Thursday, May 04, 2006


In the midst of criticizing Tom Hayden, Andrew Sullivan writes:
It still amazes me how the far left is still much, much more concerned with bringing George Bush down than in building Iraq up. The contempt some of them once had for the Iraqi people's fate - they were quite happy to see Iraqis consigned for decades to Saddam's tender mercies - is now matched by their zeal to abandon the country to Jihadists and theocratic Shiite thugs.

I've concluded that Sullivan occasionally takes a sort of hallucinogenic "political independent" drug that causes him to see things that aren't there. Read Hayden's post and you might notice that it contains not a single mention of George W. Bush, odd for a piece which is supposedly concerned with bringing Bush down. Sullivan can't for a moment consider that Hayden, or anyone, might genuinely believe that U.S. troops are currently the most significant cause of violence in Iraq, but if he stares at Hayden's post long enough he can just see the Bush-hatred emerging, like a zebra's head from a tree stump. Dude! I'm freaking out! Deep breaths, deep breaths, it's cool, it's cool. Have a cigarette, Andrew.

The tiresome canard that the left (or any significant portion of it, far or near) wants Bush to fail more than it wants Iraq to succeed is just that. It's trash. It's a way for conservatives (and "independents") to shout "Yoink!" and escape through a rhetorical trap door. I've been around some lefties whose hatred of Bush approaches the cultishly fanatical, but never once have I heard any of them express the wish that Iraq collapse (even more) so that Bush would be politically damaged. The claim that leftists "were quite happy to see Iraqis consigned for decades to Saddam's tender mercies" is likewise an historically innaccurate libel. It was a conservative president who sided with Saddam against Iran, even after it was revealed that Saddam had used chemical weapons against Iranian troops and Iraqi Kurds. It was another conservative president who abandoned the Iraqi Shi'a to slaughter after encouraging them to rise up. It hardly needs pointing out that, if we're keeping score, and we should be, the American left's record of support for human rights, including in Iraq, beats the right's with a big, big stick, and that the vast majority of human rights organizations worldwide operate from the political left, a fact which conservatives rarely hesitate to point out when trying to dismiss politically inconvenient reports issued by those organizations.

(For the record, I disagree with a lot of Hayden's critique. I think Packer is of the two best American journalists covering the Iraq story, along with Anthony Shadid. I have no knowledge of Packer ever "fix[ing] the facts to suit the policy he favors," as Hayden claims. Indeed, Packer's body of work on the war, in addition to being simply great journalism, has been, in my view, a very serious and candid attempt at coming to grips with his initial support for the war, and with the war's implications for the future of liberalism and American foreign policy.)

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