Big F'ing Deals
Two quick points from Andrew Sullivan's blog this morning: 1) Apparently Daniel Pipes is pissed that Muhammad Ali received the presidential medal of freedom; now, I have no sympathy for the Nation of Islam, but Pipes' suggestion that the ideology of the NoI has something to do with Salafist fundamentalism, along with the idea that Ali is some sort of fifth-columnist made to look benign by his illness is just nuts. Pipes also criticizes Ali for his protests of the Vietnam war. Consider: Ali maintained his opposition to the war knowing he would incur the scorn of the Lumpen and that his career would be hobbled; what he did was honorable, and Pipes' claim that Ali wasn't a true pacificist because he said he would have made an exception for causes sanctified by Allah is about as petty as it gets. On the other hand Pipes supported the war, dodged the draft, and attacks others for their decisions to stay out of Vietnam. I don't buy into chickenhawk arguments---having served is irrelevant to the soundness of one's position on a war and on one's right to hold a position on a war---and there's nothing per se wrong with Pipes supporting the war but choosing to go to Harvard instead of fighting it. However, the rightness of one's decision to serve or not to serve is completely independent of one's position on the war. If it was wrong for Ali not to go, it was wrong for Pipes not to go; they both consciously avoided fighting in Vietnam, and it makes no difference that their avoidance of combat took different forms (though Ali's took some bravery). Pipes is engaging in reverse chickenhawk-ism. We need a word for the idea that it's legitimate to avoid serving in a war as long as you don't actively oppose its prosecution. Unfortunately, "chickenhawk" is the best description but it's already taken. (I do like the title of Pipes' column; who would mind seeing a boxing match between Vietnam-era Ali and Vietnam-era W. Bush.)
2) Sullivan says BFD to the news that American intelligence operatives are planting propaganda stories in the Iraqi press. Here's the big fucking deal: A) Unless it's exceptionally well done, a description of exactly nothing in our occupation of Iraq, propaganda declares itself for what it is almost immediately. You can't keep these things secret, and once the secret's out, we've created a PR-humiliation and also set back the cause of Iraqi independence, because the Iraqis would be correct to discount the reliability of their press. B) Apart from practical considerations, the ostensible meaning of the war is to create a free society in Iraq. That includes a free press. BFD? BFS that the administration has found yet another way to betray its affected humanitarianism.