Thursday, October 07, 2004

Andrew Sullivan

I have been a long time fan of Andrew Sullivan. When he was the Editor at the New Republic, I read his work regularly. And it was his blog that got me to start reading blogs. But lately, it has gotten a lot tougher to read him. He has turned against Bush in a remarkable way. First, it was with respect to same-sex marriage. I knew it was a personal issue for him, so I didn't react much to that. But it turned to just about everything else, and in particular, with respect to how the war in Iraq has been prosecuted. It wasn't so much that he had criticisms...but rather that he made hard fast conclusions and looked at all news to confirm his conclusions. His turret-like use of the words "incompetence" and "disaster" and "hopeless" were mind-numbing. But at the end of the day, it was his opinion and I disagreed with it. Today, however, Sullivan talked about Bush and the rationale for the war in a way that was simply dishonest. I read him religiously leading up to the war, so I knew what he said then....and for him to take the position he took today is unconscionable. Specifically, he said today:
"But from a broader perspective, the following facts are simply indisputable. The fundamental rationale for the war - the threat from Saddam's existing stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction - was wrong. Period. In the conduct of the war, it is equally indisputable that the administration simply didn't anticipate the insurgency we now face, and because of that, is struggling to rescue the effort from becoming a dangerous mess. Period. So the question becomes: how can an administration be re-elected after so patently misjudging the two most important aspects of the central issue in front of us? It may end up as simple as that. Maybe, in fact, it should end up as simple as that." (emphasis mine)

Well, I found that amazing. He is upset with the prosecution. Fine; I disagree (or more to the point, since we are in the midst of the war, I don't think anyone can really judge where we are). But with respect to the rationale, for him to talk about misjudgment, when he had the same judgment, shocked me. So I refreshed myself on some of what he has written in the past, and wrote him the following email (no, I have not heard from him, nor do I expect to!):

Peter Braffman
10/07/2004 12:59 PM


Today you posed the rhetorical question that if Bush so misjudged the rationale for the war -- WMDs -- how could he be re-elected. I found that a bit of a remarkable statement, particularly given what you said in the months leading up to the war. In going back through your archives, you noted on 8/1/02 that the London Times was concerned that about the lack of certainty regarding WMD in Iraq and their potential distribution. You commented then:
"But the critical issue is not certainty. It is whether, after terroristic forces have already massacred thousands of Americans, self-defense should get the benefit of the doubt. Bush and Blair are responsible if their own citizens are murdered en masse again. And they don't only have a right, they have a manifest duty to stop that happening. And the sooner, the better. Jenkins demands: "If We Must Go To War, for God's Sake Tell Us Why." Perhaps someone could arrange a trip for Jenkins to the site of what was once the World Trade Center, and he could get his answer."

Then, a few days later on 8/3/02, you chided the NYTs because they said that any decision regarding Iraq should not be in response to 9/11 or Al-Qaeda. You said:
"The only reason invading Iraq is being discussed at all is because of September 11 and what it taught us. It taught us that we are extremely vulnerable to terrorist assault, that these murderous fanatics are capable of anything, that they would use weapons of mass destruction in a heartbeat if they could get them. It is no secret that Iraq is the prime potential source of such weapons, and it is headed by a despot who has used them himself, and would dearly love to deliver them to America. What more do we need to know?"

A few months earlier (6/3/02), on pre-emption, you wrote:
"This is the new doctrine for American foreign policy. It needs to be. No responsible American administration can simply sit and wait until a rogue terrorist or terrorist state prepares to use weapons of mass destruction, or just weapons of destruction against citizens of the United States. ... What we need to see now is action - reform of the agencies that have been too passive in the past, and preparation for taking out the biggest single threat to our security, Saddam."

There are so many entries by you on this subject during this timeframe, and they all point to the same theme: why after 9-11 we had to act against specific threats, why it is the duty of the administration to do it pre-emptively (even when the threat may not be imminent) and that Iraq was the biggest threat we faced. You never once questioned whether the WMDs existed. It was common knowledge to you; it was not what this administration said that made you believe that. As you noted, the Clinton administration believed it and attacked Iraq on that basis. The UN too had catalogued his weapons. On top of that, as you noted, Saddam's actions made a response the only course; on 12/19/02, you stated "So its War":
"But the truth is, Saddam has given no possible lee-way for conciliation. The blizzard of obfuscatory documents hasn't worked."

So you believed that while is was common knowledge that Iraq had these weapons, even if we couldn't be certain that he had or would use them, that Saddam's very actions (his tactics with the inspectors, etc) and the actions of 9/11 made it the duty of the President to take Saddam out. But now that Saddam may not have had these weapons at the time, only Bush bears the responsibility of the "patent misjudging" the threat.

Tell me Andrew, if a well respected writer, journalist and blogger was so patently wrong in his judgments leading up to the war (or alternatively, if he so patently chose to forget what he said was the duty of the President facing an uncertain threat), how can we continue to take his opinions seriously? As you like to say, "I link, you decide." In the meantime, perhaps you should take a trip down to the site of what was once the World Trade Center and see if you can remember why you once felt so strongly that this administration should fight Iraq.


Did I overstate the case? I could have found other quotes of his....there are so many. But this is all I had time for. Do I feel better now? Marginally.


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