If you’re in the mood for a ridiculous bogeyman of an argument, look no farther than the “My Word” segment of The Big Story With John Gibson, where the Fox News host delivered a rigorously constructed rebuke of supposedly spineless Americans the other day.
“If America is officially off Iraq — that is, if we Americans have really decided we’ve had enough and we want out, and the only thing left is for Jim Baker to figure how to construct an artful exit — then I guess the doctrine of pre-emption is dead, too,” Gibson began, then helpfully explained that doctrine thusly: “It said if American leaders decide that so and so is a threat to us, then we’re going to go after him, or her, or it, first. That is, we will strike before that other person or country can strike us.”
“Whatever else one might say about Saddam or WMD or Iraq’s involvement or non-involvement with terrorists, the doctrine of pre-emption was at the bottom of the Iraq war,” Gibson continued, making sure to cover the bases.
Next he played the 9/11 card, as his argument wandered into a thicket of false equivalence. As footage rolled of New Yorkers fleeing lower Manhattan, Gibson said, “I assume that means we Americans have decided that we will take the first hit before we strike back. We will take the first attack; we will take the first few thousand deaths; we will take the first destruction of a major city before we decide to go after whoever it may be over the horizon who’s been plotting against us.”
“OK,” Gibson said, his voice getting smarmier. “Then somebody please step up and volunteer to take the first hit and let me off the hook.” Saying that he really didn’t like “sitting around and waiting to be hit in New York” the first time around, Gibson reissued his challenge: “So somebody else in this great land step up and volunteer your city to be the first to be hit by terrorists or terrorist-sponsoring nations. If you are so against elective war, volunteer to forego pre-emption and take the hit.”
Because, clearly, those are the only two choices: an astronomically expensive, destabilizing, pre-emptive war in Iraq or some other country that never attacked us, or calamity at home. No middle ground. No other possibilities.
“My bet is nobody volunteers,” Gibson added. “I wonder if people have just decided they so dislike pre-emption they are willing to take a hit on an American city first — as long as it’s a city where they don’t live and where their relatives don’t live.”
Who are these “people”? Who are these defeatists, these fatalists? Gibson, of course, did not say.
But maybe what Americans have decided they don’t like is a war, launched on false pretenses, that has cost the lives of 2,883 members of the U.S. military, wounded 21,921, and killed untold Iraqi civilians, all for a price of more than $350 billion and counting.
Nobody “volunteered” for all that.