May 30th, 2007

“Unending war” and Ferdinand the bull

Cal Thomas has written an article at RealClearPolitics entitled “Unending War,” in which he discusses the tendency of Bush’s opponents to ascribe the longevity of the war against Iraq to the President’s warmongering desires. But Thomas rightly points out that the warriors who are really unlikely to give up until decisively defeated are our opponents in this war.

That’s a bit hard to accept, because most of us are not interested in war—although of course war is often interested in us. The old 60s question “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” rests on the assumption that there are fatcat warlords imposing unwanted wars on an otherwise pacifist populace that could simply refuse to fight and all would be well. This is certainly is irrelevant to the situation in which we find ourselves; in which a sizeable, active, and influential minority of Muslims are Islamic jihadis who have internalized the idea of jihad forever—or at least until the entire world is Dar al Islam rather than Dar al Harb.

So, if the jihadis “give a war” and “nobody comes” to stop them, we can answer the question: what will happen is the triumph of Dar al Islam. If you like that sort of thing, by all means don’t fight them. But if it bothers you a bit, you better start showing up for the war,and get ready for a long haul.

This seems so elementary, so very basic, that I find it difficult to understand those who fail to see it. Yes, of course, we can disagree on details. And yes, of course, the war in Iraq may or may not have been considered part of it at the outset. But even if you didn’t consider it a factor earlier in the game, it certainly is now, because the jihadis and al Qaeda are undisputedly there, fighting hard and dirty against both our forces and the Iraqi people.

Some of Pelosi’s supporters who would agree that it’s Bush who’s the eternal warrior are cynical political opportunists. But I have no doubt that many of them are inspired by a sincere desire for an illusory peace against an enemy whose intense lust for war is difficult for them to contemplate and to acknowledge.

I had that desire as well, especially in childhood. In every society, the young are shaped at least partly by the books they read and the tales they are told. Some stories are merely entertaining, but some are clearly didactic, and many have a mixture of both.

When I was very little, for example, I detested the familiar story of The Little Red Hen. Its relentlessly self-reliant dog-eat-dog Protestant-ethic world seemed so chilling. Forget “it takes a village”—this was individualism with a vengeance. And yet, later in life, there were times when I found it necessary to apply its heartless lessons, and to Do It Myself (and she did).

A more benign early childhood book was The Little Engine That Could. This one was about trying, trying again; about having faith in oneself and finally succeeding against huge odds. Being rather little myself, and the youngest in the family, it gave me hope (it’s interesting, also, that the Wiki link mentions the story as being a metaphor for the American Dream; it occurs to me that it could also apply to the jihadi dream).

But a much greater favorite was Ferdinand the Bull. Ah Ferdinand, Ferdinand, he of the fragrant flowers under the cork tree. I didn’t know the word “pacifist” (nor is it mentioned in the book), but the idea of opting out of struggle and strife into a simple life of non-aggression and nature was remarkably appealing.

According to Wikipedia, it turns out that Ferdinand has a bit of a political history. Published around the time of the Spanish Civil War, it was widely seen as a pacifist tract and even banned by many countries. And if you look at the comments at the Amazon listing for the book, you’ll find many people whose lives were quite affected by reading it, citing its “timeless pacifist message.”

I’m not campaigning against the book itself, which I loved. But I wonder how many people never grow past the fairy tale notion that evil will disappear if we would just sit under that cork tree and smell those flowers long enough. As one of the Amazon commenters points out, in a real bullfight Ferdinand’s lack of ferocity would cause him not to be shipped off to pleasant pastures, as in the book, but to be killed–which is the almost invariable fate of bulls in that activity anyway.

Bulllfighting is a blood sport with strict customs and rules. It is about courage and death. In the traditional Spanish sport the bulls are always killed, except for rare occasions when they are allowed to live as a reward for extreme bravery. The activities of the various human players in the arena are designed both to weaken the bull and to goad it into greater ferocity—if, as in the Ferdinand book, the inherently pacifist bull had previously reacted to a beesting by becoming combative, then it is a near-certainty that the ministrations of the bandilleros and matador in an actual bullfight would have the same effect. And a bull who isn’t especially into fighting doesn’t seem to earn a reprieve, he earns the shameful black banderillas (barbs that are usually colorful, and are placed both to weaken and madden the bull at the same time):

If the bull proves to be extraordinarily weak or unwilling to fight, the presidente may order, to the disgrace of the breeder, the use of black banderillas.

Ferdinand is a lovely story, and I wish it well. But it’s not much of a guide to war, I’m afraid—or even to bullfighting.

86 Responses to ““Unending war” and Ferdinand the bull”

  1. stumbley Says:

    Neo, I believe that the anti-war Left is cut from “I’m all right, Jack” cloth; they can protest the war because they see no down side to American defeat. It is absolutely beyond them that anything untoward could happen to the U.S., like children, they believe us immortal. Or worse—they believe us deserving of defeat for all our dastardly “imperialistic” actions of the past.

    It’s why they can put the “Free Tibet” and “Save Darfur” bumper stickers on the Prius; that’s all that’s required to prove to the world that they’re concerned. Heaven forbid that we send troops to either of those places; no, diplomacy will work. Just see how successful Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were with North Korea. And if only Israel would give up 50% of its land, well, the Palestinians would instantly stop rocketing Israeli villages, don’t you know.

    No, I’m afraid that your metaphor of children’s stories is absolutely spot on—pacifists are always willing to sit out the conflict and let others do the suffering and dying to save them. After all, smelling flowers under the cork tree is ever so much more comfortable.

  2. Trimegistus Says:

    Actually, I think both Neo and Stumbley are missing the point. Pelosi et al do believe the jihadis can harm America. They want that to happen.

    This seems so shocking that one’s initial reaction is “that’s crazy.” But think about all the rest of the Left’s agenda. They don’t like anything about America or Americans. They don’t like the way we live, they don’t like the way we earn our livings, they don’t like the things we do for fun, they don’t like the way we go to church, they don’t like the fact that many Americans are white, they don’t like the fact that America is strong and rich and powerful in the world.

    Just listen to their rhetoric, and to the odd way in which they speak of Americans as something almost foreign and apart from them and their supporters. The Left in America are not Americans. They don’t think of themselves as Americans, they would be insulted if you called them Americans, and they hate America and Americans with a burning passion.

    So the prospect of a humiliating defeat for America pleases them. The idea of American cities being attacked pleases them. The thought of Americans dying pleases them. They want us all to die.

    I think many of them actually do understand that the destruction of America means suicide for themselves, but they’re so consumed with self-loathing and hatred that they’re willing to make that sacrifice.

    A prediction: if a Republican wins the Presidency in 2008, expect to see a new development in the War on Terror — the rise of “secular jihadis.” These will be Western-born, even American individuals who don’t come from Muslim immigrant families and aren’t Muslims themselves. They’ll be white upper-middle-class leftists making suicide attacks on U.S. targets. It’s the logical outcome of the Left’s decades of indoctrination into anti-American hatred and self-loathing.

  3. Lee Says:

    With Ward Churchill and others “leading the charge”( “Forward!, he cried from the rear,….”)

  4. Whitley Says:

    Most leftists I know are far too narcissistic and self-centered to ever consider martyring themselves intentionally. Of course many of them are stupid enough to place themselves into situations where they might inadvertently die. Were that to happen, there are plenty of Cindy Sheehans around waiting to make a living off someone else’s death, and a “leftist martyr” would serve nicely.

    Leftists and Jihadis both want the violent overthrow of the US and the US military. What else stands between them and world dominance? The problem is that although leftists are willing to tolerate jihadis as long as they behave like mad killers against US interests, jihadis do not really think too highly of leftists—except as temporary allies of convenience.

    Afterward, the deluge.

  5. Lee Says:

    Oh, almost forgot! To quote Randy Quaid: “Hello, boys(and girls)! I’m baaa..aaaaack!”

  6. stumbley Says:


    I don’t hold your view of the anti-war Left as antithetical to America per se. After all, Nancy Pelosi is nothing if not an avowed capitalist as far as her personal life is concerned. Jack Murtha is certainly not wishing for his pork barrel to dry up. No, they’re interested in personal power, and in creating a victim/infant state that requires their remaining in power to provide services and “leadership” to the sheeple. So, they don’t want America to be defeated; they just want the Republicans and George Bush to be defeated, or at least for their policies to fail.

    I don’t think that they think it’s possible for America to “go away”. I think that they think the jihadis can’t possibly succeed in bringing such a great country to its knees. They don’t see that another 9/11 (or worse) could do irreparable economic damage; that pulling out of Iraq would be a disaster of perception for American might; that the U.S. would be hard-pressed to find an ally anywhere after such an occurrence. They’re only interested in the next election cycle and how they can customize that taxpayer-furnished Gulfstream. Sadly, there are many Republicans who are just as short-sighted…and I really do fear for the Republic.

    But it’s not overt evil, it’s just the dumb, ignorant kind.

  7. alphie Says:

    Could the pro-war crowd have picked a worse poster child for their endless “war of civilization?”

    If Bush had bothered to at least avoid the appearence of cronyism and corruption, his and the war’s approval ratings might have stayed in the 40% range instead of the Nixonian 20s they have today.

    Making nonsensical charges against the vast majority of Americans who now oppose the war is just digging the hole deeper.

    But it beats self-reflection, don’t it?

  8. stumbley Says:

    “avoid the appearence of cronyism and corruption”

    And who’s the savior on the other side, alphie? Putin? Chirac? Villepin? Pelosi? Murtha? Annan? Kennedy? Kerry?

    The world is filled with corruption. As I’ve said before, our choices were bad…or unbelievably bad. I choose just “bad”. The alternatives were all worse. See how the Democrat Congress has altered the “culture of corruption” they were elected to eliminate….

  9. alphie Says:

    It takes a certain level of cluelessness to piss away a 90% approval rating, stumbley.

    Compared to Bush, anyone on your list now qualifies as “lesser evil” these days, even to most Republicans.

  10. Bravo Romeo Delta Says:


    In what way shape or form does your statement “Could the pro-war crowd have picked a worse poster child for their endless “war of civilization?” make any sense? Did you just make that up?

    The Huntington interpretation actually runs counter to both the realist (and neo-realist) schools, as well as being contrary to Democratic Peace Theory which, as you know, is combined with an essentially Wilsonian Internationalism yields the whole foreign policy outlook of the Straussian Neocon movement.

    But you know that already don’t you? Because you couldn’t just persist in making sh!t up without any basis in fact and then with amazing consistency, fail to back up anything you’ve said, right?


  11. alphie Says:

    I don’t think leo Strauss would have supported the iraq war, BRD.

    He was a pretty smart guy.

  12. stumbley Says:

    Yo, alph:

    Give me GWB over any of the fools on my list. Any day. As far as “pi**ing away” approval ratings, it’s only because of the endless litany of “Iraq war gone bad.” Which isn’t true…and you don’t hear any good news about the higher-than-ever economy either, do you?

    But it doesn’t matter, ’cause it’s just more comfortable to blame W for all of the world’s problems, isn’t it?

  13. alphie Says:


    You may see the 60% of the Americans who have abandoned Bush and his war as easiy beguiled sheep.

    I think the charge is better applied to the 28% of Americans still paying dues to the dead-enders club.

  14. Ymarsakar Says:

    Good analysis, Stumbley. It is true that the Left finds allies of convenience because they believe they can either make a deal with the Islamic Jihad, like Europe, or they can gain power through acquiring Jihad votes, or maybe they are even planning on expanding their New Secret Police Powers by using terrorism as an excuse. You know, the Fairness Doctrine. Crushing their opponents and using terrorism as the pretext.

  15. rickl Says:

    I think the Left and the Islamists are united in their hatred for individualism, liberty, and capitalism.

    Each of them thinks they are using the other as “useful idiots”. They are each thinking that once they defeat the West, they can then turn around and liquidate their “ally”. Should be interesting to watch, but I’ll probably be dead by then.

  16. Eric Chen Says:

    “Americans are a peace-loving people, and in our desire for peace, we tolerated our enemy’s growing evil until, on September 11, 2001, he inflicted his horror onto our country. The enemy we battle today thrives in chaos and feeds on hate. He seeks death and upon death he wishes to build a twisted, malignant empire. There can be no co-existence, no peace, with such an enemy.

    “We must rediscover the strength and clarity that forged a great nation. We face an enemy who hungers for the destruction of not only the lives but also the spirit of the American people. In the long, exhausting war against terrorism, our love for the American people and our country will be tested. We will learn intimate depths of sorrow, pain and death. But, no matter the price, we can afford no weakness in our resolve. Our American generation carries now a terrifying responsibility: the fate of a great nation and a great people. We must not fail. Victory is Life.”

    - My Students United for Victory/America (Columbia University student group) Victory & Peace statement from 2002-2003.

    Read all our statements:

  17. Dr Zen Says:

    No “jihadis” were fighting in Iraq until you brought the war there.

    And I LOL at you wingnuts fantasising about a leftist jihad. Dudes, it’s your guys who are doing all the killing. We just want you to stop.

  18. Bravo Romeo Delta Says:

    Dr Zen,

    What, exactly, do you mean by “your guys”?

    What’s the “us” versus “them” split you’re seeing here?


  19. stumbley Says:

    “We just want you to stop.”

    Who’s “we,” Dr. Zen? The peace-loving folks who are stopping the fighting and the jihadis in Darfur? Rwanda? Bosnia? Chechnya? Thailand? East Timor? Israel? Madrid? London? Paris?

  20. Bravo Romeo Delta Says:

    No stumbly, you’re not paying attention!!!

    Clearly, Dr. Zen is is talking about the Buddhists.

    He’s obviously one of the splinterists who considers Buddhism to be a taint on the spiritual purity of Zenland.

  21. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I had some trouble with the previous code. What I posted may come up eventually. May not.
    So to repeat:

    One of the things that causes such ill-will on the subject of this post is the difficulty in believing the “give peace a chance” people actually believe that stuff. Nobody could possibly be that stupid.
    Thus, they must have some reason for pitching that crap. Some reason they want to hide from us, since they’re speaking in total opposition to facts and logic and history. They have to lie, we think, because they know they can’t sell what they’re really trying to do. Has to be the case.

    Being lied to annoys people.
    Being told a lie which presumes you’re a total idiot because the lie is so lame–compliment me by lying well, please, don’t insult me by mailing it in–is more annoying.
    And seeing the horrid consequences of what they are trying to isn’t comforting, either.

    Welp, lessee if these aging eyes can manage this code.

  22. Lee Says:

    Dr. Zen,
    No jihadis were fighting in Iraq because they were allied with Saddam at the time. German garrisons in Italy weren’t fighting there until we invaded, too. Does that mean we caused the Germans to fight in Italy by invading a facist country?
    We already have ALF and ELF. The fact they haven’t killed anybody yet is just luck, so far. Then throw in Ward Churchill and his kind, and yet another example of “election fraud” if another Republican gets in, combined with over 33% of “Americans” believing Bush either allowed 9-11 or was the actual mastermind, and I can guarantee Ted Kazinsky and McVeigh kooks will be coming out of the woodwork.
    How far are you willing to go to “just make us stop killing”? Alphie claims 60% of Americans have “seen the light”, yet the Democrats can’t “make it stop” because they will lose reelection if they do, so they don’t. You don’t think there will be some who will resort to something more than voting and bitching? What kind of moonbat reality are you in? How many times have people like you been upset because the terrorists can’t kill Cheney? I read leftie blogs, too. I’m sure some of you are willing to step up.

  23. alphie Says:


    I hate to tell you, but not even Bush pretends Saddam had ties to al Qaede anymore.

  24. Kurt Says:

    Well, alphie, maybe that’s because Bush doesn’t need to pretend, as Saddam’s ties with Al Qaeda have been pretty well-documented and fleshed-out, as those of us willing to look beyond the mainstream media’s shrieking headlines about a “quagmire!” have been able to learn. Zarqawi was in Iraq while Saddam was in power, and Saddam refused to extradite him to Jordan. Saddam provided refuge for other terrorists, as well, and some radical Islamist groups had terrorist training camps in Iraq under Saddam’s rule.

  25. alphie Says:


    What percentage of Americans do you figure true believers like yourself and lee total up to?

    5% maybe?

    We still live in a democracy. To keep troops in Iraq beyond January of 2009, you’re gonna need a majority of Americans on your side.

    You guys really need to put away the “MSM” conspiracy theories and come up with some reality-based arguments real soon or its all over.

  26. Lee Says:

    Then how do you explain the fact that Democrats had to pass that spending bill, despite such “overwhelming” opposition?
    All that will be needed to keep troops in Iraq past January, 2008 is a Commander in Chief to order continued deployment, and a Congress willing to fund it. Because the only poll that counts is the voting booth. Then we will see how many Americans prefer victory to defeat.
    BTW, we live in a Constitutional Republic, not a democracy.

  27. alphie Says:

    They didn’t “have” to pass the funding bill, Lee.

    I imagine they got some agreements to cap Bush’s nuttiness in the closing months of term in exchange for the money.

    I’d bet it was an agreement not to attack Syria and Iran and instead, begin negotiations with them.

    Not a bad deal, considering.

  28. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Says:

    nytimes.comLiberate two countries from brutal regimes and people are still questioning if the cause is honorable?

    Yeah, “honorable”…

    Look at what we have wrought, and cry…
    May 29, 2007
    The New York Times

    Desperate Iraqi Refugees Turn to Sex Trade in Syria


    MARABA, Syria — Back home in Iraq, Umm Hiba’s daughter was a devout schoolgirl, modest in her dress and serious about her studies. Hiba, who is now 16, wore the hijab, or Islamic head scarf, and rose early each day to say the dawn prayer before classes.

    But that was before militias began threatening their Baghdad neighborhood and Umm Hiba and her daughter fled to Syria last spring. There were no jobs, and Umm Hiba’s elderly father developed complications related to his diabetes.

    Desperate, Umm Hiba followed the advice of an Iraqi acquaintance and took her daughter to work at a nightclub along a highway known for prostitution. “We Iraqis used to be a proud people,” she said over the frantic blare of the club’s speakers. She pointed out her daughter, dancing among about two dozen other girls on the stage, wearing a pink silk dress with spaghetti straps, her frail shoulders bathed in colored light. [...]

    And though some women of other nationalities, including Russians and Moroccans, still work as prostitutes in Damascus, Abeer, a 23-year-old from Baghdad working at the same club as Hiba, explained that the arriving Iraqis had pushed many of them out of business.

    “From what I’ve seen, 70 percent to 80 percent of the girls working this business in Damascus today are Iraqis,” she said. “The rents here in Syria are too expensive for their families. If they go back to Iraq they’ll be slaughtered, and this is the only work available.”


  29. Lee Says:

    Oh, so that’s how you rationalize it, huh, Alphie? Yeah, they’re actually reining that evil ‘ol Bush in. They really won that political battle. Yeah, that’s it. We really won and you guys just can’t see it. See how much smarter we are than you?

    Meanwhile, back in reality….

  30. alphie Says:


    I don’t see the Iraq mess in terms of “winners” and “losers.,” we’re all losers in this one.

    A compromise was obviouly reached between Bush and Congress, I imagine the details of it will come out over time.

    Perhaps it was just an agreement about the number of troops that will remain in Iraq after the “surge” ends in September.

  31. Lee Says:

    But then again, it sure seems to me that the democrats are trying to spin this into some kind of “victory”, when, in essence, they know that interferring with the timetables presented for the “surge strategy” by Bush in November would be seen as politicizing the war and attempting to machinate defeat before said surge could even be seen as “working”, let alone “successful”, by Bush’s timetable of 6 months from implementation(Feb. ’07), with the campaign forseen as ending in 12 to 15 months(May, ’08).
    It has always been presented with timetables, benchmarks, and overall goals of “success”.
    The Democrats know they can’t win because the people have already decided to give this thing at least one more chance. Even Bush stated something to the effect that the patience of the American people is not indefinite. The Democrats know this, and will continue to play this game to appease you, but in the end, this surge will continue.

  32. alphie Says:

    I don’t think most Americans have a problem with a clearly defined “one more chance” with objective measures for success or failure at each milestone before we pull out, lee.

    But don’t imagine there is no cost for having dragged the war on for so long. Once we pull out of Iraq, we’re never going back now

    That’s probably the real lesson from Vietnam.

  33. sergey Says:

    It is amazing that different cultures extract different lessons from the same didactic fables. In La-Fountaine fable “Grasshopper and Ant” artistic, bohemian Grasshopper sings all good days of summer, and only in autumn finds herself homeless and hungry, without any foodstuff for winter. She goes to Ant begging provide her with shelter and food untill spring. He asks her: what have you done all summer? – I sang songs. – That’s big thing. Now, go and dance.
    In French original this is condemnation of greedy, heartless, cruel bourgeois type, and appeal for pity to artists. But in Russian translation, very close to original and learned by hart in all schools, morale is just as in Little Red Hen. If you are lazy and reckless, if you had wasted your chance to get rich, go and dance at the cold.

  34. Lee Says:

    So you agree, then. Allow the surge to continue. Everything you’ve suggested so far implies you want to pull out now. One more chance means “one more chance”, as opposed to “are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”

  35. John F. Opie Says:

    Hi -

    Um, the Brecht quote (“What if they gave a war…”) needs to read in full, since it actually turns that completely misleading quote on its head:

    “What if they gave a war and no one came?
    Then the war will come to you.
    He who stays home when the fight begins
    And lets others fight for his cause
    Should take care. He who does not take part
    In the battle will share in the defeat.
    Even avoiding battle does not avoid
    Battle, since not to fight for your cause
    Really means
    Fighting on behalf of your enemy’s cause.

    – Bertholt Brecht.

    In other words, the quote is anything but pacifist: it is actually a call to arms to defend your beliefs.

    And the telling part, of course, is that not fighting for your cause means fighting for your enemy.

    See my own blog (shameless plug) here:

    and here:

    for some illumination…

    Oh, and Alphie: the US isn’t a democracy. It’s a republic. That’s why we don’t govern by polls and plebescites, like the Swiss do. Of course, the Democrats seem to have been doing exactly that the last 20 years, at least the polls part…


  36. neo-neocon Says:

    John F. Opie: thanks for the whole quote. VERY interesting indeed.

  37. Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Says:

    Neo- great title! Even if you weren’t inspired by my comment on the Left’s “never-ending war” lie.

    Yet I have to strongly disagree with Cal Thomas saying the Iraq is not like Vietnam. With respect to winning, and choices, it is exactly like Vietnam, because the USA is fighting a LIMITED* War.

    In a Limited War, there are two strategic choices.
    1) keep fighting, or
    2) lose.

    The Dems want to choose (2), because they are tired of the long war fighting.

    And there is the Dem truth that Bush, and America, cannot “choose to win” — we can chose to fight, or choose to lose.
    We only win when the Islamofascist terrorists choose to lose, by choosing to stop fighting.

    They will do so sooner if they know we will only choose to fight. The Dem public desire to lose makes the terrorists willing to keep fighting.

    (*My grandmother wanted the US to nuke Hanoi & bomb Haifong — fewer SE Asians would have died had we done so and established a “total war” victory in 1972, instead of the Paris foux Peace.)

  38. harry Says:

    “You guys really need to put away the “MSM” conspiracy theories and come up with some reality-based arguments real soon or its all over.”

    Think so alfie? Because you do right?

    After continuing to use the consensus argument to say polling numbers prove you right, Lee then asked you if that were true, explain the “fact that Democrats had to pass that spending bill, despite such “overwhelming” opposition?”

    Your reply was:

    I imagine they got some agreements to cap Bush’s nuttiness in the closing months of term in exchange for the money.

    I’d bet it was an agreement not to attack Syria and Iran and instead, begin negotiations with them.”


    “A compromise was obviouly reached between Bush and Congress, (Obviously) I imagine the details of it will come out over time.”

    This is your reality based argument? You imagine?

    but then…

    “But don’t imagine there is no cost for having dragged the war on for so long. “

    But we dont alfie. We also dont imagine the violence will end if we just left Iraq, and in truth would only grow far worse.

    Why do you believe your imagination is more reality based than ours?

  39. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Harry. See mine at 10:51.
    alphie doesn’t imagine that he’s reality based. He doesn’t believe the stuff he peddles. The only imagining he does is to think anybody believes him. He’s wrong, of course, but he follows Saul Alinsky in “Rules for Radicals”. Keep arguing, even though you are dishonest. It wears out the opposition to have to refute lies over and over and over again. After all, you can lie in half a sentence and it may take several paragaphs–during which alphie or some other person of that perverted ilk–fights you for every irrelevancy–to refute it. Which leaves alphie unchanged and ready to do it again to somebody else unwary enough to think he’s arguing wrongly but in good faith.
    He’s not.

  40. stumbley Says:

    How “debating” with alphie usually ends up:

    M: Oh look, this isn’t an argument.
    A: Yes it is.
    M: No it isn’t. It’s just contradiction.
    A: No it isn’t.
    M: It is!
    A: It is not.
    M: Look, you just contradicted me.
    A: I did not.
    M: Oh you did!!
    A: No, no, no.
    M: You did just then.
    A: Nonsense!
    M: Oh, this is futile!
    A: No it isn’t.
    M: I came here for a good argument.
    A: No you didn’t; no, you came here for an argument.
    M: An argument isn’t just contradiction.
    A: It can be.
    M: No it can’t. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.
    A: No it isn’t.
    M: Yes it is! It’s not just contradiction.
    A: Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.
    M: Yes, but that’s not just saying ‘No it isn’t.’
    A: Yes it is!
    M: No it isn’t!

    A: Yes it is!
    M: Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes.
    (short pause)
    A: No it isn’t.
    M: It is.
    A: Not at all.
    M: Now look.
    A: (Rings bell) Good Morning.
    M: What?
    A: That’s it. Good morning.
    M: I was just getting interested.
    A: Sorry, the five minutes is up.
    M: That was never five minutes!
    A: I’m afraid it was.
    M: It wasn’t.
    A: I’m sorry, but I’m not allowed to argue anymore.
    M: What?!
    A: If you want me to go on arguing, you’ll have to pay for another five minutes.
    M: Yes, but that was never five minutes, just now. Oh come on!
    A: (Hums)
    M: Look, this is ridiculous.
    A: I’m sorry, but I’m not allowed to argue unless you’ve paid!
    M: Oh, all right.
    (pays money)
    A: Thank you.
    short pause
    M: Well?
    A: Well what?
    M: That wasn’t really five minutes, just now.
    A: I told you, I’m not allowed to argue unless you’ve paid.
    M: I just paid!
    A: No you didn’t.
    M: I DID!
    A: No you didn’t.
    M: Look, I don’t want to argue about that.
    A: Well, you didn’t pay.
    M: Aha. If I didn’t pay, why are you arguing? I Got you!
    A: No you haven’t.
    M: Yes I have. If you’re arguing, I must have paid.
    A: Not necessarily. I could be arguing in my spare time.
    M: Oh I’ve had enough of this.
    A: No you haven’t.
    M: Oh Shut up.

  41. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    “And the telling part, of course, is that not fighting for your cause means fighting for your enemy.”

    Seems to me that many people around here confuse “fighting for one’s cause” with bickering on blogs.

    There’s just so much wrongheaded thinking going on around here it is hard to even know where to begin.

    I will just say that you may spin it as you wish, but the Democrats in Congress are proposing nothing that many, many prominent military leaders haven’t also proposed.

  42. stumbley Says:


    and the “wrongheaded thinkers around here” are proposing “nothing that many, many prominent military leaders haven’t also proposed.”

    So let’s agree to disagree, and you can troll somewhere else, hmmm?

    Or shall we just engage in the “I’m right and you’re wrong” game yet again, because that’s pretty much all that “dialog” with you accomplishes.

  43. Lee Says:

    Apparently the only thing the Democrats can cut and run from are their own military propositions. So much for changing the strategy they all promised would happen when elected. They had to, UB, because the American people told them if they cut the funding for the troops they would be held responsible.
    But, I’m sure you will “spin it anyway you like”.

  44. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    “They had to, UB, because the American people told them if they cut the funding for the troops they would be held responsible.”

    Most polls showed around 60% support for a timetable, did they not?

  45. stumbley Says:

    “Most polls showed around 60% support for a timetable, did they not?”

    Yes, and when you survey 5 doctors and say “4 out of 5 doctors surveyed prefer Bayer aspirin,” it proves…..?

    Government by polling is not terribly effective for that reason. You know, “lies, damned lies, and statistics”?

  46. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Says:

    census.govreleasesStumbley wrote: “You don’t hear any good news about the higher-than-ever economy either, do you?”

    “The official poverty rate in the U.S. has increased for four consecutive years, from a 26-year low of 11.3% in 2000 to 12.7% in 2004. This means that 37.0 million people were below the official poverty thresholds in 2004. This is 5.4 million more than in 2000.”


    In 2005, “the nation’s official poverty rate remained statistically unchanged at 12.6 percent. The percentage of people without health insurance coverage rose from 15.6 percent to 15.9 percent (46.6 million people).”

    Source: US Census Bureau,

  47. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    Stumbley wrote:

    “Yes, and when you survey 5 doctors and say “4 out of 5 doctors surveyed prefer Bayer aspirin,” it proves…..?

    Government by polling is not terribly effective for that reason.”

    Well, perhaps Lee can tell us then how he knows that “the American people *told*” Congress they did not support the timetable bill? Maybe he read it on a “milblog,” would that convince you?

  48. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    By the way, the attribution to Brecht appears to be erroneous. Of course even this reference would need to be verified, but it seems pretty legitimate.

    > We are looking for the writer (or translator) of a poem related to
    > Bertolt Brecht’s “What if they gave a war and no one came?”. The poem
    > and accompanying statement were printed in National Review, March 9,
    > 1984 on page 16…”

    There they go again! I don’t know who did this translation, but I doubt you’ll find “What if they gave a war” in any collection of Brecht’s poems.

    The connection to Brecht was debunked in the November ’99 issue of the German magazine “P.M.”, in the Questions and Answers column. (But you can blame me for this translation).

    Q: From whom does the saying “STELL DIR VOR, ES IST
    KRIEG, UND KEINER GEHT HIN…” actually come?

    A: It does not come, as is often asserted, from the German poet Bertolt Brecht. The mistake came about when the magazine “Schweizer Soldat” printed this saying before the text of a Brecht poem. It is actually a quotation from a book by the American writer Carl Sandburg, [....]

    Furthermore, Sandburg probably did not invent the saying. He collected anecdotes and is said to have taken this quotation from another American author, Thornton Wilder. At any rate, that’s what a well-known expert on American literature and the entertainment industry — Groucho Marx — claims in his autobiography.

    Brecht’s contribution to all this is just the section from “He who stays home when the fight begins” up to “Fighting on behalf of your enemy’s cause”.

    It’s a fragment of the longer poem “Koloman Wallisch Kantate”, which can be found in Brecht, Grosse kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter
    Ausgabe, vol. 14, pp. 261-270.

    The famous first line is from Sandburg’s “The People, Yes”:

    The little girl saw her first troop parade and asked,
    “What are those?”
    “What are soldiers?”
    “They are for war. They fight and each tries to kill as many
    of the other side as they can.”
    The girl held still and studied.
    “Do you know… I know something.”
    “Yes, what is it you know?”
    “Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come.”

    Andy Behrens
    South Strafford, Vermont

  49. Lee Says:

    Actually, UB, they were told by letters, e-mails, and telephone calls, which is how the American public has always told their Senators and Congresspeople what they want. Perhaps if the lefties has written or called, the Dems might have put the taxpayer’s money where their mouths were. As it is, the Dems could have stood for “principle”, but chose reelectability and wound up doing the right thing.
    And if 60% of Americans support a timetable(but, what time?), where are they? Even Cindy Sheehan is throwing in the towel.

  50. d Says:

    Yes, it’s a shame that children’s books are so useless at sorting out real-world problems. When I bought Rotten Island for my daughter, for example, I was expecting William Steig would be able to help us both understand a little more clearly how to deal with the bellum omnium contra omnes toward which the world is currently sliding. Alas, Steig seems to think that everyone loses in war — which is nonsense, because only losers lose wars. Rotten Island dodges that fact and ultimately hands the “island” over to a bunch of stupid birds.

  51. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    Actually, UB, they were told by letters, e-mails, and telephone calls…

    And you were openeing the mail and tapping into the computers and phone lines?

    As it is, the Dems could have stood for “principle”, but chose reelectability and wound up doing the right thing.

    Funny, and I thought it was because they didn’t have the votes to override the veto.

  52. harry Says:

    “Funny, and I thought it was because they didn’t have the votes to override the veto.

    Yes UB, they didnt have enough Democrat votes to survive a veto.

  53. Bushwhacker Says:

    “…you better start showing up for the war, and get ready for a long haul.”

    Hear, hear!

    So when are you signing up?

    (I’m going to keep asking this of every damned GWOT-enamored wingnut until one them either gives me a date or cops to their flabbergasting hypocrisy.)

  54. Bravo Romeo Delta Says:


    Did we do the right thing in going after the Taliban and bin Laden in Afghanistan after 9/11?


  55. OmegaPaladin Says:


    The chickenhawk argument is old. The refutation is quite simple. Do you really want the decisions on military action to be made only by military personnel and veterans? Civilian control of the military is normally lauded as essential to a democratic republic. I also hear all the time about the negative effects of the war on the economy and at home. If those are valid reasons to oppose the war, are they not also something that war supporters are bringing on themselves.

    Also, what about an active soldier saying that they don’t want to leave and lose all that they accomplished? Would that convince you to change your mind about the war?

    By the way, I have been considering following in my father’s (along with many others in my family) footsteps in the Navy. I was thinking about this before 9-11, and I’m sure you wouldn’t consider that sufficient even if I did serve. Fortunately, I don’t give a damn what you think of me.

  56. Bushwhacker Says:

    OmegaPaladin –

    You’ve been thinking of joining the Navy since before 9/11?!

    I know time has a way of slipping by, friend, but that means you’ve been eyeing that recruitment poster for at least six years now. Time to put on the pea-coat or get off the pot.

    Sorry, but your “refutation” makes no sense to me. Of course I don’t want “decisions on military action to be made only by military personnel and veterans” — but what’s that got to do with asking those who think the war in Iraq is a grand idea to step up to the plate and lend a little help? I hear our troops could really, really use it.

    Barring that, I suppose you could become a tiresome, wimpy old liberal like me, who thinks the only possible good that can come out of this mess would be the realization by at least a few John Wayne wannabes that, alas, there are a few problems in this world too complex and intractable to be solved by simply throwing billions of dollars of ordinance and thousands of lives at them.

    But what fun would that be?

  57. Lee Says:

    Well, UB, how do you account for the fact that the Democrats are defying the will of the people, if your quoted survey is correct. Either more people want to see this to it’s conclusion, or they don’t. You insist they don’t, yet it keeps getting voted for, and the people seem to be going along. Seems logical to me that Congress is getting feedback besides your written in stone survey. Yet even you come up with spin and rationalizations of how the Democrats are really doing what they were elected for, to stop Bush and end the war, despite their actions which are in support of it’s continuation.
    And Bushwacker, sitting on YOUR ass trying to “converge harmonically” with the universe isn’t doing anything, either, hypocite.

  58. stumbley Says:

    Since everyone is so intent on debunking the Brecht quote, here’s one for everybody, but especially Bushwhacker:

    “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” – Chairman Mao

    Pacifism is suicide.

  59. Lee Says:

    UB, but they do have the ability to end funding by continuing to propose budgets that include timetables. If Bush continues to veto them, then funding in effect ceases, as there is no mechanism in place to legally disburse the funds. No budget means no funding. No funding means the war ends now, not just in September. The democrats in effect went along because they don’t have the support of the people in this, who would, as I have said, be seen as obstructing the war. Isn’t that why you voted for them, to end the war as soon as possible? They could have done it, but they didn’t. Why, if, as you say, the people say it’s what they want, and are on their side?

  60. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    Lee, your ability to fantasize is truly impressive.

  61. Lee Says:

    UB, so bring me back to reality and give me your answers to questions posed above. I’ll read them when I get home later tonight, that is, if you still aren’t running from them to aviod them.

  62. Bushwhacker Says:

    Stumbley –

    When did I say I was a pacifist? I’ve always said, for instance, that the war in Afghanistan is perfectly justified — and probably would’ve been a great success if Dubya the Dumbshit hadn’t detoured us into Iraq.

    But I do object to hopeless wars that are fought for agendas other than the ones advertised — which is why I was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam debacle and why I wouldn’t touch Iraq with a ten-thousand foot pole if I were of fighting age today.

    You guys, on the other hand, the ones who seem to think the future of Western Civilization hangs in the balance over there — I enthusiastically urge you to enlist. What kind of pacifist would do that?

  63. Bravo Romeo Delta Says:


    I apologize for repeating myself but part of your later response brings the basic notion up again. You note:

    there are a few problems in this world too complex and intractable to be solved by simply throwing billions of dollars of ordinance and thousands of lives at them

    I was curious about your take on Afghanistan and whether or not you think the intervention in Afghanistan is a good idea or bad idea.



  64. Bushwhacker Says:

    Bravo Romeo Delta –

    Exactly! Afghanistan is one of those rare cases where the problem was both simple (take out the @#%$ Taliban) and tractable (nab/kill bin Laden…oops. Oh well, maybe when we get a Democratic President again.)

    Iraq is famously neither of the above, was never a threat, and is therefore a blunder of cosmic proportions.

  65. Bravo Romeo Delta Says:


    I was kind of curious about your position on Afghanistan – thanks for clearing that up.

    So when are you signing up?

    (I’m going to keep asking this of every damned Bush-obsessed moonbat until one them either gives me a date or cops to their flabbergasting hypocrisy.)[Link]

  66. Bravo Romeo Delta Says:


    Sorry about that – I had gotten to editing your original quote, and somehow zapped the rest of the comment when I posted.

    In any case, I wanted to ask how the assertion that those who support the Iraq War have an obligation to fight it would be different from the assertion that those who support the Afghanistan War have an obligation to fight in that Theater.


  67. rickhavoc Says:

    “Pacifism is suicide.”

    Nonviolence moves mountains.

  68. stumbley Says:

    “Nonviolence moves mountains.”

    Name one. Gandhi doesn’t count.

  69. Lee Says:

    What? No Way! I thought it took, like, earthquakes and stuff to move mountains. We don’t even have nukes that can “move” a mountain. We can “displace” some of the mountain…

  70. harry Says:

    “Nonviolence moves mountains.

    Nice slogan. Paste that one right next to the one that says “Free Tibet”.

  71. OmegaPaladin Says:


    I’ll start with the points that you didn’t address. One: What about all of the non-military costs of the war that I hear so much about? Are they an actual concern or not?

    Also, would the testimony of someone who served in Iraq convince you to support finishing the job, or is this just an attempt at character assassination?

    I’m sorry that I did not make my point more clear. You argue that all supporters of the war should join the military or become leftists like yourself. I argue that you are demanding that only people willing to join the military or actually in the military can support the war. How is that not leaving military matters exclusively to the military? Unless, of course, you are just using this as a personal attack…

  72. Bushwhacker Says:

    Bravo Romeo Delta –

    Good question.

    Would’ve been a moot point, of course, if Bush had actually seen things through and finished the job in Afghanistan before jumping feet first into the Iraqi tarpit. (Parenthetically, I’m sure you’ve heard what our most famous Afghan vet, the late Pat Tillman, had to say about dubya’s Excellent Baghdad Adventure? Not terribly complimentary.)

    Our volunteer army could’ve handled the Taliban — and put the hurt on bin Laden — with ease, if a certain unfortunate distraction hadn’t come along. Now, of course, the army’s stretched to the breaking point — which is why it would be so nice if all the young and healthy keyboard kommandos out there would pitch in.

    But to get back to your question, would I urge supporters of the Afghani war to fight? I certainly wouldn’t object — but I’d also advise them to wait until we get a new, competent Commander-in-Chief.

  73. Bushwhacker Says:

    OmegaPaladin –

    “I argue that you are demanding that only people willing to join the military or actually in the military can support the war.”

    No, I only demand that those who support the war face up to two facts:

    1) the military is desperately in need of recruits to fight in Iraq,

    2) knowing this, any young, healthy person who’s gung-ho for the war but is satisfied to let others do the killing and dying in his/her stead must face up to the fact that he or she is either a hypocrite, a coward, or both.

    Once they’ve done that, they can go on supporting the war until they’re blue in the face for all I care — it’s a free country after all, despite Bush’s best efforts.

    “[W]ould the testimony of someone who served in Iraq convince you to support finishing the job?”

    Nope. Just because a farmhand works in agriculture, I’m not necessarily going to give extra weight to his opinions on the international trade in farm commodities. Likewise, a soldier might have a good grasp on what’s going on in his particular corner of the battlefield without having any idea at all of the global impact of the war. And since the only job I can see us performing in Iraq is the creation of terrorists faster than we can kill them, I’d really have doubts about anyone who supports “finishing” it.

    “What about all of the non-military costs of the war that I hear so much about? ”

    Don’t quite get you there; can you give me an idea of what kind of costs you’re talking about?

  74. Lee Says:

    Then, Bushwacker, by your standards, you should have no opinion whether this war has been any sucess or failure, since, having never served, you would have no informed opinion.

  75. Lee Says:

    If a farmhand has no credence with you when it comes to international trade in farm commodities, how can a hippie-pacifist give an informed opinion on matters of military strategy, operations, or tactics with any credence?

  76. harry Says:

    “— it’s a free country after all, despite Bush’s best efforts.”

    You mean after spying on Americans with the Patriot Act and rounding up and imprisoning all those people who disagree with him with no legal cause and turning America into an evangelist theocracy its still a free country?

    Not bad for a dictatorship isnt it?

  77. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    Lee wrote:

    “UB, so bring me back to reality and give me your answers to questions posed above. I’ll read them when I get home later tonight, that is, if you still aren’t running from them to aviod them.”

    Unfortunately your questions are based in your fantastical reasoning so answering them won’t help. Recall that this all began when we asked you to tell us how you *knew* the American people were telling their representatives to vote against the Feingold-Reid bill.

    The fact is that *every* major poll (not just one “survey”) on the question showed support for a timetable at about 60%.

    Yet you seem to be claiming that because they can’t get the 2/3rds necessary to override a veto, that means they must be getting feedback from their constituents to vote against. Otherwise 6 out of 10 people would be marching on Washington.

    Fantasy thinking.

  78. Lee Says:

    UB, what you fail to realize( it’s really not that gd difficult to figure out) is that Congress will not give the people what you insist they are demanding. As I’ve said before, in accordance with the Constitution, they do not need a 2/3 majority to override a veto, they just need to obstruct the process by presenting budgets that will continue to be vetoed. That is not fantasy thinking, that is the law. If a budget is not signed into law, no budget exists. Spending stops. Can you read? Get it in your thick skull? If the purpose of electing Democrats was to end our involvement in Iraq as soon as possible, why are the Democrats giving Bush a budget that he can sign (with NO timetable) instead of cutting the funding and ending our involvement in Iraq as soon as possible, or forcing Bush to be “the obstructor” by not signing a budget WITH a timetable, which you insist is what the majority of Americans want?
    Because, they obviously have feedback other than “every” poll, which tells them they will be seen as not supporting the troops and will thus lose votes next election, instead of the other way(with Republicans losing votes).

    Sound, rational logic. And you’re still running, or the logic is over your head.

  79. OmegaPaladin Says:


    So, according to you, military personnel have no special grounds to talk about Iraq, and the chickenhawk line is just a personal attack. (Though I appreciate that you are not in favor of silencing people) Glad we got that cleared up.

    Moving on to a more serious note, I think your “creating terrorists” is an oversimplification of how terrorists are recruited. I’d also say that you might notice some progress in Iraq. Some of the trends there look promising, and the impression I get from Iraqi blogs and reporting on Iraqi opinion seems to be “Please leave us alone… but not yet.”

    As for non-military costs of the war, I hear over and over that Bush wreaked the economy and is establishing a police state. You alleged something similar to the latter in your most recent post If recession and oppression isn’t a price that is being paid, I don’t know what is. I don’t believe that either of these are actually happening, but leftists bring them up all of the time.

  80. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    Lee, I’m not “insisting” the people are “demanding” anything – I’m simply arguing that they (and an apparent majority of the Iraqi parliament) “support” a timetable.

    What I think very few people support and even less “demand” is for all funding to be cut to the troops, for Congress to get tied up in a budget showdown/stalemate while we have troops engaged abroad.

    Besides the fact that no one wants that, the tactic would be political suicide for the Democrats, no one needs any “feedback” to tell them that. Remember what happened to Newt’s “Revolution,” and we weren’t even at war then.

  81. Lee Says:

    But Dennis Kucinich said tonight at the debate that’s what they WERE elected for, and cutting the funding is what they were elected to do. In fact, he correctly pointed out that not doing so makes it “their” (Congress’) war, too, not just Bush’s. He obviously wants “that”. He says there is enough money “in the pipeline” now to bring the troops home. So, why do you insist they can’t, when they obviously can?
    And “apparently” wanting a timetable for withdrawal is news to most Iraqis in Anbar and Diyala, where most of the fighting (by Iraqis themselves) against the terrorist holdouts are happening now, thanks to the support they get from American troops.

  82. Lee Says:

    “What I think very few people support and even less “demand” is for all funding to be cut to the troops,…”

    So, in other words, you are now saying what I’ve been telling you all along.

  83. studiotodd Says:

    I can hardly believe it! I finally found it!

    I found the blog where the most incredibly idiotic kool-aid swilling Bush-backing war-mongering death-loving nihilistic bloodthirsty paranoiac aggrandizing terror-peddling die-hard peace-haters gather to post belligerent and debunked nonsensical comments and bask in the warmth of their collective intransigent bloodlust disguised as “patriotism.”

    Take a step back and look at yourselves honestly and objectively for a second…what a pathetic and disturbing bunch of creeps you are. All that bile and jingoistic hatred is going to kill you long before any terrorist might.

    My hope is that it happens before you are able to inflict any more damage to the reputation of this once respected nation.

  84. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    Lee, you are so out of control I just don’t even know where to begin.

    But Dennis Kucinich said tonight at the debate that’s what they WERE elected for…he says there is enough money “in the pipeline” now to bring the troops home. So, why do you insist they can’t, when they obviously can?

    Because Kucinich says it in a debate makes it so? Makes it advisable policy?

    (UB:)“What I think very few people support and even less “demand” is for all funding to be cut to the troops,…”

    So, in other words, you are now saying what I’ve been telling you all along.

    Here you are having an “Ah-HA!” moment with yourself.

    Can you see that “timetable” and “cutting funding” are two different things?

  85. Lee Says:

    UB, correct, and the Democrats are doing neither. And actually you burned yourself by arguing around a circle. I’m just the one pointing it out.
    You keep saying the American people want a “timetable” for withdrawal. The Democrats have obviously abandoned that as a condition for funding the war. Dennis Kucinich is correctly pointing that out. Not that difficult to figure out, unless your rationalizations have you so twisted in a pretzel that you can’t even remember what you’ve said yourself. So, either the Democrats (a): are defying the will of the people, or (b) the polls you continually bring up do not accurately reflect the will of the people, and the Democrats are relying on other feedback.
    In November, most Democrats and the lefties who put them in office were saying this was a mandate to reign in Bush and end the war as soon as possible. Dennis Kucinich correctly points out that can be done today, but most of his coleagues gave Bush a budget with no restrictions, and the war continues. If they were elected to end the war, why do they vote to continue it? Because obviously they have feedback besides the polls you keep harping on. Figure it out yet? I’ve only explained it to you about a half-dozen times, and used small words so you can understand. Now, it is up to you to refute the logic here. Dismissive “fantasy thinking” posts don’t cut it.

  86. studiotodd Says:

    Hell, I’ll say it:

    The Republicans have no conscience.

    The Democrats have no balls.

    So, basically, we’re screwed either way.

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