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Bad Judgment added to Bad theory
Those seeking to remake the world need to be able to judge wisely. Unfortunately we are not blessed to have such leadership. Bill Kristol’s judgment on matters of war and peace is akin to Bush and Cheney’s judgment on running a business: consistently bad. For example, on February 24, 2003 when interviewed by Kathryn Lopez, Kristol said: “Iraq should become a democracy. After all, the president has repeatedly cast the impending war as an effort to bring democracy to a land that for decades has known only dictatorship. Having defeated and then occupied Iraq, democratizing the country should not be too tall an order for the world’s sole superpower.” Any genuine conservative with a sensitivity to the interconnections between politics and culture would have said this was wishful thinking likely to get a lot of people killed. As it did.
This example of Kristol’s poor judgment is hardly isolated. On April 1, 2003, Kristol argued on Fresh Air radio: “And on this issue of the Shia in Iraq, I think there’s been a certain amount of, frankly, Terry, a kind of pop sociology in America that, you know, somehow the Shia can’t get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There’s almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq’s always been very secular.” But Iraqi secularism was to a substantial degree the result of political repression by Saddam Hussein and his atheistic Baathist Party. That this was unrecognized by Kristol as late as 2003 suggests the man is truly incapable of learning from experience.
The problem of being incapable of learning from past mistakes seems intrinsic to those advocating Neoconservatism. The August 24, 2006 New York Times reported
“Some senior Bush administration officials and top Republican lawmakers are voicing anger that American spy agencies have not issued more ominous warnings about the threats that they say Iran presents to the United States.
“Some policy makers have accused intelligence agencies of playing down Iran’s role in Hezbollah’s recent attacks against Israel and overestimating the time it would take for Iran to build a nuclear weapon.
“The complaints, expressed privately in recent weeks, surfaced in a Congressional report about Iran released Wednesday. They echo the tensions that divided the administration and the Central Intelligence Agency during the prelude to the war in Iraq.
” The criticisms reflect the views of some officials inside the White House and the Pentagon who advocated going to war with Iraq and now are pressing for confronting Iran directly over its nuclear program and ties to terrorism, say officials with knowledge of the debate.”
There seems to be no limit to the deceptions Neocon advocates for war will go. For example, the new House Intelligence Committee Report on Iran has a frightening map of how Iranian missiles could reach Europe, with two provisos. One is that the longest range missile, the one that could reach Europe, does not exist. The other, even more indicative of the intellectual bankruptcy of Neocon methods, is the map has these missiles being launched from Kuwait in order to be able to reach Europe. Iran would have to invade and conquer Iraq to reach Kuwait.
There seems to be something more than just flawed analysis and bad judgment underlying neoconservative leaders’ actions. Something very disturbing at a personal level. M. J. Rosenberg provides us a glimpse of what I am getting at with respect to Charles Krauthammer, a leading NeoCon.
“About three years ago, I saw Krauthammer flip out in synagogue on Yom Kippur. The rabbi had offered some timid endorsement of peace — peace essentially on Israel’s terms — but peace anyway. Krauthammer went nuts. He actually started bellowing at the rabbi, from his wheel chair in the aisle. People tried to “shush” him. It was, after all, the holiest day of the year. But Krauthammer kept howling until the rabbi apologized. The man is as arrogant as he is thuggish. Who screams at the rabbi at services? For advocating peace?”
Krauthammer is not alone. Think Progress reported a July 16, 2006 conversation between William Kristol and Juan Williams.
“This morning on Fox News Sunday, William Kristol argued that the Bush administration’s “coddling” of Iran had “invited” the latest outbreak of violence, and that the United States should join in the current fighting. Juan Williams pushed back:
“‘You just want war, war, war, and you want us in more war. You wanted us in Iraq. Now you want us in Iran. Now you want us to get into the Middle East. … You’re saying, why doesn’t the United States take this hard, unforgiving line? Well, the hard and unforgiving line has been, we don’t talk to anybody. We don’t talk to Hamas. We don’t talk to Hezbollah. We’re not going to talk to Iran. Where has it gotten us, Bill?’
“Kristol threw up his hands and didn’t answer.”
From Bill Kristol’s perspective torture is a part of national greatness. On September 25, 2006, he wrote that torture was the ideal way of differentiating between George Bush’s policies and those of the Democrat: “There is now a clear and live contrast between Bush and the Democrats on an important issue in the war on terror.” Indeed there is. The US military insists torture is a bad policy. You can get anyone to say anything, so it does not elicit accurate information, and it puts our troops at risk. Already torture has been used in our name to get people later proven innocent to admit of crimes. It used to be that respect for human dignity was an American ideal, but the “national greateness” that moves Bill Kristol and his acolytes has no room for human dignity.
Mr. Maher Arar is a Canadian citizen whom Canadian authorities mistakenly tohought might have had terrorist associations., they alerted the Unioted States, who then arrested him when he was passing through a New York airport. So far so good. In a decent world with true national graeteness, or at least national decency, Arar would have been charged and tried. He was neiother. Insdtead he disappeared into the CIA’s secret system so beloved by bush and Kristol, where he was taken to Syria, tortured until he confessed to anythinmg he was asked to say, and then kept confined in a tiny cell for 10 months, before finally being released. Sad you might say, but necessary. That is kristol and Bush’s position.
But it turns out Arar was innocent. In Canada, where the rule of law is stronger than in Bush and Kristol’s America, found him to be completely innocent. He had never traveled to Afghanistan, as he had said under torture, he had never broken any law, and the Canadian police intelligence was simply wrong. Further, Canada did not know that one of their citizens would be treated in a way reminiscent of how the old USSR handled its dissidents. They will think twice before cooperating so freely with the US, as is already the case with some other European nations. If as a consequence a future terrorist kills Americans, the blame will =fall in George Bush’s lap, along with his enablers, such as the Neoconservatives.
Just as the Holy Roman Empire was, as Voltaire put it, neither holy nor Roman nor an empire, National Greatness Conservatism is neither national nor great nor conservative. It is not national because the US as a nation was founded on the principle of consent of the governed: the opposite of empire. It is not great because it rests on murder: the deliberate killing of those who oppose our designs on them, plus any “collateral damage” that may go with it. And it is not conservative because there is nothing in the American tradition that it conserves.
What really motivates the neoconservative? At a personal psychological level, blood lust is not too strong a term to use. Bill Kristol’s ecstasy that torture can be used to differentiate Bush from democrats (and American generals and those congress people who actually served their term in the armed forces, tells us far more about him than it does about whether it is a wise policy.
Bad judgment, blood lust, and craving power: Neoconservatism is intellectually and morally bankrupt. Their program, if follows is as likely to end in tyranny and bloodshed as was the Soviet experiment. Approximately 650,000 Iraqi dead is a start. “Benign hegemony” indeed. Those advocating policies of aggression no matter what the rationalization encourage the subverting of our own institutions. Neoconservatives are as much traitors to the American vision as were American communists once allied to Moscow and Beijing.”