Free Markets, Free People

Why America is different

Richard Cohen wrote a nasty little piece the other day in which he essentially declared American exceptionalism a myth.  There is no such thing, according to Mr. Cohen.  We’re all really a bunch of dummies living in a dysfunctional society, because, you know, we were mean to the American Indians once upon a time and we had slaves, or something.  Oh, and too much religion.

Michael Moore, on the other hand, finds us to be just a bunch of hypocrites and blathers on about how killing Osama (even though Moore is obviously pleased he’s dead) was a forfeiture of our principles (something Ron Paul apparently agrees with Moore about).

"The Nazis killed tens of MILLIONS. They got a trial. Why? Because we’re not like them. We’re Americans. We roll different."

As I’ll explain later, Moore hasn’t a clue of what he’s talking about  – nor does Cohen. 

Interestingly, Moore makes this point when talking about the killing:

I know a number of Navy SEALs. In fact (and this is something I don’t like to talk about publicly, for all the obvious reasons), I hire only ex-SEALs and ex-Special Forces guys to handle my own security (I’ll let you pause a moment to appreciate that irony). These SEALs are trained to follow orders. I don’t know what their orders were that night in Abbottabad, but it certainly looks like a job (and this is backed up in a piece in the Atlantic) where they were told to not bring bin Laden back alive. The SEALs are pros at what they do and they instantly took out every adult male (every potential threat) within a few minutes – but they also took care to not harm a single one of the nine children who were present. Pretty amazing. This wasn’t some Rambo-style operation where they just went in guns blazing, spraying bullets. They acted swiftly and with expert precision. I’m telling you, these guys are so smart and so lethal, they could take you out with a piece of dental floss. (And in fact, one of my ex-SEAL guys showed me how to do that one night. Whoa.)

The raid, despite Moore’s blathering and Cohen’s nonsense actually points out why Americans are exceptional.  Here’s what CBS News had to say about the details of the raid:

The SEALs first saw bin Laden when he came out on the third floor landing. They fired, but missed. He retreated to his bedroom, and the first SEAL through the door grabbed bin Laden’s daughters and pulled them aside.

When the second SEAL entered, bin Laden’s wife rushed forward at him — or perhaps was pushed by bin Laden. The SEAL shoved her aside and shot bin Laden in the chest. A third seal shot him in the head.

Read that very carefully.  Very slowly.

“The first SEAL through the door” did what?

Risked his life to protect the daughters of a mass murderer we’re at war with plotting to kill even more Americans in the future.

And the second SEAL?  He didn’t spray and pray, he shoved aside a woman, saving her life, and went precisely after the target. 

I don’t dispute Moore’s point about what the SEALs were told to do.  I concluded that immediately (and I talk about that on our latest podcast).  Had they been told to capture him, he’d right now be cooling his heels in an “undisclosed location” and not enjoying his vacation at all.

Moore thinks we let our principles down when we killed him.  I can only say that comes from a very warped idea of what our principles are.  Justice isn’t a process – it is a result.

Moore puts this out there as an example of what we should have done:

Hideki Tojo killed my uncle and millions of Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos and a hundred thousand other Americans. He was the head of Japan, the Emperor’s henchman, the man who was the architect of Pearl Harbor. When the American soldiers went to arrest him, he tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the chest. The soldiers immediately worked on stopping his bleeding and rushed him to an army hospital where he was saved by our army doctors. He then had his day in court. It was a powerful exercise for the world to see. And on December 23, 1948, after he was found guilty, we hanged him.

When he was captured, did anyone say “justice has been served?”  Nope, that happened when, after his show trial (anyone – was Tojo going to be exonerated or left to live?) -actually, a military tribunal -, he was hanged.

Then and only then was the the term “justice has been served” used.  Moore concludes:

A killer of millions was forced to stand trial. A killer of 4,000 (counting the African embassies and USS Cole bombings) got double-tapped in his pajamas. Assuming it was possible to take him alive, I think his victims, the future, and the restoration of the American Way deserved better. That’s all I’m saying.

The resulting justice was the same – both died.  However, here is the key point: One after a show trial and AFTER a war had ended (same with Nuremberg), the other at the hands of his enemies DURING a war which he started and was still fighting.  If you can’t figure out the difference in those situations, then you’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer.  That’s the part Moore and his ilk always forget.

As for American exceptionalism – well you saw a small example of it in the raid demonstrated by that first SEAL in the room.  Our armed forces demonstrate that exceptionalism daily as they fight the Taliban and terrorists.  It comes from the culture in which they were raised.

I’m reminded of the story Oliver North likes to tell about the young Navy Corpsman in the battle of Baghdad:



By God, if that’s not "exceptionalism" I don’t know what the hell is.


Twitter: @McQandO


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37 Responses to Why America is different

  • “Moore thinks we let our principles down when we killed him.  I can only say that comes from a very warped idea of what our principles are.  Justice isn’t a process – it is a result.”
    “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”

  • There is another difference that seems to be lost.
    Tojo was tried after the war was over, same with the Nazis.  They were “civil teaching moments” aimed a a civilian populace.
    Is anyone willing to declare the “War On Terror” over ?

  • It is a shame that these wet-nurses, and wet-nurses of all political persuasion, can’t put their BS politics aside for a moment or two and cheer for America.
    These SEAL guys, like thousands before them, live and breath American exceptionalism.  There is nothing I can write that would rival the countless poetic descriptions from all the masters of verse throughout the years describing the honor and bravery of men like these.
    So I’ll go the other route and quote the creators of South Park.  You know, sometimes you have to step back and say “Team America – F*ck Yeah!!”

    • This is why I put up with the often nonsensical crap you heave at me.  Deep down, you “get it.”  I’d fight like hell with you, Pogue, but I’d still welcome you in my foxhole.

      • I should add, I have firm expectations that you will be bringing fine uisce beatha to fuel the fighting in said foxhole.

  • Gee, I always thought our principle relating to war were “F*** with us and you are going to get f*****”.  Foreplay? Not so much.

    • And I still think the cameras should not have been there, and certainly not admitted to. And only a short statement about our gallant fighting men disposing of OBL. No details, no follow up, no further comment. 

    • Payback being a mo-fo, after all…

  • Without once pausing to note that we actually HAVE rules and were instrumental in codifying the ones the rest of the civilized world uses.
    I wonder if the chipmunk and slobby were even aware of that.
    The ‘Lieber instructions’
    The “Lieber Instructions” represent the first attempt to codify the laws of war. They were prepared during the American Civil War by Francis Lieber, then a professor of Columbia College in New York, revised by a board of officers and promulgated by President Lincoln. Although they were binding only on the forces of the United States, they correspond to a great extend to the laws and customs of war existing at that time. The “Lieber Instructions” strongly influenced the further codification of the laws of war and the adoption of similar regulations by other states. They formed the origin of the project of an international convention on the laws of war presented to the Brussels Conference in 1874 and stimulated the adoption of the Hague Conventions on land warfare of 1899 and 1907.” (my emphasis)
    no exceptionalism there, move along.

    • And so there is no mistake, Lieber didn’t draft them and send them to the President on his own, Lincoln requested he undertake the task.  To me, an important distinction.

  • First of all, I don’t like being lectured by a pro-Castro propagandist.

    That out of the way, he’s got a remarkably selective memory.  I seem to remember that while Tojo got a trial, we mounted quite the slick operation to kill Adm. Yamamoto.  That ALSO sent a powerful message.

    I also mention a few itema that deep thinker McFatty forgets:  That Bin Laden, by his status, was a legal target for killing.  That if we put him on trial, we just paint the biggest target on our backs – there was only a minimal risk for Tojo’s supporters engaging in a beslan-style siege to win his freedon.  That in fact, we put the Nazis and Japanese leadership on trial AFTER the war was over, AFTER they surrendered and became lawful prisoners that we could not in fact, just kill.  And if Tojo aimed that gun at the soldiers instead of his chest, he’d never have made it to trial either.

    • What, you won’t take instruction or judgement from a rich guy who dresses like a fat slob and pretends to be ‘one of us’ to sell his snake oil?

  • We shot Yamamoto out of the air.
    He never had any hint of a trail.  He was killed in flame and terror, very likely.
    NOBODY in the US was so stupid and morally confused that they took anything but a sense of triumph from the news.
    We live in VERY different times.

    • Well, he WAS an Admiral, and that made him a fair target during a war.
      But Bin Laden was a helpless goat buggerer herder who just happened to claim to lead an acknowledged terrorist organization and personally claimed to have planned and overseen execution of numerous acts of terror on civilian populations and military personal.  Aside from his own video taped confessions and numerous witnesses to his claims there was not one shred of evidence that he was responsible for any of that stuff we accused him of.

      • Yamamoto was ALSO a uniformed officer in the military of a belligerent nation…hence due all protections of the existing laws of war.
        While he HAD been the architect of the Pear Harbor attack, he had not planned it as a terror mission…or even a complete surprise.
        By all accounts, he was a pretty honorable guy, as opposed to the camel flucker bin Laden.

    • Yamamoto was a Harvard man.  Isn’t there a law against shooting Harvard men out of the air ?

  • America is exceptional because it was the first country founded on the principles of natural rights and natural law…”We hold these truths to be self-evident…” These are the axioms of our hearts and minds.

    It is on that philosophical and political foundation, which in turns sits upon the Judeo-Christian foundation, that has allowed Americans to form strong independent consciences and to pursue strong independent lives within the *constraints* of liberty, which is the free pursuit of the good.  The *good* being liberty’s necessary constraint. And as JPII so correctly derived in reasoning from natural law: “Moral good is objective, and properly formed conscience can perceive it.”

    All that is good relies on the reasoning conscience of individuals to make real distinctions, the first of which are good from evil, right from wrong.

    With that at its very foundation, America is exceptional both within herself and in the world. And that is what is most ferociously attacked about America, from within and without, by people who should no better and people who will never know better.

    • Should be, obviously, “…should *know* better…”

    • Honestly, some truths are held to be self-evident, and it’s insulting that we have to defend this country’s exceptionalism to anyone.

      Even on our worst day, we’re still better. 

      • There’s defending it to and there’s defending it against.

        You might or might not want to defend it to a scumbag like Richard Cohen, but it must be defended *against* creeps like Moore and the late communist Howard Zinn or the living communist Noam Chomsky, all of whom are very influential at universities and/or among enlightened liberal Democrats.

        Our current president is of a piece with Moore, Zinn, and Chomsky. I can only think of Bismarck’s declaration that “A Special Providence protects babys, drunks, and the United States of America” and pray when I think of what we have come up against within our own country.

        I don’t know whether “this too shall pass” applies more now to the circumstances or to the country itself.

    • America is exceptional because it was the first country founded on the principles of natural rights and natural law…”We hold these truths to be self-evident…”


  • In other news Libyan leader Mohmarr Q-Daffy, speaking from a newly leased compound somewhere in North Eastern Pakistan said “I’m in a place where you can’t get me”.

  • Hey, at least he didn’t say “‘alleged’ killer of 4,000.”

  • I think you’re falling into the trap of letting them define and prioritize what makes the US expectional.  Benevolent victor may be an outcome of that.  But what they are trying to twist the definition as to say we act above the law.  More like we believe in ‘American Exemptionalism’ and Context has nothing to do with our actions. 

    • The whole point of ensuring I didn’t fall into that trap was outlining a “key point”, which says what we did was not only proper, it was quite legal (ala Yamamoto). The exceptionalism comes not in the killing of bin Laden – hell anyone can do that – the exceptionalism comes with the actions of the first SEAL through the door and the Navy Corpsman Oliver North tells you about.

  • Justice isn’t a process – it is a result.

    I respectfully disagree … at least to the all-encompassing reach of the statement.
    With respect to the laws of war, yes, the result of killing the enemy is justice.
    A state of war, in and of itself, admits of no actual rules, other than those self-imposed (or later exacted by the victors).
    The very condition of war is at complete odds with what we normally think of as “justice” since that term presupposes a rule of law.  War by its very nature is the opposite of “rule of law”, but instead rule by shear power.
    When operating within a rule of law (i.e. non-state of war), where everyone’s acquiescence to the rules is fairly presumed, then justice must necessarily mean the process and not the result.  Why?  Because the end cannot justify the means under a rule of law, or vigilantism would be paramount to the actual law (and most specifically due process, which embodies justice within a civil — read non-war, or non-rule-by-strength — form of society).
    Bin Laden’s fate was certainly justice, but only in the war sense of the term.  He did not deserve, and thus was not afforded, the civil sense of the term because he operated outside of the rule of law.  He was a war figure, and was dispatched in accordance with those terms.  But we shouldn’t confuse the justice he received with the justice we expect as owners, maintainers and participators in a real civil society where the process is always superior to the result.

    • All that’s fine, but it doesn’t change the fact that justice is a result. You just described two different processes that ended up with the same result.

      • Yes, but I think it’s vitally important to keep those two different processes distinct and separate.  War is not civil, and we should not equate civil “justice” with war “justice.”

        • I don’t think I’m equating anything, I’m just pointing out that a process isn’t “justice”, what it produces is “justice”. And since, as you point out, there isn’t any single process that produces said result (but instead there are multiple), I think the point stands.

        • If you worked as a trial lawyer, you’d know just how bitter an irony the idea if “Justice” coming out of courts really is.  On good days, we have a legal system; almost never a “justice” system, and then only as happenstance.

  • America’s exceptionalism derives, in part, from its melting pot history.  Thus, I view the anti-immigration fervor that exists to be very unAmerican and quite distressing.  Ambitious people come here for opportunity.  These are the people we need.

    • Anti-immigration or anti-illegal immigration? There is a difference. Wanting people to follow the law in order to immigrate does not make one “anti-immigration”.

      • Quite!
        The difference being the expanse from going to the bank and making a withdrawal with your ATM card versus doing it with a Glock.