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O’Reilly Interviews Yaron Brook

Yaron Brook appeared on the Fox News television show The O’Reilly Factor  December 17, 2004.  At the time a U.S. Marine stationed in Fallujah had recently killed a wounded and previously disarmed Iraqi soldier while, unknown to the Marine, an embedded reporter videotaped the proceedings. CNN reported a month before the show (the bracketed “expletives” are in the original):

“In the video ...

“A Marine approached one of the men in the mosque saying, ‘He’s [expletive] faking he’s dead. ...  He’s faking he’s [expletive] dead.’

“The Marine raised his rifle and fired into the apparently wounded man’s head, at which point a companion said, ‘Well, he’s dead now.’ ”
“U.S. rules of engagement prohibit American troops from killing any prisoner who does not pose a threat, and commanders say they are worried the video might encourage more insurgents to fight to the death rather than surrender.” [1]

The Marine was facing prosecution for the killing, and that formed the background for Bill O’Reilly’s interview with Mr. Brook, entitled:  “Iraq: Is America Being Too Soft?”

The interview followed a 12 year embargo on Iraq and 20 months of war initiated by the “shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad in which hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed and maimed. It was seven months after the Abu Ghraib torture revelation.

We now quote from the exchange between O’Reilly and Mr. Brook. [2]

O’Reilly:  Joining us now from Irvine California is Doctor Yaron Brook, the president of the Ayn Rand Institute. Now your Institute is calling for harsher military measures in Iraq, is that what you want to see?

Yaron Brook:  Oh absolutely. We want to see the rules of engagement in Iraq changed completely. We want to see the military place the lives of our soldiers as a higher value than the lives of Iraqi civilians. The only way to win [against] this insurgency is for the military to be a lot more brutal in fighting the insurgents than it is today.

We interrupt and comment.  (1) Mr. Brook claims that the U.S. military places the lives of Iraqi civilians above its own.  (2) The question goes begging:  What had any Iraqi – civilian or otherwise – ever done to anyone in the United States that Marines should travel 7,000 miles to their country, and on arrival act on the premise,  “Your life means little or nothing.” ?

O’Reilly, like Mr. Brook, was  gung-ho  about invading Iraq in March 2003, but even he has a problem with Mr. Brook’s  “a lot more brutal” – though O’Reilly is more concerned about what the world will think than about the brutality –

O’R:  All right, but if you do that, if you throw out the Geneva convention and throw out a lot of these rules of engagement that we have ... then you alienate the whole world, you create more enemies, because Al-Jazeera [an Arab news agency – A.W.] and these people, they’re running wild now [they broadcast photos of the mayhem – A.W.], they’d ramp it up tenfold, so, you have to consider the cause and effect do you not?

YB:  It’s the opposite, Bill. The weaker we are, the weaker we are portrayed, the more we prosecute soldiers for killing injured insurgents, the stronger the enemy becomes, the more confident they are, the more emboldened they are that they can actually defeat us—

O’R:  That might be the micro-view there ... but you’re not suggesting, Doctor, that U.S. soldiers execute captured Iraqis are you?

YB:  I’m suggesting that we start bringing this war to the civilians, the consequences of this war, to the civilians who are harboring and helping and supporting the insurgents in Fellujah and other places.

O’R:  By doing what?

YB:  I would like to see the United States turn Fallujah into dust,  and tell the Iraqis:  If you’re going to continue to support the insurgents you will not have homes, you will not have schools, you will not have mosques—

O’R:  But then we’d be Nazis. You know that’s what the Nazis d—

YB:  No we wouldn’t be Nazis—

O’R:  Well yes we would, [3]  let me ask you thi—

YB:  We’re the good guys, Bill, here. There’s an enormous difference, we are fighting—

O’R:  The Nazis thought they were good guys too. All right, but look, that’s what the Nazis did—

YB:  It’s irrelevant what you think you are, the question is what you truly are.

Mr. Brook willfully misunderstands O’Reilly’s point, which is precisely what Mr. Brook just said – correctly applied. Intentionally punishing every man, woman and child in a town because some insurgents holed up there is objectively bad policy even if you happen to think otherwise.

Mr. Brook says (paraphrasing)  “the U.S. should bring the Iraq war to the civilians who are helping the insurgents in Fellujah”  then negates his qualification  “who are helping the insurgents”  by saying “the U.S. should turn Fallujah into dust” – and intentionally  “bring the war”  to every resident of Fallujah whether he was helping an insurgent or not.

O’Reilly should have replied to Mr. Brook:  “When you unnecessarily turn entire towns into ‘dust,’ along with any hapless residents who couldn’t get out in time, you’re like the Nazis who also thought they truly were good guys.”

The transcript fails to do justice to Mr. Brook’s personality. The edge to his voice is incommunicable.  When he advises that  “the United States turn Fallujah into dust”  he lingers inside the word  “dust.”  When he says  “We’re the good guys, Bill”  he utters  “Bill”  derisively.  Yet greater righteousness colors the following –

YB (continues):  We are fighting in self-defense for the United States, we are fighting here for the lives of Americans ...

This is the key lie. Contrary to Mr. Brook Iraq never attacked the United States, or threatened to do so. In spite of the Neocons’ public announcements, the U.S. did not bomb, invade and occupy Iraq in self-defense. And Iraq as a country was no threat at the time of this interview, as now, though individually many surviving Iraqis had come to hate the U.S. Had Mr. Brook really been concerned about the lives of American soldiers in Iraq – and the economy and honor of America – he would have urged their immediate return.

Mr. Brook has a lot of explaining to do. Two years earlier he published article after article urging that American soldiers be sent to Iraq. He should spend at least as much effort now trying to get the survivors back. Instead we have this pretense that all would be well if they were more “brutal,” and killed and maimed yet more Iraqis. [4]

YB (continues):  and every time you let—

O’R:  But Doctor you must realize the rest of the world doesn’t see it that way. The Nazi doctrine was, in occupied territories if you kill one Nazi we kill a hundred of you. If you attack us, we knock down your town. In the Civil War they did that too. They came in and—

O’Reilly stepped in it. ARI Op-eds frequently use the Civil War as an example of a war well fought, especially Sherman’s March to the Sea. Mr. Brook immediately interrupts O’Reilly –

YB:  Oh absolutely, in the Civil war, look what Sherman did in the Civil War, [he] ended the Civil War by burning Atlanta, by going after the civilian population—

At this point O’Reilly interrupts in turn, but we comment first. One wonders what Mr. Brook knows about the Civil War and its aftermath. The Civil War marked the beginning of “big government” and the end of America as the Founders envisioned it. See the Civil War section of the  Links  page on this website. That Lincoln approved of General Sherman’s tactics is part and parcel with other of Lincoln’s policies.

O’R:  You’re going to create more enemies.

YB:  How did we end World War II, by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We did not create more enemies, we actually created friends and we created ultimately a free Japan. We brought the Japanese people to their knees and that is the only way you can establish a democracy in a culture which is so opposed to freedom, is bring their culture to its knees. As long as we continue to appease them we are not going to be successful. We cannot win a war by trying to buy their love. They do not love us, they hate us. What we want to achieve is—

O’R:  If we started killing [civilians] though, I think it would ramp up terrorism a hundred percent from where it is now, and we would lose the high moral ground, we would lose—

YB:  It’s the other way around. Every time we appeased them every time we’ve treated them with kid gloves, and this is true of the Israeli experience as well, terrorism has increased. When we get tough and the tougher we get the less terrorism we will have.

Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians – or the United States’ treatment of the Iraqis – could never honesty be described as “treated them with kid gloves.” Setting that aside, Mr. Brook claims that the Israelis are killing more and more Palestinian civilians and consequently any day now those surviving will be their friends.

Note that again Mr. Brook repeats the Neocon propaganda that Iraq attacked the U.S. and that leaving the Iraqis alone would be appeasing them. We comment on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in a moment.

O’R:  You can’t kill civilians: you can’t burn their homes, you can’t do that.

YB:  Then we shouldn’t have dropped a bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

At this point O’Reilly – we won’t quote him – agrees with Mr. Brook that the U.S. was right to have dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II, contending, like Mr. Brook, that it saved American lives.

It did not. President Truman dropped the atom bombs even though Japan had offered to surrender on one minor condition: that the Emperor’s life be spared (which, by the way, was then spared anyway). Far from saving American lives, the atom bombs killed American prisoners of war Truman knew were being held in those cities. Imagine being incinerated in your jail cell by intentional and unnecessary “friendly fire.” [5]

YB:  Because we wanted to win and we’re not willing to win today. The difference is that in those days the highest priority was placed on the lives of American soldiers. We said that we would do whatever it takes—

O’R:  All right, but Iraq didn’t attack us, there’s the big difference.

YB (continues):  to protect the lives of American soldiers. Today we are placing the moral priority on the lives of Iraqi civilians and we are willing to have Marines die so that Iraqi civilians will not be killed. ...

Again we point out the phoniness of the man. He lied to get the American soldiers into Iraq in the first place. I use “lie” advisedly. There is no way the Iraq war propaganda coming out of ARI could have been written by alert men sincerely concerned with the truth. Whether they lied outright or didn’t give a damn makes little difference.

Mr. Brook helped put those American soldiers where they are today, and now he can think of nothing better for them to do than wantonly raze entire towns.

Here the interview winds down as Mr. Brook and O’Reilly agree that the Marine who started this debate should not be prosecuted. Our opinion? The Marines now in Iraq find themselves ordered to do an impossible job, and it was the Neocons and others like Mr. Brook – chattering about defending America and bringing democracy and freedom to Iraq – who put them there. [6]

About a year and a half after this interview – March 12, 2006 to be exact, time of day not reported – some Marines gang-raped a 14 year old Iraqi girl, then shot bullets “multiple times” into her head. This was after they had murdered the rest of her family to keep them quiet – both parents, and a younger sister. [7]  If anyone at ARI thinks bringing this up here unfair, what does  “a lot more brutal”  and  “start bringing this war to the civilians”  mean after having already killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of them?

Given the virtue of Sherman’s March to the Sea, the Marines did the right thing.

Four Marines were arrested and charged in the gang-rape murder after another Marine – evidently not Sherman material – heard about it and turned them in. [8]  So far (2006) two have been sent to prison. So far Mr. Brook hasn’t complained about it in public.

1  CNN, November 16, 2004. The bracketed ellipsis is mine – CNN left out some intervening dialog by another soldier. The O’Reilly interview was December 17, 2004.

2  Repeated words and phrases (e.g. the the) have been silently made single, slang or sloppy pronunciation (e.g. gonna) silently converted to proper English, some over-talking silently removed, one verbal slip of O’Reilly corrected (shown in brackets).

Defined for posterity: An “insurgent” is not an invader but rather someone who resists invaders.

3  O’Reilly missed a rhetorical opportunity. He could have quipped:  “We would be Israelis.”

Soon after this interview the U.S. did in fact virtually raze Fallujah.

4  In mid 2006 Mr. Brook changed direction and now says invading Iraq was a mistake. Despite this  about-face  he continued to advocate increased U.S. brutality in Iraq until the pull out began in 2009.

These days Mr. Brook focuses his attention on Iran.

5  See World War II  on the Links page of this website. Truman wanted to intimidate the Soviets with an object lesson in the destructive power of the U.S.’s new weapon.

The Hiroshima bombing killed at least 11 American POWs, including two men who died of acute radiation poisoning, see  “Remembering Normand Brissette”  by David Rubin

6  As it turned out, the particular Marine under discussion was not prosecuted. See “No Charges in Fallujah Shooting,” AP, May 4, 2005.

7  Called the “Mahmudiyah killings,” after the name of the town.

8  Plus a fifth who, though not directly participating, knew of the plan – part of it was that they would search for a home having no more than one male member – and kept quiet about it.