10 March 2007

Pundits for war crimes

In case you don't only get your political commentary from the blogosphere, I have some observations about mainstream punditry.

Recently Glenn Greenwald and Paul Campos ripped into famed war hawk blogger Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds, who turns up also in mainstream publications and on TV. As Campos originally observed:

“We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and Iranian atomic scientists ... Basically, stepping on the Iranians' toes hard enough to make them reconsider their not-so-covert war against us in Iraq,” Reynolds wrote.

Of course Iran is not at war with America .... Moreover, even if Iran were at war with the United States, the intentional killing of civilian noncombatants is a war crime, as that term is defined by international treaties America has signed. Furthermore, government-sponsored assassinations of the sort Reynolds is advocating are expressly and unambiguously prohibited by the laws of the United States.

How does a law professor, of all people, justify advocating murder?

As Brad DeLong observes, Reynolds is stealing a page from a prominent mainstream “Middle East expert” pundit:
Tom Friedman who was telling us at the time that we needed to invade Iraq because we just had to kill some Arabs. We just had to, OK?
Meanwhile Arthur Silber, whose blog Power of Narrative you'll find marked in bold on my blogroll, does us a service in closely reading pundits Max Boot and Charles Krauthammer and finding advocacy for murder and torture.

For example, on Krauthammer:

“We must all be prepared to torture.” And even worse: we are “morally compelled to be monsters.

The confession is undeniable. Be absolutely sure to grasp what it is: Krauthammer thus confesses that he is already a monster, but he does not want you to condemn him for it. To the contrary, he wants you to become a monster too, to accept that you were “compelled” do so in the name of morality itself ...

Friedman is a regular columnist for the New York Times and a Pulitzer Prize winner. Krauthammer is a regular columnist for the Washington Post and a Pulitzer Prize winner. Boot is a regular columnist for the Los Angeles Times. All three frequently appear as commentators on television news programs.

Of course, as Ezra Klein points out, the producers of news programs aren't thinking so carefully.

This is nothing personal to Jonah, but why is he going on NPR today to talk about global warming? Does he actually, uh, know anything about global warming? Forget whether his opinion on it is accurate, given the universe of possible participants in a debate about climatological science, a generalist political journalist from The National Review doesn't sound like the most enlightening choice. Indeed, I shouldn't be on talking about global warming either. Not only haven't I read, but I can't even understand, most of the scientific literature on the issue. NPR's listeners deserve better.
America deserves better. Our press has failed us.

No comments: