Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Apologists and Sycophants

Paul Campos, law professor and guest columnist for the Rocky Mountain News took aim at two fellow law professors yesterday in his weekly column:

This column was originally going to be about a couple of law professor-pundits, Hugh Hewitt and Glenn Reynolds, who specialize in defending the Bush administration. My learned colleagues are now busy claiming that the supposed "media frenzy" regarding the apparent massacre of civilians in Haditha, Iraq, is a product of liberal bias, rather than of a sense of professional obligation to report a major news story.

But in the end it's not very interesting to point out that Bush administration dead-enders are willing to defend anything it does. (Hewitt in particular seems past praying for: If President Bush came out in favor of compulsory late-term abortions for the wives of NASCAR drivers, I wouldn't be surprised if Hewitt found something to praise in the proposal).

What started as a slagging of Hewitt and Reynolds--as Hugh described it--turns into an interesting argument from one liberal against another's perception of history, the military and war. Fine enough as far as it goes.

Neither of these gentlemen need a defense from me; they both have the means and the the smarts to counter Professor Campos' rhetoric. As one who has been similarly slimed by more average, run-of-the-mill left-leaning wanna-be intellectuals, I felt compelled however to comment.

Campos turns his ire to Peter Beinart and a number of his comments on Haditha: What's more interesting are the following comments from Peter Beinart, editor in chief of The New Republic. After noting that Americans can be as barbaric as anyone, Beinart argues that "what makes us an exceptional nation with the capacity to lead and inspire the world is our very recognition of that fact." While it's true "we are capable of Hadithas and My Lais," America is nevertheless almost unique among nations because, when we confront such atrocities, we are "capable of acknowledging what happened, bringing the killers to justice, and instituting changes that make it less likely to happen again."

What's disturbing about this claim is that illustrates how a person in a position of considerable public influence can simply concoct an imaginary past to suit the propaganda needs of the present war.

Interesting take, not one I agree with necessarily but one I was willing to listen to an explanation of. Well, as I read the piece I couldn't help but notice that Campos seemed guilty of exactly what he charged Beinart with doing.

Professor Campos goes on in his effort to highlight three examples from US Military history that he believes, apparently, proves that the US isn't what Beinart argues it is. Pointing to My Lai, a 1967 incident involving a platoon of elite US soldiers called Tiger Force and an alleged incident involving former US Senator Bob Kerrey at Thanh Phong, Campos concludes that the US isn't exceptional in this regard.

Saying that "all wars are terrible," he finishes the point by saying that "...most such incidents will never be investigated; and that those that are investigated will rarely lead to punishment." The conclusion is reached because of what appears anyway to be a dissatisfaction with the ultimate outcomes of investigations into these incidents.

One conclusion that can be reached is that the Professor has decided--whether accurately or not--that absence of satisfactory outcomes in these individual cases is somehow dispositive of the notion that the US Military is nothing like what Beinart argued. In otherwords, it is not unique in it's recognition of it's own flaws and errors, it does not bring those who engage in criminal activity to justice, nor does it attempt to change it's behavior as a result.

All that based on three individual cases. Maybe he's a better lawyer than statistician.

I couldn't help but think that in so concluding on such a thin number of data sets that he engaged in the very behavior he charges of Beinart by concocting an imaginary past. Now, I have no numbers of my own but I've got to think that the current number of incidents involving questionable behavior that warrants an investigation by individual Military branches far exceeds the number that have recently been focal points of so many news reports.

I disagree with the ultimate conclusion Campos makes but was willing to go along for the ride as he was sticking to making an argument, even if I didn't think the argument worked. That is, until I got to the end of the piece:

That right-wing ideologues peddle jingoistic nonsense about American exceptionalism is only to be expected. That the editor of a prominent liberal magazine should do so as well helps explain how we've managed to entangle our troops in yet another nightmarish guerrilla war.

With my years of experience under my belt at the place that shall remain nameless, I feel secure in saying that such rhetoric masks condescension and an off-putting sense of superiority. In his interview with Hugh yesterday afternoon he made it even more clear:

HH: And were you fair-minded in this morning's commentary about me?

PC: Yeah, I think so. I think you are basically just a Bush apologist, pretty much.

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