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Andrew Sullivan, in the latest issue of Atlantic magazine, is more than a bit queasy about the Bush legacy.  After a public and sordid tryst with the Bush administration, Sullivan should be more worried about his own legacy.  

In a loquacious and rambling open letter (8,544 words), Sullivan begs George W. Bush to make a clean breast of things, quit making excuses and take responsibility for certain unspecified crimes.  Sullivan should be the one apologizing, and in part he does.  Far too much of his Doublethink remains:  this is not Sullivan’s mea culpa.  These are the incoherent ramblings of a man with a terribly guilty conscience.  At least Sullivan has a conscience.  George W. Bush does not and no such apology will be made.

In Gunter Grass’ novel, the Tin Drum, we read:

"Even today I am occasionally sorry that I declined. I talked myself out of it, saying: 'You know, Mr. Bebra, I prefer to regard myself as a member of the audience. I cultivate my little art in secret, far from all applause. But it gives me pleasure to applaud your accomplishments.' Mr. Bebra raised a wrinkled forefinger and admonished me: 'My dear Oskar, believe an experienced colleague. Our kind has no place in the audience. We must perform, we must run the show. If we don't, it's the others that run us. And they don't do it with kid gloves.'"

Gunter Grass wrote eloquently of the sins of the Nazi regime, all the while keeping his own membership in the Waffen SS a secret.   Why do I smell Gunter Grass on your breath, Andy?

Commencing with a series of caveats and stipulations which render the remainder of his messy essay moot Sullivan tells us:

Of course, like most advocates of the Iraq War, I grew dismayed at what I saw as the mistakes that followed: the failure to capture Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora; the intelligence fiasco of Saddam’s nonexistent stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction; the failure to prepare for an insurgency in Iraq; the reckless disbandment of the Iraqi army; the painful slowness in adapting to drastically worsening conditions there in 2004–06; the negligence toward Afghanistan.

These were all serious errors; but they were of a kind often made in the chaos of war. And even your toughest critics concede that, eventually, you adjusted tactics and strategy. You took your time, but you evaded catastrophe in temporarily stabilizing Iraq. I also agree with the guiding principle of the war you proclaimed from the start: that expanding democracy and human rights is indispensable in the long-term fight against jihadism. And I believe, as you do, that a foreign policy that does not understand the universal yearning for individual freedom and dignity is not a recognizably American foreign policy.

Yet it is precisely because of that belief that I lost faith in your war. In long wars of ideas, moral integrity is essential to winning, and framing the moral contrast between the West and its enemies as starkly as possible is indispensable to victory, as it was in the Second World War and the Cold War. But because of the way you chose to treat prisoners in American custody in wartime—a policy that degraded human beings with techniques typically deployed by brutal dictatorships—we lost this moral distinction early, and we have yet to regain it. That truth hangs over your legacy as a stain that has yet to be removed. As more facts emerge, the stain could darken further. You would like us to move on. So would the current president. But we cannot unless we find a way to address that stain, to confront and remove it.

Let us stipulate to the serious errors surrounding our war in Iraq and Afghanistan:  there are no mulligans, no do-overs once wars begin.  The fatal error, the essential hubris, unacknowledged to this day by Sullivan and Bush and the whole sick Neocon crew who led him into war was the Trotskyite belief preemptive and prescriptive wars could bring democracy to either country.  Communism evolved, Trotskyism did not.  Democracy can no more be exported than Communism.

I have come to accept that it would be too damaging and polarizing to the American polity to launch legal prosecutions against you, and deeply unfair to solely prosecute those acting on your orders or in your name. President Obama’s decision thus far to avoid such prosecutions is a pragmatic and bipartisan one in a time of war, as is your principled refusal to criticize him publicly in his first months. But moving on without actually confronting or addressing the very grave evidence of systematic abuse and torture under your administration poses profound future dangers. It gives the impression that nothing immoral or illegal took place. Indeed, since leaving office, your own vice president has even bragged of these interrogation techniques; and many in your own party threaten to reinstate such policies in the future. Their extreme rhetoric seems likely to shape—to contaminate—history’s view of your presidency, indeed of the Bush name, and the world’s view of America. But my biggest fear is this: in the event of a future attack on the United States, another president will feel tempted, or even politically compelled, to resort to the same brutalizing policy, with the same polarizing, demoralizing, war-crippling results.

Andrew Sullivan, there isn’t a chance in hell George W. Bush will be rehabilitated.  Worry more for yourself.  You should be issued a shovel and made to dig every grave of every casualty of these wars.  My friend Corporal Domonic Holston USMC, fell into darkness on the 31st of August, as surely a victim of a war you backed as anyone who came back in a coffin.  

And Domonic is not alone.  Let us be clear: it is your own rehabilitation you seek.   Spend, therefore, some emotional and perhaps financial capital to fund the rehabilitation of our damaged veterans.   Helping Domonic's kids, Kaylee and Devin’s educational fund would be an excellent start.  There is great psychic benefit in atoning for sins, Andrew Sullivan.  There is none in the mere admission of failure.  You are covered in sin and must be redeemed, Sullivan, and George W. Bush’s admission will not atone for your squalid and intemperate rhetoric.  While these things were coming to light, you continued to back him and his policies.  Only now, in the course of your flaccid swaying back and forth, do you ask, ask, not demand, an accounting for what was done in our name on a systematic and policy basis.

Do not bother enumerating the horrible instances of torture, the riding-roughshod over habeas corpus -- the vile litany of evils neither move me nor give me pause.  I have seen worse with my own eyes.  Your problem, Sullivan, is your inability to see these things as crimes worthy of punishment.   President Obama won’t act overtly:  the political price would be too high at this point.  He may act behind the curtains, but he seems, to someone who expected better of him, to lack the spinal calcium to do anything in public.  If anything, you should petition President Obama to act, not for ex-President Bush to come clean.

Curiously, Sullivan believes Ronald Reagan came clean about Iran-Contra, and quotes his not-an-apology for an example of how Bush might make such an admission.   No, Sullivan, Ronald Reagan was not apologizing, he was caught in an enormous lie, looked America square in the face and told us

A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.

You see, Sullivan, Reagan did lie to us.  And Reagan went on weaseling about his Heart and his Best Intentions.  Seems you’re doing the same.  Just stop.  Shut up for a while.  Take responsibility for your own part in this unholy fiasco.  And repent, you witless wonder.  Bush never shall.

Originally posted to BlaiseP on Fri Oct 02, 2009 at 01:00 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)

    People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found by others.

    by BlaiseP on Fri Oct 02, 2009 at 01:00:15 PM PDT

  •  In all fairness (7+ / 0-)

    Sullivan has been pretty clear on his blog that he was absolutely wrong on Iraq. And he has been one of the strongest voices on what's left of the rational right that torture should be prosecuted and those responsible held accountable.

    In the choice between changing ones mind and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.

    by jsfox on Fri Oct 02, 2009 at 01:07:52 PM PDT

    •  In this latest screed, he backs away from that. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bellatrys, ybruti, Bill White, ebbv

      Read what he writes.

      I have come to accept that it would be too damaging and polarizing to the American polity to launch legal prosecutions against you, and deeply unfair to solely prosecute those acting on your orders or in your name.

      Sullivan is a nasty little man who now wishes he had backed the side of the angels.   While those of us who were in military intelligence were screaming about Sun Tzu and Converting the Enemy, decrying the torture, he was making a dog's dinner of our arguments.  I have no sympathy for him, now that his wayward conscience is now troubling him.  Where is that shovel?

      People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found by others.

      by BlaiseP on Fri Oct 02, 2009 at 01:13:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I read it. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        beemerr90s, fl1972

        And I get you cannot stand him. We have a differing opinion.  Such is life. The last thing I am going to do is get into a pissing match with you over Andrew Sullivan.

        In the choice between changing ones mind and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.

        by jsfox on Fri Oct 02, 2009 at 01:22:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You say Sullivan is part of the Rational Right. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sullivanst

          And you say he's arguing for prosecutions.  I'm afraid to say you have him completely wrong, and you were quoted on what he had to say.  Now either he is, or he isn't, for prosecutions.  And I say he isn't.  And he says he isn't.

          Heroes are so hard to find.

          People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found by others.

          by BlaiseP on Fri Oct 02, 2009 at 01:26:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  You are right. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          beemerr90s, BldrJanet

          Sullivan has apologized profusely.  He has done more to bring the torture issue to light than any other blogger except maybe Greenwald.  Are people no longer allowed to make mistakes, or change their minds?  

          •  His "tortured remorse" (0+ / 0-)

            consists solely of trying to externalize it, by saying "We shouldn't stoop to being like those foreigners" instead of entering upon any real soul-searching. A real "Examination of Conscience" is entirely foreign to him: his concern is all with his own personal moral contamination.

            And a hell of a lot of other bloggers, starting with our own Valtin, have done a hell of a lot more for a hell of a lot longer, to excoriate the torture issue with far more honesty and transparency than Sully.

            He may be the one who's done the most on the Right - but that's a bar so low as to trip over.

            "Don't be a janitor on the Death Star!" - Grey Lady Bast (change @ for AT to email)

            by bellatrys on Fri Oct 02, 2009 at 03:49:59 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  This latest effort (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bellatrys, BlaiseP

      criticizes only the conduct of the Iraq war and the "intelligence failure" of not "finding" WMDs. But he stands by the decision to invade! He stands by the notion that you can use war for "expanding democracy and human rights is indispensable in the long-term fight against jihadism".

      These are even more serious failures than the incompetent conduct of the war. No war is conducted perfectly, and even the most nearly perfect conduct of war still necessarily comes at enormous humanitarian and monetary cost.

      No, the worst failing is not the conduct of the Iraq war, but the very fact of it. And Sullivan is still wed to it. Inexcusable.

      In America, 60% of bankruptcies are because of medical bills, and 80% of those people had health insurance

      by sullivanst on Fri Oct 02, 2009 at 01:29:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sullivan's attitude.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlaiseP, sullivanst

    ..has always truck me as far too focused on Bush and Cheney, and not enough focused on someone he could actually affect; Andrew Sullivan.

    It does not surprise me at all that as time goes on he is now making more and more excuses for the neocons.  It will not be long before he makes his switch back over to supporting the GOP.  I bet by 2012 he is backing the GOP candidate against Obama.

  •  Why go after Sullivan? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beemerr90s, BldrJanet, I T, Archie2227

    Why go after Sullivan with such vitriol?   Yes, he was wrong about Iraq.  So were the 75-80% of Americans who supported the war.  He recognized his mistake, far earlier than most, and has been relentless in exploring all the reasons why the war was a disaster, including the most fundemental reason that it was all based on the lie of Iraqi WMDs.  Hardly a day goes by when he does not remind us that he was wrong about Iraq, and calling for a full of accounting of all the gross misjudgments and wrongdoing associated with that mess.

    The problem isn't that writers, bloggers, or politicians make errors, even huge, serious errors.  The problem is they some never admit them, or they stubbornly cling to their paths long after the error of their ways is obvious.  

    The key to electing Obama was persuading millions of Americans who once had supported Bush, who once had supported the war, that that was all a mistake, and that it was time for a change.  Sullivan is one of those persons, and I'm glad he is.  

    I don't need another pound of flesh from people who would be our friends and allies, just because they once were our oponnents.

  •  Some quotes (6+ / 0-)

    Not that they will change your mind. My sense is nothing will.

    On Neoconservatives

    The sheer simple-minded dumbness of these people never ceases to amaze. Obama has maneuvered these past few months to isolate Iran without seeming to bully or dominate. Because of that, he has a decent chance of getting real sanctions approved by Russia and maybe even China. But this delicate piece of diplomacy and public relations infuriates the unchastened neocon right. They like their foreign policy crude and simplistic and ... well, Cheneyesque. Even after such an approach failed to provide any real results except the occupation of two countries and the nuclear empowerment of North Korea and Iran. Ideology remains entrenched, immune as ever to the facts on the ground.

    The closer you examine it, the clearer it is that neoconservatism, in large part, is simply about enabling the most irredentist elements in Israel and sustaining a permanent war against anyone or any country who disagrees with the Israeli right. That's the conclusion I've been forced to these last few years. And to insist that America adopt exactly the same constant-war-as-survival that Israelis have been slowly forced into... But America is not Israel. And once that distinction is made, much of the neoconservative ideology collapses.

    On Torture:

    One political party in this country is now explicitly pro-torture, and wants to restore a torture regime if it regains power. Decent conservatives for the most part simply looked the other way. Unless these cultural forces in defense of violence and torture are defeated - not appeased or excused, but defeated - America will never return the way it once was. Electing a new president was the start and not the end of this. He is flawed, as every president is, but in my view, the scale of the mess he inherited demands some slack. Any new criminal investigation which scapegoats those at the bottom while protecting the guilty men and women who made it happen is a travesty of justice. If it is the end and not the beginning of accountability, it will be worse than nothing.
    But it need not be the end of the story. Indeed, it can be the beginning if we make it so. We cannot stop this sad and minuscule attempt to restore a scintilla of accountability to some individuals low down on the totem pole. Eric Holder is doing what he can. But we can continue to lobby and argue for the extension of accountability to the truly guilty men who made all this happen and still refuse to take responsibility for war crimes on a coordinated scale never before seen in American warfare, and initiated by a presidential decision to withdraw from the Geneva Conventions and refuse to abide by their plain meaning and intent.

    So as I said before I get it you cannot stand him with a passion and that's fine with me.  He got me turned on to Obama and I pretty much agree with what he says today. And yes I vehemently disagreed with him before and there are things I still disagree with him on.  I tend to respond to people who can say they were wrong and admit mistakes.

    In the choice between changing ones mind and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.

    by jsfox on Fri Oct 02, 2009 at 01:49:20 PM PDT

    •  FWIW... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jsfox, BldrJanet, I T, Archie2227

      I consider Sully a "must-read".  I don't have to agree with him to consider him credible, intelligent, and reasonable.  In fact, he is generally more reasonable than a lot of folks I find here.

      I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

      by beemerr90s on Fri Oct 02, 2009 at 01:56:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Look, he blows hot and cold on this issue. (0+ / 0-)

      This time he says he's against it.

      Then, he was against it.

      Which will it be?  Depends on the day of the week.

      if( day_of_week % 2 )
      {
      con;
      } else {
      pro;
      }

      People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found by others.

      by BlaiseP on Fri Oct 02, 2009 at 01:57:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Seriously (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        I T

        How often do you read him? As far as I can tell and I have read him daily for a year now he has been consistent that he was wrong on Iraq, torture should be prosecuted and the neocons are full of shit.

        I tend to have a great deal of respect for people who can take a hard look at their positions be they left or right and realize maybe, just maybe they were wrong and admit it.

        That said he and I still strongly disagree on the role of government and fiscal issues.

        In the choice between changing ones mind and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.

        by jsfox on Fri Oct 02, 2009 at 02:10:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I read him, too. What, are you his apologist? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bellatrys

          The man blows hot and cold on this issue.  He angers me with his vacillation.  George W. Bush should be made to answer for his crimes.  I have said Sullivan has a conscience.  It's just an epileptic conscience.

          People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found by others.

          by BlaiseP on Fri Oct 02, 2009 at 03:18:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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