Friday, March 21, 2008

The Gullibility of Andrew Sullivan

On the fifth anniversary of the commencement of American hostilities in Iraq, leading conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan has responded to Slate Magazine's request that he reflect on his "own failings of judgment" as a staunch supporter of the Bush administration's 2003 march toward war.

Mr. Sullivan's self-serving mea culpa - in which he admits only to such head-scratching pseudo-intellectualisms as "historical narcissism," "narrow moralism" and good, old-fashioned "unconservatism"- regrettably neglects to address his major, apparent failing:


When Colin Powell made his infamous presentation of "proof" to the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003, the delegation from France immediately knew Secretary Powell had his "facts" wrong.

So did the Germans.

As did Canada's Prime Minister at the time, Jean Chretien.

And sitting in my own armchair as I watched Mr. Powell's speech on television, I also knew, as did countless millions of American and other observers worldwide, that the Secretary of State's "facts" were thin as mountain air.

So why, then, did Andrew Sullivan and his ilk so readily and glibly jump aboard the Administration's public relations bandwagon to propel the United States into this miserable and ineffectual war?

They were gullible, that's why.

They simply believed what they were told, and marched ahead to the war's drumbeat, like good little stenographic soldiers.

They summarily dismissed every serious factual doubt raised about the Administration's dire claims of imminent mushroom clouds. They viciously characterized all dissent as the mad ravings of unpatriotic, ignorant leftists. They shunted aside questions from abroad as the crotchety concerns of an out-of-touch "old Europe."

Mr. Sullivan and his compadres were so gullible, in fact, that each day in the lead up to the war they simply parroted the Administration's spin du jour on their blogs and journals, adding their own clever twists to the Administration's blatant deceptions. They thereby took on a major role in the spread of disinformation that before very long, led American tragically into this ongoing and dangerous foreign policy embarrassment.

Soon enough, we learned the French and the Germans and the armchair observers worldwide had it right, all along - there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Saddam, as evil as he may have been domestically, was no threat to the U.S.

And soon enough, too, we also learned that even within U.S. intelligence circles, only a minority cabal of neoconservative agents had ever been convinced of any military threat posed by the deposed Iraqi dictator to neighbouring countries or the domestic U.S.A.

From Richard A. Clarke and others, we learned what "cherry picking" intelligence means.

We saw critics like Ambassador Joseph Wilson savaged with the kinds of unflinching personal attacks by the Administration that ultimately led to the criminal convictions of Scooter Libby, disbarred yesterday for his role in obstructing U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of the Administration's shameless leaks of the identity of Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame.

So I will suggest that Mr. Sullivan add gullibility to his list of failings.

The record indicates that he showed inadequate interest in getting his facts straight, as he joined the chorus of Administration hacks that blasted away daily at those who were guilty of asking all the right questions.

It is worth recalling that the now-repentant Mr. Sullivan did so back then with a straight face - because he genuinely believed what he was told.

Most regrettably, judging by Mr. Sullivan's recent musings on the current Democratic nomination battle, this personal failing remains both unrecognized and unmediated.

Daily Dish buyers, beware.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very well said, Gary. Sullivan and his fellow US neocons suffer from what I gather psychologists term "confirmation bias". For a fascinating example of that syndrome in a very different context, see Steven Johnson's "the Ghost Map" (2006) on the mid-19th century "miasmatists" who - at the cost of thousands of lives - stubbornly turned a blind eye to the growing scientific evidence that "cholera morbus" was a water-bourne (no airbourne)disease!