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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

From David Remnick's Reporting, a piece on Tony Blair:
I asked Blair about all the mistakes and even disasters that followed the fall of Saddam: the American failure to anticipate mass looting, the insurgency, the unending casualties, the torture at Abu Ghraib prison.

"On that I take a slightly heretical view," he said. "I think that when anything like that happens it's ghastly and terrible and should be condemned immediately and dealt with. But I also think that people are cleverer in the Middle East, in Iraq and places like that, than we often give them credit for. And what they see is something terrible happening and the U.S. acting on it, the U.S. politicians under pressure, the U.S. soldiers responsible being prosecuted. I think people say these things happen, but the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy when something terrible happens someone is held to account and in a dictatorship they're not."
There are a couple of things to say about this, but I'll only comment briefly because I'm about to go to the gym and then hang out with my girlfriend's cat:

First, I like a lot of what Blair is trying to get across here. The attitude about the statement I emphasized is something that a lot of anti-war/anti-Bush/anti-American/whatever people should probably consider. We're so disgusted with Abu Ghraib, and the civilians dying in Iraq, and there are protests and calls for the architects of the war to resign--and rightfully so. But there is very little uproar in the liberal community about the crimes Saddam committed, or the actions of Hamas, or even of the living conditions in North Korea that continue every day. Somehow it's more saintly to highlight our own sins than to decry injustices elsewhere.

But while Blair makes a very poignant sound bite, he shifts the focus away from what people are most upset about in these domestic transgressions. I agree--and who wouldn't--that those responsible for Abu Ghraib should be held to account. After all, that's what we do in a democracy. But have those ultimately responsible been held to account? The public knows about a few of the major infractions that we've committed, and a few select parties have been put to justice; but it's foolish to think for one second that the U.S. system doesn't have major inherent flaws. It truly is a choice between the lesser--but much lesser, in my opinion--of two evils.

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Blogger Ben said...

"Somehow it's more saintly to highlight our own sins than to decry injustices elsewhere."

I feel sometimes that the liberal community tries to out-christian the Christians. On a personal level, it IS more saintly to examine yourself first, but on a national level it seems lately to mostly just involve ridiculous and dangerous equivocating.

For the next 10 years at least, probably more, America will be gun shy about involving itself in the affairs of other countries in any overt way. We will be the badguys then for NOT doing anything. Can't win. China will slowly gain power. Don't hold your breath for ANY self-examination coming from them. Oddly, as bad as things will be for many under a Chinese hegemony, still I don't think the world will look back on America as being a basically good nation, which, again, is just crazy. Even as they crumble beneath the weight of China they will shake their fist at our rotting and crumbling society.

1:39 AM  

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