For more than two years now, Andrew Sullivan has been launching a war against a civil discussion of gay marriage and the Administration’s policies on the treatment of terrorists captured on the battlefield. And just as importantly, he launched a war to besmirch the president’s policies to win the War on Terror. Rather than promote debate of these difficult and oftentimes contentious issues, rather than respect the opinions of his intellectual adversaries, rather than evaluate each issue on its merits, Andrew wants to drag the brave servicemen fighting for our country into his campaign to smear the President of the United States, his aides and supporters.*
That’s exactly what he did in his post yesterday when he attempted to link the brutal torture and murder of two U.S. servicemen to what he calls “the logic of torture-reciprocity endorsed by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Gonzales.” On this blog, Bruce found Andrew’s post “outrageous” while the Conjecturer’s Joshua Foust called it “revolting.” In a comment to Joshua’s post, the Malcontent said that Andrew “has gone from respectable to reprehensible.” Dan Riehl responded with a stronger one-word rejoinder.
It is striking that Andrew’s response to the barbaric murder of two servicemen is neither to offer sympathy for their families or to condemn the sadists who took their lives, but to make a mean-spirited snarky comment about the President and his top advisors.
That’s because since February 24, 2004, Andrew Sullivan has been more interested in attacking President Bush than dispassionately commenting on Administration policy. He has, as in the linked post, accused the Administration of sanctioning torture, focusing on uncorroborated reports and leaving out key details. As Heather MacDonald has shown, Andrew’s “torture narrative’ ignores some inconvenient facts.”
A serious person can hardly compare what Al Qaeda did to those two soldiers to the policies the Administration has considered (and adopted). Al Qaeda wasn’t trying to get information from these soldiers, but was inflicting pain merely for the sake of inflicting pain. When the Administration sanctions the use of interrogation techniques (that Andrew considers torture), they’re interested not in inflicting pain but in getting information from terrorists in order to stop their cohorts from committing atrocities like the one committed this week and others that are far worse, far, far, far, far worse.
At the same time as Americans are reacting in horror to these brutal murders, the Marine Corps announces that it is charging seven Marines and a sailor “with murder in the April death of an Iraqi civilian.” When our servicemen are accused of killing in cold blood or torturing detainees, our military investigates the allegations and when appropriate, presses charges. When such allegations are leveled against Al Qaeda’s operatives, their leaders honor them.
And looking at Abu Ghraib, the story that appears to have first piqued Andrew’s interest in torture, we see that our military had begun investigating the allegations long before the media turned the crimes into its issue du jour. An investigation was conducted. The accused soldiers were tried and are now serving time in prison. A commission was impaneled to find out what went wrong. The head of that panel, former Carter Administration official James Schlesinger wrote that the crimes “were limited in number [and] are not representative of the overall behavior of our forces.” Moreover, his panel “found no indication of a policy encouraging abuse.“
While Andrew still occasionally writes a thoughtful piece — or makes an insightful comment, for the past 2 years, 3 months and 28 days, he has been more interested in vilifying the president than in discussing his policies. When the president announced on February 24, 2004, that he supported the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) amending the constitution to define marriage as the union of one man to one woman, instead of making a case against the president’s proposal, Andrew accused him of declaring war.
His rhetoric is at odds with the Preface to a first-rate anthology he edited, Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con : A Reader where he writes:
How we conduct this debate is almost as important as its conclusion. And in many cultural war debates, there is little time for one side or the other. This collection stands against that tradition.
Given those words, it’s amazing that Andrew would declare that by stating a position at odds with his (and my) own, the president was declaring war on us. Indeed, Charles Krauthammer (whose work Andrew includes in his anthology) suggests that activists pushing gay marriage through the courts “forced the issue,” hence the president wasn’t declaring war, but just joining the debate.
At the same time, Andrew was accusing the president of waging war, Krauthammer, also an opponent of the FMA, was welcoming the opportunity for debate:
I welcome the debate on the constitutional amendment because it will shift the locus of this issue from unelected judges to where it belongs: the House and the Senate and the 50 state legislatures. In the end, however, I would probably vote against the amendment because for me the sanctity of the Constitution trumps everything, even marriage. Moreover, I would be loath to see some future democratic consensus in favor of gay marriage blocked by such an amendment.
Perhaps Krauthammer’s column influenced Andrew. It is dated February 27, 2004, 3 days after Andrew’s outburst while Andrew’s preface is dated March 2004.
Despite that preface and the re-issue of that excellent anthology with arguments on both sides of he debate, Andrew no longer seems interested in conducting a debate on gay marriage or the Iraq war — or any policy of this Administration for that matter — with any kind of civility. Yesterday, he called the president “shallow, monstrous, weak, and petty.”
It’s too bad Andrew has sunk to such name-calling because he once offered some of the strongest arguments of any pundit, for gay marriage, a strong national defense, smaller government and a host of other issues. It seems that he has become more focused on attacking the president, his advisors and supporters than in engaging in a civil debate of their policies and their ideas.
His transformation is a great loss for all those who delight in such debate, particularly for us gay conservatives, those of us who were once inspired by Andrew’s courage and encouraged by his success.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com