Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Our Dictators

As I said Monday regarding the Iraq debacle: "The U.S. has no business determining the future of Iraq and should be looking at holding its war criminals to account". The fact that GWB started a war gets glossed over too often when talking about Iraq. I think that he should be impeached and tried as a war criminal. The thought that someone can commit such a great "wrong" and get away with it is outrageous. And it was this thought that went through my mind when I heard about Pinochet's death. It was a great injustice that he died a free man.

That was bad enough. Then I started to hear tributes being paid to him and talk about a state funeral. WTF? I was not surprised to find that Glenn Greenwald was outraged as well and he wrote a scathing review of a WaPo editorial which had gone so far as to praise Pinochet!
The Editorial Page of The Washington Post today lavishly praised right-wing Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The Editorial begins with the cursory (really almost bored and resentful) acknowledgment that "for some [Pinochet] was the epitome of an evil dictator." Why would the dreaded, unnamed "some" shriek that Pinochet was an "evil dictator"? No good reason; only this:
Mr. Pinochet was brutal: More than 3,000 people were killed by his government and tens of thousands tortured, mostly in his first three years. Thousands of others spent years in exile.
The Post even belittles the contempt expressed for Pinochet by claiming that it is due less to his murder and torture of political opponents -- that can't possibly be the real reason -- and is driven instead by the fact that "he helped to overthrow, with U.S. support, an elected president considered saintly by the international left: socialist Salvador Allende, whose responsibility for creating the conditions for the 1973 coup is usually overlooked."


It is hard to overstate just how radical and extraordinary it is -- though also unsurprising and revealing -- for the Post, particularly in our current political climate, to expressly embrace Augusto Pinochet and to endorse Kirkpatrick's seminal pro-dictatorship article, titled "Dictatorship and Double Standards," which was published in Commentary in November, 1979 (the headline of the Post's Editorial tracks Kirkpatrick's title).


Objectively speaking, Kirkpatrick's description of the virtues of "traditional autocracy" sound quite similar to the vision which Bush followers and certain elite enablers (e.g. Fred Hiatt and similar Beltway pundits) have of the Ideal America today.

Despite the radical transformation of our national character over the last five years, The Washington Post continues to be able to earn money and enjoy the rewards of the free market. We continue to "worship traditional gods and observe traditional taboos." And Bush officials "leave in place existing allocations of wealth, power, status, and other resources which in most traditional societies favor an affluent few."

Just as Kirkpatrick argued in 1979 -- and as the Post implicitly endorsed today -- we can all live with some torture and arbitrary arrests and detentions. And we must always keep in mind that things could always be worse -- at least the Bush administration (like Pinochet) is keeping taxes low and corporate profits high. So our view of its human rights abuses (like our view of Pinochet's) should be tempered by our appreciation for its rejection of socialism.

Thus, argues the Post (following along with the illustrious Jonah Goldberg, among others), let's set torture and lawbreaking and indefinite detention to the side. At least George Bush (and Pincochet) aren't Fidel Castro. That this has become the Post's measuring stick for our own government explains much about the last five years in this country.


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