TCS Daily


The Hyperbolic Opposition

By Ryan H. Sager - June 22, 2005 12:00 AM

The self-destruction of the left these days may be amusing, in its way, but it's also growing pretty tiresome.

While sometimes it's fun to get outraged -- and if you work in cable news, it may well be your bread and butter -- there comes a point when citizens of good-will are going to have to demand of leading liberal voices (to borrow a phrase from Jon Stewart): Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America!

In particular, such a plea might be made, based on various idiotic statements and theatrics over the past few weeks, to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and a host of top-level managers over at Amnesty International.

Amnesty, of course, set off the latest round of moral bankruptcy filings with its comparison of the terrorist-detention-and-interrogation facility at Guantanamo Bay to the Soviet gulag.

Now, the problems with gulag metaphor have been pretty thoroughly hashed out at this point. But what's worse, perhaps, than the simple untetheredness of the comparison is the way in which such rhetoric has lowered the bar for the defense of American conduct.

When the center of the debate shifts from whether or not Americans are prepared to accept sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation and various other forms of harsh and not-so-harsh tactics to whether or not America is running labor/death camps -- well, pretty much anything the U.S. does starts to look like a day at the spa compared to the grotesquely distorted picture being painted by the anti-war left.

In fact, it's remarkable, since the Amnesty-gulag comparison, the extent to which administration supporters have begun to express great pride that America's interrogation facilities are so much more humane than those of Saddam -- or those of the insurgents just recently found torturing Iraqis in Karabila. And, of course, America is far more humane than any of the savage groups to which it is being compared.

Which is the point. It is just as much the fault of the Amnesty Internationals of the world as it is of the Scott McClellans that, so long as we're not beheading hostages or fitting them up with electric wires, Bush administration apologists can declare victory.

There's an important debate to be had in this country about just how far we're willing to go in our interrogations. But it's a difficult debate to even get started when one side thinks that we should be extremely concerned with the possibility that someone, somewhere might have desecrated the Korans of the people responsible for the murders of Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg, Fabrizio Quattrocchi, three-thousand Americans and now hundreds upon hundreds of Iraqi civilians.

Worse than the irresponsible statements of Amnesty -- because, let's face it, Amnesty hasn't been a credible human-rights group for some time -- were those of Senate Minority Whip Durbin. The No. 2 Democrat in the country took to the Senate floor last week to compare American soldiers to "Nazis" and "Soviets in their gulag." Called to the carpet over the atrocious statements, Sen. Durbin apologized -- for the people who had misunderstood him.

Sen. Trent Lott lost his leadership post over less -- largely due to outcry within his own party. So, what do Durbin's colleagues think?

Rep. Conyers, for his part, should at least be glad that Sen. Durbin's mouth-foot orgy last week drew attention away from his own embarrassing let's-play-dress-up impeachment "hearing." As Dana Milbank's excellent report in The Washington Post recounts:

        "The session took an awkward turn when witness Ray McGovern, a former 
        intelligence analyst, declared that the United States went to war in Iraq for 
        oil, Israel and military bases craved by administration 'neocons' so 'the United 
        States and Israel could dominate that part of the world.' He said that Israel 
        should not be considered an ally and that Bush was doing the bidding of 
        Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

        'Israel is not allowed to be brought up in polite conversation,' McGovern 
        said. 'The last time I did this, the previous director of Central Intelligence 
        called me anti-Semitic.'

        Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), who prompted the question by wondering 
        whether the true war motive was Iraq's threat to Israel, thanked McGovern for 
        his 'candid answer.'"

Of course, such anti-Semitic bile can be found at virtually any anti-war rally -- on the fringes. But it's instructive to see just how close it's crept to respectability in the circles of Democratic power (or should that be powerlessness?).

While it would be extremely easy to gloat over this continued meltdown, there's simply nothing here to be happy about, unless one is among the most partisan of Republican partisans.

For those who have supported the war all along -- or at least want to see us win -- it's sad not to have a loyal opposition to help keep the administration honest.

Ryan Sager is a member of the editorial board of The New York Post. He also edits the blog Miscellaneous Objections and can be reached at editor@rhsager.com.

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