Today, I read two pieces by Andrew Sullivan, one linked by a reader, the other by OpinionJournal’s Political Diary. Buried beneath that blogger’s bile were some insightful observations and even the makings of solid arguments. But, as I read each, I realized (yet again) why I don’t much bother with Andrew’s blog any more. It seems that soon after introduces an interesting idea, he launches into some diatribe against the president his Administration and/or those who, from time to time, dare defend him.
Andrew Sullivan’s tendentious tirades and persistent name-calling obscures his occasional wisdom.
He does have a point in the debate on aggressive interrogation techniques and torture, but his obsession with the issue has caused me to question his judgment. The very issue raises an important question: as a free society which values the rule of law, how far should we go in interrogating detainees suspected of terrorist activities so we might learn of (and hence thwart) their associates’ plans to attack civilian — and even military — targets?
Yet, instead of giving a fair hearing to those of us who favor the limited use of aggressive interrogation techniques (which some have called torture), Andrew levels all kinds of angry accusations against the Administration. In today’s piece on the topic, he addresses the conflicting accounts on the value of the information gathered with such aggressive techniques from Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida and resorts to so much name-calling and misrepresentation that he ends up only appealing to his existing audience and other Bush-haters.
He describes the interrogation as “Gestapo-playbook torture,” claims that “that Abu Ghraib was not just Bush policy – official Bush policy was worse” (someone forgot about the Schlesinger report), even suggests there have been “hundreds – and possibly thousands – of torture sessions” in the Bush Administration.
With rhetoric like this, no wonder so many who once regularly read his blog no longer do so.
Andrew finds it incumbent to bring up the issue of torture even in his endorsement of Ron Paul for president. He praises his man and John McCain not just for taking issue with the president’s stand on detainee interrogation, but for taking a “stand against the cancerous and deeply un-American torture and detention regime constructed by Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld.” Torture regime? He makes sound it like torture is the defining agenda of the Administration. Despite this juvenile comment, he does make (in that post) a valid point about the authenticity of McCain and Paul.
In his post on torture, he doesn’t bother to address what he calls the “key argument of torture advocates like Charles Krauthammer.” He merely claims that it has been rendered “moot.” As if the piece he cited proved his point, rather than presenting conflicting views (as it does) on the topic. Indeed, there is a debate among serious pundits and responsible public officials about the merits of aggressive interrogation techniques (with some while conceding that one such method, waterboarding, may be torture, recognizing its effectiveness). Instead of joining their important conversation, Andrew resorts to insults and misrepresentation.
I might take read Andrew more regularly (and take his points more seriously) were he to show greater respect for the opinions of others and refrained from name-calling.
The debate on aggressive interrogation techniques (or torture as some have called it) as means to gather information from suspected terrorists is perhaps one of the most significant issues of our day. Believing that we should treat all our prisoners with dignity, I’m not entirely comfortable with such methods as waterboarding. But, many in the intelligence community believe these methods are an effective means to gather information. To be sure, others are skeptical.
At present, I side with those who favorite such techniques provided that procedures are in place to make sure they’re only used in limited circumstances. I wish we didn’t have to resort to such methods, but think the safety of thousands of civilians outweighs the treatment of a handful of terrorists. Stuart Taylor offers somewhat different view and makes his case in a rational manner without insult or misrepresentation.
As Andrew’s references to “torture” show, his problem since February 24, 2004 is not the ideas he expresses, but the manner in which he has in the past three-and-a-half years expressed himself. He has all too often adopted the rhetoric (and sometimes even the arguments) of the angry Bush-hating left and so all too frequently obscures the eloquence of his expression and the intelligence of many of his ideas.
– B. Daniel Blatt (GayPatriotWest@aol.com)