Dear Joe Klein,

This is in response to your challenge:

And so a challenge to those who slagged me in their comments. Can you honestly say the following:

Even though I disagree with this escalation, I am hoping that General Petraeus succeeds in calming down Baghdad.

Before I directly address your challenge I want to point out that you lied in your posting today. You said that you have opposed this war since 2002.

The fact that I’ve been opposed to the Iraq war ever since this 2002 article in Slate just makes it all the more aggravating.

First off, your Slate link is broken. But I want to draw your attention to comments you made in 2003, on the eve of the war. [Tip o’ the hat to Attaturk].

MR. KLEIN: …This is a really tough decision. War may well be the right decision at this point. In fact, I think it–it’s–it–it probably is.

RUSSERT: Now that’s twice you’ve said that: ‘It’s the right war.’ You believe it’s the wrong time. Why do you think it’s the right war?

Mr. KLEIN: Because sooner or later, this guy has to be taken out. Saddam has–Saddam Hussein has to be taken out.

Mr. Klein, I acknowledge that you made those remarks while discussing your misgivings and doubts. But, when you conclude that the war is the right decision then you are not an opponent of the war. And, therefore, your post today is dishonest and you are a liar.

Now, let me address your challenge. I am a great admirer of General Petraeus. I have a high regard for his competence and his abilities. I do not hope that he fails in his mission of stabilizing Baghdad. But you are asking the wrong question. Think about it like this. Imagine you are at a Georgetown cocktail frankfurter party. Maybe it’s at Sally Quinn’s house. And imagine that Bill Bennett knocks back eight scotch and sodas as he regales you with talk of his recent hot streak at the Atlantic City poker tables. And now imagine that Bill Bennett, ruddy and ribald, stumbles to his car and turns the ignition. Here’s my question? Do you really want Bill Bennett to wrap his Jaguar around a telephone pole and die?

As for me, it’s easy–I’ll be rooting for Bill Bennett’s success in getting home safely because, in spite of the overpowering arrogance and stupidity that led to his decision to drive, we owe some peace and stability to the Washingtonians and the region. For the record, I’ll be outraged that Bennett is ignoring the law and the reality on the ground in DC. I’ll think he is putting more young American lives at risk. I am fairly certain that Bennett will wallow amongst our worst pundits for getting into this mess. But I hope events prove me wrong. I don’t even care if Bennett thinks he deserves credit for the “victory” and smirks at the cops. I just don’t want him to die.

Mr. Klein, do you understand this analogy?

Friends do not let friends drive drunk. In the case of George W. Bush and the neo-conservatives, they not only are insisting on driving intoxicated, they won’t let us out of the car and they respond to all requests to slow down by stomping on the accelerator. In this situation the only rational thing to do is to wait for them to come to a halt at a stop sign (if they are sober enough to avoid running it) and smack them in the head with a sock full of pennies. We need to take away the car keys, Mr. Klein.

You can call me an “illiberal leftist and reactionary progressive”, you can say my “naivete on national security–and the left wing tendency to assume every U.S. military action abroad is criminal–just aren’t very helpful electorally.” You can talk all the shit you want. But you are still letting your friends drive drunk and criticizing anyone that wants to do something about it. You are also a liar. Now fix your link.

Best Regards,


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