Paul From Minneapolis

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Why Thank You, Robert Scheer

Robert Scheer had a piece a couple days ago in the Star Tribune, Newspaper of the Twin Cities, talking up a BBC documentary that claims we’ve been schnookered on this whole al Qaeda thing.

Not that it doesn’t exist or that Islamic terror isn’t real, although Robert evidently believes 9-11 is most usefully seen as an example of a spate of violence. But the network may not be as “vast” as he thinks we believe, and it isn’t very sophisticated. “Why did Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claim… that Al-Qaida controlled massive high-tech cave complexes in Afghanistan, when British and U.S. military forces later found no such thing?” he demands.

And this, Scheer’s main point:

"But the film, both more sober and more deeply provocative than Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," (Ed.: Otis Campbell was more sober and deeply provocative than F-9-11, but whatever) directly challenges the conventional wisdom by making a powerful case that the Bush administration, led by a tight-knit cabal of Machiavellian neoconservatives, has seized upon the false image of a unified international terrorist threat to replace the expired Soviet empire in order to push a political agenda.” (emphasis added)

So we're not facing a Spectre-like international organization as we so foolishly (unlike Robert) believe. It's a lot more complicated than that.

Scheer is a writer like Paul Krugman: when you untangle him a little you often find out his argument is empty, or his facts are wrong, or both. Of course his fans gulp down his outrage and don’t want to dig like that, but they’re lucky, because I do. And there’s a lot here to untangle. Like, are Robert and I working from similar ideas about the words "massive," "high-tech," "complexes" and "cave?" That sort of thing.

But I want to focus on the little logical hole Robert Scheer digs for himself in scaling the heights of his main point.

It's this. Okay, fine, a Machiavellian neo-conservative cabal controls politics, here and overseas (I'm taking a very small leap and assuming that's what he believes). Granted. And in their agenda I'm sure he includes, at the top of the list, how they so cabalistically (cabalierly?) forced us into the Iraq war. For the time being I’ll give him all that.

But Robert-readers, the Machiavellian cabal’s argument about Islamic terror as a reason for the war depended not in the slightest on the idea of a centrally-controlled terrorist threat, in the guise of al Qaeda or the guise of anybody.

In fact, and here’s the beauty part, a decentralized threat - entrepreneurial, energetic, restless - lends more weight to that reason to take out Hussein. Not less; more. It's that kind of wild-ass scene that would most easily produce some outside-the-box-thinking, type-A terrorist proclaiming, "I don’t care if he’s secular, I want them weapons!!"

Especially if he can't make them himself with his special cave computer.

This is all aside, I hasten to add, from whether Hussein had weapons or would have soon. I’m ignoring that argument because my point (and Scheer’s) has nothing to do with it.

Of course many people, members of the cabal, have spoken for years about the decentralized threat. As I must have said before at some point in my life, ten minutes after accidentally starting one of Scheer's columns, this is not news.

But it does make me laugh. Good-naturedly. I’m trying not to be condescending, I really am. I would guess Bob gets a lot of that and I’m sure he’s immune. But in maybe a slightly less dramatic fashion, this is the pundit version of the Vikings' Jim Marshall picking up a fumble and rambling excitedly toward his own end zone, pursued by frantic teammates, hurling the ball into the stands in triumph, producing a safety for the other team. Not a disaster but hey Bob, ya moron! Hold up a second!

That's how it seems to me anyway.