It's not exactly the Lingerie Bowl, but . . .

By Tim Grieve

Published February 8, 2005 4:40PM (EST)

Military mud wrestling is fine and all, but for real action we'll take the Juan Cole-Jonah Goldberg smackdown every day of the week. Cole, the Middle East expert from the University of Michigan, and Goldberg, an editor-at-large at National Review Online, are engaged in an extended, long-distance pissing match over who said what and who knows what about the war in Iraq.

Goldberg started it by calling Cole the "dashboard saint of lefty Middle East experts" and complaining that he was insufficiently jubilant about the Iraq elections. Cole responded by calling Goldberg "a fearmonger, a warmonger and a demagogue" who fell for and then promoted phony intelligence on Iraq. "If Jonah Goldberg had asserted that he could fly to Mars in his pyjamas and come back in a single day, it would not have been a more fantastic allegation than the one he made about Iraq being a danger to the United States because of the nuclear issue," Cole wrote over the weekend.

Goldberg shot back with a column Monday in which he questioned Cole's intellectual credentials -- Cole "claims to be a major scholar," Goldberg said -- and accused Cole of wanting to leave U.S. security up to luck. So what if Goldberg hyped Iraq's non-existent nuclear threat? "[T]he salient issue was not what the reality was, but whether the U.S. could take the chance that people like Cole were wrong," Goldberg wrote Monday. "Cole is very comfortable, it seems, relying on the goodwill of America's enemies. I am grateful George W. Bush isn't."

Now it's Cole's turn again, and he's out with a new round of criticism today. Cole says he challenged Goldberg to debate Middle East issues, but that Goldberg's response "was not, quite frankly, the response of a man to a challenge." That leads Cole to announce that he's done "wasting any more time" on Goldberg -- just before he writes another 1,300 words about his nerdy nemesis.

Get these guys a few tons of mud and some women's underwear, and we'd be willing to watch them go at it on pay-per-view.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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