Thursday, January 13, 2005

NOTHING MATTERS AND SO WHAT IF IT DID. "I have no doubt that opposition to the 'death squads' was also based on revulsion at some of their excesses." -- Jonah Goldberg. Yeah, see, those excesses are why they're called "death squads." Though we could as easily call them "nun-raping squads," among other things.

Goldberg, however, points out that the mayhem was all done in the name of anti-Communism, so bringing up this disgusting chapter in American history, and its possible revival, is in his view a big arrow-down for liberals.

The Ole Perfesser of course sides with Goldberg, wondering "if making comparisons to Central America will help the Left, or simply bring up a lot of things that a lot of people would rather gloss over today." I don't know if anything could help the Left these days, but speaking for myself, I don't find an anti-death-squad position particularly embarrassing. But these are the same guys who just got through telling us that we should be careful about denouncing torture, so I don't expect their threshold of embarrassment to be anything like my own.

I stress that this a separate issue from that of the reliability of reports that death squads are currently under consideration for Iraq. (Though I will say that a denial from Rumsfeld is, for obvious reasons, less than meaningless.) It is more interesting to me that their Truth Squad's first line of defense is, essentially, that we shouldn't judge too harshly the concept of using vicious, secret paramilitary terrorist groups as instruments of American foreign policy.

It seems these guys have tumbled to an exciting new idea: rather than propagandizing for specific policies, it may be more effective to work on inverting certain of our traditional values -- that torture is un-American, that support for foreign paramilitary criminals is un-American, etc. -- so that, over time, we begin to question what we had once considered moral certainties about violence and fair play. That way, in future, pangs of conscience will not trouble us when something repulsive is proposed. Hell, next time they want to invade someplace, they may not even have to pretend to have a reason; a simple "yee-haw" will do. If torture and death squads aren't wrong, then what is?

I used to wonder if these guys are straight-up agents for the Administration; now I wonder if they're straight-up agents for Satan.

UPDATE. Edited to remove my dumb misreading of Matt Yglesias on the subject. Well, you can have it fast or you can have it right.

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