So there was an article yesterday in The New York Times Magazine by Michael Ignatieff, "liberal hawk" and useful idiot, about Iraq and torture and other things.
I'm happy to learn from the article that Ignatieff believes torture is bad, even when it's done by the government he trusted to bring freedom and human rights to Iraq. But now that Ignatieff has had to acknowledge an unpleasant truth about George W. Bush, he seems ready to canonize ... Ronald Reagan:
As Americans remembered the boys of Pointe du Hoc and the president who immortalized them, they had to read reports of government lawyers telling their superiors that "the infliction of pain or suffering per se, whether it is physical or mental, is insufficient to amount to torture." The discordance between the high sentiments heard at President Reagan's funeral and the lawyers' attempts to justify the unjustifiable left you unable to determine whether the rhetoric of the funeral was a moment of spiritual reaffirmation or just an exercise in organized amnesia.
True enough -- but, er, what about the discordance between Ronald Reagan's stirring rhetoric and Ronald Reagan's human rights record? If you're ignoring that, aren't you experiencing in a bit of amnesia yourself? Michael, meet the dead nuns from El Salvador.
But Ignatieff doesn't want to hear it:
You will say: Remember the departed president. Don't stain his memory with painful associations.
Yes, heavens no. We wouldn't want to mention Abu Ghraib and sully the memory of a man who never met a Latin American "dirty war" he didn't like.
Further on, Ignatieff asks three rhetorical questions about the Bush administration's conduct of the Iraq war. These questions have two obvious answers:
Who can read Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack" and not find his jaw dropping at the fact that from the very beginning, in late 2001, none of the civilian leadership, not Rice, not Powell, not Tenet, not the president, asked where the plan for the occupation phase was? Who can't feel that U.S. captains, majors and lieutenants were betrayed by the Beltway wars between State and Defense? Who can't feel rage that victorious armies stood by and watched for a month while Iraq was looted bare?
Who can read Plan of Attack and not find his jaw dropping at Bushie indifference to peacemaking? Oh, just everybody who's been paying attention to this administration from Day One.
Who can't feel that U.S. military personnel were betrayed by the Rummy's battle with Powell? Who can't feel rage that Rummy's inadequately large force allowed Iraq to be looted? I'll tell you who can't: the Bush base. Bush says he stands for good and these people redraw the contours of "good" to encompass whatever he sees fit to do. And Michael Ignatieff threw in his lot with these people.
He still apparently does, even as he denounces what happened in Bush's prisons. His penultimate paragraph is nothing more than a recasting of Bush bullet points:
The United States has only one remaining task in Iraq: to prevent civil war and the dismemberment of the country. Sending in more troops will only turn them into targets and delay the day when Iraqis are required to defend themselves. The troops should be there to train enough Iraqis loyal to the national government to prevent Kurds from turning on Sunnis or Shiites from turning against both. America cannot defend Iraq from its demons of division: it can only help Iraqis do so. When there is a freely elected government, the United States should come home. January 2006 is the date for return set by the United Nations resolution. By then the oil should be flowing, the coffers of the Iraqi state should be filling up and what Iraq will do with the money will be up to the Iraqis, not us.
Throw in a few "we"s and this could be a Bush speech from anytime in the past year -- we mustn't withdraw the troops, and we mustn't increase the number of troops either (we have exactly the right number of troops -- isn't that obvious?); and very, very soon everything will be hunky-dory in Iraq -- can't you see the light at the end of the tunnel?
Save me from liberal hawks.