Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

Sunday, April 04, 2004
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What Kos Said


Okay, I've been avoiding the story that's taking blogland by storm: Kos' intemperate, impolitic, inane "screw them" comment about the desecrated mercs in Fallujah1. Why? Because as I told somebody offline, I think the whole thing is a tempest in a teacup. But this thing is blowing up in the wingersphere, and I might as well weigh in at this point.

Kos had an emotional reaction to the news that 4 American "contractors" were killed and mutilated. Having lived in a nation that was torn asunder by war - in which American mercenaries reportedly were involved - his worldview is different than mine. Just as some Israelis might only see Palestinians as terrorists (or vice versa), Kos clearly has strong feelings about these private security/quasi-military folks working in Iraq2. He has dehumanized them to some extent.

His anger took over and he uttered his now infamous "screw them" line, saying he had no sympathy for these "soldiers of fortune". Certainly not sentiments I share, but understandable all the same. I saw what Kos wrote and dismissed it as a stupid rant not unlike what I'd seen from wingers about the UN bombing and other atrocities.

Unsurprisingly many folks on the Right, notably Instahack and LGF (rabid idiots to whom I refuse to link), began a campaign to villify Kos for his remarks. Somehow what he said is shown as proof that he - and by extension it would appear, the Left - hates America, wants us to fail in Iraq, and is in league with terrorists. Yeah, I'm painting with a broad brush, but if they can do it, why can't I?

If I'd said "screw them", it would've amounted to nothing. I'm a peon in the blogosphere (a "blogon"?), and while I might have gotten a few trolls who would bemoan my words, this thing would have gone nowhere. But we're talking about Kos, who has become a pretty big name in the blog world, and in real life to a certain extent. He gets to go to Unity Dinners and hang with John Kerry in the bathroom, raises a lot of money for the Dems, does political consulting, was getting air time on Air America (the new liberal talk radio network), etc.

In other words Kos was no longer just a blogger, but a player, however small, in the political arena. As Howard Dean learned, being passionate and shooting from the hip is a double-edged sword. That sort of energy and honesty is something people admire up to a point: once you start stepping on people's toes or offending their sensibilities, then you lose. Kos made a gross political blunder and is now paying a political price. He's losing advertisements from Dem candidates and the Kerry blog has de-linked him.

Kos probably could've mitigated this online lynching if he'd gracefully apologized. He did later explain where he was coming from, but he didn't acknowledge how his remarks could be hurtful or offensive. Figuratively, he had a "bring it on" attitude, which he literally put into words in a follow up post. Standing by your statements and principles is admirable, but not when it involves stupid throwaway comments. How about doing that with something meaningful like the dreadful policies that led to these Americans being in Iraq in the first place, or how we're going to effectively apply small wars tactics and doctrine3 in Fallujah, or something else constructive?

Regardless, it's not fair that Kos is being pilloried for what he said; there's a bit of hypocrisy on the Right surrounding all of this. I fully support his right to say what he wants on his blog or elsewhere, and think that the wingersphere needs to focus on truly important things instead of a silly blog post. However, you play with fire and you might get burned. Politics ain't fair, and Kos needs to realize he has a target on his back as one of the big guys, and he can't give the other side ammunition that they can use to damage his credibility, or our cause.

ntodd

1 - I can't link to the original screed because dKos seems to be down. If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, you can piece things together at The Commissar's. A reasonable rightwing response to the brouhaha, presented here to be fair and balanced.

2 - I'll note that King George's use of mercenaries was one of the grievances listed in our Declaration of Independence: He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

3 - The USMC's Small Wars manual has a lot of insight. For example, it notes "we will have to focus with greater resolution on such factors as cultural, ethnic, religious, societal, and economic microclimates that comprise the nation, region, or organization." I posit that we've failed to do so effectively, and that might've been a good place for Kos to focus: how did we create conditions in which the Sunnis felt it necessary to desecrate American bodies? Or something.

[Update: this whole silly affair has led Atrios to change some policies on his blog. And Jeralyn at Talk Left isn't very happy with liberal bloggers being critical of Kos. And here I was just last night telling The Commissar that I thought we liberals had more nuanced, non-binary worldviews. I stand corrected.] 
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