Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Our Closest Ally

Good article in today's WaPo describing British preparation for W's upcoming visit. Key insight: almost forty percent of the citizens of our closest ally think that the U.S. is, generally speaking, a force for evil rather than good in the world.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Spitting on Returning G.I.s

There is a lovely article in today's WaPo about the efforts of a group of veterans to welcome home soldiers from Iraq. In it, the author (Steve Vogel) contrasts the treatment this group of G.I.s has received with that of soldiers in Vietnam. "Many veterans of Vietnam, returning to a deeply divided United States, were greeted with scorn, even spitting or hostile epithets, when they arrived home in uniform."

The ideas that returning Vietnam vets were spit upon is an urban legend. For a debunking, see here and here. To be sure, there was hostility and lack of support. But, as far as I've been able to tell, if anyone was spitting, it was the returning soldiers at the protestors, not the other way around.

It is no surprise that journalists, subject to confirmation bias, perpetuate these kinds of myths and urban legends. Of course, such effective pro-military legends do not fit the chickenhawk myth that the "media" is liberal and countercultural. But let's not let the facts get in the way of a good story.

[UPDATE: Slate jumps on my bandwagon. Where's the love?]

Friday, November 07, 2003

W's Democracy Speech

W gave what was billed as an important speech yesterday on democracy. The money line:

"Therefore the United States has adopted a new policy: a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before and it will yield the same results."

And, he concluded, the "establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution."


My problem is that I trust nothing W says, on instinct, so the words -- however stirring -- have no resonance with me. I am reminded, again, of Orwell's "Politics and the English Language":

"It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used ina consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different."