Malaise, Fifth Column or a Failure to Think Critically?

Posted: June 29, 2011 in Ooga Booga, President George Bush, WMD and Iraq
Tags: , , , , ,

I read some interesting blog posts about the invasion of Iraq and the war against Al Qaeda.

Andrew Sullivan over at The Daily Beast said this today, it was entitled “Bin Laden’s Victory”:

He got the US to spend $4.4 trillion in a decade on counter-terrorism, using just a handful of men with boxcutters – and a whole lot of fear. For good measure, he goaded incompetents like Dick Cheney into violating core US standards of morality.

Later in the day I read a post in response by Tim F. on Balloon Juice entitled “Almost like some sinister fifth column did it”.  Tim reminds us (in re: to going to war today in Libya, Syria, & elsewhere) that instead of paying attention to those who offer apologies for being wrong back then and are offering advice now on current conflicts (i.e., Sullivan supported the Iraqi invasion only to regret it later), it would be wise to listen to those that were correct and opposed the invasion back then.  If they were right then (and people like this were hectored, pilloried, sometimes fired, and definitely silenced at the time, Valerie Plame anyone?), they must have some foreign policy insight and wisdom that many, many people did not have and still do not have today.

Unfortunately, do we see any of the people that were right facing down those who were wrong then and continue to be consistently wrong today in the MSM?  On the Sunday talk shows?  In our papers and magazines?  No, we don’t. We see sycophants and grifters, pundits and politicians–most of whom were wrong and never, ever admitted it.   Something like Iraq could happen again I fear because of this.

Just maybe there were enough individuals in society who might actually have planted seeds of critical thinking in the minds of those around us.  I was teaching Ethics to college students back then and used the Iraq case made by Pres. Shrub and the Just War Theory as an exercise.  I remember clearly asking the class, “What if Pres. Bush is lying?  What if he is being mislead?  What are the consequences?  How serious is the ties with Al Qaeda?”

Very few people asked these questions publicly and even when the evidence that the likelihood of this was pretty high, no one would change their mind.  I feared that Pres. Bush was at worst  lying and at best being purposely mislead.  The students no matter what their differences all felt if there were ties to Al Qaeda and/or there were WMD then we were justified to invade.

I shared with them the evidence presented publicly and that it didn’t support WMD.  I asked them if they trusted the President when he said he had “secret” evidence he couldn’t share about WMD.  They did and I didn’t. Fair enough.  I presented the evidence of ties to Al Qaeda and the evidence that showed the ties were, if not outright lies, so minimal as to be ridiculous.  I presented evidence that the consequences, both short term and long term, could be devastating to include not only the loss of an entire generation of young people in battle, the loss of many innocent Iraqi citizens, and the use of treasure better spent domestically (and we’re seeing the results of that now).  I discussed the problems with waging a war on two fronts for long periods of time in addition to the difficulties of seeking to accomplish regime change in Iraq while at the same time bombing the shit out of the country.

Ultimately I concluded it wasn’t worth invading Iraq and that by doing so, we handed Bin Laden a victory of astounding proportions.  As Sullivan suggests Bin Laden succeeded in starting our country’s downward spiral.  None of this changed their minds.  I faced some harsh criticism and not a few low evaluations at the end of that term.

I wonder if they ever think of me now after we now know the truth.  I sure as hell hope so, because I sure do think about them.  And I sure as hell hope they use their critical thinking capacities better in future because nothing combats malaise or fifth column exploits like a good old fashioned logical examination.  Because in such an examination fear has no seat at the table.




  1. The Dork Knight says:

    In six years of university education, my freshman year critical thinking course remains the single most important and life changing class I ever took, so good on you IG.

  2. drangedinaz says:

    Thanks, TDK. Too bad it isn’t the eye opening experience for most college students that it was for you. Most kids hate it because its difficult. Truth is, waiting until people are in college to start teaching critical thinking is far too late. We need to start as early as possible–kindergarten isn’t too early as far as I am concerned.

  3. The Dork Knight says:

    I was thinking something similar. Junior High is an excellent time to begin really grappling with formal critical thinking issues and basic logical, structured thinking.

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