With all the attention being paid to Jonah Goldberg's forthcoming very serious, thoughtful argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care, it's easy to forget that Goldberg also makes transparently ridiculous arguments about lots of things that have nothing to do with misrepresenting the nature and history of fascism. For instance, torture. Goldberg says that liberals are "cop-outs" because Nancy Pelosi didn't protest when first informed that waterboarding was being used on high-level detainees:
Her defenders say we need to look at the context. This was just after 9/11, and Pelosi was as angry about the attack and as eager to prevent another one as anyone.
Time magazine's liberal columnist Joe Klein writes: ''There was fear that we would be attacked again by terrorists, and on a regular basis. Few were thinking clearly about the nature of the threat and how to deal with it.'' So, what's the big deal?
Well, it's a big deal for a lot of reasons. But the one that left-wingers should take to heart is that you can't rely on your leaders and champions when the buildings collapse, the bombs explode or the planes fall from the sky.
If it's OK for liberal Democrats to condone what they consider to be torture when they're scared and angry, then the lesson is that the only way you can count on Democrats not to be scared and angry is to prevent future 9/11s.
First off, waterboarding is torture. Period.
Second, Joe Klein was in no way suggesting that Democratic acquiescence in torture was not a big deal, as Jonah implies. Klein was simply making the obvious point that everyone was a little traumatized after 9/11, so it's perhaps understandable, if still completely regrettable, that Democratic lawmakers gave up a little bit of liberty for a bit of imagined security. This is what's known as "providing context," something which conservatives generally have a hard time distinguishing from "making excuses."
Third, just to be clear: I don't think it's "OK for liberal Democrats to condone...torture when they're scared and angry." I think it's awful that Democrats went along with torture, but I do think I understand why they did it. A lot of people thought and did a lot of crazy stuff after 9/11. I myself flirted with conservatism, but thankfully realized that what I really needed was a drink and a few hours alone with De Profundis. The question is, having gotten our heads back, and knowing what we know now, that in addition to being morally indefensible, torture is as ineffective at producing usable intelligence as it is effective at radicalizing those who undergo it (and their brothers, cousins, and distant relatives), do we persist in using it? Liberal Democrats say no. Jonah Goldberg, still scared and angry, says yes, and accuses people who've regained their wits, and morality, of "copping-out."