Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Those Who Study History Are Able to Repeat It

I was reading through a book about Ancient Greece this last week and came across something that boggled my mind. It made me wonder if the Democrats in Congress are better student's of history than I originally thought. Either way I couldn't help but feel that history was repeating itself 2500 years later.From 431 to 404 BC the Greek poli of Sparta and Athens were fighting a constant war with each other. Pericles was elected general (strategos), the "commander-in-chief," by the Athenian Assembly, and entrusted with the protection of Athens and the defeat of Sparta. When it became clear one year after voting to go to war that Sparta was proving to be a more worthy enemy than originally thought, the Assembly accused Pericles of being careless and incompetent, removing his title of strategos and threatening to imprison him.

In this speech before the Athenian Assembly in 430 BC, Pericles defended his honor and reminded them that they were every bit as responsible for the war as he was:

"I have summoned this special Assembly to remind you of certain facts, and to protest against some of your errors.

You, in your private affairs, are angry with me that I persuaded you to declare war. Therefore you are angry also with yourselves, that you voted with me. You took me to be what I think I am, superior to most in foresight, in oratorical ability--for if a man cannot explain himself clearly, he might as well have no foresight--in patriotism, and in personal honesty. But if you voted with me because you took me to be like this, you cannot fairly charge me with doing you any injury. I have not changed: it is you who have changed! A calamity has befallen you, and you cannot persevere in the policy you chose when all was well: it is the weakness of your resolution that makes my advise seem to have been wrong. It is the unexpected that most breaks a man's spirit.

You have a great city, and a great reputation; you must be worthy of them. Half the world is yours--the sea. Attica [the region surrounding Athens proper] you must think of as only a small garden, surrounding a mansion. If you shrink from the labors of sovereignty, do not claim any of its honors: and do not think that you can safely lay down an empire which is in fact a tyranny. For you, the alternative to empire is slavery. [The term "tyranny" did not mean the same thing as it does today. It referred to a government that ruled absolutely.]

The blows of the enemy we must bear with courage; those of the gods, with resignation. You must not blame me for misfortunes which are beyond calculation, unless you are going also to give me the credit for successes which were also uncalculated."

Athens lost the war with Sparta, and most scholars agree that it was more for loss of will than men or money. Perhaps the current Democrats in office understand this better than anyone.

I imagine that President Bush must feel a lot like Pericles did. After 9-11 Congress was so willing to stand beside him in the face of terror. Now, six years later, with the enemy still strongly opposing us, that same Congress has turned its back on our President and our military. They blame him for the choice that they themselves supported when spirits were high, yet turned away from when the chips were down. It's pathetic.

It's interesting how history has a way of repeating itself. Let's hope we too don't end up like Athens in the end.


Nic said...

I think it would be a more appropriate comparison if Pericles then attack a country that had nothing to do with the original matter at hand.

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...

Huh... interesting, nic. So the House and Senate didn't vote to authorize our President to launch the invasion and occupation of Iraq?


Oh, that's right. They did.

The Red Knight (aka, Dr. Know) said...

Nic, whether or not we went to Iraq for legitimate reasons was not the focus or purpose of this article. The fact is, we have a Congress that voted to go to war that has now, when the going is rough, attempted to distance themselves from something they are every bit as responsible for as President Bush. If they didn't want us there, they should have just voted NO.

This type of behavior is dangerous. It displays a lack of responsibility, control, leadership, and steadfastness. It is exactly what America does NOT need in this kind of world.

Truth said...

Of course had Congress had accurate information as to the true nature of the threat in Iraq (or lack thereof as was later found) perhaps a number of people's votes would have been different. As it was however, President Bush, deliberatly or not, presented both Congress and the American people with faulty intelligence in which he said that we had found a "smoking gun", and that the intelligence we had that Saddam Hussein both had WMDs, was likely to provide those WMDs to terrorists, and was linked to September 11th was a "slam dunk" (using his quote of George Tenet). The thing is, WMDs were not found, no link has been established between Saddam and Al Qaeda (in fact most people realize the two hated each other as they were fundamentally different, for example Saddam's secular government vs. Al Qaeda's goal of establishing strict Islamic governments throughout the Middle East).

Just saying, a lot has come out since that 2002 vote, and a number of new people are in office now.

Michael said...

Where to you get this crap Truth? Never, not once, did anyone in the Bush Administration link Saddam Hussein to 9/11. The "Slam Dunk" did issue from George Tenet's mouth, but it's worth noting that he was a Clinton appointee. And, he was not talking about a Saddam/9-11 link. He was saying that it was a slam dunk that Saddam Hussein had a clandestine WMD program.

Incidentally, the New York Times last year actually published a story saying that Saddam's WMD program was "mothballed" and that if sanctions were removed, he was only about a year away from having the bomb.

The only president to directly link Saddam Hussein with Al Qaida was (tah dah), Bill Clinton. In 1998 Clinton justified his attack on a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant by insisting that it was chemical weapons factory operated jointly by Iraq and Al Qaida.

Here's how ABC News reported it:

"Before the pharmaceutical plant was reduced to rubble by American cruise missiles, the CIA was secretly gathering evidence that ended up putting the facility on America's target list. Intelligence sources say their agents clandestinely gathered soil samples outside the plant and found, quote, "strong evidence" of a chemical compound called EMPTA, a compound that has only one known purpose, to make VX nerve gas.

The U.S. had been suspicious for months, partly because of Osama bin Laden's financial ties, but also because of strong connections to Iraq. Sources say the U.S. had intercepted phone calls from the plant to a man in Iraq who runs that country's chemical weapons program."

It was her reading of her husband's own intelligence that led Hillary Clinton to initially support the war, not any deception on the part of Kark Rove or Dick Cheney.

Truth said...

First off, Tenet was a Clinton appointee whom George Bush kept on staff, making Tenet almost equally a Bush appointee.

As to the 9/11 link, you are correct, they never directly linked Saddam with September 11th, my mistake. However they did everything short of that, including saying there was a connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda

For example

The terrorists have lost a sponsor in Iraq. And no terrorist networks will ever gain weapons of mass destruction from Saddam Hussein's regime.

President Bush in his speech to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, September, 2003.

There's no question that Saddam Hussein had al-Qaida ties."

- President Bush

we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11

- Dick Cheney talking about Iraq

...and the list goes on, so while they never outright said "Saddam planned September 11th" they did everything else. They did however say that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction

Again for example:

FOX News Sunday Interview with Tony Snow
September 8, 2002

"There is no doubt that he has chemical weapons stocks… With respect to biological weapons, we are confident that he has some stocks of those weapons and he is probably continuing to try to develop more…

President Bush
Radio Address to the Nation
February 8, 2003

"The Iraqi regime has actively and secretly attempted to obtain equipment needed to produce chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Again with the so on. The point I'm trying to make here is that many of the members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, have come out and said they would not have voted for the war if they were provided with all of the information that President Bush had at that time, much less the information they posses now. As such calls come from both parties, and from people across the country I'd say it doesnt do the complexity of the situation justice to just say that they should have voted no.

Michael said...

Here's a link to an ABC piece linking Saddam Hussein to Bin Laden.


Undoubtedly, the intelligence agencies that ABC cites included Clinton's CIA, which had an interest in disseminating the story that Bin Laden and Saddam were linked. George Tenet's career and legacy would have required him to provide consistent intelligence to Clinton's successor. So, if you want to blame somebody for cooking the books, blame George Tenet. And if any president ordered Tenet to cook the books, it would have had to be Bill Clinton.

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...

Heh... I always get a laugh out of that lame line: "If I knew then what I know now..."

No kidding. If I knew ten years ago what I know now, I'd be retired. Guess I had better quit working anyway, even though I'm not there yet, eh? It seems to make sense in Congress.

But that would ignore the now, of course, and the now includes the necessity that I continue to work because I haven't hit a sufficient passive income to retire just yet (but I'm getting closer every day, and it's happening faster and faster). Sort of like how we haven't yet created a new Iraq that can defend itself and not turn into a failed state, the ideal sort of environment for al qaeda to base themselves, rebuild, and launch more attacks here at home.

The job's not done. That's all there is to it.

April E. Coggins said...

Paul: I'm not sure I would do differently if I knew then what I know now. I have no way of knowing whether we are better or worse.

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...

April -

In my case, it just involves saving and investing. The way I go about it, had I known the techniques I have now, I know I'd be way better off.

At least I know now. :)

April E. Coggins said...

Paul: Me too. Had I known there would be so much money in pink t-shirts and tin-foil hats, I would have made a million. Oh well.

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...

April: I just wish I had come up with that carbon offset crap before the Goracle did. Talk about money for nothing!

I guess I'll just settle for FOREX as a close second.

April E. Coggins said...

Paul: It's not too late! Just sacrifice your integrity and bilk your fellow man to enjoy the riches. If you can get in with government regulation, more riches! It's a market ready to be tapped.

Truth said...

Michael, logically for a second, what motive would Tenet have for lying to President Bush about Iraq that has to do with Clinton? Do you think Clinton pulled Tenet aside before he left office and told him "George, I want you to supply the new president with faulty information"? A more likely (and in many cases documented as in State of War by James Risen) scenario is that the intelligence community was under a good deal of pressure to produce intelligence to back up what Bush and his administration were telling Congress and the American public.

As for the ABC piece, I believe it ws mistaken, but in case you don't believe me here is Donald Rumsfeld:

Mr Rumsfeld was asked by a New York audience about connections between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.

"To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two," he said

So I guess at this point neither side is saying there was a link, which I would imagine is why you are using what appeared to be pre-Iraq invasion piece from ABC news, I believe since then they have run a number of stories which say the opposite.

To Paul, my point was not, and never has been, that we should immidietly withdraw from Iraq, as that would be as bad as what our approach prior to the surge was (and what I fear our approach after the surge will be), mainly lets stick our heads in the ground and ignore reality. Rather what I was trying to say was that I don't believe it does justice to the situation to attack the members of Congress (from both parties) who are now against the way yet which voted for it originally, and to back up that point I showed how faulty intelligence was presented (intentionally or not is a matter of debate) to Congress and the American people.

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...


I wasn't addressing you. If I was, I would have mentioned you directly. Put your ego in check, learn to tell the difference.

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...

April: "Just sacrifice your integrity and bilk your fellow man to enjoy the riches."

But I'm a capitalist, so I already do!

Oh, wait, I'm not a CES major... those aren't my lines.


April E. Coggins said...


The Red Knight (aka, Dr. Know) said...

Paul: Perhaps you should get a degree in Wal-Martology, then you'd be a pro at bilking your fellow man (if I could steal your line, April).

Haha...just kidding. I think this thread has gone beyond what I intended. As far as I'm concerned, whether or not we should have gone to Iraq is no longer the point. We are there now, whether we want to or not, plain and simple. What we decide to do now is how history will judge these events. I think that if we pull out now, and Iraq falls into a festering slum for terrorism, history will be very unkind to our generation.

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...

Dr. Know,

My thoughts are in the same place (the latter stuff, not the Walmartology degree, lol!). Looking at a map of the area, it also suggests some future value as a "hammer and anvil" formation over Iran, if we can hold Afghanistan and Iraq.

Truth said...

Paul, you didn't directly address anybody, but since I was the last person to mention to idea of "If I knew then what I know now..." then it is easily fair to say that I was justified in response. Indeed I believe most people would have responded how I did considering you were addressing an issue which I had raised within the context of the larger issue of Congress no longer supporting the war. If I were to get trully technical however I could say that I was not addressing you, and as a result you should learn to put your ego in check and learn to tell the difference, however I prefer not to do that as the free and full exchange of ideas is something I am a strong advocate for.

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...


No, doesn't work in reverse, sorry. Back to the elementary school playground with you.

The memory of the notion I mentioned may have been jogged by your post, but that doesn't mean you own the particular idea or whatever discussion results from it. I don't need to hear you attempt to correct me on some supposed point of yours that I don't even care about, particularly when my statements are directed at something other than your own claims (which you admit yourself, and which ought to clue you in to the fact that I wasn't talking to you), so if I tell you to shove it, then you need to go shove it.

I think you should try some anti-anxiety medication for these apparent control issues you have. You seem like a good candidate for it.

Truth said...

Paul, if you will note one of us has become extremely agitated by this while the other is rather amused, care to take a guess at which is which (I'll give you a hint, I just got done laughing).

If you weren't talking to me than so be it I suppose, however I'd wonder who else you were talking to since 1) the idea you were discussing was one I brought up and 2) your post was not directed towards a single person and by default then is talking to the entire room. Now if you had said "April....." or something to that effect it would have been different. As it is though, I believe most reasonable people would have done exactly what I did.

We can continue this if you want, its fairly pointless admittedly but its fun for me to continue to debate it.

Oh, and by the way, I like your random "no, it doesnt work and reverse" style comments. While totally and utterly useless I always find it amusing to see what unusual analogy you choose to use, keep it up!

Michael said...

I am sure that George Tenet believed what he told Bill Clinton and George Bush about Saddam's WMD's. Hillary certainly believed him. Whether the books were cooked at Clinton's direction to establish a link between Al Qaida and Saddam, we might never know.

But even if we choose to believe that George Tenet is so cynical that he would fabricate intelligence to cover Bill Clinton's ass, his own vested interests would prevent him from simply turning on a dime when a new president was elected. Tenet wanted to keep his job and that meant that he had to be credible. What would be left of Tenet's credibility if he confessed that he massaged intelligence to fit the sitting president's (Bill Clinton's) political agenda?

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...


You're a terrible armchair psychologist, truthy. If I was agitated, I wouldn't even be here. Hello! It's a blog! There's plenty of other things I could be doing, so if I wasn't getting some level of amusement out of your idiocy, I wouldn't even be here. When I'm irritated with something, I fix it. In the case of online stuff, relief is a power switch away. I see we need to set the bar lower for you.

On that note, yes, I am rather amused, so my guess is that I'm the one you're referring to. I've also seen plenty of people laugh when they're scared out of their minds. This must have been a little bit of confessional time for you.

"truthy": "Oh, and by the way, I like your random "no, it doesnt work and reverse" style comments. While totally and utterly useless I always find it amusing to see what unusual analogy you choose to use, keep it up!"

Oh, really? That was an analogy? To what, exactly? Why don't you lay it all out and show us if you even understand what I was driving at.

Keep trying, kiddo.

Truth said...

Pauly..or perhaps Zimmy, or better still perhaps Pauly Zimmy (see, I can add a "y" too)

I find it interesting that A) we're still debating this rather moot topic and B) that you failed to refute anything I brought up regarding my response to the post you made which you later said was not to me, yet was about the topic which I had raised and was discussing (assuming that's even what we're still debating here, its gotten rather convoluted admittedly).

Assuming we have moved on however Pauly Zimmy (I kinda like the name), then I would like to perhaps spell out clearer than I did in my previous post, I was the one who was amused. I figured you would be able to pick up on it, but hey, we all miss things I suppose (see, I can also deride people just for the sake of doing it without really making a point).

To Michael, back to the original point of this thread, I think what you are missing is that there are a number of people who had said the the intelligence community knew A) that any intelligence coming from Iraq was either out-dated or unreliable at best. Yet despite this Bush was taking what the intelligence community was saying, ignoring the "but this information is unsupported and very sketchy" and also ignoring the "Saddam has no WMDs" and presenting what it liked to the press, Congress, and American people. I would encourage you to read State of War by James Risen for more on this topic, although that by no means is the only book which has been written on the subject. I'm not saying the intelligence community/Tenet didn't make mistakes, of course they did, very large mistakes. But I am saying there have been a number of reports saying the Bush administration was not entirelly forthcoming and/or honest about the information it had.

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...


To recap:

1. I don't owe you a response, neither does anyone else.

2. You admitted yourself that, after I explained to you in no uncertain terms that I was not talking to you, that my post had nothing to do with the point you were making. Your own words:

"To Paul, my point was not, and never has been, that we should immidietly withdraw from Iraq, as that would be as bad as what our approach prior to the surge was (and what I fear our approach after the surge will be), mainly lets stick our heads in the ground and ignore reality."

Great. Fantastic! I still don't care.

Now try this little exercise: walk up to someone whom you have overhead speaking to a different group of people about something you were discussing separately and announce, "no, that wasn't what I was talking about." Through the awkward silence, continue to demand things from the speaker after he/she tells you, "Oh, wasn't speaking to you." Then go on to demand that this person refute what you said.

Your social skills are top notch, I tell ya. Your comprehension skills are not far behind.

Look, I'll bring this down to picture menu levels for you. You made statement A about your thoughts. That jogged my memory about phrase B, so I made a general comment about it and how it applies to the behavior of some in Congress. As I'm sure you're aware, what I mentioned does describe the behavior right now of many of our elected officials. You assumed that I was asserting B=A. I told you that was not the case and that I wasn't even addressing you. Normal people would have moved on at this point. You just won't shut up.

The Red Knight (aka, Dr. Know) said...

Paul, stop teasing the children. It's not nice.

Truth said...

Paul, the fact that you don't owe me a response as you put it doesn't mean you look any smarter when you can't come up with one. But perhaps you would like me to tell you the situation.

Myself and Micheal were having a discussion. I brought up a point about Congress not knowing what they know now. You inserted youreself into the conversation with the statement:
"Heh... I always get a laugh out of that lame line: 'If I knew then what I know now...'"

As that was your opening point, as you joined a conversation already in progress, and as your comment directly responded to the point which I had raised I believe then that I should redefine the situation for you...just so that you can understand it

Nic made a comment about Pericles, you made a comment about Congress authorizing the war (that was the last comment you made until the one in dispute), Red Knight made a comment that Congress should have voted no originally, I made a comment that perhaps they would have had they been given accurate information, Michael and I then began discussing whether or not Congress was mislead (you still were quiet after your first post).

Then, you jump back into the conversation, and as you mentioned no names in your post than you would have been addressing the whole group, and as your comment related to what Michael and I had been talking about I responded.

What you are claiming is that your statement, made about a point I had raised, and with the obvious implied intention of debating what I had been saying, was not directed towards me due to some fanciful idea in your head. To make it even simpler for you, it would be like staring at one person and responding to what they had just said, and then when they responded telling them "I wasn't talking to you".

With all of that said however, I will be the bigger person and say that if you just like making blanket statements during conversations and were truly just talking to the ceiling than I'm sorry for assuming it was supposed to be to me. Perhaps in the future you could say something like "to my good friend the ceiling" or maybe "to my pet rock whom I love so much", just so I know you don't intend for your otherwise unaddressed comment to actually be part of the conversation.

Michael said...

To Truthy,
Yawn. You're going to give tedium a bad reputation.