How Can Uncivilized People Conduct a ‘Clash of Civilizations'? Ask Tony Blankley

The Right's defense of torture after Abu Ghraib seems like child's play now, compared to its shameless hustle on behalf of....
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Did anybody notice? Tony Blankley just called the Greatest Generation a bunch of baby killers. Meanwhile, he and his conservative allies are pushing the idea that therE's a "clash of civilizations," while simultaneously promoting values and policies that are abhorrent to whatever remains of the civilized world. The Barbarians Inside the Gate claim to defend civilization, but they're really undermining it from within.

The New Conservative Barbarism's in full effect - and it's been a tough week for those of us who have been clinging to our American values in the face of its onslaught.

The Right's defense of torture after Abu Ghraib seems like child's play now, compared to its shameless hustle on behalf of... I can hardly believe myself as I write it ... the slaughter of children and their innocent families.

There's no other way to interpret recent screeds by Michelle Malkin and Huffington Post's own Carol Platt Liebau, among a variety of others. When I say that these pieces are "nauseating," it's not an epithet or a value judgment: It's a literal description of my physical reaction when I read them.

Now we learn from Arianna what Tony Blankley said on their radio show "Left, Right, and Center": "Compared with any other previous war, any other army, ours is behaving with almost immaculate propriety."

For details on Mr. Blankley's notion of "immaculate propriety," I direct you to these photographs of the corpses of infants and young children killed at Ishaqi (including one whose head has been shattered by the bullets of American soldiers.) I warn you: You will never forget them as long as you live. But if we don't look at what Blankley at his ilk are really defending, we won't understand the enormity of the moral horror they represent.

Arianna tells us that Blankley specifically mentioned Word War II when he favorably compared the massacre of civilians at Haditha with the behavior of our soldiers in that war.

Apparently Tony thinks that our fathers and grandfathers drove across Europe in underarmored vehicles, that they were trapped amidst a hostile population that didn't want them there, directed by confused leaders, forced to serve as a result of a "backdoor draft," their flag-draped coffins hidden from the public, their buddies picked off by crude roadside bombs made by the locals, their mental health neglected ... until a few of them snapped and started slaughtering Europeans at random - only to see the notion of war crimes defended by liberal Roosevelt-lovers who placed their party allegiances over simple decency.

Maybe Tony thinks that Spielberg's film should have been called "Avenging Private Ryan."

Ironically, Mr. Blankley has written a book called "The West's Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations?" He, like many conservatives, argues that the West's values of pluralism, democracy, fair play, and decency are in mortal danger because of Islamic extremists.

But what, exactly, is the "civilization" he's defending? Every defining quality that has marked Western civilization for the last two hundred years is being mocked, slandered, or rejected daily by Blakeley and his cronies on the Right.

It takes civilized people to defend 'civilization.' The inconvenient fact is that there are civilized people - and barbarians - in both the Islamic world and the West. Let's take a quick look at the generally accepted qualities all civilized people share - qualities that are now shockingly absent among many on the Right:

Civilized people reject torture: Civilized nations abhor torture - not only because it doesn't work, but more importantly because it's immoral. Blankley wants to change that. So does his "monster-in-law," Alan Dershowitz. Charles Krauthammer and many other conservative commentators are down with it, too. The one conservative who took a public stance against torture - John McCain, a victim of the practice - caved at the last moment for political expediency and let our torture practices continue. I took a crack at rebutting their (surprisingly, for Dershowitz) weak arguments here.

Civilized people don't believe in unprovoked attacks on other nations: Blakeley parrots the right's talking points here, in his homage to unprovoked-aggression maven and assassination advocate Dershowitz's book "Pre-emption." But consider this: By Dershowitz and Blakeley's logic, Saddam Hussein was absolutely right to invade Kuwait - and Iran would be justified in attacking us based on the threats issued by Bush and others. Targeted assassinations within the US might even be allowable using their reasoning.

Most of us wouldn't offer arguments that, in their context, justify a Saddam or an Ahmadinejad - but then, most of us are civilized.

Civilizations respect the civil rights of their citizens: Defending the NSA wiretappings, which circumvented all legal processes - and excusing the Pentagon's spying on innocent Americans (like the Quakers) who simply disagree with their government - disqualifies you from the circle of civilization.

Civilized leaders don't lie to their citizens: Continuing to defend leaders who have lied on fundamental issues like war is inexcusable. The Right continues to reflexively defend Bush and Cheney even as the falsehoods- and the resulting deaths - continue to mount up.

Civilized people respect the rule of law, for their leaders and the population as a whole: Who on the Right has called for censuring the President for wholesale lawbreaking in the NSA scandal? And who among them has condemned lawbreaking by GOP pols - including the phone-jamming in New Hampshire? Thuggism and cronyism rule the Right at the expense of respect for the law.

Civilized people stand firm for the nation's defense, regardless of partisan politics: Here's the simple fact - the Bush Administration screwed up and let 9/11 happen, and has been dropping the ball on everything from port security to airline safety ever since. The Right refuses to criticize them, despite the damage they've caused to our collective safety, purely out of political loyalty and expediency.

Civilized people recoil from profiteering of the blood of others: This shouldn't be a left/right issue either. The amount of money being made by Dick Cheney's old colleagues, among others, is an abomination. The billions of missing dollars and other scandals aren't of interest to the Right, either. War is money.

Civilized people respect the beliefs and views of others: Civilized people don't threaten to beat their countrymen with a baseball bat (Coulter), encourage the bombing of their cities (O'Reilly), or gloat that the mass slaughter of their fellows is the fault of their social and political opponents (Falwell, Robertson). And when barbarians like these folks say things like that, civilized people reprimand them. Where were Blankley and his pals then?

Civilized people don't slaughter children or other innocent people, and don't excuse those who do: We paid for the carnage at Haditha. We brought the soldiers into Iraq. We purchased the bullets that killed those families. That makes us responsible.

Haditha needs a thorough investigation, one that reconciles the accounts of all those present in a meaningful way (unlike the hasty military judgement at Ishaqi). We need to learn how innocent men, women, and children came to be cut down by American bullets - and to understand the command failures that created the conditions for this tragedy. Our responsibility is to identify all the mistakes, as well as any and every crime, throughout the chain of command.

But to Blankley et al, we have no responsibility at all - because he says nothing bad happened. Everything's "immaculate."

Civilized people don't brainwash their children to murder people who don't believe as they do: Read about this church-affiliated "Christian" video game, where you earn points for shooting down non-Christians, (link courtesy Chuck Currie), and tell me again how we're defending "civilization."

Conservatives will howl that I'm naïve. These "quaint" notions of civilization, they'll say, have lost meaning in a "post 9/11 world." Honor and decency are as antiquated as the Geneva Conventions. They're wrong: They have more meaning than ever. In the end, they're our greatest weapon against the fundamentalist threat of Islamic terrorism.

The epidemic of state-condoned torture, murder, and lying that our government and its conservative allies have unleashed has done more harm to our national security than we can yet imagine.

And, sadly, it's all been for nothing: Most intelligence experts almost agree that torture doesn't get you good information - it just gets you a lot more terrorist recruits. Abu Ghraib? Haditha? We're the Johnny Appleseeds of terror.

It's not about national security anyway - not really. It's about the conservative gang protecting its own. To them, it doesn't really matter what's the civilized thing to do. Like the Cosa Nostra, the Right takes care of its own at all costs. There is nothing - literally nothing - that a fellow conservative could do that would earn widespread censure from the right wing.

And, rather than truth, there is just one useful fantasy after another. Take the silly premise of Blankley's new book. Here's now his publisher (Regnery - the fine folks that brought you the Swift Boat lies) describes it:

"The West, says author Tony Blankley in this shocking new book, is down to its last chance. Within our lifetimes, Europe could become Eurabia: a continent overwhelmed by militant Islam that poses a greater threat to the United States than even Nazi Germany did."

Preposterous, hysterical, maybe racist? Sure. A distraction from the very real dangers we face because of international terrorism? Absolutely. But that's not the point. Americans need to be whipped up into a froth about absurd possibilities in order to make them willing to sacrifice the civilized values that have made their country strong. That's the real conservative agenda.

"It's time to name the enemy," says Blakeley eagerly, as if he holds a great secret. I'll break the suspense: it's "Islamist jihadists." What, you may say, haven't we named that enemy 1,000,000 times by now? Of course - but we haven't issued a legal declaration of war, which is what Blakeley really wants. He says:

"Naming the threat also expands the scope of our war effort to all the networks of radical Islam, including mosques, schools and radical sites on the Internet. It is not only terrorist acts that we are confronting, but the propaganda and organizations that make them possible."

In other words, by Blankley's logic we can bomb, torture, detain, and murder anyone who is within one of these unspecified "organizations" or produces anything that might serve as "propaganda." (Tony: Is this article one such piece of propaganda? Should I - or my children - be getting our lives in order?)

I've heard Blakeley on "Left, Right, and Center" and he seems to be a bright, pleasant gentleman. But the ideas that he and his cronies espouse cut them off from the company of civilized people.

Let's listen to the words of Rumi, a highly civilized Muslim (and a Persian - or Iranian - by birth):

If in the darkness of ignorance,
you don't recognize a person's true nature,
look to see whom he has chosen for his leader.

We've chosen Blankley's pals to lead us. This crowd has rendered us uniquely unqualified to engage in a 'clash of civilizations.' But then, the real problem isn't that alleged conflict, which is an artificial frame for expansionist - and tribal - values. The real problem is extremism, and it's a worldwide pandemic that's left no nation untouched.

Tony's right about one thing: It's time to name the enemy. The enemy is barbarism - in all its forms, foreign and domestic. The clash of civilizations is going on in your neighborhood and mine. And Tony Blankley's.

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