She doesn’t know when to quit. And unfortunately, she can’t be fired.
Since Mary Anna Towler installed herself as chief foreign affairs commentator for the paper she owns and edits, the insipidity knows no end.
Take the most recent “Urban Journal” entry (City Newspaper, Nov. 23). After needlessly rehashing some very old news from the mainstream press – Bush’s pretexts for invasion and occupation and other material that was in the public domain well before the war started - Towler tells us “the best way, the only way, to support the troops” is “insisting on the truth.”
That’s the kind of talk that makes the neocons shake in their unblemished combat boots. You can imagine the war-room conversations: “Rummy, the liberals are beginning to ASK SERIOUS QUESTIONS about Iraq. I guess we’re toast.”
Only Tom Tomorrow could do that scenario justice - and expose the average liberal's ineptitude.
Here’s a reality check: The White House, with most Congressional Democrats in tow, launched a war of aggression against Iraq. In committing this supreme offense against international law and civilized norms, Bush and his lieutenants became war criminals of the highest order, with the blood of tens of thousands of Iraqis and Americans on their hands. Now they insist on "staying the course," that is, continuing the criminality.
So all we can do is beg for an explanation?
Is it so difficult to demand an immediate withdrawal of US troops? Or to demand prosecution of the war criminals? (Removal from office would be only a start.)
Is it impossible – or too alternative – to help mobilize people against the war? To inspire street protests, boycotts, strikes, monkeywrenching? To support the war resisters and widen the resistance?
Hint: Those are questions I’d love to see on City Newspaper’s letters page. I’m sure the editorial responses would be oddly entertaining.
Back to the Urban Journal: Towler ends her 11/23 column with a list of the war’s effects, here and over there. No arguing with most items on the list, though again there’s nothing you haven’t seen before in the New York Times. But Towler cites these two as negatives: “the exhaustion of our military” (note the promiscuous use of “our”) and “the expansion of terrorism.”
Now, as anyone who takes more than a parochial view will understand, an exhausted imperial army can only be good news for most of the world. In the long run, or maybe not so long, it's also good for the American people.
Yes, it’s tragic that the weakening of US “force projection” capacities has come as a side-effect of carnage and destruction rather than through domestic political change. And there's always the possibility that this weakening of "conventional" forces will move some desperate hand closer to the nuclear button. But let's be grateful this Thanksgiving for what we've got: a depleted military whose potential for future invasions (Iran? North Korea?) is less than it was.
Let’s be careful about the term “terrorism,” too. Mary Anna Towler tumbles into the rat-hole – using the T word as shorthand for whatever the insurgents are doing, and by omission excusing or morally elevating whatever US forces do. But in reality, terrorism is terrorism. And all military forces, regular and irregular, resort to it.
You might even say the US military doesn’t “resort” to it and maybe never did – No, the Pentagon’s preferred first line of offense is a hefty grab-bag of terror tactics, from aerial bombardment to white-phosphorus “shake and bake” attacks to the machine-gunning of vehicles that “ignore signals to stop.”
Most important in this regard, we have to remember that the Pentagon and White House never heed mere political signals to stop. The policymakers are men and women of action (not the kind who take to the field themselves, of course, but chickenhawks who have others do their dirty work). Counteraction is the only thing they understand.
That’s why a hands-on anti-war mobilization is essential now. And why a polite request for information – including for the “truth” we knew long before Day One – is pathetically beside the point.
UPDATE, 12/16: Towler now writes that "it's time to start leaving Iraq," a conclusion she says has taken her "a while to reach." A while, indeed. The war's almost three years old.
How interesting. She's telling us essentially that up till now she believed we must stay - that the US must keep on fighting an illegal, murderous war and maintaining a destructive neo-colonial occupation. That's tantamount to saying the war was justified all along, and additional evidence that there's little functional difference between mainline hawks and doves.
One more point on the "it's time to start leaving" column. After much padding with material from an NPR interview with former NSA bigwig William Odom (hasn't everyone already heard this stuff on the radio?) Towler predictably turns to the New Yorker and some recent comments by reporter Sy Hersh. She draws a fatalistic dual conclusion: first, that we "won't be leaving Iraq" as long as Bush is in office; and second, that any withdrawal of ground troops will be balanced with an increase in US air power and thus an escalation in indiscriminate violence.
Well, yes, either or both will happen if we accept Bush's authority. But we've got other options. Protest. Resistance. Radical education and independent communication. Presidential power is massive, but mass action can neutralize it. There are many examples of this, past and present - as the late, great alternative newsweeklies used to remind us.