Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Monday, October 18, 2004

Other Voices from Dicta

In the same week as my Dicta article about the Presidential "debates," the front page had an article called "9/11, Still Bush's Only Hope" by my classmate Sacha Boegem. NOTE: I've invited Sacha to the forthcoming semi-fisking, so he has fair notice that his work is being critiqued.

Let me first say that before this edition came out, both Sacha and I had published one thing in Dicta previously this year. He wrote a piece basically calling the President a flip-flopper (won't work, bud; the American electorate already knows he sticks to his core values, and that Kerry has no core values to stick to) and I wrote my semi-serious piece about Kerry not really being a flip-flopper a week later. In this week's Dicta, whether intentionally or not, Sacha's tone is markedly more frantic, while mine is about Greek debates, and is decidedly comedy-oriented.

The first sentence of Sacha's column asks, "What would President Bush be campaigning on if 9/11 had never happened?" And the rest of the column doesn't really answer that, but instead recites a litany of claims about why Bush's administration is pure, unadulterated evil. Now is that opening question a serious thing to ask in a serious piece? He may as well have asked, "What would Bush be campaigning on if an earthquake had knocked China into the ocean?" We don't know. It's a completely ridiculous question to ask, because China has not, in fact, fallen into the ocean (to the great relief of the Chinese, no doubt). And 9/11 did happen, so hypothetical questions to the contrary are not the basis of any kind of rational decision-making in this election cycle.

The problem is brought to the fore with one of Sacha's first specific charges: "And then there's the USA PATRIOT Act, which erodes fundamental civil liberties and runs contrary to the very constitutional freedoms that define America." This is a wonderful illustration, because had 9/11 never happened, the Patriot Act would also never have happened. Absent 9/11, there was no need for a Patriot Act (that we knew of, at least), and so it would not have passed. If murderous thugs are not actively campaigning to murder as many American citizens as possible, then the Justice Department has no business tapping the phones of suspected Islamic militants.

But that's not reality. It's a fantasy based on a hypothetical dream-world in which Islamic terrorists are not trying to kill us.

I concede that it would be nice if the Patriot Act weren't necessary. I would love to live in a world where all Muslims (rather than just the vast majority) are moderates who don't believe they have a religious duty to kill me and my family. But I don't live in that world.

Neither do the terrorists. They live in a world where they are hunted men. They live in a world where al-Qaeda's infrastructure has been smashed, and two formerly sympathetic governments no longer exist. They live in a world where Afghan citizens just voted for the first time in history, and where Afghan women are getting their first breaths of free air in far too long. They live in a world where Saddam Hussein is no longer murdering Kurds and dissenters, ordering babies shot in the head in front of their mothers before being dumped in mass graves, and funding suicide bombers in Israel.

They live in a world where they successfully swung the election of a major Western nation. They live in a world where they tried, unsuccessfully, to swing Australia's election. They live in a world where a successful attack in America, before November 2, could mean swinging the elections in the world's most powerful nation. They live in a world where they will do everything in their power to do just that.

Sacha seems to live in Michael Moore's world, where peaceful Iraqis flew kites and drank their tea in tranquility. The Michael Moore lense never shows, even for a single moment, the twin towers, or the airplanes that slammed into them. Nastiness doesn't seem to exist in such a world, unless it's coming from George W. Bush. That is a world where Uday and Qusay do not randomly rape and kill whomever they please. It is a world where Afghan women with M.D.s aren't forced to beg in the streets because they aren't allowed to work.

It's a world that doesn't exist anywhere but in the minds of people like Sacha and Michael Moore, and I'm sure it's full of rainbows and fluffy bunnies and President Gore. But it's not the real world.

Update: Here is a link to the text of George W. Bush's speech at the Republican National Convention. Here is a link to Kerry's speech.