Is There an Argument in That Column? (Iraq, III)

Ross Mackenzie penned his first new column in some time for Thursday’s edition of the Times-Dispatch. After some preliminaries, the veteran editorialist launches into what is intended to be an attack on critics of the Iraq War.

But instead of mounting a reasoned argument which shows he has wrestled with the serious criticisms mounted at both the decision to invade and the subsequent conduct of the war, Mackenzie adopts an unusual rhetorical method: He lists no fewer than 26 different supposed anti-war claims, stripping them from their context, and stating them in his own words.

The point here, of course, is to make the antiwar arguments look ridiculous. This is attempted in two ways: first, specific anti-war claims are stated in their most extreme terms, i.e. “It’s all the fault of a demonic America.” Second, highly pertinent and credible claims–about torture, creating more terrorists, administrative competence–are mixed in with more far-fetched claims about 9/11 conspiracies, as well as seemingly random statements such as “We all voted for the war before we voted against it.”

(Anyone tempted by the 9/11 conspiracy theories, by the way, should have a look at Alexander Cockburn’s useful retort in The Nation this week, which appears in long form here.)

In short, Mackenzie wants to tells us that because some criticisms of Bush appear far-fetched, all of them must be invalid. Therefore, we should trust the leader unconditionally.

Such logic hardly even rises to the level of a slippery slope argument.

What we have here is a simple refusal to take seriously and make the effort to offer an informed response to criticism, largely driven by what is no doubt a sincere belief that it’s not the role of citizens and observers to judge presidents’ actions in conducting war. The logic of that belief, of course, is at odds with the notion of democracy itself; as long as “the jihadists hate us, want to destroy our freedoms and rights,” we should support whatever our leaders claim is necessary.

If there’s any comfort to be found, it’s that Mackenzie’s view is an increasingly lonely one even on the right. A much more honest and even insightful assessment of President Bush and his leadership can be found in this New York Times column by prominent conservative David Brooks.

By the way, if you haven’t noticed, the Richmond Times-Dispatch has (coincidentally or not) moved aggressively into the blogosphere in the last few weeks, including this blog from columnist Barton Hinkle.

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Published in: on September 14, 2006 at 2:06 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] (Tip of the hat to Thad Williamson.) […]


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