The Left Hook! Archive


Fri., April 4, 2003

War In Iraq:

Horowitz vs. the Mythkiller

David Horowitz, one of the most prolific of the right's perpetually furious libelers of all things liberal, decent, and American, has cranked out another of those flawless gems of conservative doublethink that forcefully remind all of us on the left of why people like Horowitz are so silly in the first place. The phrase here is "intellectual bankruptcy"; that's what Horowitz displays in spades in his newest opus, titled and themed "The War Has Refuted the Opposition."

"Once again the left is proved wrong, " Horowitz begins. "In less than two weeks of fighting to liberate Iraq, we have brought to light enough facts to destroy every argument the left has made against the war." A provocative setup, indeed! After briefly assuring his readers that the "self-righteous arrogance" of those mean ol' anti-war lefties will surely continue, he gets to the meat. After his six paragraphs of sawdust and filler, however, astute consumers are left wondering "where's the beef?"

"I won't even waste time..." Horowitz begins his first substantive paragraph, then proceeds to waste time on the subject anyway--an entire paragraph in an article only seven paragraphs long:

"I won't even waste time on the fact that Saddam was still lying about obeying the UN resolutions concerning his weapons. The Al Samoud missiles, the stashes of chemical uniforms, the seriousness with which allied commanders are taking the threat of chemical attacks on our troops are the sickening signs of how incompetent the Blix operation to disarm Saddam was."

The fact that Iraq has been almost entirely overrun by U.S. forces without a single appearance of any proscribed weapons of mass destruction, despite intense U.S. efforts to find such weaponry[1], argues exactly the opposite. When, in the earliest phase of the war, no trace emerged of the massive stockpiles of illicit arms the American war faction had insisted the Iraqis possessed, the administration floated the story that the Hussein regime had given orders to deploy such weapons automatically on any U.S. breach of the "red line" of defense around Baghdad. U.S. forces breached that line Wednesday, and there are still no such weapons in evidence. Horowitz has good reason, then, not to want to "waste time" on this topic--the facts so far in evidence contradict the war factions' claims.[2] Only a significant feat of doublethink could dictate any other conclusion.

"After the disarmament myth," Horowitz continues, without irony, "the left's principal illusion was that while Saddam may have been a freelance despot he was not a terrorist and certainly not involved with al-Qaeda." This was an "illusion?" That will certainly come as a surprise to the experts on both Iraq and al Qaida--they're virtually unanimous in their opinion that no meaningful connection exists between the Baghdad regime and the terror organization.[3] Despite months of furious effort, the administration itself was never able to muster a scintilla of solid evidence of any such connection.[4]  Horowitz, then, is postulating an outlandish notion as though it were a truism, then suggesting that those who note that particular emperor's lack of clothing are dabbling in "illusion."

And, never one to leave "bad enough" alone, Horowitz even tries to prove the point, directing the bulk of his comments in this vein toward those simple souls who have difficulty distinguishing between brown-looking desert dwellers who talk funny:

"The capture and destruction of al-Qaeda's training camp in Northern Iraq irrefutably shows that Iraq is part of the Axis of Evil that includes al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden."

A rather carefully-worded comment that purposefully excludes all of the relevant facts. The camp in question was run by an al-Qaida-connected and Taliban-modeled Kurdish group known as Ansar al-Islam. Far from proving any connection between the Hussein regime and al Qaida--"irrefutably" or otherwise--the group was, in reality, a militant anti-Hussein faction that operated deep within a section of Iraq militarily controlled by the administration's Kurdish allies. A bit later, Horowitz asks, rhetorically, "why would he [Hussein] risk housing an al-Qaeda camp?" Hussein wasn't, in any sense, "housing" Ansar al-Islam, though. The area wherein the Ansar camp was located was completely inaccessible to the Iraqi military. However much a monster Saddam Hussein may be, he can hardly be held responsible for terrorists that were being harbored by the Bush administration and its allies.

Horowitz continues his laundry list of alleged evidence: "Bin Laden's call for a jihad in defense of Iraq was actually proof enough" of the connection to the Iraqi regime. He returns to this point a little later, asking, rhetorically, "why would Osama bin Laden call for a holy war on behalf of an infidel like Saddam Hussein if Saddam wasn't his terrorist ally?" Horowitz is referencing a tape bin Laden released several weeks ago, and his spin on it mirrors that of the Bush administration at the time. As with much of what the war faction says, this spin is rather violently disconnected from the truth. Osama Bin Laden has been an avowed enemy of Saddam Hussein for over a decade. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, bin Laden approached the Saudi government offering to rally his followers to resist the invasion (the Saudis declined his aid). On the tape in question[5], bin Laden calls on his followers to fight the Americans if they invade Iraq. He doesn't do so because he thinks of Hussein as "his terrorist ally," who would be a loss if overthrown, and he certainly doesn't call for any "holy war on behalf" of Hussein. He denounces Hussein as an "infidel"--the same characterization, it's worth noting, that he offers of the Americans--and a "socialist" whose "jurisdiction... has fallen a long time ago." Most importantly, he explicitly forbids his followers from fighting for the Baghdad regime:

"...we would like to stress a number of important values: First, showing good intentions. This means fighting should be for the sake of the one God. It should not be for championing ethnic groups,or for championing the non-Islamic regimes in all Arab countries, including Iraq."

And later, even more strongly:

"Fighting in support of the non-Islamic banners is forbidden."

Horowitz would have his readers believe the loss of Saddam Hussein will be a blow to al Qaida, when it's very clear--and backed up by the very tape he's referencing (and misrepresenting)--that the Bush administration's action in Iraq is conveniently disposing of a regime of which bin Laden has wanted to be rid for over a decade now, exactly as the anti-war faction has said from the beginning.

The method of disposing of that regime--a massive war--is also one that benefits al Qaida, and this was also predicted by the anti-war faction. That brings us back to Horowitz, who next claims "the rallying of Palestinian and Syrian terrorists to the Iraqi cause and the use of Iran as a refuge by the fleeing al-Qaeda additionally establishes the obvious." Indeed. But whereas Horowitz would have you believe "the obvious" thing being established here is that the war faction was correct, his examples don't support this conclusion. The "rallying of Palestinian and Syrian terrorists"[6] around the cause of fighting the U.S. invaders--not, as Horowitz would have it, around defending the Hussein regime--isn't evidence of any Hussein-al Qaida connection. It was, in fact, predicted by the anti-war faction for months before the war began. The oft-repeated suggestion by the anti-war faction was that the spectacle of the U.S. attacking and occupying a primarily Muslim country would act as a "recruiting poster" for al Qaida and similar reactionary Islamist groups (the mere presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia is what prompted bin Laden to launch his anti-American crusade over a decade ago). This development, then, which Horowitz has referenced to refute the opposition to the war, clearly demonstrates that the opposition was correct on this point. The reference to "the use of Iran as a refuge by the fleeing al-Qaeda" is just bizarre. The only al Qaida operatives known to be in Iraq were, as mentioned earlier, the anti-Hussein militants in the northern region controlled by the Bush administration and its Kurdish allies. In other words, avowed enemies of Hussein may have fled to into the arms of the Iranians, who are also avowed enemies of Hussein for more than two decades. How this is relevant to Iraq or the war factions' claims about it only Horowitz knows.

In the hands of Horowitz, Hussein "calling for an Islamic jihad against the allied coalition is again confirmation of the al-Qaeda-Iraq alliance," rather than what it really is--a cynical attempt to rally opposition to the American invaders. He goes into a series of self-described "rhetorical questions," all of which are appeals strictly to those who can't tell one brown-looking desert-dweller from the next. "No rational person," he tells us, "could doubt at this point that the coalition cause is necessary and just," which, as his article proves, is much easier to write as a sentence than establish as a fact. Though the "logic" he's employed up to this point is, at times, stunningly irrational, he assures us that it is "the left" which is "anything but rational." He dislikes the talk about the Bush administration being the "aggressors" in Iraq, which he says is both "a lie and a hypocrisy rolled into one." The "hypocrisy" charge is merely the result of Horowitz falling behind on his RNC talking points. It's based on the alleged silence of the American left in the face of the the Clinton administration's campaign in Kosovo. "Nary a peep" did they utter, he tells us. This is why its important for robots like Horowitz to keep up with those talking points--the American rights' effort to consign the nationwide protests against that action to the memory hole then denounce the left for "hypocrisy" fell apart months ago--it became something of an embarassment when it was recalled that the war faction now throwing around the "hypocrisy" charge was, during the Kosovo action, taking to the streets to protest against the conflict. As for the "lie" charge, Horowitz insists "there is no aggression because there was no peace to break. Gulf War II is a continuation of Gulf War I.  Saddam is the aggressor who failed to live by the terms of the truce he signed. Gulf War II is a resumption of a war that was never ended." The Bush administration did its level best to make a case for this argument. Any suggestion that it held any water went out the window when the United Nations, whose authority the "President" was invoking, refused to go along with launching a war. The Bush administration action in Iraq, then, isn't to enforce the UN ceasefire; it's simply aggression, no different, from the standpoint of international law, than Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, and Horowitz's dislike of the word in no way amounts to an argument against its appropriateness.

Though he hasn't managed to muster any solid arguments in favor of the war, Horowitz assures his readers that "the left's opposition to this war is pathetic on the argument." His final flourish is another comical feat of doublethink; a staggeringly appropriate ending to such a dismal performance. "Patriotism," goes Samuel Johnson's oft-quoted dictum, "is the last refuge of a scoundrel." In what refuge does Horowitz take cover, while invoking Johnson's words?:

"The left's opposition to this war is pathetic on the argument. It is fueled by irrational passions -- first the left's hatred of the United States, and second by its hostility to George Bush. This peace movement will live in infamy as the last refuge of scoundrels."



 [1] "Special Search Operations Yield No Banned Weapons," Washington Post, 03/30/03

 [2] And, of course, his comments are textbook non sequitur. He presents three items as "sickening signs of how incompetent the Blix operation to disarm Saddam was," none of which can legitimately be taken as any such thing. The first is the al Samoud missile; a nonsensical example because it was the Blix-led UN disarmament program that uncovered the existence of that missile in the first place, exposed the fact that it violated UN-imposed specs, and was overseeing the destruction of the Iraqi fleet when the "President" decided he would rather play "army" in the desert than allow them to continue to do so. Horowitz's second "sickening sign" is "the stashes of chemical uniforms." While the existence of 3,000 chemical protective suits--gear rather conspicuously NOT issued to those in the field--can open the door to speculation on other matters, it can't reasonably be read as a criticism of the disarmament effort--the gear is completely legal. The third "sickening sign" is even more laughable--in no conceivable way can the alleged caution (or paranoia) of allied commanders is taken as a comment on the disarmament effort.

 [3] Horowitz himself cites only Laurie Mylroie as an expert. "Laurie Mylroie's dissection of Iraq's role in the first World Trade Center bombing and other al-Qaeda attacks" are what he calls "adequate proof" of the Hussein-al Qaida connection. One could, I suppose, make similar claims about the work of any other conspiracist crank--that doesn't, however, mean nations should ever go around making wars based on such claims.

 [4] For a more detailed discussion of this matter, see LeftHook! from 03/05/03.

 [5] The transcript of the tape is available here:

 [6] Not to be confounded with the Palestinian and Syrian public, which, like the rest of the world, is overwhelmingly opposed to the Bush administration's war. MSNBC reported, a few days ago, that even Iraqi dissidents, exiled to Jordan and other countries by the Hussein regime, were returning home to fight the Americans by the hundreds.

--modified 04/05/03

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