April 16, 2005

T.Bogg links to an attack by one of the Powerline bloggers, on some hapless college professor who wrote a column in the Christian Science Monitor about the thirtieth anniversary of the Khmer Rouge coming to power in Cambodia. The Boggster is steamed about a rather silly attempt by the co-Blogger of the Year to whitewash the crimes at the torture camp at Abu Ghraib, but what really sticks out in that post, which is entitled "A Very Sick Professor", is its pure disingenuousness:
Reader Jim Mason called my attention to this piece by Alex Hinton, a professor at Rutgers University, that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor and was picked up by Real Clear Politics. Hinton warns that our government's prosecution of the war on terror is causing us to become like the Khmer Rouge, the criminals who ran Cambodia at one time. Their rule saw the mass extermination of ordinary Cambodians in the name of a crazed Communist ideology. So Hinton must have evidence that the Bush administration has killed Americans pursuant to the war on terror, right? Of course not. Nor does he present evidence that we have intentionally killed foreign terrorists in our custody -- you know, the folks who actually are trying to exterminate Americans. Hinton does point to abuses at places like Abu Graib. But it's obscene to compare the disgusting but non-lethal tactics of the rogue guards at that prison to genocide. For the most part, the reported tactics did not even involve the infliction of physical pain.

Genocide has taken place in Iraq. But the perpetrator wasn't the U.S. government, it was Saddam Hussein, the fellow our soldiers overthrew and captured. Also, while it may have escaped Professor Hinton's notice, the U.S. has brought about free and fair elections in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't recall the Cambodian analog to these shining events. Hinton, however, may think he sees one when he refers to the "era of new fanaticisms." Perhaps he regards President Bush's quest to promote democracy in the Middle East as fanaticism.

It would be nice to think that Hinton's piece represents off-the-chart lunacy. However, he's far from the only leftist to have compared Bush to Hitler -- for example, moveon.org found merit in two such amateur campaign ads. If Hitler, then why not Pol Pot? Perhaps that's what the Christian Science Monitor thought when it published the piece, a decision that further shows that Hinton's lunacy is not necessarily outside the hard left mainstream.

The hatred of folks like Hinton for the U.S. knows no discernible bounds.
Those of you who know and love Powerline can probably guess that the column in question, in fact, does absolutely nothing of the sort. Professor Hinton does not write that George Bush is just like Pol Pot, or that the war on terrorism is comparable to the Cambodian genocide of the mid-70's. Bush is not compared to Hitler in the column; the name "Hitler", in fact, is not even mentioned in the column. In fact, the tone and substance of the piece is not of Ward Churchill-style America-bashing, but of calm, reasoned historicism: an event like the "Killing Fields" does not occur in a vacuum, is not something that happens overnight, and that tragic historical events often are motivated by idealism, albeit in a fanatical, corrupted form. Hinton's point is that the best way not to travel down that slippery slope is to remember the past, and to be wary when our leaders seem to be tolerating a curtailment of our rights, a demonization of others, in the name of some higher goal.

But I guess what really irks me about that post is that it was written by a practicing lawyer. As I wrote last year in the context of the "Swift Boat Vet" fraud, perhaps the most troubling aspect behind the bloggers who were hyping the story was that so many of them were members of the bar. As an attorney, I am obligated to obey certain ethical guidelines, such as not bearing false witness, or not distorting evidence, even when I'm not representing a client. Lawyers lose their license to practice all the time because they are convicted of felonies, regardless of whether the crime had anything to do with their practice. Using their blog to smear Prof. Hinton does not seem consistent with the privileges accorded officers of the court in the practice of law.

Hopefully, the writer just had a bad day, or was sloppy in summarizing Prof. Hinton's column (Powerline seems to have had a bad month in that regard, although this is far more serious than wrongly speculating as to the authorship of the Schiavo Memo before the truth came out). There is simply no other way to justify that sort of mendacity.

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