Read the WSJ, If You Can Stand It

Does anyone know when the Wall Street Journal became the capitalist equivalent of a Stalinist propaganda machine? I can vaguely recall reading some items on that editorial page that made some sense, though one wonders when that was.

You see, the page purports to comment on the Iraqi War, and it probably even has some readers. Whether or not those readers have read anything aside from the Journal is hard to say. If they had, one can imagine that the editorial offices are daily bombarded with protests against its brazen and even immoral ranting on behalf of the warfare state.

More likely, the people who read those editorials don’t read anything else, are glad to believe that the US military is the god of liberty marching on the planet, and frankly don’t care anything about information that contradicts that. Most serious people don’t even look at it for anything other than discovering what the most extreme elements of the regime want us to think.

As a dedicated advocate of capitalism and free markets — causes the WSJ purports to support — I can only wince when I read the editorials these people write. Their writers are probably in their twenties, and it is impossible to know whether they write from total ignorance, and whether that ignorance is willing or just a condition, or whether they thrill to dish out the lies of which only shills are capable.

But rather than go on like this, let us fisk the editorial that appeared on November 17, 2004, called “Victory in Fallujah.”

Whoops, can’t even get past the title.

Victory? The Washington Post began a story the other day as follows:

Even the dogs have started to die, their corpses strewn among twisted metal and shattered concrete in a city that looks like it forgot to breathe.

The aluminum shutters of shops on the main highway through town have been transformed by the force of war into mangled accordion shapes, flat, sharp, jarring slices of metal that no longer obscure the stacks of silver pots, the plastic-wrapped office furniture, the rolls of carpet. These things would be for sale, except there are no traders, no customers, hardly any people at all in the center of Fallujah.

U.S. Marines searching for insurgents in the Jolan neighborhood in the northwestern side of the city on Monday did see two elderly men emerge from a pile of rock. The men, who looked too old to fight, pointed to their stomachs. They were hungry. They were given brown, plastic pouches of military rations and disappeared back into the rocks, the Marines recounted.

Black smoke rose from buildings across the city as U.S. artillery continued to bombard insurgent positions and weapons bunkers a day after commanders declared that the city had been liberated.

Now, I don’t know any moral person who can read that and not feel at least some pangs of sadness. Moral outrage too. It is a travesty. Keep in mind that Fallujah never did anything to any American citizens here. This ancient city of commerce and friendship was never a threat. It was never militarized. It contained no terrorists, at least not until the US made it a magnet. The people fighting there were resisting an invading military from the other side of the world. For this, the city was smashed in the most horrific and bloody way.

Not that any end justifies this means, but the known truth is that the pummeling of this city does nothing to curb terrorism, end resistance, punish injustice, warm the hearts of Iraqis toward the Americans. Rather — must it really be said? — it does exactly the opposite.

But to declare this liberation? Declare this a victory? It really leaves one morally stunned. Who would say such a thing? The devil perhaps, or the willfully blind or the heartlessly cruel. But these editorialists dash off such comments, sitting in their plush Manhattan offices, with no concern for truth or anything. The level of their abstraction is what chills you.

Now that we are past the title:

Iraqi insurgents respond by attacking in Mosul, Baquba, Kirkuk and Suweira. This, we now hear, proves that the more insurgents the U.S. kills, the stronger the insurgency grows. Call it the Obi-Wan Kenobi school of international relations: Strike him down, and he’ll only become more powerful. In real warfare, of course, killing the enemy means there are fewer enemies to kill.

Yes, Star-Wars kids, killing does indeed kill people. And if killing is the only goal, you can accomplish that goal in precisely this way because the killing has indeed created ever more enemies and hence ever more targets.

It’s like the bank robber who says that anyone who moves is going to be shot. As more and more people are shot, more and more are inspired to take the risk of moving to disarm the robber. And this is especially true when not everyone is in plain sight. The end result of this shoot-’em up approach is massacre. As in Fallujah.

The insurgents have been denied their principal sanctuary.

Yes, and so has everyone else. Killing fields are unhappy sanctuaries. The rebels will have to find other sanctuaries — most everyone with sense left as the Americans marched in — or take back Fallujah once the Americans go.

It is increasingly clear that the US controls only the ground under the tank treads and the soldiers’ boots. The US doesn’t even control Baghdad. In fact, Baghdad has been lost, in the words of Michael Ware of Time. But according to the Wall Street Journal:

Ordinary Iraqis can take heart that the Allawi government and the U.S. mean business, something that had been put into doubt by the failure to take Fallujah back in April.

We are really supposed to believe that ordinary Iraqis are taking heart in all this, huh? That citizens all over the country are thinking: it warms my heart that this once great and ancient city in my country has been bombed to smithereens and thousands have been killed and many more have fled. What graces have been bestowed on our beloved country!

As for the weak-willed, namby-pamby April attack that was too soft and thus encouraging to the insurgents, IBC says: “between 572 and 616 of the approximately 800 reported deaths were of civilians, with over 300 of these being women and children.”

The sooner and more aggressively the fight is taken to other insurgent strongholds, the better the chances that January’s scheduled elections can be held on time, in conditions of relative security…

Day by day, as long as this war has gone on, there has been less security and more misery for just about everyone. When you think about democracy in Iraq, just remember that most real experts admit that Saddam Hussein would win if he ran. This is the political situation that the US has created.

These insurgents will no doubt continue to mount gruesome attacks throughout the country, with the aim of cowing the silent majority of Iraqis who’d like to be on the side of freedom if given the chance.

The silent majority, huh? How do we know? Well, they are silent, so of course there can be no proof of this. They are there. We just can’t hear them. It’s just something that editorial writers in New York know. Just a solid intuition, an intuition so reliable that it can be put into an editorial as fact.

Well, here is a fact: never in the history of the world has a military conqueror engaging in mass bloodshed and imposing a lawless military dictatorship enjoyed a majority of support from the host country. Why doesn’t this claim alone discredit this editorial page, now and forever?

Also, notice the identification of US government bullets and bombs with the cause of freedom. The cause of freedom has many great saints and martyrs in world history, but not one led a bloody military occupation of a foreign country while killing as many as 100,000 people.

Beyond whatever tactics the Iraqi insurgents may employ, their strategy is to convince Americans that there is no bottom; that their cause enjoys huge popular support; that it feeds off the resentments that “occupation” inevitably engenders; and that it can go on undeterred by whatever damage U.S. forces inflict.

Note that that word occupation is in quotes. We need to create a new category of propagandists: occupation deniers.

The big news of the Fallujah campaign is that most Iraqis quietly supported it. The protests from nationalist politicians was far more muted than in April.

Big news indeed. In other news, Ukrainians welcomed farm collectivization, Poland welcomed invasion from Germany, and the Chinese welcomed the Cultural Revolution. For more on each, see back issues of Soviet Life and the collected works of the Eher Verlag.

The task now is to build quickly on success in Fallujah by wiping out other insurgent strongholds such as Ramadi.

A sentence such as this makes one wonder whether the US might actually adopt some extreme solution to the Iraqi problem. The first and only nuclear weapons dropped in history on cities were built and deployed by the US to prevent other countries from building and deploying nuclear weapons. Imagine a scenario under which Iraq is destroyed by WMD in the name of purging Iraq of WMDs.

Those of us in the Old Liberal camp, who think of market economics as tied to peace, can only be disgusted by its identification with the cause of indiscriminate, imperial, total war. And yet the WSJ is not alone. Nor is their rhetoric without cultural cost.

Read the blogs and forums out there calling for death to dissidents, and for an end to the freedom to speak. This kind of editorial, and it is one of thousands published daily in this country, does more to further ignorance, violence, and statism than anything I see published on the left.

Freedom has no greater enemies than those who lie in its name.