Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sacrifice For Thee, But Not For Me

I can't believe I let the whole month of July slip by entirely without making mention of Paul Krugman's excellent July 4th op-ed piece, Sacrifice is for Suckers.

If the following is to be read as an indictment, I don't exempt myself. I'm a rather unrepentant owner of a Chevy Suburban (it's hard to fit all of us into anything else), and I can't claim that I've been spending my evenings putting care packages together for the troops, even though I know a few of them. I haven't been writing to my senator or my congressman about the war, and they haven't seen me down at the local VA Hospital offering to volunteer either, so shame on me... Nevertheless, a special responsibility and burden lies with those who preach to us the most that Iraq is the central and crucial front in the "War on Terror". Most of them haven't done a very good job of picking that burden up themselves (at least John McCain, with a son in Iraq, can say that he has skin in the game).

You've all probably seen the ad campaigns for those vehicles based upon the military Humvee design. They're what some people call FUVs (F*** You Vehicles). Hummer. Like Nothing Else. That's certainly true, but all double-entendres aside, let's have a look at a makeshift brochure.

The Hummer H1

Retail Price: $139,771
Dealer Invoice: $131,335
Miles per Gallon: 16

The Hummer H2

Retail Price: $59,555
Dealer Invoice: $54,311
Miles per Gallon: 10

A Military Humvee

Disabled by an Improvised Explosive Device
This one might be armored, but I don't think they all are yet.

You know, I've voted Republican in a lot of national elections, but I think something has gone seriously, seriously askew in this country after having imbibed so heavily of Reaganist thought for so long.

Krugman's gem, in total:

On this Fourth of July, President Bush compared the Iraq war to the Revolutionary War, and called for “more patience, more courage and more sacrifice.” Unfortunately, it seems that nobody asked the obvious question:

“What sacrifices have you and your friends made, Mr. President?”

On second thought, there would be no point in asking that question. In Mr. Bush’s world, only the little people make sacrifices. You see, the Iraq war, although Mr. Bush insists that it’s part of a Global War on Terror, a fight to the death between good and evil, isn’t like America’s other great wars — wars in which the wealthy shared the financial burden through higher taxes and many members of the elite fought for their country.

This time around, Mr. Bush celebrated Mission Accomplished by cutting tax rates on dividends and capital gains, while handing out huge no-bid contracts to politically connected corporations. And in the four years since, as the insurgency Mr. Bush initially taunted with the cry of “Bring them on” has claimed the lives of thousands of Americans and left thousands more grievously wounded, the children of the elite — especially the Republican elite — have been conspicuously absent from the battlefield.

The Bushies, it seems, like starting fights, but they don’t believe in paying any of the cost of those fights or bearing any of the risks. Above all, they don’t believe that they or their friends should face any personal or professional penalties for trivial sins like distorting intelligence to get America into an unnecessary war, or totally botching that war’s execution.

The Web site Think Progress has a summary of what happened to the men behind the war after we didn’t find W.M.D., and weren’t welcomed as liberators: “The architects of war: Where are they now?” To read that summary is to be awed by the comprehensiveness and generosity of the neocon welfare system. Even Paul Wolfowitz, who managed the rare feat of messing up not one but two high-level jobs, has found refuge at the American Enterprise Institute.

Which brings us to the case of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr.

The hysteria of the neocons over the prospect that Mr. Libby might actually do time for committing perjury was a sight to behold. In an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal titled “Fallen Soldier,” Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University cited the soldier’s creed: “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” He went on to declare that “Scooter Libby was a soldier in your — our — war in Iraq.”

Ah, yes. Shuffling papers in an air-conditioned Washington office is exactly like putting your life on the line in Anbar or Baghdad. Spending 30 months in a minimum-security prison, with a comfortable think-tank job waiting at the other end, is exactly like having half your face or both your legs blown off by an I.E.D.

What lay behind the hysteria, of course, was the prospect that for the very first time one of the people who tricked America into war, then endangered national security yet again in the effort to cover their tracks, might pay some price. But Mr. Ajami needn’t have worried.

Back when the investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity began, Mr. Bush insisted that if anyone in his administration had violated the law, “that person will be taken care of.” Now we know what he meant. Mr. Bush hasn’t challenged the verdict in the Libby case, and other people convicted of similar offenses have spent substantial periods of time in prison. But Mr. Libby goes free.

Oh, and don’t fret about the fact that Mr. Libby still had to pay a fine. Does anyone doubt that his friends will find a way to pick up the tab?

Mr. Bush says that Mr. Libby’s punishment remains “harsh” because his reputation is “forever damaged.” Meanwhile, Mr. Bush employs, as a deputy national security adviser, none other than Elliott Abrams, who pleaded guilty to unlawfully withholding information from Congress in the Iran-contra affair. Mr. Abrams was one of six Iran-contra defendants pardoned by Mr. Bush’s father, who was himself a subject of the special prosecutor’s investigation of the scandal.

In other words, obstruction of justice when it gets too close to home is a family tradition. And being a loyal Bushie means never having to say you’re sorry.

In the same vein, please see AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service -- and How It Hurts Our Country, and articles by the author on a similar theme at


crystal said...


BTW, Arnold has a hummer :-)

Jeff said...

Yeah, you're right. Aahhnold has that Green Hydrogen Hummer

Anonymous said...


I call 'no fair' criticizing pardons without reviewing Clinton's.

I am not clear on why presidents should get to pardon anyone convicted during their tenure. Seems like there ought to be a waiting period. My understanding of pardon by the executive is supposed to be for a miscarriage of justice, like when that 17 year old had to go to jail for 10 years for getting oral sex from a 16 year old.

Jeff said...


Fine by me. I have no problem with that. They always seem to be politically or personally motivated.

The Constitution should be amended to do away with presidential pardons altogether unless they abrogate the death penalty, or unless they pass a confirmation by Congress.

Anonymous said...

While we're at it, we should make a few other amendments!

Liam said...

I don't understand the Hummer thing. If you have to have a large vehicle that gets horrible gas mileage, have some class and get yourself a '64 Caddy.

Jeff said...


I'm inclined to agree with you that a few more amendments are needed. :-)

Hi Liam,

A Caddy. Now you're talking.. or how about a Pontiac GTO? I used to work with a guy who had an unaltered '69 GTO. He did nothing to soup it up or change it. It got 6 miles to the gallon. He used to blow the doors off of everybody's customized cars up at the drag strip in Epping, NH every weekend.

My German neighbor has an H2. Somebody keyed the door after he'd had it for about a week. I took a look inside once and was surprised at how little room it had in it. My Honda Element has more efficient space.

Anonymous said...

I think the unpatriotic=ungreen thing is seeping into our collective unconcious, conservative or liberal. Crunchy cons are coming folks. I think your basically driving around with a giant middle finger sticking out of your hummer these days. I am sure that enthusie-assts will proudly stick by them, but only the most extreme.

3500+ of our best and bravest men and women have died in an oil war, and New York and the Pentagon were bombed over the Carter Doctrine, an oil policy founded by a liberal.

It's not about liberal or conservative anymore it is about our sovereignty. I don't think you'll find too many Hummer drivers in 5-10 years.

Jeff said...


C'mon. Don't put this war and 9/11 on Jimmy Carter. This nation's love affair for oil and Saudi security goes back a lot further than Jimmy Carter, and it's been bipartisan.

At least Carter established a strategic petroleum reserve and actually had an energy policy, unlike the Bush family, which has always been in bed with the Saudi royals and the Texas oil industry.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough. But it was clearly expressed and codified by Carter as the Carter Doctrine. The Wilson Quarterly, not at all a conservative magazine, called the teror wars 'World War IV' brought it all back to the Carter Doctrine.

I suppose it was really the gas lines back in the 70s. People are all green and peaceful until they have to wait in line a couple hours to get Gasoline...

I agree about Bush. I was happy to see him at least pay lip service to alternative energy though I expect we could get a lot more aggressive.

Jeff said...

Hi B,

Are you referring to Andrew Bacevich's World War IV article? I have a lot of respect for Bacevich, and it's very sad that he lost his son in Iraq. Nevertheless, I think it's a stretch for him to say that this all started with Carter. I have no doubt that Nixon and Kissinger, for example, would have gone to war if someone has seized the Saudi oilfields and denied them to us.

I think it's a series of huge leaps to go from Carter's creation of a Rapid Deployment Force, designed primarily to counter a Soviet threat to the Persian Gulf, to Bush Sr. actually putting bases in Saudi Arabia, to Bush Jr's doctrine of preventive war.

I don't know... Every president has his own "doctrine" he's responsible for. After the Viet Nam quagmire, it was very understandable that the "Nixon Doctrine" would make clear to Asian allies that they were responsible for their own security. Massive arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Iran followed, but it didn't work for Iran. When our relationship with Iran collapsed in a revolution, isn't it understandable that his successors would see his doctrine as a failed policy?

I'll take al Qaeda at their word... Their real problem was the presence of US troops in the Saudi Kingdom. I have a hard time imagining Jimmy Carter putting US bases there, or launching a preventive war.

cowboyangel said...


I'm slowly catching up with your posts. I saw the Krugman column. Good of you to note it. Nothing new, of course. People have always advocated war without wanting to make sacrifices involved in it.

From 2500 years ago:

"Sweet is war to those who know it not."
Pindar - Greek lyric poet (522 BC - 443 BC)

Joe said...

great post my friend. Your point on who's actually fighting and who's home safe is a good one and I suspect it has been forever thus. It saddens me to think that the majority of the population have historically been good enough to buy into and respond to "the cause" (with their lives and those of their sons & daughters.) And sorry for my skepticism, but I think that historically we (they've) been sold (at least partially) a bag of goods. Iraq is no different.

Jeff said...


That’s a good quote, echoed in another turn of phrase in a more recent century by a military man, Robert E. Lee:

“It is well that war is so terrible, or we should get too fond of it.”


How are you my friend? Please come by more often.

Yeah, once you live long enough to see the same types of things get repeated over and over, you begin to see the racket.

Looking forward to seeing you soon, brother.