Abu Aardvark

The battle's done, and we kind of won, so we sound our victory cheer - where do we go from here?

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Why shouldn't (America) be exempt from some wacky international treaty on women or aardvarks? - Jonah Goldberg, July 26, 2002

The aardvark appears to be the ancestor of all mammals, including humans. - the BBC

I discovered your blog after you attacked me in it, and I enjoy it. Don't agree with hardly any of it, but it's well-written and witty- Martin Kramer

Aardvarks are solitary, industrious, sarcastic, eat termites, graduated from Duke, and watch Buffy obsessively - Encyclopedia Brittanica

My vacation totally sucked, until I met the cutest aardvark. Man, I wish I knew who that aardvark really was! - Eliza Dushku

Nobody likes a wise-guy aardvark. Why do you have to be such an annoying, objectively pro-statue, aardvark? - anonymous reader who sounds a lot like Dave Sim

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A new cub, or why we blog

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Friday, October 10, 2003
Even on the road, it's hard to miss Team Bush's hard sell public relations pep talks on Iraq. While I'm sure that Bush partisans are heartened by this rallying of the troops - which said troops desperately needed after the Plame affair, the Kay report (if they are honest with themselves), the creation of the new Iraq stabilization office (with its implicit recognition that things aren't going well, a thousand peppy warbloggers to the contrary), endless critical magazine covers and dropping poll numbers had been deflating even the peppiest - it is unlikely to have much effect on anyone else.

I've been struck at how remarkably weak the campaign has been, despite the airy self-confidence and tough talk. I've already mentioned at some length the silliness of Andrew Sullivan's attempts to read the Kay report as vindicating the war - and the very fact that so many warbloggers have embraced and linked to his weak musings on this is itself suggestive of their desperation. I've also been more struck than usual by the rapid recycling of arguments... yes folks, we all got the RNC memo that the President never used "imminent" and "threat" within three words of each other, so you can stop breathlessly repeating it now. If you really want to believe that Team Bush didn't say that we had to act now so that the smoking gun wouldn't be a mushroom cloud, go ahead and believe it.

But Dick Cheney at Heritage - that was the pure stuff. And what stuff it was - 85 mile an hour fastballs right down the middle of the plate, just daring hitters to deal with that heat. Critics of the war just wanted to leave the country defenseless against a dire threat! Critics who called for multilateral cooperation insisted on a unanimous international community, which means that even a single country which disagreed with the US could veto it! Saddam may not have had WMD, but he wanted them! The UN achieved nothing in its years of inspections! Saddam was evil, and Osama is evil, so obviously they are part of the same big evil, even if I'm not going to say that Saddam was involved in 9/11 again because I got in trouble last time!

I wish that I was exaggerating this stuff. Dana Milbank in the Post did the honors and stepped up to the plate by pointing out the, um, shortcomings of Cheney's speech. But any one of you could have done the same.

Alas. Intermittent computer access is up. Back onto the road for this weary aardvark.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Second quick hit before leaving town:
Great moments in projection (defined as "attributing one's own faults to one's adversary"), Andrew Sullivan version: "The casus belli was not proof of Saddam's existing weapons, but proof of his refusal to cooperate fully with U.N. inspectors or account fully for his WMD research. Nothing we have discovered after the war has debunked or undermined any of these reasons. ...But the anti-war left sees a real advantage in stripping down the claims in people's receding memories to ones that were not made but which can now be debunked. It's propaganda, to which the media in particular seems alarmingly prone to parroting."

Sullivan is attempting to fundamentally revise the historical record, while accusing his enemies of doing the same. A lot of like-minded hawks, feeling more and more besieged, are embracing this new line of defense against reality. The casus belli was the claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction which the UN could not or would not find, which threatened the United States and its allies both directly and indirectly, and which might end up in the hands of al-Qaeda. This was made abundantly clear in statement after statement by the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the National Security Adviser, and an endless parade of conservative and neoconservative talking heads - most of whom now seem to assume that Lexis-Nexis doesn't exist.

Refusal to comply completely with the UN and not accounting fully for past WMD programs were certainly significant reasons for concern, and constituted a strong case for working patiently at the UN to build a multilateral coalition to enforce compliance. But this is not the case that was made by the Bush or Blair administrations, nor is it the case that convinced Americans of war. What convinced people was the construction of an urgent, existential threat which could not wait on diplomacy, and which required nothing less than war, not tomorrow but today. Taking a few quotes out of a Presidential speech, devoid of context, won't convince anyone except those who already believe and need some sign to buttress their faith.

Indeed, given the near-complete contempt which Bush showed for the UN in the runup to war, and in which the UN is still held by the neocons who drove the war, I find it nothing short of remarkable that their fallback position - after their original arguments and expectations about Iraq's WMD proved wrong... make no mistake about this, historical revisionism aside - is an appeal to the UN's authority. This is gratifying, and I hope that they build on this newfound respect for the sanctity of the UN.

Two quick hits before I head out of town.

First: I was quite taken with this paragraph in the Times story about what now appears to be an American failure to get a new UN resolution. The context, of course, is that the US is arguing against the French et al proposal for a more rapid transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis with a leading UN role in the transitional phase:

"Indeed, many American officials say that if the United States tried to set up the existing Iraqi Governing Council — handpicked by the American-led occupation authority last summer — the attacks on American forces and Iraqi targets would only intensify. "The Governing Council is not seen as legitimate by the Iraqi people," said the administration official. "They're not ready to take power." Among other things, various officials say, the Governing Council is dominated by former exile groups installed by the occupation but widely disliked by many Iraqis."

This suprised me because I, of course, completely agree with "many American officials" on this point. The IGC is completely illegitimate, full of exiles who are widely despised, and all that. What's weird is to hear the American government making the aardvark's argument for him. Well, okay, thanks.

For more on the IGC's haplessness, don't miss Juan Cole's take on the Council's unanimous decision to refuse Turkish troops. If the US goes ahead and welcomes them anyway, it's hard to imagine a more poignant demonstration of the Council's insignificance.


Sunday, October 05, 2003
The aardvark will be going on hiatus for two weeks because shortly after getting over this infernal strep snout (really, it's quite awful.... imagine trying to get all those yummy termites down an inflamed and painful snout...), I'm going on the road with only intermittent computer access. I'll try to update from time to time, but can't guarantee anything. Normal posting should resume around October 20. Be sure to come back then, okay?