May 25, 2004
WELL, SOMEBODY HAD TO DO IT: Andrew Sullivan is Fisking Susan Sontag:
What Abu Ghraib does is remind Americans that their virtue is inherent not in their somehow being better than other people around the world, but in the ability of the democratic system to flush out and correct inevitable human error. So far, the response to Abu Ghraib has borne this out. Saddam had no public inquiries into his far more grotesque abuse, no Susan Sontag essays to highlight them. This does not in any way mitigate what happened at Abu Ghraib. But it is a distinction that we still have to keep in mind. . . .
Sontag asserts that the core of the U.S. and coalition mission in Iraq is imperial conquest. This is demonstrably untrue. The motives of the French and Belgians in nineteenth and twentieth century imperialism were utterly different than the Bush administration’s attempt to pre-empt Islamist terror in the wake of 9/11. The goal from the beginning of the Iraq war has been to set up a democratic and stable Iraq and to move toward U.S. withdrawal. No imperialist would be insisting upon a June 30 deadline for the transfer of sovereignty, as President Bush did last night. The conflation of these two distinct endeavors is absurd: mere rhetoric, not argument. Was American intervention in Bosnia, of which Sontag approved, “imperialist”? It saved Muslims from a totalitarian, genocidal monster as well. And we still have troops there. If Sontag wants to make a distinction between the two wars, it would be interesting to read. But none is there. She is venting, not arguing.