28 January 2007

Big Fat Liar?

Filed under: Culture, Reflections — ktismatics @ 7:16 am

My wife, daughter and I watched a download of Big Fat Liar last night; this morning it inspired a few political thoughts.

I was living in France when the war talk began, and I couldn’t believe it was happening. I participated in an antiwar march in Nice that drew maybe 6,000 people; in the months leading up to the invasion there were turnouts in the hundreds of thousands in big cities in Europe and around the world. The French believed that Bush was forcing the war idea, that the American people were not behind him. The French were wrong: according to PollingReport, more than three-fourths of the American public supported the American invasion of Iraq at the time. Even before 9/11, two out of three Americans said they would favor ousting Saddam from power by military force.

Hillary Clinton acknowledges that she made a mistake in supporting the congressional authorization for the war. She said she was lied to by the Administration. I don’t believe her.

Even at the time it seemed clear that most of the publicly-available evidence of Iraqi WMDs and collaboration with al-Qaida was either transparently shaky or already disproven. If a layman like me could see it, surely the Congress could. I believe that the Congress, including the Democrats, went along with the case that Bush and Powell put before the world knowing that it was a deception. Why? I’d say it was largely a matter of patriotic zeal. America was pissed after 9/11, America was already pissed at Saddam after Gulf War One, America was ready to attack. The Democrats, I believe, could have exposed the deception but didn’t. Either they were afraid of political backlash for being perceived as unpatriotic, or they too really wanted to kick Saddam’s ass.

Now that the war effort is floundering and public opinion has shifted, I suspect the American public will accept Hillary’s explanation. We will not want to remember how enthusiastic we once were about this war. We will want to disavow complicity. We will look for someone to blame. It’s a lot easier to say we were deceived than to admit that we were willing to lie to ourselves.



  1. I think it must be difficult to be in politics or to write a history book. Whatever you write, there are always people who disagree.


    Comment by Odile — 28 January 2007 @ 10:20 pm

  2. This is an enigmatic comment, Odile. I’m not sure whether I agree or disagree with it. It’s a kind of Rorschach test.


    Comment by ktismatics — 29 January 2007 @ 4:37 am

  3. I like this post. Its funny; you don’t really mention any questions about the justice or lack thereof of the war…at least that doesn’t really seem to be the question you are asking. I recently started reading War and Peace in a Global Village…and its a question of who we are, who we become, and what war means in that context these days. And, well, Satan has a hold…



    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 29 January 2007 @ 11:27 pm

  4. Well I’m a critical European and not a critical American. This makes us disagree with each other, isn’t that funny?


    Comment by Odile — 29 January 2007 @ 11:37 pm

  5. I understand that the Imams are leaving Holland because they find it too culturally homogeneous and intolerant. But then there was the Dutch filmmaker who was killed for the purportedly anti-Islamic tone of his work. Didn’t the cartoon version of Muhammad first appear in a Dutch newspaper? Southern France where I live is maybe 15% Arab; even though they speak French they’re not well integrated into French society. Then there were the car burnings last year. Certainly Europe has more experience in achieving peaceful coexistence with Islamic and Arab culture — and in combating terrorism — than does the United States.


    Comment by ktismatics — 30 January 2007 @ 9:47 am

  6. You must be joking. I’m afraid if I say anything, I will step on toes in these matters. And I don’t like to offend any group at all. I often found that the Dutch filmmaker was infuriating me, but that was what he was good at. I knew some common friends by the way. I more or less expected a reaction when I saw his film.
    If I really have to point out mistakes I would say the optimism in Europe has led not to acknowledge problems with accepting a new population, neglecting the multilingual problem. Not very realistic to expect a migrated group would adapt to the ‘common’ way of living and leave it’s culture.
    I think America has more experience with acceptance of other cultures at schools. The situation in the Netherlands is that minorities have to make effort to get some attention for their culture at schools. Every year you have to break in teachers about your religion. If you don’t believe, you are surrounded with Christmas trees and songs. There is not much of a choice.
    The minority has to stand up for their rights this even more so applies to handicapped.
    It is even hard on Christians who don’t want Christmas trees.
    And integration is overrated.


    Comment by Odile — 30 January 2007 @ 11:21 am

  7. Go ahead and step on some toes.

    After our daughter’s second year in her French school my wife said to the directrice, “soon she will be a French girl.” “Oh no,” replied the directrice, “she will never be a French girl.”

    It’s easy to become an American. French people know more about American history than Americans do. I think it takes more than one lifetime to become French.

    One of the things that divides America is the question whether the American people are one or many. Is there a core American culture, outlook, set of values, history, etc.? Or is America an agglomeration of minorities from all over the world who pursue economic opportunity and individual freedoms? Clearly there is a core French culture — probably also a core Dutch culture, German, English, and so on. Perhaps there is a latent fascism here. But Europeans also share a commitment to equality and human rights. Those parts of America that most resist the war are places where more immigrants live — the Northeast, the West Coast, the big cities.

    “Integration is overrated,” you say. How so?


    Comment by ktismatics — 30 January 2007 @ 2:17 pm

  8. One of the things that divides America is the question whether the American people are one or many. Is there a core American culture, outlook, set of values, history, etc.? Or is America an agglomeration of minorities from all over the world who pursue economic opportunity and individual freedoms?


    America used to define herself by freedom: the commitment to the rights and pursuits of the individual.

    “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

    All three of the above are under debate right now, with a very diverse spectrum of opinions on these issues.


    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 30 January 2007 @ 3:53 pm

  9. I have seen a documentary of Friedman (not sure if I spell it right) about the influence of petrol on politics and war and how we should try to stop using it by trying to find alternatives.
    I hope governements get wise and take responsibility on issues of health, education, poverty, environment, public safety, conditions surrounding birth and breastfeeding. Every hour more spent on kindergarden has a positive effect according to some study on life expectation, health, wealth, income and criminality 20 years after…
    I wish governements that blame others show how they are making an effort for peace. What they are paying and how they contribute in projects, people, effort.


    Comment by Odile — 31 January 2007 @ 2:06 am

  10. Washington has fairly little involvement in addressing the issues you identify as important. In education, for example, every local school district decides its own curriculum and hires its own teachers. And there are very many school districts — perhaps 150 in Colorado alone (the state we lived in).


    Comment by ktismatics — 31 January 2007 @ 7:32 pm

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