You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

May 13, 2004

So... Hard... To... Be... Fair

One reason this website exists is to allow me to practice being honest and fair. You don't wake up one morning suddenly honest and fair, just as you don't wake up one morning suddenly a concert violinist. (This is why "The Metamorphosis" is COMPLETELY UNREALISTIC.) You might have honest-and-fair tendencies, just as you might have natural musical talent. But to achieve anything meaningful in any area requires practice. As Stephen King says, "talent is a dreadfully cheap commodity, cheaper than table salt." And that's pretty cheap, because you can get salt for two cents an ounce.

So I read this new Washington Post column by Jim Hoagland (via Atrios), in which Hoagland writes, "Those who were silent about torture in Iraq during Saddam Hussein's time should be modest about cloaking established political agendas in the name of that cause now." Because Hoagland is so monotonously right-wing on foreign policy, I assumed he himself was silent about torture in Iraq until it became politically convenient -- ie, upon the invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. I cranked up my little snideness-generating machine and looked through old writings of his.

I assumed wrong. Hoagland's criticism of Iraq and Saddam Hussein, while not completely consistent, definitely predates the Kuwaiti invasion. For instance:

April 10, 1990
[Saddam Hussein is] a man who has ordered the shooting, poisoning and dismembering of political opponents and the gassing of his own citizens, and reveled in these acts... The [George H.W.] Bush administration came to office convinced that Saddam was among nature's engineerables. Despite all the evidence to the contrary (most recently laid out in chilling and persuasive detail by Middle East Watch in its report, "Human Rights in Iraq"), the State Department offered the view that Bush could persuade Saddam to become a useful citizen of the world... The administration provided Baghdad with $1 billion in guaranteed credits in 1989 to enable Iraq to buy U.S. food supplies while pouring money into missiles, chemical weapons production and the search for an atomic bomb. After Congress voted at the end of 1989 to bar U.S. Export-Import Bank credits to Iraq, President Bush signed a waiver on Jan. 17. He said it was in America's national interest to continue providing Baghdad with $200 million a year in subsidized financing.
July 5, 1990
[T]he [George H.W.] Bush administration has turned a blind eye to Iraq's continuing crimes and misdemeanors in the Middle East, just as Washington long turned a blind eye to the financial manipulation and corruption created in the United States by Iraqi misuse of $1 billion in U.S. agricultural commodity credits... the whole relationship the Bush administration has developed with Iraq is based on fraud. A policy that requires conscientious officials like [Assistant Secretary of State John] Kelly to shade and avoid the truth, to speak no evil of a completely evil regime, cannot be the basis for effective diplomacy or for the self-respect a nation owes itself.

Oh, it is so hard to be honest and fair about Hoagland. So very hard. But while there are many, many things to criticize about him, complete hypocrisy on human rights in Iraq is not one of them.

UPDATE: Atrios had the same idea I did. I believe he didn't read enough of what Hoagland wrote, however.

Posted at May 13, 2004 12:05 PM | TrackBack