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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Academic Freedom, Incompetence, and 9/11

I love academic freedom. I'd eat it for breakfast if I could, and I take breakfast seriously.

But Kevin Barrett--you remember him, right? bearded guy? absolutely off his nut about 9/11?--is confusing academic freedom with something else; he is insisting that if only we'd listened to him in 2002, we wouldn't be embroiled in Iraq right now.

Well, duh. They didn't ask me, either.

There are many of us who made the argument in 2002 that we shouldn't be going to war in Iraq. We were shot down by those whom Duncan Black calls Very Serious People. Many of those same people are now, of course, saying that Our Iraqi Adventure was a bad idea, without admitting their own culpability in the disaster. Whatever the size of our chorus back then--i.e., whether Kevin Barrett had the "freedom" to spin his impossible yarns or not--we were going to war with Iraq, given who held the keys to the war machine and the Very Serious People driving from the backseat.

And, you know what? I would have told you in 2002 (I wasn't blogging then, but, trust me) that they'd screw it up, too.

Much of Barrett's screed here is not just the wouldacouldashouldas about listening to the bearded sages such as himself. Instead, it's a defense of his belief that the Bush administration was responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001 (his ellipses):
Every Middle East Studies colleague I know understood from the start that Iraq could not possibly threaten the United States with WMDs even if it had them, which it almost certainly did not, and that the Iraqi people would resist a U.S. invasion with every ounce of their strength. The only way Cheney's criminal war of aggression could be sold was by terrorizing the American people with 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, lying about a nonexistent WMD threat to take advantage of the people's fear. . . and intimidating scholarly experts into silence.
The Professors™ would have saved us, if it weren't for those meddling Cheneyites!

Barrett, in fact, ends his whine with this: "It is long past time for a rational, evidence-based debate on the facts and meaning of 9/11. Any takers?" I'm not "taking," but here's how I know he's wrong. It's simple. Bush (Cheney?) has been in charge for six years, give or take--roughly 2150 days by now. And, if you're to believe Barrett and his ilk, 9/11/01 was an unbelievably successful day for them. An elaborately complicated plot, involving scores or hundreds of co-conspirators, was executed with immaculate precision, and the evidence to support this plot is invisible to all but a handful of crank academics and a college dropout with iMovie.


Because the other 2149 days of the Bush administration have been a cascade of utter incompetence. There is nothing that Bush-Cheney have tried that has not turned to crap. It started with flubbed policy on North Korea and Irseal-Palestine in the opening months of 2001, then onto Bush's inability to hold the Senate during tax-cut season, his half-hearted stem-cell thing, right up through seven minutes of Hukt on Fonix in a Florida classroom after Bush was told America Was Under Attack. Incompetence run wild.

And what since then has come up roses for the administration? Seriously. That's my challenge. Whether you're a 9/11 conspiracy nut like Kevin Barrett or a die-hard Bush defender, tell me what has happened in the least six years, under the direction of this administration, that has worked. Afghanistan? (If Iraq was Cheney's real target, why even bother with Afghanistan?) Iraq itself? Cheney's oil buddies sure are rolling in that Iraqi oil now, eh? Medicare D? FEMA? Social Security reform? The budget?

2149 days of Cluseauvian bumbling versus one day of clockwork perfection? Please. It's the incompetence, Kevin. And there is not enough academic freedom in the world to make up for that.

Update: See also Michael Mathias.

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