Home / Politics / Sunday night owls. A reprise from Steve Gilliard in the early days of the U.S. invasion of Iraq

Sunday night owls. A reprise from Steve Gilliard in the early days of the U.S. invasion of Iraq

Shock and awe in Baghdad, March 20, 2003

“Shock and awe” in Baghdad March 20, 2003, the beginning of a U.S. war of choice that eventually meant the premature deaths of tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people, including 4,568 Americans in uniform.

Steve Gilliard was one of the original “front pagers” at Daily Kos, chosen by Markos along with two other individuals, to write regularly in the days when the “Front Page” was all there was at the site. 

Steve was an iconoclast who didn’t put up with bullshit whether it came from his workmates or the White House. He was a terse, direct, superfast writer. And he wrote about everything: financial, politics, sports and fabulous pieces about food. After a stint at Daily Kos, he started his own blog, where he published until he died of heart and kidney problems on June 2, 2007. He was 42. Markos wrote a eulogy to him here.

He wrote this piece, Culture of Fear 16 years ago on April 14, 2003. We haven’t forgotten you, Steve.  ~~Meteor Blades

The fear created by 9/11 has already cost the lives of several Iraqi women and children. The car bomber has managed to turn the US troops deeply suspicious of the Iraqis, who were actually grateful Saddam has been set running.

Steve Gilliard
Steve Gilliard 

Having lived through 9/11, and believe me, there is nothing like seeing an F-15 fly over Central Park at 3,000 feet armed, I’m mystified at the sense of fear which has gripped this country. The whole freedom fries debacle and the boycott of French food is not a rational reaction.

Americans have simply refused to come to grips with two things: one, the intense hatred for our policies around the world, only made more intense by the Iraq war, two, the paranoia which has swept across suburban America. The whole idea of plastic sheeting and duct tape was as logical as duck and cover and a future generation will laugh heartily at images of Tom Ridge telling us to buy things most people would have under their kitchen sink.

Dr. Phil was talking to some suburban woman frightened to death of terrorism and I had to laugh. I have friends who survived 9/11, there isn’t a firehouse which didn’t lose a member that day, I smelled the burning remains of human beings for days, living five miles away from WTC, my friend swept “ash”—really human remains and paper—from her apartment for days, since, at the time she lived in downtown Brooklyn. We are all getting on with our lives. No Al Qaeda team is coming to wreak havoc on her subdivision.

It was a horrible day, and unless you actually went in the buildings, you have no idea how horrible to see a place you know, you’ve eaten and shopped in, turned into a hunk of twisted metal. But no one I know lives in dire fear of terrorism. And they still order french fries. Excuse me, am I supposed to drink Bulgarian rot gut to prove my patriotism? I’m a beer drinker by inclination, but I’m certainly not going to pass on drinking chardonnay because of foreign policy issues? You don’t get a free picture of Saddam with every bottle of wine.

We are exapanding a culture of fear in the US and it plays on the increasing inability of Americans to accept risk of any sort. We hide our children from strangers when child stranger abduction is a rarity. Most kids are stolen by relatives from other relatives. Every bottle is sealed, every playground covered by rubber matting.

This fetish of “supporting the troops” is a cynical exercise at best. Supporting them with higher salaries, better housing and maintaining veteran’s benefits is impossible, but you can send them Handiwipes. You can hold rallies for them where you encourage warmongering, but jobs? Nah, they don’t need jobs. Let them deliver Domino’s pizza for extra money. Let them buy cars they can’t afford and take their monthly pay for a hooptie. That’s how Americans really support the troops. Two months from now, the only people who will care about or troops in Iraq are their spouses, relatives and siblings.

The “concern” for the troops is really just another thing to worry about. Which is why Bush is able to use them for a photo op while they lay in hospital beds at Walter Reed and Bethesda. Our poor troops are in danger, we have to support them. Why they were placed in this danger and the resentment that their presence in Iraq causes is never to be be questioned, unless you want to be deemed unpatriotic. A support our troops rally turned into a turgid GOP booster rally, complete with construction workers playing the role of all-American yahoo. Bush and Rove cynically use their sacrifice to stifle a long needed debate on not just Iraq, but on the overall failure of US foreign policy.

As long as you’re focused on 19-year-old privates you would normally sneer at if they screwed up your food order, you won’t ask about the wreckage of Bush foreign policy decisions.

Their disgustingly inappropriate use of 9/11 will, in the end, cause a backlash. People will eventually realize that the President and his advisors played us. They used a true tragedy and what should have been a turning point not only in policy, but our culture, that we live in a truly interconnected world, has instead turned into the rationalization for even more fear and isolation.



“We are in a prison of our own minds holding our own chains around us. We create our oligarchs and fight for their right to oppress us.”  ~~Heather Marsh, Binding Chaos, 2013




On this date at Daily Kos in 2009Ken Starr (!) rejects Fox’s smears against Harold Koh:

Over the past few weeks, Glenn Beck and Fox News have been pushing a totally baseless smear against Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh and the Obama Administration. Their essential claim: that through Koh, the White House was seeking to impose Sharia law in the United States.

Despite being fueled by a New York Post column written by a former Bush speechwriter, the absurd smear has mostly fizzled. Earlier this month, former conservative attorney Ted Olson, who served both Reagan and Bush, endorsed Koh.[…]

We’ve now got two leading conservative legal minds who have rejected the loony attacks advanced by Fox News against Harold Koh.

Neither Starr nor Olson agree with Koh on every legal issue; they are conservatives, he is not. But at the same time, Starr and Olson recognize that Koh is perfectly qualified for the job, and absolutely capable of preserving and protecting the Constitution of the United States.

The fact that taking such an eminently reasonable position sets them apart from the bulk of the conservative movement is all you need to know to understand just how extremist and nutty the right-wing has become.

Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at Stitcher.com), and find a live stream there, by searching for “Netroots Radio.”

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