Selective Memory and Cynical “Humanitarianism”
The selective memory is John McCain’s:
n a single interview this morning, John McCain managed to inadvertently highlight one of the potential dangers of the war against Moammar Gadhafi, while at the same time experiencing a bout of amnesia about his own record on Libya.The Arizona senator was out front in recent weeks as one of the biggest proponents of a war with Libya, and is now calling for a wider mission, including arming the rebels.
Speaking on CBS’ “The Early Show” today, McCain twice cited the fact that Moammar Gadhafi has “American blood on his hands” as a reason the U.S. should try to oust the dictator. McCain specifically referred to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, which was indeed carried out by a Libyan agent.
What McCain is apparently forgetting is that, apart from the past few weeks, the last decade has been a period of rapprochement between the United States and Libya. It started with President Bush announcing in 2003 that Gadhafi had agreed to give up his “weapons of mass destruction” programs. In 2006 Bush removed Libya from the official list of state sponsors of terrorism. In September 2008 Condoleezza Rice traveled to Libya to have talks with Gadhafi. And just a few days before the 2008 presidential election, Bush signed a settlement under which Libya compensated families of victims of Lockerbie and other ’80s-era attacks.
Who else was involved in the effort to forge better ties with Gadhafi? John McCain. In August 2009 he led a delegation of senators, including fellow hawks Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, on a trip to visit the Libyan leader in Tripoli. Discussed during the visit was delivery of — get this — American military equipment to Gadhafi (a man with American blood on his hands no less).
But why stand on formalities when there’s a good war to get on? And it gets better. McCain also told his CBS interviewer that it would be a grand idea to arm the Libyan rebels — just like we did in Afghanistan against the Russians! (Emphasis is in original):
Check out this exchange about arming the rebels:
HOST: If the goal then is to get him out, then does that ultimately mean that the U.S. could end up arming the rebels to make that happen?
MCCAIN: Oh, I think that that’s very possible, and, in fact, I hope so. If not the U.S. through other countries. There’s already reports that the Egyptians have been supplying them with some weapons. Not only giving them the weapons but it also requires some training. Hopefully some more of Gadhafi’s army and military will come over to the side of the rebels. Look, for a long period of time the momentum was clearly on the side of the anti-Gadhafi forces. Then obviously they were pushed back …
HOST: When you talk about your hope to actually arm the rebels, how confident are we that these folks — that (a) we know who they are and that (b) they’re not connected to some terrorist organization like Al Qaeda and will not ultimately turn on the United States and U.S. allies?
MCCAIN: Well, what we know of them so far obviously are that the former justice minister and others — and a government has been formed, part of that government. But Gadhafi is a proven quantity. The blood of Americans is on his hands because he was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am 103. He has been involved in other acts of terror. And by the way it does take time, as it did during the period of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. But we were able to provide them with some weapons and wherewithal to cause the Russians to leave Afghanistan. So we can do it.
So asked about worries that the anti-Gadhafi rebels may include anti-American elements, McCain approvingly cited the arming of anti-Soviet rebels in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Those rebels, of course, were the mujahedeen, among them Osama bin Laden.
The other complaint I’m getting is that my gripe about using the “humanitarian” excuse is shallow. “Just because we can’t intervene everywhere to save the people doesn’t mean we can’t intervene somewhere.” To that I’ll just say that when you use this rationale in a blatantly cynical way, you not only abuse and cheapen the whole notion of humanitarian intervention, you create even more cynicism about humanitarianism in general. Being a humanitarian only when it suits your own interest isn’t humanitarianism, it’s opportunism.
Gloria Borger just articulated the alleged doctrine on CNN:
This is a humanitarian operation. The president has said as have other heads of state that we can’t stand by as a murderous thug kills his own people.
It’s quite obvious that isn’t true and they look like assholes when they say it. After all, this situation is far more clear cut. …
“This situation” is the Ivory Coast, and I suggest you click that link and read the article.