An enduring mystery

Here’s the opening paragraph of a Washington Post op-ed by Eugene Robinson:

Twenty years from now, how will we remember this “global war on terrorism”? Assuming it’s over by then — assuming we haven’t escalated a fight against al Qaeda into an all-out clash of civilizations — will we look back on the GWOT, as Washington bureaucrats call it, and feel pride in the nation’s resolve and sacrifice? Or will history’s verdict be tempered by shame?

Before we get to Robinson’s inevitable (and unsupported) claims about torture, let’s reflect for a moment on his assumption that if we’re still fighting the war on terror in 20 years it will be our fault because we “escalated the fight” into an all-out clash of civilizations. Robinson apparently can’t visualize the possibility that terrorists can remain in business unless we act badly. He thus perfectly represents the narcissism, reflexive anti-American bias, and general lack of seriousness among many on the left when it comes to this subject. Milder forms of this syndrome plague the Democratic party and have helped cause its defeat in the two post 9/11 elections.
Now let’s subject ourselves to the unpleasantness of dealing with another knee-jerk torture column. Believe it or not, Robinson thinks that history’s judgment on the U.S. will not be kind unless we find some high-level scapegoats for the Abu Ghraib affair. He writes:

A year [after the incidents came to light], only the low-ranking grunts who grinned and gave thumbs-ups while committing these sadistic acts have been made to answer. Only one ranking officer — a reservist, a woman, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski — has been sanctioned. The White House and Pentagon officials who opened the door to these abuses, and the careerist Army brass who oversaw the brutality, sit comfortably in their offices, talking disingenuously of “rogue” privates and sergeants.

But where is Robinson’s evidence that White House and Pentagon officials “opened the door to these abuses” (what does he even mean here — this is sloppy writing designed to paper over the lack of evidence)? Where is his evidence that Army brass “oversaw” the brutality in any sense that would make them culpable? Where is his evidence that characterizing the participants as “rogues” is incorrect? Robinson supplies none.
Abu Ghraib has been thoroughly investigated, and the investigators say they found no evidence to support the kind of claims Robinson is making. Robinson doesn’t have to accept these result, but he has some obligation, I would have thought, to present a basis for his unwillingness to accept them before asserting, as if it were a fact, that culpability extends beyond where the investigators placed it.
What drives people like Robinson, Bob Herbert, and Ted Kennedy to assume that our government is evil, and to pronounce it such for the world to hear? Is it simply hatred of President Bush; the desire for partisan gain; hatred of the military; the desire to sound righteous and superior? I started writing for Power Line partly in the hope of getting to the bottom of this question. After almost three years, I’m nowhere close.


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