4:24 PM

count me in.

Posted by: kd on August 13, 2002 5:52 PM

Well, Charles...I oppose the war in Iraq. I think that we stand unilaterally (once again, big surprise) against Saddam and this essentially amounts to a War of Convenience to the Shrub. BTW, I don't factor Britain into the equation here as I've come to the conclusion that Tony Blair is but a lapdog for the United States...regardless of administration. Me thinks the man needs to exercise his balls once in a while. Goodness, did I just say that? Apparently, I did....

I think GWB's justification for war is flimsy. I don't live in Manhattan, anymore. Native New Yorker here, having moved out of the city to the burb just a breath north when my 15 year old daughter was a toddler. I'm no longer a college student nor do I play one on tv...and finally...

I am no longer an employee of a newspaper.

Wrapped up...I'd say my vote counts.

I'd also like to say that I think that Ann Coulter from time to time makes a salient point, but for the most part, she is a humorless and mean pundit whose appearance of anorexia nervosa has frequently made me wonder if she's just starving...hungry, as it were. I mean, let's feed the chick a sandwich and see if she warms up.

Posted by: Lisa English on August 13, 2002 7:56 PM

"Saddam is a very bad man" is not a reason for the United States to go to war. If we're going to start tossing out every petty tyrant who abuses his people abysmally, the US is going to be busy for a long time.

And I don't judge the success or failure of the war in Afghanistan solely by the mixed results we have so far (1 loya jirga, a bunch of assassinations, and resurgent warlordism of the sort that made Afghans decide the Taliban was a good bet in the first place). I judge it by the fact that it seems more and more like we screwed up big time in Tora Bora and let a bunch of al-Qaeda guys get away. The "al-Qaeda is whooped" meme is no more justifiable at this point than the meme that says Afghanistan should be a modern, coherent nation-state right now.

Of course, we're not done in Afghanistan--or with al-Qaeda--so we need to make sure we don't get distracted from that threat before we get done.

Bluntly, Saddam Hussein does not represent a clear and present threat to the people of the United States. Not by his possession of WMD, not by his hate for GWH Bush, and not by (highly speculative/unproven) links between him and last September's terrorist attacks. Without that threat, we should not start a war to get rid of him, regardless of other concerns.

Posted by: Ginger on August 13, 2002 8:20 PM

Scott - Saddam has had 12 years to do something since the Gulf War.

It strikes me that the reason Bush is so intent on going into Iraq is that he doesn't want to get caught out again - wasn't it true that there were plans drawn up by the Clinton administration to do something about Bin Laden but Bush ignored them when he came to power? Feel free to correct me on that.....

Is the reason he's going into Iraq because he actually has intelligence that something might happen, or because he doesn't want to look like a fool just in case something happens.

Posted by: arseblogger on August 14, 2002 3:36 AM

So much to answer here, so little time...

OK, some of you don't see Saddam as a threat to the United States. Isn't this essentially an isolationist argument? Please clarify. I'm not an isolationist myself, so if that's what you stand for, then we have certain irreconcilable ideological differences and this debate is pointless.

Having spent several years of my life being personally involved in the effort to keep Saddam in his little box, I'm more inclined to get proactive on his ass (sorry arseblogger, but we Americans don't spell "ass" with an "r"). The containment strategy is basically a band-aid solution, and will be a total failure if Saddam develops a strong offensive WMD capability. Most experts agree that he's close, but not quite there yet. That would make NOW the time to be proactive.

Yes, Bush needs to make the case to the American people, and at least explain to our friends what we're up to. But it's not too late to do that yet. Bush may very well have some intelligence on terrorist ties and/or WMD programs that we have not yet seen, because he doesn't want to compromise our sources. As long as he presents this evidence to us when the time comes to do so, then I'm with him.

If he fails to make the case, then I'm with you guys. But I have some pretty good insights into the Iraq situation, and I'm reasonably certain that such evidence exists.

In the end, it will come down to your personal views on what constitutes causus belli.

If there is clear evidence of WMD development in Iraq, is that enough?

How about if there is evidence of terrorist ties?

Or would it take both WMD and terrorist ties?

Or is there no possible justification for offensive war, and we should just leave everyone alone until we're attacked?

What if we can see that first blow coming, and it's a real whopper?

Sorry folks, but when it comes to Saddam, I just can't bring myself to join the wait-and-see camp -- he's gotta go.

Posted by: Scott Koenig on August 14, 2002 4:31 PM

I fit all four. (I live in Brooklyn, not Manhattan.) And -- well, what Atrios said, with a side dish of Ginger Stampley.

Posted by: Patrick Nielsen Hayden on August 16, 2002 6:46 PM

I've got the feeling that the truth of the matter is hidden behind a thin veil of rightous platitudes. What's really going on? The Bush family (and supporters) are using whatever they can to justify a war where they'll have control of Iraqi oil. The whole push to get congressional approval was just a card to use against the French and Russians, who have their own oil deal going with Iraqi. "Either you support us in the security council, or we'll just go in without you and cut you out entirely." It's good card playing really; are they really willing to call the bluff, and maybe lose everything, or would they rather join with the US, and try for a piece of the pie?

BTW, where was this assasination attempt on Bush I? I don't remember it happening; I can't seem to find any info on it.

Posted by: Peter Wolf on October 22, 2002 2:21 AM


Posted by: R.C. BOHNE, III on January 28, 2003 3:11 PM