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Sunday, December 04, 2005

McIlheran Watch: Rights for he, not for thee (plus he lies!)

I know all of you back home in Milwaukee are waiting breathlessly for today's installment of McIlheran Watch™, live and unscripted from cold, snowy Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Even amid the good food (did you know Canadian Subways don't have provolone?) and great views (I can see a Sears!), I have to jump in here with my distaste for all things Pat McIlheran.

In McIlheran's mid-week column, he staunchly defended the "right to disagree," complaining that any hypothetical legal recognition of gay marriage would forever change society "beyond your ability to dissent." He seemed concerned that his ability to call gay people icky would be forever revoked if the state started recognizing families like this one, and that's just not right, he said. In other words, the right to dissent--even if it takes the form of homophobia and bigotry--is a fundamental right that must not be taken away.

So what of McIlheran's column today? In short, he says, "Dissenters: Shut Up." No, really:
[S]ome Milwaukee aldermen [. . .] want to poll you about Iraq. A committee voted 3-1 last week to put a referendum on the spring ballot asking Milwaukeeans whether the United States should "end the occupation of Iraq and immediately begin withdrawing troops." The full council votes next week.

Then, of course, you will in April. This won't necessarily be bad. Say the "let's give up" proposition gets 60%. Given how few people vote in off-year spring elections, such a victory in this left-leaning city would make plain the idea's fringe appeal. Some harm, however, lies in showing Milwaukee to be behind the curve: By April, all the cool cities will have moved on to adopt-a-jihadist campaigns.
Sarcasm is supposed to be funny, Pat, not grossly offensive. But from there, McIlheran moves into the "you liberals don't know what you're talking about" phase, repeating lies and specious arguments he no doubt scribbled down while listening to Limbaugh in his cube. I'll get to those in a minute, as spotting and debunking McIlheran's lies is almost too easy. But the main point here is that not even a whole week after McIlheran demanded the right to "dissent" regardless of his own factual inaccuracy, political or religious biases, or public opinion, he writes that dissenters to Bush's foreign policy should shut up until (or unless) they start buying the administration's spin. Here's my offer to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Hire me; I will work for half what McIlheran does and I promise to go at least two weeks without contradicting myself.

Seriously, I ask again: Where does he get off saying one minute that "the campaign for gay marriage is all about denying anyone the ability to disagree," and the next dismissing out of hand anyone who disagrees with this relentlessly dismal war? There's a word for that.

I suppose it's also unsurprising that very near McIlheran's tripe we find the official Editorial Board opinion concerning the Common Council's actions:
We sympathize with the sentiments of those proposing that Milwaukeeans vote in April on a resolution urging the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. But the Common Council should reject the measure at its Dec. 13 meeting.
Remind me again: Who is the newest member of the Editorial Board? At any rate, Xoff took apart the editorial this morning. I still can't help but wonder whether McIlheran signed eagerly on to the idea of making it the editorial stance of the paper to tell dissenters not to vote, or if he only signed on earnestly.

Now, presenting, with extra debunking goodness, the factual errors in McIlheran's column:
PM: It's hard to say the president lied now that the dictator's jailed, his nuke labs are history, al-Qaida's fighting for its home turf rather than Manhattan and Iraqis are voting.
Reality: I'll give him Saddam's in jail, and I'll save other parts of this sentence for when he repeats them later. For now, consider the "nukes," since Saddam's nuke program was history long before the March, 2003 invasion. The aluminum tube story? False, and known false before the war. Yellowcake from Africa? False, and known false before the war. The intelligence from "Curveball"? False, and known false before the war.

PM: People don't believe that we can win or that the administration has a plan to win. That view is harder to sustain after President Bush's speech Wednesday [. . .] he's been outlining this evolving strategy for a long time, even if his critics haven't been paying attention.
Reality: The Bush speech last week was, I noted at the time, about 30 months late, because it seems like we really should have had a plan (since hope is not a plan) before the war started. Anyway, the speech "offered nothing new substantively," and was more about ameliorating the growing ranks of Congressional citics than demonstrating his military genius.

PM: American troops have made life [in Iraq] better.
Reality: While there is no doubt that Iraq and the world are better off without Saddam Hussein in power, Bush and Rumsfeld's Iraq strategy is not seen as "better," depending on who you ask. Some people think things are worse now, that they "have never been this bad,"--people like Iyad Allawi. I wonder if McIlheran thinks that Western contractors killing Iraqi civilians is "better," if he thinks Rumsfeld is right that we don't even have to stop it.

PM: Iraq has had two surprisingly popular elections and is heading for a third. It has managed to write its own constitution and has staved off civil war.
Reality: Yes, "free" elections, with no thumbs on the scales or hint of fraud. I suppose reasonable people can disagree about whether what's going on in Iraq right now is civil war or not (here's an interesting take), but the constitution hasn't solved much yet.

PM: Iraqis are staffing their own army, replacing U.S. forces in more of the country, not less.
Reality: That's unreasonably optimistic, and covers up so many problems it's hard to know where to start (just read the linked USATODAY article).

PM: If our presence in Iraq has drawn the jihadists, the alternatives are worse. Their choice of battlefield has been Manhattan, London subways and wedding receptions in Jordan. If 2,000 American dead in a liberated Iraq are unacceptable, it is unclear how withdrawal, metal detectors and police work would better protect us when the approach failed to stop 9-11.
Reality: This paragraph seriously almost makes me want to cry, it has so many problems. The if at the start is a big one, since even the conservative American Enterprise Institute admitted this week that "there are very few foreign fighters in Iraq." I ask McIlheran what our folly in Iraq actually did to prevent attacks in London or Madrid or Bali or Jordan? Hm? It is unclear to me how non-withdrawal did a thing to stop them. One of the things I most like about Russ Feingold's discussions of Iraq lately is that he's not afraid to say that Iraq has been a distraction from fighting the terrorists who did attack us on 9/11, and did attack London and Madrid, and Bali and so on. It is unclear to me why there is not rioting in the streets over the fact that the man who masterminded the attacks on 9/11 remains free more than four years later. It also remains unclear to me why McIlheran would bring up the failure of US intelligence on 9/11, since we know a month before the attacks there was a giant memo on the president's desk reading "BIN LADEN DETERMINED TO STRIKE IN U.S." The continued success of al Qaeda and other "jihadists" demonstrates the same lack of preparation and lack of any kind of "flypaper" success in our Iraq strategy.
David Neiwert cites some genius from the Poor Man: "Even the tiniest example of wingnuttery is a near-perfect replica of the whole edifice, substantively consonant in every particular but scale." Patrick McIlheran consistently proves this addage true, even in just his columns this past week: He ignores facts, he misrepresents his opponents' arguments, he plays the "victim" card, and, perhaps playing most to type, he accuses others of trying to do exactly what it is he does. As I said, there's a word for that.

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