Today's Blogs

Iraq Flak

Bloggers are marking the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war and dueling over gun rights.

Iraq flak: Today marks the fifth anniversary of the U.S.’s engagement in Iraq. While President Bush defended the decision to go to war, bloggers took the opportunity to asses the merits (and, largely, the failures) of Operation Iraqi Freedom—and the president’s role.

Former hawk Andrew Sullivan notes with cynicism that Iraq is “all so old news” and goes on to explain, “One of the more appalling aspects of the president’s current cheery, goofy demeanor is that he has clearly sealed off from any psychological absorption that he is and will always be the president who authorized and enforced a new torture regime.” Liberal Matthew Yglesias spreads the blame around: “I often wonder what public opinion might have looked like had the war met with more vigorous opposition. Certainly to me the fact that Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, etc. were supporting the war was an important consideration. If Bush was lying about the intelligence, I figured that those people, who had access to classified data, would be exposing the lies not going along with them. Obviously that doesn’t look like very smart reasoning in retrospect, but I can’t have been the only one who was swayed, in part, by the very fact of bipartisan support for the war.”

On Tapped, Dana Goldstein evaluates the impact of war protests, arguing that they are worthwhile even when they fail to affect policy, for “it is powerful that hundreds of city councils nationwide have passed resolutions against the Iraq war. If nothing else, those local statements provide a counter-narrative to the pro-war-at-all-costs stance taken by the administration, and let people around the world see the diversity of American opinion.”

There’s a different tune at the Weekly Standard’s blog, where John Noonan notes happily, “It’s intensely satisfying to hear that Iraq has become an unrelenting hellhole. … for insurgents,” citing evidence that the U.S. situation on the ground has dramatically improved there. His colleague Stephen Hayes revisits the arguments of 2003, insisting that the Bush administration never actually claimed there was an “operational relationship” between al-Qaida and Iraq, and that, besides, “A relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda need not have been ‘operational’ to have warranted military action to eliminate it.” Military blogger BlackFive adds that Americans need to begin looking at Iraq as an ally, rather than enemy, in the years ahead. He says, “The proper context is our relationships with Germany and Japan post WWII. We fought a vicious, bloody war against both and even made the only use of nuclear weapons in history against Japan. Yet today we have troops in both countries and they have been allies ever since.” However, he admits, “The situation in Iraq is more difficult because the Iraqi Army and state were never actually defeated in combat.”

Iraqi blogger neurotic Iraqi wife writes that March 2003 was apocryphal for Iraqis and that “[j]ust like 9/11, everyone knows where they were at that particular moment.” She goes on to say, “Its one thing to want freedom for Iraqis, its another thing to want people to die in the name of the so called freedom. Saddam was evil, But I never imagined that there were people as evil as he was. I guess I was wrong!” At Last of the Iraqis, Baghdad dentist Mohammed offers a riveting account of what the past five years have been like for Iraqis. He expresses anger at the United States and those who looted, and he pauses to remember the day the shrines in Samarra were bombed: “From that day on the sectarian violence escalated in a frightening way it was like cancer taking over Iraq’s body, harvesting innocent souls, feeding from fear and hatred, making life even more difficult, leaving more than 1,400 widow women without a supporter, forcing millions to leave their houses and their neighborhoods and forcing more millions to flee the country and tolerating the humiliation they get in the countries they escaped to just to be alive.”

Read more about the fifth anniversary of the war and see what former hawks are saying now on Slate.

Duel arguments: The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Heller v. District of Columbia and appeared poised to end Washington, D.C.’s ban on handguns. Such a decision in the case, the first of its kind to be heard since 1939, bolsters the rights of individual gun owners and is a de facto affirmation of an “originalist” interpretation of the Constitution.

Jack Balkin at Balkinization, a self-professed “bleeding-heart liberal,” writes that “the question of whether the 2nd Amendment protects an individual right, including a right to self defense, is not that difficult, at least to me. The framers of the 14th amendment assumed that it was one of the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States. And if a right is a privilege or immunity of citizens of the United States, it hard for me to conclude that it does not bind the United States as well as the individual states.”

Meanwhile, at Concurring Opinions, Bruce Boyden says historical context ought to have played a larger role in Heller and contends that Lexington and Concord (and their the Revolutionary War militias) ought to have been the “paradigmatic case” of reference. Had the District’s lawyers and historians followed this tack, they “could have made it into a strong point that the Second Amendment is all about militia protection, not urban crime prevention. But they didn’t, so Heller has really the only word on the subject.”

At the Volokh Conspiracy, Randy Barnett warns that even a favorable decision might not end up being entirely a boon for gun-rights advocates in the long run: “[It] could also allow legislators to shift responsibility for assessing constitutionality to the courts. And supporters of the gun rights groups that have so effectively protected the right to arms might become apathetic thinking the courts would protect them.”

Read more on Heller v. District of Columbia here or at Slate’s new legal blog, Convictions. Also in Slate, Dahlia Lithwick reports from oral arguments.