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June 20, 2004 - When Good Conservatives Get Grumpy

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Well, Andrew Sullivan has tried to be a good conservative – but part of his current grumpiness perhaps can be attributed to the fact, luckily, of his being born in “Margaret Thatcher Land” (the theme park some know as the UK), but then being openly gay, and then living in Provincetown – and then driving a bicycle not a car.  With the current Republican, conservative, evangelical “moral clarity” Christian ruling majority in our country he only gets one point in all that. 

At least he could support Bush on the war, even if Bush’s call for this Federal Marriage Amendment to the constitution sticks in his craw.  That might help atone for his sins. 

But no. 

Sullivan has been reading Paul Berman’s book, Terror and Liberalism (foolish fellow) and says this about the war:


I tried for a long time to overlook the obvious failures, mistakes, stupidities and rigidities which have characterized the mission.  But in the end, it became impossible.  Abu Ghraib - in its cruelty and incompetence - was devastating.  And the news since has convinced me that this was not a one-off exception to the rule, but the result of policy-making at the top that deliberately blurred the lines between tough interrogation and abuse and torture.  No, Rumsfeld didn't sign off explicitly on those abuses (apart from hooding and the menacing use of dogs).  But he did sign off on hiding some prisoners from the Red Cross for reasons that are still unclear.  I refuse to believe that in fighting demons, you have to become one. 


His Republican friends, who barely tolerated him before, given his “life-style choices,” will not take kindly being called demons.  They, are, as they see it, strong-willed, unflinching Christian patriots.  Manly men! 

Then Sullivan links to Paul Berman saying this regarding the war, over at The New Republic:

We could have applied the lessons of Kosovo, which would have meant dispatching a suitable number of soldiers.  We could have protected the government buildings and the National Museum, and we could have co-opted Saddam's army--further lessons from Kosovo.  We could have believed Saddam when he threatened to wage a guerrilla war in Baghdad.  We could have prepared in advance to broadcast TV shows that Iraqis wanted to watch.  We could have observed the Geneva Conventions.  (What humiliation in having to write such a sentence!) We could have--but I will stop, in order to ask: What if, in mulling these thoughts, you find that angry emotions toward George W. Bush are seeping upward from your own patriotic gut?  Here is the challenge: to rage at Saddam and other enemies, and, at the same time, to rage in a somewhat different register at Bush, and to keep those two responses in proper proportion to one another.  That can be a difficult thing to do, requiring emotional balance, maturity, and analytic clarity--a huge effort. 

Cognitive Dissonance, anyone? 

Here’s how Sullivan handles that:


It must be possible to believe in this war but to be dismayed by the conduct of it.  I still cannot believe that the U.S. now has a reputation for "disappearing" enemy combatants, for seeing inmates battered to death by flashlights in dark cells, for using "water-boarding" to coerce confessions, and any number of things that we do not know, and if the administration has its way, will never know.  I cannot believe that the Justice Department prepared a memo in order to justify the use of any number of inhumane methods in contravention of U.S. law - and then denies any malfeasance at all.  This isn't the administration I once trusted and it isn't the America I love. 


Well, Andrew, it is the America you got.  You did want George Bush to be president, and you liked the team he gathered around him.  You did.  Remember? 

Deal with it. 

I found a cute comment over at Sisyphus Shrugged - but you have to remember the reason Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) in “Casablanca” shuts down Rick’s American Café after everyone sings a rousing version of the Marseillaise, led by Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) -


Once again, the Claude Rains Gambling Awareness Award goes to Andrew Sullivan, who is shocked to discover that sometimes the constituency for war, self-aggrandizement, unthinking jingoism and faith-based social engineering are not very nice people

On the specific case of the prisoner who was hidden from the Red Cross [Sullivan says]: Here's a military desperately trying to get information on the insurgency; they go to extraordinary lengths to sequester a key informant; they do something that is "deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law," according to the Taguba report; both Tenet and Rumsfeld sign off on this shady business; and then ...  nothing!  It boggles the mind.  Here we have two features of the Iraq occupation that we have slowly come to see close-up: the violation of settled military ethics and international law, authorized by the highest authorities, and complete incompetence.  At least that's the only rational explanation I can find for this story as it currently reads.  Does Rumsfeld have a better explanation? 

Because they figured they were going to get away with it, you inutterable jackass. 

… For all you do, Andrew Sullivan, this Claude's for you. 


This must be the week to pick on troubled conservatives. 


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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