Jeff and Hitch Take on Iraq and Family Values


I don’t usually do this, partly because lots of other people do and partly because the right wing is so unimaginative they say the same things over and over and over and the sheer endless, mindless repetition gets to me. How many times can you counter the same stoopid, clueless lies before your brain melts into something that resembles moldy oatmeal?

But today I happened to run across two pieces which are pure perfection and decided to share them with you. Each of them represents conservative hypocrisy in all its glory while at the same time offering us a glimpse inside the arguments we will be hearing over the next year or so about how they weren’t wrong about the war in Iraq, and how “family values” shouldn’t be taken so seriously now that Republicans are openly violating them instead of Democrats. Both pieces are truly precious, priceless examples of right-wing “thought” and more than a little amusing, in a sad, sick way.

1. Christopher Hitchens: So, Mr. Hitchens, Weren’t You Wrong About Iraq? Hard questions, four years later.

Mr Hitchens may have thought the questions were hard but the answers he offers in this post on his Slate blog, Fighting Words, must have been a breeze to write. Basically, he pretends that everything we’ve learned in the past 4 years is wrong. Of course, the questions he frames are also what you might reasonably call “soft balls”.

For instance, the first question asks if Bush should have gone to the UN in ’02 to make a speech about what a bad guy Saddam was. This gives Hitch an opportunity to cite the decision of an otherwise-hated One-World body (which he used to refer to as a “useless debating society”) with approval: they agreed with Junior. Sort of.

He conveniently leaves out the little matter of the Republican Congress’ threat not to pay the US share of the UN bill, the pressure the Bush Admin put on the UN to go along or else, and the minor fact that the vote was, at the time, meaningless. Most of the planet’s countries had no brief for Saddam, so what harm could it do to pass a resolution condemning him? They were led to believe by then US Ambassador John Negroponte, in a typical piece of neocon bullshit, that the Bush Push was about preparing the ground for new sanctions and putting more pressure on Saddam to let the UN inspectors back in. They didn’t know it was a set-up for starting a pre-emptive war.

But Hitch isn’t interested in any of that. He just wants to make it plain that the UN agreed with Bush and then pretend that that means they agreed with the war he started a year later.

That’s just a warm-up to the main event, though. The second question begins to zero in on the ConservativeWorld (Entrance Fee: $$$10 Mil and your signature on a document transferring ownership of your soul to one Sidney J Moloch, Esq) Playground of Fiction-Facts.

Was it then correct to send military forces to the Gulf, in case Saddam continued his long policy of defiance, concealment, and expulsion or obstruction of U.N. inspectors?

Well, if you put it that way….

In the reality-based world, Saddam opened Iraq to UN inspectors in 2002, and their inspection showed that he had no WMD’s and no nuclear program. In ConservativeWorld, the inspectors were only allowed to return because Bush threatened military action and Saddam’s compliance with UN sanctions never happened. Before you even get to Hitch’s answer, you know what you’re supposed to think from the way the question is phrased. Sure enough:

If you understand the history of the inspection process at all, you must concede that Saddam would never have agreed to readmit the inspectors if coalition forces had not made their appearance on his borders and in the waters of the Gulf. It was never a choice between inspection and intervention: It was only the believable threat of an intervention that enabled even limited inspections to resume.

While not entirely un-true, the foregoing is, at best, selective truth – what Jon Stewart would call “truthy”. Those of us living outside ConservativeWorld well remember how the inspectors were vilified by the Bush Administration and the RWNM – particularly Ritter and el Baradai – for coming up with the wrong answers and telling the truth about Saddam’s weaponlessness. The military maneuvers came after that, not before it. Bush couldn’t justify military threats without knocking down the inspectors. That was his excuse for the maneuvers: that Saddam was lying and had fooled the UNSCOM team.

The uncomfortable little fact that UNSCOM’s conclusion was later proved to be right on target is dealt with by Hitch with disarming simplicity and more re-writing of history than you’d find in a college freshman’s blue book. The second question:

Should it not have been known by Western intelligence that Iraq had no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction?

A little less loaded than the first, at least, but a set-up nonetheless.

The entire record of UNSCOM until that date had shown a determination on the part of the Iraqi dictatorship to build dummy facilities to deceive inspectors, to refuse to allow scientists to be interviewed without coercion, to conceal chemical and biological deposits, and to search the black market for materiel that would breach the sanctions.

All of which is appropriately truthy but not exactly accurate except for the last part, which is totally false. Without having the balls to say so outright, Hitch repeats, once again, the fantasy of the yellowcake fraud as if it were fact.

You know, once these guys get hold of a lie they can use, they’re like pit bulls: they never let go, no matter how many times you prove it’s not true.

I’ll end with the third question because the answer is a classic of convoluted right-wing logic and strawman knockdown. (You can read the other three for yourself if you need a laugh – the fourth allows as how Colin Powell’s performance at the UN was “a bit of a disgrace” and then blames it, shockingly, on Tenet and the CIA, and the fifth makes the startling, LOL assertion that “[t]he Bush administration never claimed that Iraq had any hand in the events of Sept. 11, 2001”. Apparently, Cheney was no longer part of the Admin. Great comedy routine.) Dig:

Could Iraq have been believably “inspected” while the Baath Party remained in power?

No. The word inspector is misleading here. The small number of U.N. personnel were not supposed to comb the countryside. They were supposed to monitor the handover of the items on Iraq’s list, to check them, and then to supervise their destruction….To call for serious and unimpeachable inspections was to call, in effect, for a change of regime in Iraq. Thus, we can now say that Iraq is in compliance with the Nonproliferation Treaty.

Isn’t that beautiful? Even if the inspections worked, the inspections couldn’t have worked and therefore regime change was required. Inaccurate assertions deny or ignore corroborated fact and are then used to retroactively justify an unexplained conclusion. You have to admire the sheer gall of it.

2. Jeff Jacoby: GOP ‘family values’

For those of you who don’t know him, Jacoby is a long-time conservative columnist for the Boston Globe and is syndicated by the NYT (the Globe‘s owner) to many other local papers in New England and beyond. Like the rest of the right-wing punditariat, he has been wrong about almost everything but blithely ignores that so he can keep being wrong about almost everything.

But the column that caught my eye isn’t about being wrong. What Jeff’s column today is, is a classic example of 180-degree IOKIYAR hypocrisy. A mere decade ago, Jeff couldn’t wait to be the first pundit on the block to excoriate Bill Clinton’s lack of “family values” and his heinous crime in lying about a blowjob. You might expect, then, that a column about the rampant infidelity of current GOP presidential candidates might merit the same outrage.

No, you wouldn’t. You’re smarter than that. And you’re right. Jeff has discovered that adultery isn’t all that important anyhow compared to, well, public service! *insert gagging/choking-back-laughter sound here*

Of course, voters are free to measure politicians by any yardstick they choose. But when the conversation turns to sexual misbehavior, a few principles are worth keeping in mind.

First, marital fidelity has nothing to do with political leadership. Convenient as it would be if adulterous behavior were a reliable indicator of presidential unsuitability, history doesn’t bear that out. Franklin Roosevelt had mistresses and John F. Kennedy was a philanderer, but both made better political leaders than such faithful husbands as Jimmy Carter or Richard Nixon. From King David to Martin Luther King, examples abound of illustrious public leaders who were grievous private sinners. The untidy fact is, a man who would be scandalous as a pastor may prove an exemplary president.

Second, public behavior counts for more than private behavior. Voters should give greater weight to what a politician says and does in public than to his private words and deeds. What matters most is whether he upholds appropriate values — not whether he falls short of those values in private. Civilized society does not require human perfection and consistency. It does require that imperfect human beings, whatever their private failings, affirm the distinction between right and wrong, and maintain a social architecture of shared moral standards.

(emphasis in the original)

Both of Jeff’s “principles” are verbatim thefts of points we made about Bill’s infidelity with Monica. Points that made Jacoby apoplectic with anger and righteous indignation at the time are now his defense against the hypocrisy of Gingrich, the self-absorption and unrestrained selfishness of Rudy, and the cruelty of both in the way they handled their previous wives. In one of the most hypocritical statements ever made by a right-wing apologist – and that takes in a lot of territory – Jeff even has the blind, bald, unmitigated nerve to call Newt a hypocrite.

A man who publicly castigates an adulterous president while secretly carrying on an affair of his own — as Gingrich did in 1998 — may be a hypocrite, but he has not undermined the public code that condemns adultery and celebrates marital faithfulness.

Oh. And what, exactly, is a pundit who viciously attacks a Democrat for something and then blithely forgives a Republican who does precisely the same thing? A fount of integrity?

I’ve said it for years and I’ll say it again: they have no shame, these people, but at least they’re amusing.

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