In the Arena

Vacation Interruptus

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Sorry, but I can’t let this pass. Glenn Greenwald has been conducting one of his patented vile, intellectually dishonest jihads against the Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg and he has now truly gone berserk. I should say that Jeff is a friend of mine, one with whom I sometimes disagree–although on the big stuff, like the Israel-Palestine dispute, we occupy similar turf: pro-Israel, pro-two-state solution, anti-Jewish settlements. I didn’t, however, agree with Jeff’s Goldblog post that began this tiff, in which he allowed various Washington Post dinosaurs to vent against the excellent blogger Dave Wiegel, who was fired when his private emails were leaked. As a dinosaur/blogger, I can see both sides of the situation..and there really was no contest here: The quality of Wiegel’s work was the decider. The Post was stupid to fire him.

Greenwald also disagreed with Goldberg, but used the opportunity to launch another of his litigious, ambulance-chasing forays–in Greenwald’s case, it is “hits” he’s trying to collect, not fees–in which he posited Jeff as an arch-villain, practicing a form of dishonest journalism that Greenwald believes is corrupting the Republic. To be sure, lazy, corrupt journalism happens; always has, always will. But Goldberg’s work is quite the opposite: rigorously reported, beautifully written and fiercely honest. Indeed, Jeff’s willingness to be candid about lessons he learned along the way created a book that Greenwald rarely, if ever, mentions: Prisoners, a memoir of Jeff’s time as a member of the Israel Defense Forces when he served as a prison guard and developed a close, difficult and unresolved friendship with one of his Palestinian prisoners. This is the sort of work that Greenwald, locked in the sterile prison of his ideology, is completely incompetent to understand.

And now, Greenwald–who, so far as I can tell, only regards the United States as a force for evil in the world–has laid out the incredible notion that the liberation of the Kurds, which Jeff celebrates (and so do I, and so do civilized people everywhere) as a happy byproduct of George W. Bush’s dreadful war in Iraq, can be compared to the Nazi seizure of the Sudetenland:

It’s difficult to find an invasion in history that wasn’t supported by at least some faction of the invaded population and where that same self-justifying script wasn’t used.  That’s true even of the most heinous aggressors.  Many Czech and Austrian citizens of Germanic descent, viewing themselves as a repressed minority, welcomed Hitler’s invasion of their countries, whileleaders of the independence-seeking Sudeten parties in those countries actively conspired to bring it about.

This is obscene. Comparing the Kurds, who had been historically orphaned and then slaughtered with poison gas by Saddam Hussein, with Nazi-l0ving Sudeten Germans is outrageous. Comparing the United States to Nazi Germany is not merely disgraceful, but revelatory of a twisted, deluded soul. And, once again, we need to stand back and remember how this started: a dispute over whether the Post should have fired Dave Wiegel. Wow.

Greenwald will probably come after me now, armed with the same three or four quotes he routinely uses as evidence of my moral and professional dishonesty and dissipation. For Greenwald, it seems, any honest political disagreement always winds up with charges of corruption and decadence. I wonder why that is. But fine, Glenn, go for it. I’m going back to my vacation.

Update: A commenter–a Glennbot, clearly–notes that Greenwald finagles this caveat:

It should go without saying, but doesn’t: the point here is not that the attack on Iraq is comparable to these above-referenced invasions. It may or may not be, but that’s irrelevant.

No, it’s not irrelevant. If he’s going to compare the U.S. in Kurdistan with Nazi Germany in Sudetenland, Greenwald can’t just slink away by saying those actions “may or may not be comparable.” He can’t plead ignorance, can’t get away with a litigator’s trick. And if he truly is ignorant–it certainly seems so–perhaps he should take the time to study up on the situation, or perhaps take up Jeff’s invitation to visit Kurdistan, before he goes off comparing Kurds to Sudeten Germans. But then, that would involve…reporting, wouldn’t it?

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