Backtalk, October 5, 2004

Whose Fault Is It?

My name is Øyvind Munthe from Norway and I’d just like to thank you for what in my opinion is a very informative and more or less objective column about the Middle East conflict (the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict). Your column is my favorite here at and I check in a couple of times a week for new articles in your series as well as other articles.

This mail wasn’t meant as a blatant praise of your work, nor that of the rest at, though it might be due. It was and is only meant as a thank-you for taking the time to write your articles and for having the courage other journalists and media don’t seem to have. It is also meant as a counterweight for the, correct me if I’m wrong, infinite amounts of "hate" mail, or at least angry mail, you must receive on a daily basis from readers who don’t take lightly open criticism of the Israeli government and its actions.

So thank you and everyone else at for the work you do and I hope you’ll keep at it as long as it’s necessary.

~ Øyvind Munthe, enthusiastic reader

Dr. Ran HaCohen: Compelling arguments and pretty convincing. Obviously, in your own words, it takes two to tango.

I have to point to an error in one of your comments:

"Since 1945, not a single state on the globe managed to move its border by violence and get away with it."

This is not true. There are two countries who have been allowed to get away with this by the UN and the world community – Pakistan and China. They have occupied the portions of Kashmir since 1948 and 1962 wars with India, respectively.

Most ironic, is the fact that USA shows the map of India without those regions in the west and the east. The United Nations, at best, shows these regions as occupied portions of land.

~ Sanjay Dalal

Ran HaCohen replies:

Thank you. Actually, from what you describe, this is precisely one of those "exceptions" that prove the rule.

A Win/Win Exit Strategy

It’s not a win/win strategy from the perspective of the Iraqis. During the proposed ceasefire the invaders would steal more and more of the Iraqi oil. The only REAL answer is for the invaders to simply leave.

~ James Granger

Thomas Moore replies:

I agree that the invaders should leave but it would be best if they could do so peacefully so that the Iraqis could have a chance to build a more peaceful society. If the coalition forces withdrew to their bases and started leaving the country they would not be in much of a position to steal the oil.

I like Tom Moore’s reasoning. The problem, however, is that, Iraqi insurgents aside, others see attacks on US forces as both a means of radicalizing Muslims and as a training ground. As long as US forces are in Iraq, they are a target.

~ Paul Craig Roberts

Thomas Moore replies:

I agree that many of the insurgents see attacks on the U.S. troops as ways to radicalize the Muslims but others would just like the occupiers gone. While I would be surprised if all groups fighting the occupiers took up the deal, I would hope that many would and the violence would diminish while we withdrew.

This article has some good points, but it assumes the Iraqi resistance is a monolithic entity with simple goals. Although the "insurgents" are universal in their hatred of the US, I suspect that at least some of them are interested in creating chaos to try to juggle the local power groups to their advantage. External groups like al-Qaeda surely see political advantage in keeping the US mired in this tar pit, and they will likely do all they can to keep the US there. Bush opened Pandora’s box, and we will be fortunate if we can keep the chaos limited to Iraq rather than have it spread to the rest of the Middle East.

~ Michael Crumpton

Thomas Moore replies:

I agree entirely with Michael Crumpton and the other commentators. We must get out and the sooner the better, but I think this might diminish the violence in the process of leaving.

Indict the War Party

Justin: I agree with most of what you are saying – that the Likuds want the US to back them in their expansionist dream against the supposed tribal savages around them, and Wolfowitz, Feith et al have been the engine of that agenda.

However, I am at a loss as to what would be a better course for Israel to take. How do you see Israel’s place in the world? What would you like to see Israel do? Does the nation state of Israel even exist, or is something else at work?

I have enjoyed reading your work these past few years. However, I am more curious about your general world view. Can you refer me to something I may read that might give me a true perspective on the real powers and forces that are pushing our world in the direction we seem to be going? What are your references?

I wonder if you’ve seen the movie Network. I am particularly enthralled by this speech, given be the movie’s corporate CEO.

Take a moment and let me know where I should turn for more information.

~ Howard Beale

Justin Raimondo replies:

Check out Murray N. Rothbard’s "Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy," for starters.

A U-Turn in Iraq?

Though he endlessly invokes libertarian principles – almost all of which I agree with – it turns out that Justin Raimondo is a really cheap date for the neoconservatives. After incompetently waging an unnecessary and expensive war in Iraq under false pretenses, threatening Iran, welcoming Israeli spies, and undermining civil liberties, all the Republican war machine has to do to win back his love is dangle a speculative piece by Bob Novak suggesting that, against all indications and analysis on to the contrary, Bush will perform an instantaneous 180 degree turn against neoconservatism. That, and his consuming disdain (partly justifiable but ultimately unconvincing) for the Anybody But Bush camp, is enough to convince Raimondo to drop his skepticism in the face of what is an absolutely unbelievable bit of campaign maneuvering. Raimondo has blasted as hypocritical those who support Kerry as a marginally better alternative to Bush. I’d like to hear him explain how supporting Bush represents a morally superior choice. Maybe he can call his rationale the Greater of Two Evils.

~ M. Ziser

Justin Raimondo replies:

I‘ve been writing about the Bush administration’s coming break with the neocons since way before the invasion of Iraq. So this tension between the Bushies and the War Party is nothing new to my longtime readers. How anyone can translate this into political support for Bush is beyond me: I am simply reporting on what may (or may not) be happening. In any event, I just can’t wait until this rotten election is over – since anything and everything I write until then is invariably perceived by touchy partisans as either pro-Kerry or pro-Bush.

Dear Sir: The last paragraph of Justin’s column of September 22 apparently establishes that he now conditionally endorses Bush for the presidency, assuming Bush is indeed contemplating a quick withdrawal from Iraq (which will not be publicly confirmed before the election) – which seems a VERY large assumption based on one column from a source this writer has not considered reliable for decades, compared to a VERY LARGE INVESTMENT by the Bush machine in the rhetoric and reality of colonial war. Think of all the talking heads to be reprogrammed if Bush actually does intend to reverse himself, against all his rhetoric and all the hot air of tens of millions of his supporters, and against the very idea of "presidential stubbornness as a virtue" that his camp has invested in.

So may we have a point of clarification? Is Justin now (or now that I consider his past writings again, perhaps he has been for a while) generally in favor of an election victory for the Bush presidency, in addition to the (highly) conditional case Justin himself seems to endorse in the September 22 column? Or am I mistaken in that understanding?

~ Ron Brandstetter

Justin Raimondo replies:

In a panic to see if I inadvertently wrote something that I never intended to write, I rushed to look at the last paragraph of the column you cite, and, lo and behold, all I actually did say was that the sails of the Anybody But Bush camp would be "trimmed" if Novak is right. Not very clear, but what I meant to convey, naturally, was that – assuming a Kerry defeat – they would be trimmed in retrospect.

Justin: I too hope Novak’s right about a turn in the Bush administration against the neocons’ ridiculous plans for empire, but I personally think the neos are too much now entrenched in the Bush Administration and the Republican Party for this to be true. However, the Democratic Party – if not their presidential nominee – is solidly antiwar, and given Kerry’s tendency to adjust to popular opinion I see more of a hope for an early withdraw from Iraq under a Kerry presidency. I do not know a single Democrat (and I live in Texas!) who is in favor of anything but an immediate exodus from Iraq. Kerry would face alienating most of his base if he did anything but begin removing US troops from Iraq and squash neocon aspirations of further interventions in the Middle East. If Kerry is elected, Wolfowitz, Feith, etc., would be forced to retreat to their thinktank holes, where they will be ignored, possibly forever. A real hope for an end to imperial aspirations will be at hand.

~ Eric S.

Justin Raimondo replies:

Remember that Bush was elected partly on the strength of his vow to institute a "more humble" foreign policy. Why doesn’t this same "don’t alienate the base" principle apply to the GOP?

Once in the White House, President Kerry would, as he has repeatedly said, execute the war HIS way – and we wouldn’t be out for at least 4 years. It would then be Kerry’s War – and you’d be shocked – shocked! – to see how many Democrats come around to the position that we "can’t leave." Power often intoxicates, and presidential power intoxicates indubitably.

Here’s why I am not as enthusiastic about this report as Justin Raimondo is:

1) Novak has been used before by his sources (à la Plame affair).

2) If it is Karl Rove who leaked this to Novak, then this story is political in its intended nature. To be a good political operator means knowing how to count. Rove knows there is a significant, not large but significant, antiwar conservative and libertarian constituency out there. He knows he’s going to need every vote to beat John Kerry. What better way to neutralize any of these voters from going to Badnarik or Peroutka, or even Nader for that matter, than to let it be known Bush may very well withdraw U.S. troops in January after Iraqi elections (perfect time to get out) but only if you vote for him.

3) The Bushies have done this before. When Bush II in 2000 talked about, in debate, a "humbler foreign policy" he was making a direct play for the Buchanan vote, no doubt upon the advice of Rove. Co-opting potential third party issues or voters is smart politics, the majors do it all the time and Rove is a fairly smart individual.

But I won’t be fooled again. I’m voting voting for Peroutka.

~ Sean Scallon, Arkansaw, Wisconsin

Justin Raimondo replies:

Novak has been utilized by this administration to get their message out, true, but in the Plame case what he reported was absolutely correct: Valerie Plame was indeed a CIA agent. What her connection or influence was to Joe Wilson getting the gig to go to Niger is debatable, but the essential facts he reported were true. As for your decision to vote for Peroutka: you’ll get no argument from me, although I am personally casting my vote for Nader.

First, let me say that I thoroughly enjoy your site. It provides an invaluable service, and a welcome alternative to the far-left and neocon sites on the web. That being said, I have some thoughts on Justin Raimondo’s piece "U-Turn in Iraq." I have felt from day one that this invasion was unjustified and ill-conceived. Our military finds itself fighting a domestic insurrection against an enemy motivated by faith, nationalism, and hate. Justin is of the opinion that there might be a strong sentiment on Bush’s part to just get the hell out, declare victory and leave. What will we leave in our wake? Will Iraq devolve into another Lebanon? Will the power vacuum be filled by Iran, or an Iraqi fundamentalist state? Will the instability in Iraq serve as a catalyst for chaos in other nations in the Middle East?

I honestly fear that there is no good answer in Iraq. Staying the course, with an increased US military presence, more US and Iraqi deaths, and billions in US taxpayer dollars for rebuilding what we have broken, may be a rotten choice, but the alternatives may be worse.

~ John H. Bohn

Justin Raimondo replies:

Iraq is already Lebanon II. A fundamentalist state, on the other hand, would not be the worst result, as far as US national interests are concerned. But the very worst choice would be for us to stay.

Lord have mercy! What kind of silliness has gotten into Justin Raimondo to think that this administration wants to get out of Iraq as quickly as possible, when the number one neoconservative in the administration is George W. Bush himself! Raimondo, Novak, and Buchanan show their stripes by giving comfort to antiwar Bush voters. Readers of have reason to doubt the antiwar bone fides of this troika. They don’t want a Kerry administration despite the fact that Kerry is the only candidate (save Nader) who has given a definite time for getting us out of Iraq. Kerry has said he would extricate us from Iraq in his term, and we can hold him to it. Otherwise he is a sure one-termer. Bush, if reelected, can do whatever he wants, since he will not face reelection. Come on guys, how stupid and gullible can you get?

~ Ken Smith

Justin Raimondo replies:

Yeah, Kerry has given "a definite time" all right – FOUR freakin’ years from now! On the other hand, Bush, if Novak is to be believed, wants out asap. Of course, I wouldn’t – and don’t – trust either of them.

After reading Justin Raimondo’s article, "A U-turn in Iraq?" I will look for his byline and think twice before I click on his articles.

I will never accept George Bush as a peacemaker…. The Novak article Raimondo is pushing is a deception aimed at people just like Raimondo.

The "U-turn" article is full of sloppy thinking and naiveté. Justin might believe a man can turn into a wolf, but I can not believe a wolf can turn into a sheep. Bush and Novak are wolves in sheep’s clothing. And I am starting to wonder whether Raimondo can be trusted near the hen house.

The fact is: Peak Oil. The world is running out of cheap oil. How many people are we willing to kill to control the reserves? The idea is not just to grab for ourselves but to deny the oil to others. That is what Iraq and imperialism in the year 2004 are about.

Each of us will face pressures, choices, and soul-searching as oil prices strangle our national and personal budgets. Ideology means less when you are running out of the necessities of life. Maybe Justin Raimondo is changing his ideology right now.

~ Clayton Hallmark

Justin Raimondo replies:

If Oil is All, then why doesn’t this overarching paradigm also apply to Kerry? Is he not a wolf, too? Just asking….

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