Moral bankruptcy on the left

Jeff Jacoby:

TWO WEEKS ago Senator Ted Kennedy uttered what may turn out to be the single most disgusting remark made about the United States in the course of the Iraq War. The reaction to his slander - or rather, the lack of reaction - speaks volumes about the moral bankruptcy of the American left.

Speaking in the Senate on May 10, Kennedy had this to say about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal:

''On March 19, 2004, President Bush asked, 'Who would prefer that Saddam's torture chambers still be open?' Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management - US management.''

This was not a blurted, off-the-cuff comment - Kennedy was reading from a prepared text. It was not a shocked first reaction to the abuses at Abu Ghraib - the story had broken more than a week earlier. Incredibly, the senior senator from Massachusetts really was equating the disgraceful mistreatment of a few Iraqi prisoners by a few American troops with the unspeakable sadism, rape, and mass murder that had been routine under Saddam Hussein.

Kennedy's vile calumny should have triggered outrage. Here was the most prominent liberal politician in America accusing his own government of the very savagery it said it had gone to war to uproot. It was the worst kind of anti-American poison, and it was coming not from a crackpot with no following but from one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress. It should have unleashed an uproar.

It unleashed nothing.

Oh, there was a reproachful editorial here and there, and Kennedy was condemned on a few radio talk shows. But in the mainstream media and the Democratic Party establishment, Kennedy's words were a non-event. There was no demand for an apology. There was no storm of criticism. There was no sense of astonishment that a leading US lawmaker could so recklessly denigrate his nation's military in wartime. (A spokesman said yesterday that Kennedy ''doesn't back away at all'' from the May 10 comment, and rejects the interpretation given to it ''by right-wing radio shows.'')


The war for Iraq and the larger war against Islamist terrorism are no less crucial than were the Cold War and World War II. The stakes are enormous. All Americans - liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans - ought to be pulling for a US victory, whether or not they favored going into Iraq.

There is nothing wrong with political passion. Nor is there anything wrong with criticizing the administration's conduct of the war. But accusing the US Army of being no better than Ba'athist torturers is not constructive criticism. Shrugging when a formidable politician broadcasts such a terrible libel is not responsible citizenship. Those are forms of propaganda, and propaganda in wartime is a lethal weapon. To turn that weapon against the United States is to give aid and comfort to the enemy.

It tells you what Kennedy's priorities are. He wants to defeat Bush more than he wants to defeat the enemy.


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