Even so...I was far from pleased when a London friend sent me that John le Carre piece so that I could understand "what Europe is thinking." LeCarre starts by announcing "The United States has gone mad" and becomes more spiteful and condescending as he goes on. I have to say, my first reaction was "If this is what Europe thinks, they can piss up a rope."
So I stupidly got into an email debate with my friend, sending her a link to the Lileks response just as intemperate as LeCarre but containing a few more facts. And I got back a forwarded letter from Michael Moore citing the half-million dead Iraqi babies (Osama claimed it was a million) the US personally caused via embargo.
What struck me in all of this is how pundits on both sides are preaching to the converted. Each side has its own little prize factoids, and (since neither side is listening to the other) nobody on side A gets to hear that side B disputes those sacred factoids.
Wouldn't it be useful if side A would talk to side B in measured, rational terms, aimed at convincing side B that side A has useful information B should consider? Does it ever occur to side A that, much as its own partisans enjoy hearing side B denounced as idiotic liars, the only way to change anyone's mind is to speak in terms side B is willing to listen to?
Here are some of the lies that keep getting repeated as truths. This is not a complete list--god, I don't have that much time to waste--both sides are guilty in this!
- From the left: Half a million dead Iraqi babies (Osama claimed it was a million)
Long, detailed, and closely annotated, this March 2002 refutal contends that sanctions may be responsible for an excess mortality of 100,000 Iraqis of all ages in the ten or so years since the Gulf War. The author (Matt Welch) claims that similar refutals appeared in Slate, The Guardian, and even The Nation.
- From the anti-Israel left: 4,000 Jews stayed home from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
This story blaming Israel for 9/11 got wide circulation, and even made its way into a poem by New Jersey's poet laureate. It just ain't so. Not to mention that this claim doesn't fit very well with Bin Laden's proud claim of credit for the attacks....
- From the right: Iraqi soldiers dumped Kuwaiti infants from incubators during Gulf War I.
This fabricated lie, widely disseminated by PR agency Hill and Knowlton, was cited by both Bushes as evidence of Iraqi evil. Fact: not one hospital can corroborate this touching story, provided to the press by a single tearful girl, whose anonymity hid the fact that she had no Kuwaiti hospital experience, but was in fact the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US.
- All too true: That recent Onion article "Bush on North Korea: 'We must invade Iraq' "