Saturday, June 26, 2010

Right-wing self-delusion.

National Reviews Jay Nordlinger quotes Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak stating that, "A million and a half people are living in Gaza, but only one of them is really in need of humanitarian aid."

It's a truly abhorrent statement, for he is implying that the only person in need of humanitarian aid in Gaza is young Gilad Shalit, who continues to be held by Hamas who refuse to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to him.

Now, of course, the continued kidnapping of Gilad Shalit is to be abhorred, but are we seriously arguing that he is the only person currently suffering in the Gaza Strip as the Israelis continue to impose their cruel blockade of that territory?

But Nordlinger takes this even further arguing:

After observing that neither "the Cuban dictatorship or Chinese dictatorship permit the Red Cross to see prisoners, Nordlinger then claims -- with the needy victimization that typifies the Right -- that "there'd be mass demonstrations in [Shalit's] behalf all over Europe, and on American streets, too" if "Shalit were other than Israeli." In other words, Nordlinger believes that the Western World would never tolerate the denial of ICRC access to detainees except when the detainee is Israeli.
That's simply fantastical. Is Nordlinger unaware that the US - operating secret prisons under the Bush regime - held countless prisoners secretly and refused access to those prisoners by the ICRC? Did he complain about this at the time? Or is it different when America holds prisoners secretly and refuses to allow access to them from the ICRC? Does the fact that George Bush was fighting his war on terror mean that we couldn't afford to allow access to the prisoners by the ICRC? And was Nordlinger okay with that at the time?

The US has admitted for the first time that it has not given the Red Cross access to all detainees in its custody.

The state department's top legal adviser, John Bellinger, made the admission but gave no details about where such prisoners were held. . . . He stated that the group International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had access to "absolutely everybody" at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which holds suspects detained during the US war on terror. When asked by journalists if the organisation had access to everybody held in similar circumstances elsewhere, he said: "No".
Glenn Greenwald:
Many Americans defend the U.S.'s conduct not because they support it, but because they're completely unaware of what those actions actually are. Many of the people who support what they call the "enhanced interrogation" program really believe they're defending three instances of waterboarding rather than scores of detainee deaths, because they literally don't know it happened. And here you have Nordlinger -- a Senior Editor of National Review -- claiming that denial of access to the ICRC is the hallmark of brutal tyrannies (it is), and arguing that a country could only get away with it if they do it to an Israeli, making clear that he is completely ignorant of the fact that his own Government did this for years (without, needless to say, prompting a peep of protest from his magazine), and reportedly continues to do it. That the U.S. did this systematically just doesn't exist in his brain; he really believes it's something only China, Cuba and Hamas do. They really do live in their own universe and just block out whatever facts they dislike while inventing the ones that make them feel good.
There is a certain mindset, especially amongst the American right, which really believes their nation only ever engages in good and that it is other countries - usually Cuba, China, or almost any nation in the Middle East except Israel - which break international law and international treaties.

And when it proven against all reasonable doubt that their country is engaged in an activity which is illegal - including, but not limited to, torture, rendition, waterboarding, etc - then they see their task as to instantly defend this behaviour by claiming that "there are different kinds of waterboarding" or that "the normal rules don't apply at a time of war".

Of course, there is a very good reason why war crimes are known as war crimes and not peace crimes: it is because it is precisely at a time of war that one might be tempted to commit them.

But it's the instant cloak of victim-hood which they apply to themselves which I find most interesting. "The world wouldn't put up with this if it were anyone other than an Israeli."

And he says this apparently utterly unaware of the fact that his own nation had been indulging in this behaviour for most of the time that the last Republican administration was in office.

Greenwald explains the mindset which is on display here by quoting George Orwell:
All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage -- torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians -- which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.
That perfectly sums up the mindset which Nordlinger is exhibiting.

Click here for full article.

No comments: