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The Unbelievable Charlie Norwood (Corrected)

Let me be clear: Those who say this is a war of choice are nothing more than wrong. This is a war of necessity. ~Rep. John Boehner

In a move that required the courage of a churchmouse, the House passed, by a substantial majority, a nonbinding resolution that rejects withdrawal from Iraq. Withdrawal (or refusing to rule out withdrawal) won 153 votes, almost all Democrats. If the Congressional GOP wishes to identify itself with a failed Iraq policy and a bankrupt foreign policy five months before the elections, they are only too welcome to do so.

Reps. Paul, Duncan and Leach deserve praise for once again bucking the trend in their party of toadying conformity and voting against the resolution. House Majority Leader Boehner shows that he deserves to lead the morally and politically bankrupt GOP majority by embracing its most indefensible and dreadful policy with absolute conviction and the willful blindness that has characterised its most adamant defenders since the beginning.

Correction: Originally, I hastily attributed the following quote of Rep. Norwood to Rep. Boehner. I appreciate having the error pointed out to me, and I apologise for the mistake.

Most news reports neglected to include Georgia Rep. Charlie Norwood's inflammatory and offensive comment (which I saw in this morning's WSJ print edition), when he said:

It's time to stand up and vote. Is it al Qaeda or is it America?

Presumably Mr. Norwood thinks that voting for his position on Iraq puts you in league with America rather than al Qaeda (some choice!). If Mr. Norwood really wants to cast the divide over Iraq policy that starkly, he had better be ready for the response, and he may find that he is actually on the wrong side of that rhetorical question.

The reality is that those who have voted support for an extended presence in Iraq have affirmed that they wish to see al Qaeda and groups like it flourish by providing them with an invaluable asset: the continued occupation of an Islamic country and a reprise of the jihadis' experience of Afghanistan in the 1980s that gave birth to al Qaeda in the first place. Of the two options in Mr. Norwood's dreadful question, Mr. Norwood and company have chosen to vote for al Qaeda.

"Outrageous!" the warmongers will yell. "How dare you accuse us of such a thing?" they will cry. I say so because those who continue to vote money and voice support for an unconstitutional, illegal and immoral war, in contravention of their duty to the Constitution and to their constituents, have done more for improving al Qaeda's strength than practically anyone else. If there were really only two options, as Mr. Norwood believes, then those who wish to deprive al Qaeda of the invaluable asset that they have in the Iraq war have voted for America.

Not only does the Iraq war provide a field of operations and propaganda fodder for al Qaeda, both of which are oxygen for it and likeminded groups, but it stands to reason that just as the Afghan jihad made bin Laden into the terrorist leader that he is and created al Qaeda the Iraqi jihad will create its own jihadist offspring whom Mr. Norwood and his fellow war supporters foolishly nurture with every new appropriation of money and commitment to "stay the course." Would Mr. Norwood vote for a resolution expressing American dedication to creating the next generation's bin Laden? Not in so many words, of course, but that is what he has done. Put less polemically, persisting in the folly of the Iraq war is a short-term waste of resources needed for real security threats and a long-term foreign policy disaster. Those who wish to "vote for America" will liquidate this pointless, wasteful and indefensible war with all due haste.

The GOP likes to pose (and I do mean pose) as the party of national strength and security, so why does it routinely endorse a war that daily weakens and strains our armed forces, distracts us from real threats elsewhere in the world and gradually diminishes public resolve for the broader fight against al Qaeda? Why is the party that pretends to place high priority on national security so committed to a war that steadily wears down our ability to fight our real enemies? Why won't the GOP vote for America, Mr. Norwood?

Daniel Larison | June 16, 2006


That's why I nominated Jimmy Duncan as a Reactionary Radical. As if it wasn't good enough having him as my representative, I get even more joy knowing that he also represents Glenn Reynolds.

clarkstooksbury | 06/16/06 22:31

Since it appears that the last quote was made by Charlie Norwood, not Boehner -- and since the context of that quote reveals that he was portraying those on the other side of this issue as defeatists and not as "in league" with al Qaeda -- perhaps this post would be better titled, "The Unbelievable Daniel Larison."

Bubba | 06/20/06 13:30

I have looked at the article again, and I stand corrected. I was mistaken when I attributed that quote to Mr. Boehner. It was Charlie Norwood who asked this offensive, ridiculous question. The implication of the quote is clearly that anyone who does not vote for the resolution is both a defeatist and is effectively also voting for al Qaeda. But I will make the appropriate changes to the attribution and the title. The rest of my point stands as it is.

Daniel Larison | 06/20/06 18:29

I'm glad to see you correct the blog entry. However, if you insist that Norwood's question is offensive and ridiculous, I wonder how you would describe your own assertion:

"The reality is that those who have voted support for an extended presence in Iraq have affirmed that they wish to see al Qaeda and groups like it flourish by providing them with an invaluable asset: the continued occupation of an Islamic country and a reprise of the jihadis' experience of Afghanistan in the 1980s that gave birth to al Qaeda in the first place." [emphasis mine]

If, other than the attribution of that quote, the entire blog entry stands, how is it that Norwood's question is offensive and ridiculous?

Bubba | 06/20/06 18:48

Norwood's question is offensive and ridiculous because he has taken the initiative to make a policy argument a loyalty test--as I understand his statement, if you vote against the resolution, you are effectively voting for al Qaeda. If he and his colleagues want to take the debate there and make the resolution a test of commitment to fighting al Qaeda, I intended to make an argument that it was far from obvious which side of the resolution was actually working in the interests of the United States.

War supporters such as Mr. Norwood love to dish out vague charges of disloyalty and defeatism, but they don't like it at all when they are on the receiving end of the same kind of charges. I wanted to show that the charge of weakening America and strengthening al Qaeda could be used against Mr. Norwood and his colleagues just as easily as he seems to be using it against opponents of the resolution.

Arguably, we should not frame the debate in these extreme terms, but Mr. Norwood has done so and I wanted to challenge the assumption that perpetuating the war in Iraq somehow harms al Qaeda and helps America. I turned around the exact same rhetoric on his side. Perhaps I phrased some things badly in the attempt, but I will stand by my original post, minus the obvious errors of fact.

The Iraq war has strengthened al Qaeda. That seems to me to be something that is difficult to dispute. I take from this that efforts to perpetuate the war are likely, like continued Soviet occupation, to continue to strengthen al Qaeda and groups like it. Assuming these things, I conclude that those who want to perpetuate the war are supporting a policy that will help al Qaeda and groups like it to flourish. Perhaps I should have been more careful when I said, "they wish to see," as this is speculative and admittedly over the top. Presumably, many of the representatives who voted for this do not actually wish to see al Qaeda and groups like it flourish. They just vote as if that were the case. That was what I wanted to drive home--continued support for the Iraq war ultimately strengthens al Qaeda. Given that this is at least a plausible counterargument, I should think members of the majority would take more care not to make this a stark divide between those voting for al Qaeda (the defeatists) and those voting for America.

Daniel Larison | 06/20/06 19:09

To avoid redundancy, I commented to your comments here and at Rod's blog in one place. It may suffice to say that I think your counterargument is not as plausible as you think, and the assumptions on which it is based are not as indisputable as you think.

Bubba | 06/21/06 07:49

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