April 19, 2004


For posterity, some collected correspondence with yet another thin-skinned warblogger, evidently allowing his despondence over Iraq to interfere with normal human courtesy:

Last week, I found this deeply buried in a response to a commenter on Tacitus' own blog:

I just had a long argument with Jim Henley on this one (ed note: that the Sadrists, Hezbollah, the "Baathists" and Sunni insurgents are all working together), in which he ended up basically giving up, because the facts were pretty stark. Short version: the President [Bush] is right, you're wrong.

That didn't sound right to me, so I asked Jim:

You gave up, did you?

Henley responded:

No, it's one of those blog things. You know, you mean to get back to it at some point? I haven't. This was before the Sadrists were a force, and was basically the old "Are Israel and America's enemies an indivisible union?" question. That is, are Hezbollah and Hamas the same kind of threat to the US as Al Qaeda?

To which I responded, cc'ing to Tacitus:

Ah, well then he's just horribly misquoting you. Noted.

Tac's response #1, to both of us:

To misquote, you first have to quote. Think it over, Bruce. Jim, I assumed you'd just walked away from this one (as I recall, the issue was whether those groups were a)working together and b)part of the same overall threat, not whether they were relatively equal in immediate threat). If not, it would be worth continuing -- particularly the part in which we got down into basic questions of a just foreign policy.

My reply:

Your (deserved) snarkiness towards me aside, if I were Mr. Henley, I'd say in order to be taken seriously on an issue like justice, one must first establish himself as a just man. Telling your buddies when one of them is out of the room that "I kicked that guy's ass yesterday" is as dishonourable in this sphere as it is in the real one. Tell me, if I hadn't first, would you have emailed the guy to tell him what you were saying about him, behind his back? Think it over, "Tac."

His response:

A few things:
1) You're not Jim Henley.
2) He's not, generally, "out of the room," nor do we have anything approaching an acrimonious relationship.
3) The assumption of some sort of code of honor whereby critiques* must be cleared via email before public posting is wholly illusory.
I guess I'd respect this more if you really were some sort of earnest defender of Henley, as opposed to a fellow looking for a gotcha moment. But that's not the case.

My response to that:

1) I never said anything about "before," did I? You're the one doing the assuming there. A courtesy note after the fact: "Hey, Jim, your name came up," so at least he had the opportunity to respond in thread if he wished to, would have been in order. As it stands, it just looks like you're puffing yourself up there, posing with a fish you didn't land. ("Even the great Jim Henley admitted defeat to me in this argument, so I don't feel the need to redebate it with any of you lesser beings.")
2) I expect the same honour codes that I apply to myself and to others in the real world to generally apply online. I'm oldfashioned that way; but the alternative is the coarsening of online discourse past utility.
3) You have no idea what my relationship is with Jim, and I'd ask you not to presume. But I don't do gotchas. You disparaged a friend of mine, in his presumed absence, in a public forum; if it had been a military drinking establishment I'd have called you outside, as I would have expected done to me if I had been the offender. Since you claim to be familiar with that milieu, I wonder at your evident surprise.

Tacitus' final response:

Eh. The charitable take on this is that you're obviously intent on indulging in a level of vicarious indignation that Henley himself (who is quite aware that I consider myself to have prevailed on the merits of the argument in question) doesn't appear to be taking. Given that he's an adult and fairly capable of sticking up for himself, I think it's time your faux nobility received the attention it deserves: a spot in the Junk Senders filter.

Apparently it is possible to be a poser and a wanker at the same time. Noted.

It does show, however, the steady-but-recently-increasing coarseness of interactions on the part of the major war-related webloggers that should frankly be souring people on the long term prospects of the whole medium for promoting civil discourse. It's all just a little too yappy for most peoples' tastes, and it's hard to see most grownups not concluding all the pseudonymous name-calling as being beneath them. They're probably right.

*Note how the original name-taking-in-vain on Tacitus' part turns into a "critique" of Henley in his mind. You know, one of those secret, behind-the-back critiques.

Posted by BruceR at 08:31 PM


One source I've found increasingly valuable in understanding Iraq politics since the war is University of Haifa professor Amatzia Baram, who has written some really in-depth analysis of tribal power structures in Iraq. Here's a good one. Here's another.

Posted by BruceR at 07:09 PM


Government contracting officials and company executives concede that private guards have every right to abandon their posts if they deem the situation too unsafe. They are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, nor can they be prosecuted under civil laws or declared AWOL.

--From a must-read New York Times article, today.

Posted by BruceR at 12:20 PM