Addicted to hypotheticals by mattsteinglass
June 2, 2009, 2:05 am
Filed under: Conservatism

In this dialogue between Scott Horton and Stuart Taylor about torture, Horton lays out a clear argument for the necessity of investigations leading to possible prosecution of Bush Administration officials who crafted torture policy. Taylor’s response: “Say someone had kidnapped your daughter, and the police caught one of the kidnappers, and the deadline for the time at which your daughter was supposed to be killed was running down, and the kidnapper wouldn’t tell you where she was…”

Moving on, in this Rod Dreher post, Dreher argues that mainstream pro-lifers can’t be made to take any of the blame for the assassination of Dr. George Tiller because…well:

Think about the harsh criticism of the US torture policy under Bush. If, God forbid, someone infuriated by that committed murder against one of the Bush officials who devised the policy, it would be a heinous crime, but most people would understand that torture critics could not be blamed for it.

I believe there is entirely too much sketching of hypotheticals going on in American political discourse. In particular, conservatives are retreating into hypotheticals with increasing frequency because the actually existing world seems unremittingly hostile to their ideas about it. The salient facts here are that in case one, no one had in fact kidnapped anyone’s daughter; the torture ordered and carried out by the Bush Administration was routine and had nothing to do with any immediate threat. And in case two, crazed hippies did not, in fact, assassinate any Bush Administration officials. Rather, at worst, they tended to gather outside his ranch and sing kumbaya — and were mocked ceaselessly by conservatives for doing so.

The salient fact, in other words, is that liberal rhetoric for decades has discouraged violence, and conservative rhetoric has encouraged it. The reason no liberals are being accused of creating a climate conducive to terrorist extremism is that liberals have not, in fact, been creating a climate conducive to terrorist extremism. Conservatives have. If leftists were calling for people to pick up guns and fight back against government imperialism — if it were 1969, rather than 2009 — then yes, in fact, the Left would bear some measure of responsibility for creating a climate of violence that led to domestic terrorism. But it’s not 1969, no leftists are calling for violence, no leftists are committing violence; rightists are calling for violence, rightists are committing violence, and that’s why the O’Reilly/Limbaugh Right has to face up to the guilt it bears.


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