Friday, August 14, 2009

Foot in mouth disease knows no party or ideological identifier

Michael Scheuer had a 22-year-long career with the CIA, wherein his main assignment for about eight of those years was tracking Osama bin Laden. He is a hardline conservative with many controversial views, but also a man who has proven he loves his country several times over.

On the Glenn Beck show several weeks back, speaking about his frustrations at current American policy on Islamic terrorism, Michael Scheuer made what was arguably the stupidest public statement of his life:

“The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States.”

Dr. Thomas Schelling is a Nobel Laureate economist and foreign policy expert and a leading advocate that the United States needs to commit to dealing seriously with global warming. He is a scholar and thinker the depths of which Paul Krugman dreams of emulating.

Last month, The Atlantic interviewed Dr. Schelling, and among many erudite and insightful statements he said this about his frustrations at current American inaction on climate change:

I sometimes wish that we could have, over the next five or ten years, a lot of horrid things happening -- you know, like tornadoes in the Midwest and so forth -- that would get people very concerned about climate change. But I don't think that's going to happen.

This is what one of our local bloggers wrote about Michael Scheuer's statement:

First, if you agree with this statement, nodding your head thinking another attack that kills untold millions this time instead of only 3,000 eight years ago will surely make Americans scared enough to embrace the neocon way again, then you hate America. Rooting for millions of Americans to die to prove a political point is precisely the definition of hating America.

Nor could the Heritage Foundation wait to jump on Dr Schelling:

And what better way is there to get people excited about global warming than to hope they perish in Katrina-like natural disasters?

It should not require a grammarian to point out the parallel logic of Mr. Scheuer's and Dr. Schelling's statements.

Both are expressing their frustration with government inaction.

Both throw up their hands and say, Something truly terrible is going to have to happen to us before we get it.

Both maladroitly place themselves in the position of wishing that we could have ... a lot of horrid things happening in order to make a point.

I do not believe that either man wishes a nuclear explosion or a series of tornadoes and hurricanes to kill their fellow citizens.

But we have reached the point--both in American in general and in Delaware in specific--where gotcha politics and the need to stir up your base have become more important than the requirement to allow your political opponents to make a mistake.


Michael F. Scheuer said...


If you saw the whole interview on Beck -- not just the Jon Stewart snippet -- you would have seen that we were discussing the failure of either party to do their main job of protecting America. The essence of my comment was that it was absurd for Americans to find themselves in a position where it would take a bomb detonated by bin Laden to wake up all Americans to the fact that their leaders in both parties were failing at their most important task. I still believe that this is a point worth making and thinking about, but Stewart and Olberman have made that pretty hard with the pro-government use they made of a 20-second clip.


M.F. Scheuer
Falls Church, VA

Tony Wicher said...

Mr. Scheuer,

I have followed your career with great interest since I first saw you on Hardball in 2004, shortly before the publication of "Imperial Hubris." I loved that book - it is very well written in the style of Rudyard Kipling. I was really taken by the romantic picture of bin Laden that you paint in it. It is such a refreshing change from the standard picture of the demonic, evil terrorist painted by the mass media. I must say that you almost sounded in that book as though you thought his cause was just. You said that bin Laden doesn't "hate us for our freedom"(Bush), but rather for our foreign policy, which is to control Muslim lands for their oil resources and also to defend Israel, which Muslims with some justice consider an occupied country hijacked from its native Muslim inhabitants. I thought that the logical conclusion was that the U.S. should stop trying to control the Middle East, stop defending the Israeli occupation, and bring its forces home as the British did after World War II. In other words, we should stop behaving like an empire and go back to being a democracy. This would seem to solve the problem of terrorism without killing anybody, and it would save a hell of a lot of money, too. That is what I advocate, being as I am a man of peace. Apparently, however, you are not. What you continually advocate is a willingness to get one's hands bloody. Why, what's the point? We sort of had it coming for our "imperial hubris," didn't we? Why don't we just learn our lesson and be humbled, instead of trying to kill our teacher?

On the Glen Beck show, you were indeed asserting the failure of both parties to do their job of defending Americans. If that is true, why do you think this is? You have indicated that it is because the political leaders of both parties are more concerned about public opinion, or maybe what European countries think, than doing what is necessary to protect the country. Really? You think Dick Cheney, forsooth, is sensitive to public opinion, or that he cares what European countries think? It doesn't wash with me. May I suggest another possibility? Maybe you were not allowed to get bin Laden back in the late 90's, not because politicians were afraid of public opinion, but because he was being protected by some elements in our own government. Is it not a fact that the Bush family has long had a relationship both with the bin Laden family and with Saudi intelligence? Is it not possible that bin Laden has always been their agent? Not an agent of the CIA, but an agent of the Bush family and its various concerns. Could it be that they have been the ones protecting bin Laden? Could this explain the government's apparent lack of interest in catching and killing him?

Tony Wicher
Ontario, CA