Saturday, July 31, 2004
By Steven Taylor

Firehouse Rot – John Kerry’s cheapest shot. By Christopher Hitchens

Thursday night, Sen. Kerry quite needlessly proposed a contradiction between “opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them in the United States of America.” Talk about a false alternative. To borrow the current sappy language of “making us safer”: Who would feel more secure if they knew that we weren’t spending any tax dollars on Iraqi firehouses? [further: isn't the clarion call of the Democrats that the Bush administration isn't doing enough to establish security and stability in Iraq--ed.]


It reveals a real element of bad faith on the part of many liberals and leftists. Think of the programs that many of them regard as wasteful and extravagant: the missile-defense system, for example (less than useless in the battle against terrorism) or the so-called “war on drugs” (ditto). But the mention of either of these would involve an argument over principle, and the risk of controversy. So, why not just say that the Republicans are squandering “our” money on a bunch of foreigners?



The further implication is that this is a zero-sum game, and that a dollar spent in Iraq is a dollar not spent on domestic needs. In other words, that this hospital or school in New Jersey or Montana would now be fully funded if it wasn’t for a crowd of Arab and Kurdish panhandlers. Could anything be more short-sighted than that?

Double indeed. Of course, it is basic tenet of the Democratic Party, it seems, that all economic issues are zero sum (note the idea that if the wealthy get wealthier it, ipso facto has to be because the poor got poorer).

And the following raises a point that seems to have been forgotten, that is the claim that was quite popular pre-war by many on the left that the sanctions were hurting average Iraqis:

A few years ago, many of the same liberals and leftists were quoting improbable if not impossible numbers of dead Iraqi children, murdered by the international sanctions imposed on Saddam Hussein. Even at its most propagandistic, this contained an important moral point: Iraqi civilians were suffering for the sins of their dictatorship (and from the lavish corruption of the U.N. supervision of the “oil-for-food” program). OK, then, we’ll remove the regime and lift the sanctions. Happy now? Not at all! It turns out that 1) the Saddam regime was only a threat invented by neo-cons and that 2) we don’t owe the Iraqi people a thing. Also, we could use the money ourselves.

This would mean that all the protest about dead and malnourished Iraqi infants was all for show. Surely that can’t be right? Whatever you think about the twists and turns of U.S. policy toward Baghdad in the last three decades, there can be no doubt of any kind that we have collectively incurred a huge responsibility there, much of it political but a good deal of it purely humanitarian. To demand that American funds be cut off or diverted, just as the country is fighting to rebuild and struggling toward a form of elections, is unconscionable from any standpoint.

Triple indeed.

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