Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Friday, November 21, 2003

Blog explosion Friday! (Pax v Lileks v Drezner)

I don't know if I have much to say that hasn't already been said. In fact, I think everything that could be said literally has been. You could spend an hour going through the links and comments section and you wouldn't be a quarter of the way through..... I did that and thoroughly enjoyed it.

What started it all? For President Bush's visit to London, The Guardian published a collection of reader's open letters to President Bush. The famed Iraqi blogger Salam Pax (his blog is linked to the right - he also now writes a column for The Guardian) published this letter:
I hate to wake you up from that dream you are having, the one in which you are a superhero bringing democracy and freedom to underdeveloped, oppressed countries. But you really need to check things out in one of the countries you have recently bombed to freedom. Georgie, I am kind of worried that things are going a bit bad in Iraq and you don't seem to care that much. You might want it to appear as if things are going well and sign Iraq off as a job well done, but I am afraid this is not the case.

Listen, habibi, it is not over yet. Let me explain this in simple terms. You have spilled a glass full of tomato juice on an already dirty carpet and now you have to clean up the whole room. Not all of the mess is your fault but you volunteered to clean it up. I bet if someone had explained it to you like that you would have been less hasty going on our Rambo-in-Baghdad trip.

To tell you the truth, I am glad that someone is doing the cleaning up, and thank you for getting rid of that scary guy with the hideous moustache that we had for president. But I have to say that the advertisements you were dropping from your B52s before the bombs fell promised a much more efficient and speedy service.
James Lileks responded:
Hey, Salam? Fuck you. I know you're the famous giggly blogger who gave us all a riveting view of the inner circle before the war, and thus know more about the situation than I do. Granted. But there's a picture on the front page of my local paper today: third Minnesotan killed in Iraq. He died doing what you never had the stones to do: pick up a rifle and face the Ba'athists. You owe him.

Let me explain this in simple terms, habibi. You would have spent the rest of your life under Ba'athist rule. You might have gotten some nice architectural commissions to do a house for someone whose aroma was temporarily acceptable to the Tikriti mob. You might have worked your international connections, made it back to Vienna, lived a comfy exile's life. What's certain is that none of your pals would ever have gotten rid of that "scary guy with the hideous moustache" (as if his greatest sin was somehow a fashion faux pas) and the Saddam regime would have prospered into the next generation precisely because of people like you. People who would rather have lived their life in low-level fear than change your situation. I understand; I would have done the same. I'm not brave enough to start a revolution. I wouldn't have grabbed a gun and charged a palace. I would lived like you. Head down, eyes wary. When the man's too strong, the man's too strong. But let me quote from a Guardian story on your life:

"Like all Iraqis, Salam was familiar with the dangers. At least four of his relatives had gone missing. In the past year, for no apparent reason, one of his friends was summarily executed, shot in the head as he sat in his car, and two others were arrested; one was later freed and another, a close friend, has never returned."

The rug was soaked before we got there, friend. Cut the clever cafe' pose; drop the sneer. That "Rambo" crap is old. Iraq needs grown-ups. Be one.

This led to Dan Drezner's (who I think is fantastic) skewering of Lileks. Dan makes some great points I encourage you to read, but I mostly agree with Lileks on this one. Salam Pax doesn't really offer anything constructive that would actually help with the clean up of his country -- though thanks to the invasion he no longer has to live there full time. I'm not saying that I, we, Americans, the soldiers, Bush are owed a constant debt of gratitude and un-ending thank yous, but I think Salam Pax could have replaced some of his sarcasm with some class. For more about this read Dan Drezner's above referenced post, then check out InstaPundit's roundup if you still want more.

After reading much of the arguments, perhaps the blunt "F-You!" from Lileks was a bit harsh, but maybe not..... nevertheless, everything else he said I thought rang very true, and perhaps most important was his last bit of advice for Salam Pax:

"Iraq needs grown-ups. Be one."


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