"You're a funny man, Sully ...

that's why I'm going to kill you last."


Friday, May 07, 2004


Via Max and then Billmon we learn that Sidney Blumenthal has likened the U.S. military anti-terror detention system to the Soviet gulag in today’s Guardian.

Bush has created what is in effect a gulag. It stretches from prisons in Afghanistan to Iraq, from Guantánamo to secret CIA prisons around the world. There are perhaps 10,000 people being held in Iraq, 1,000 in Afghanistan and almost 700 in Guantánamo, but no one knows the exact numbers. The law as it applies to them is whatever the executive deems necessary. There has been nothing like this system since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Nice to see Sid get to where we got to first.

The recent disclosures at Abu Ghraib, however, have forced even more similarities out of this sordid vein and thus an updating of this feature.

From Josh Marshall today we are sent back to the Guardian from whence comes this excerpt from a military intelligence officer.

“A unit goes out on a raid and they have a target and the target is not available; they just grab anybody because that was their job,” Mr Nelson said, referring to counter-insurgency operations in Iraq. “The troops are under a lot of stress and they don’t know one guy from the next. They’re not cultural experts. All they want is to count down the days and hopefully go home. They take it out on the nearest person they can’t understand.”

“I’ve read reports from capturing units where the capturing unit wrote, ‘the target was not at home. The neighbour came out to see what was going on and we grabbed him,’” he said.

Which immediately brought this passage to mind:

By and large the Organs* had no profound reasons for their choice of whom to arrest and whom not to arrest. They merely had overall assignments, quotas for a specific number of arrests. These quotas might be filled on an orderly basis or wholly arbitrarily. In 1937 a woman came to the reception room of the Novocherkassk NKVD to ask what she should do about the unfed, unweaned infant of a neighbor who had been arrested. They said “Sit down; we’ll find out.” She sat there for two hours — whereupon they took her and tossed her into a cell. They had a total plan which had to be fulfilled in a hurry, and there was no one available to send out into the city — and here was this woman already in their hands!


A person marked for arrest by virtue of chance circumstances, such as a neighbor’s denunciation, could easily be replaced by another neighbor.

*Colloquial Russian for the various national-security and secret police agencies, from terms used in official media – SW

– Alexander Solzhensitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Volume I, Book I, Chapter I, “Arrest,” p. 11-12.

The creeping Russification of American democracy continues apace. Do you need any more reasons to dump Dubya come November?

posted by Sully 5/07/2004 01:25:00 PM


You can’t always come up with a new angle. But please.

Sullivan is right to just say no to this particular bong hit of ridiculous finger-pointing going on. But he cannot credibly feign surprise at the rantings of Taranto and Chavez.

We speculated yesterday in a comment thread over at Eschaton that it would soon come to this. Quiddity Quack then reported that it already was, on the outer fringes of talk radio. So to see two more mainstream conservatives then picking this up is not in the least surprising.

Sullivan, this is their nature. Leopards don’t change their spots. Scorpions sting. And conservatives, however gently they may treat an openly gay one within their ranks, are never far from unloading on groups they associate with the left and most particularly “unmanliness”. David Brock, whose best service in Blinded by the Right was to expose this universal right fascination with “manliness,” is on top of all this at his new site (you know, the one you sniffed at).

How long must you continue to deny this?

posted by Sully 5/07/2004 12:53:00 PM

Thursday, May 06, 2004


The right, as one might imagine, hasn’t responded well to Sullivan’s not-inaccurate observation that they avoid noting things like the Viriginia statute. There have been a couple of Corner posts and more recently this criticism from Ace of Spades HQ, which gets at one of Sullivan’s greater flaws:

Since we don’t wish to be tagged as “homophobic” or whatnot, we are asking Mr. Sullivan to please provide us a list of subjects we must care as passionately about as he, ranked in order of priority.

Once we know exactly what it is we’re supposed to be so concerned about, we will immediately abandon our own political priorities in favor of his.

We imagine that clocking in at number 7 will be Mr. Sullivan’s beloved beagle, which is just jake with us, because we like beagles as a general matter, and we’re sure the particular specimen owned by Mr. Sullivan is an oustanding exemplar of his breed.

UPDATE: Jo Fish says Sullivan is, by his own standards, equally out of touch.

posted by Sully 5/06/2004 11:40:00 PM


I’m befuddled why he cannot simply apologize.

Because, you know, he wuvs the Awwab peeple soooo much, and wuv means never having to say you’re sorry. They have to understand this, as Bush himself made clear.

On a more serious note, Fred Kaplan asks the same question, and comes up with this answer:

It seems the president is allergic not just to the words but to the concept of responsibility that underlies them. To apologize would be to admit he’d made a mistake. And mistakes are forbidden in the Bush White House.

Along with the Slate editors, we found this ensuing defense of Bush from a conservative very revealing, and as we noted in our own reply it brings this issue to the fore once again (None of the increasing amount of articles we found on Google concerning this problem of Bush’s mention specifically a refusal to apologize and/or take responsibility as part of it, but you’ve got to admit it fits. After all, isn’t the first part of addiction recovery admitting that you are powerless over whatever you're addicted to?

Bush has spent a lifetime dodging responsibility, with others’ help. To admit one mistake, to apologize once, would be to admit them all.

UPDATE: Bush said the magic word.

posted by Sully 5/06/2004 12:36:00 PM


We almost don’t have the heart to point out that giving a supportive hug to a teen girl who lost a parent on 9/11, and allowing yourself to be photographed doing it, is something that ... Bill Clinton would have done without hesitation. (Richard Clarke remarks in his book about how Clinton went up to visit the TWA Flight 800 families and made it his first order of business to walk among them and comfort them. It did a lot to calm tensions, and yet the media present were utterly stunned that these people said nice things about Clinton afterwards).

UPDATE: TAPped notes how this fails to jibe with the more significant actions of the administration regarding 9/11:

A better test of character is when you do the right thing even when it costs you something or requires a sacrifice on your part. Bush faced this test when the families of the 9/11 victims asked him to approve an independent commission to investigate the attacks, plumb the factors that allowed the terrorists to succeed, and recommend reforms to make future attacks less likely. What did Bush do? Confronted with a choice between doing right by the 9/11 families, and trying to ward off an investigation which might potentially cause him political problems down the road, he chose the latter.

And Steve Mussina points out that this hardly seems like a chance encounter:

Now, a word about Lynn Faulkner. He’s a grieving 9/11 widower, yes, but he’s a politicized 9/11 widower, on the conservative side.

posted by Sully 5/06/2004 12:11:00 PM


Before Sullivan’s effusive praise for all us lefties who condemned the Rall Tillman cartoon, George Cerny commented on the whole affair:

Sullivan shot a dead horse in a barrel, praised his own marksmanship, and then condemned the rest of us for not going hunting with him.

posted by Sully 5/06/2004 12:51:00 AM


Interesting that for once Sullivan discusses his efforts to vet an email for authenticity. You think he knows he got burned with one of these things in the past but won’t admit it?

posted by Sully 5/06/2004 12:48:00 AM


How is that “The Right and Gays I” manages to be posted after “The Right and Gays II” so that anyone reading down the page will see them as some sort of sequence, timestamps notwithstanding? You think he went and fixed things up after posting and realizing it looked sort of silly?

posted by Sully 5/06/2004 12:46:00 AM

Wednesday, May 05, 2004


Finally Sullivan gives Max Sawicky credit for his potshot at Rall, as we challenged him to below.

We’re not sure we can take any credit for this, in all probability he (or one of his readers) got from the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, but it was acknolwedged.

posted by Sully 5/05/2004 05:57:00 PM


Steve Gilliard says it better than we did a couple of days ago:

But now, the world, rightfully, sees us as brutal torturers and killers. Our soldiers shoot the innocent, humiliate the innocent and lie about it.

I was watching Nightline last night, when Ted Koppel said there was no comparison between the old Abu Ghraib and the new one. Well, thanks Ted. We haven’t hung prisoners or raped them in front of their families. The fact that we didn’t descend into Saddam’s worse practices says little for us.

We failed by our standards. We will be judged by our standards. Not Saddam’s. Just because we only brought back some torture and rape doesn’t mean it’s not so bad because Saddam was worse. Why in God’s name are we comparing ourselves to Saddam? Why, after a year of occupation, can that comparison be made? Why did we do anything which could be compared to Saddam? Wasn’t the point of this fiasco to eliminate torture and extrajudicial punishment for Iraqis? Instead, we privatized it.

The bankruptcy of the US effort in Iraq can no longer be denied.

posted by Sully 5/05/2004 12:46:00 PM


Just what exactly in Roberts’ comments meet the criteria of the Sontag Award — “glib moral equivalence in the war on terror and visceral anti-Americanism,” as Sullivan himself defines it? Basically, it could be boiled down to “Our enemies say nasty things about us, and this will only increase their credibility.” Nowhere does Roberts suggest that this who we are, or who the military is, or that we are intrinsically no better than the terrorists. Was it just because it was on

Or because payback was demanded for sharply perceptive remarks such as these?

The neocons, whose war this is, were quick to say that the US should be judged by what it proclaims, not by what it does. What’s a little torture after all, compared to building freedom and democracy?

It was ten minutes into the news hour on the day the story broke before the Ministry of Propaganda, a.k.a. Fox News, could bring itself to mention, fleetingly, the torture story. Americans who rely on Fox News for their understanding of the war must be scratching their heads.

Or for Roberts’ last piece there, with its blatantly insulting title?

The new aggressive spirit of America is embodied in the neoconservative ideology that drives the Bush administration. Professor Claes Ryn describes this new spirit in his recent book, America the Virtuous.

It is an imperialistic spirit whose arrogant moral purpose justifies mowing down whatever is seen to stand it its way. Those most imbued with this spirit are trapped firmly within it. If Iraqis resist military imposition of US values, then they must be “thugs and outlaws” deserving to be exterminated for standing in the way of America’s virtue and superior morality.

Only evil people would resist the good we are imposing on them. Thus has Bush cast the conflict as one of good vs. evil.

Some US soldiers have caught the spirit that Bush has infused into the conflict. If you pay attention to Bush’s speeches, you will see that he is trying to infuse this spirit into the American people.

Beware. It is an evil spirit. Because it brooks no objection, it will bring a police state at home and death and destruction abroad, just as the Jacobins brought to 18th century France and Europe.

And this one last fall:

Will neoconservatives be held responsible for orchestrating a war in order to pursue their Middle Eastern agenda? Will they get away with inflicting death and injury on thousands of Iraqis and Americans?


The US media has good cause to hold the neocons accountable. Neocons manipulated the media and turned reporters, news networks and publications into war propagandists. Uncritical acceptance of neocon propaganda has made laughingstocks out of “conservative” media, such as Fox News, the Weekly Standard, National Review and the Wall Street Journal editorial page.


Neoconservatives have made as big a fool of the American public as they have of President Bush. The US has been tricked into waging a war that already has cost us $200 billion and the sympathy of the world, a war that disrupts the lives of tens of thousands of reserve and national guard families, kills and maims our troops and Iraqi civilians, destroys our alliances and foreign policy, and recruits terrorists for bin Laden.

We went to war for false reasons. The costs are enormous. Will the perpetrators be held accountable?

You can just see the neos have been spoiling for this one for a long time.

posted by Sully 5/05/2004 12:37:00 PM


We had to cringe a little when the usually-excellent Nick Confessore at TAPped praised Sullivan’s writing on religion as “well done, as Sullivan’s writing on religion usually is.” As we’ve reported before, many bloggers of the Catholic persuasion from both right and left have found Sullivan’s purported knowledge of Church doctrine to be somewhat lacking, and comments like Confessore’s only serve to enhance a reputation Sullivan doesn’t deserve.

So here’s a couple of responses from that perspective to his fisking of Novak.

Amy Welborn, bless her, actually likes it and manages to improve upon it. (But don’t ever expect Sullivan to acknowledge her incredible magnanimity and apologize for his driveby attack on her last fall).

It doesn’t take a long time at Technorati, though, before you find someone calling him on an error of fact:

Now Sullivan’s a Catholic and it’s a big Church but not going to communion is not excommunication, not even effective excommunication in any branch of the Church that I'm aware of.


Normally, people don't go up and get communion all the time. In Sullivan’s construction, they're self-excommunicating. They might have arrived too late for services, eaten to close to mass time, not be in the proper frame of mind, have a sin weighing down on their soul, the reasons vary.


Nobody’s talking about excommunicating Kerry which would make it a sin to associate with him, even to vote for him until he relents. Sullivan’s either ignorant or dishonest in conflating the two sanctions.

posted by Sully 5/05/2004 12:15:00 PM


If National Review could can Coulter ...

Presumably here Sullivan is leading his readers to believe that he is referring to Coulter’s 9/11 comment: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”

But that wasn’t what got her canned, and it’s important to remember that. It was, even those who may have privately sympathized with Coulter realized, the extreme overreaction of a psychopathic bitch experiencing grief for possibly the first time in her life, and as such Rich Lowry publicly retracted it (though the column is still on NR’s website). Coulter reacted to that by calling Rich Lowry a “girly-man” for doing so ... and that was a firable offense, apparently (although, we suspect, possibly more for, as the old Soviet joke had it, the revelation of an official secret than the actual insubordination).

And, in a move Sullivan knows all too well, his drinking buddy spun it as “she left — we didn’t fire her” Perhaps they had already had enough angry emails from Freepers to not want more. Or they knew enough to leave the door open.

Or maybe not. See, Ann never explicitly said she didn’t want to work for NR anymore, they just found her behavior wildly inconsistent with any further desire to work for them and treated it as a resignation:

... [S]he apparently proceeded to run around town bad-mouthing NR and its employees. Then she showed up on TV and, in an attempt to ingratiate herself with fellow martyr Bill Maher, said we were “censoring” her.

By this point, it was clear she wasn’t interested in continuing the relationship.

What publication on earth would continue a relationship with a writer who would refuse to discuss her work with her editors? What publication would continue to publish a writer who attacked it on TV? [Hmm, Andrew, you ought to consider that – SW] What publication would continue to publish a writer who lied about it — on TV and to a Washington Post reporter?

And, finally, what CONSERVATIVE publication would continue to publish a writer who doesn’t even know the meaning of the word “censorship?”[i.e., that it only happens when liberals do it to conservatives? – SW]

So let me be clear: We did not “fire” Ann for what she wrote, even though it was poorly written and sloppy. We ended the relationship because she behaved with a total lack of professionalism, friendship, and loyalty. [When has she ever been professional? – SW]

What’s Ann’s take on all this? Well, she told the Washington Post yesterday that she loves it, because she’s gotten lots of great publicity. That pretty much sums Ann up.

On the Sean Hannity show yesterday, however, apparently embarrassed by her admission to the Post, she actually tried to deny that she has sought publicity in this whole matter. Well, then, Ann, why did you complain of being “censored” on national TV? Why did you brag to the Post about all the PR?

Listening to Ann legalistically dodge around trying to explain all this would have made Bill Clinton blush. [OOOOOooooo! Among conservatives, there is no insult lower]

Ann also told the Post that we only paid her $5 a month for her work (would that it were so!) [Yeah, cause if you paid her at all you were getting robbed!]. Either this is a deliberate lie, or Ann needs to call her accountant because someone’s been skimming her checks.

In the non-public version of that same letter, however, Jonah adds his note that Ann has been picked up by David Horowitz’s The Front Page. So much for ostracism among the right ... among free-marketeers, as long you’re getting paid it’s all good.

Fortunately for Coulter, conservatives have short memories (as the recent war with Iraq has demonstrated). NR showed where its real values lay when, some months later, with Slander a huge hit among the bulk-purchase Freeper set, they quietly resumed running her column on the affiliated

This is but one of many examples Sullivan and others of the ilk doubtless cite to prove the right’s rectitude in ideological self-policing that turn out, among further inspection, to have as much substance as reports of massive Iraqi WMD stockpiles. Since Sullivan is using it here to bash lefties whom has just implied are, in opposition to Rall, sensible, it’s only fair that he answer to the full record of these instances and still attempt to use it as a valid counterexample.

posted by Sully 5/05/2004 11:48:00 AM


Jo Fish tells Sullivan to go to the mirror:

Yeah, a guy with an audience like that would never engage in rhetoric that would ever contribute to the view of others as ... not quite human. And now he acts all noble and shit. Real Brass, from Kapitan von Bareback himself.

posted by Sully 5/05/2004 11:07:00 AM

Tuesday, May 04, 2004


Via TBogg, we learn that is the latest to document Sullivan’s “evolution” on Iraq. Love the photo.

And, in that vein, George Cerny is at it again, showing up that David Ignatius column and how similar it is to Sullivan’s work:

Let’s try to translate this:

“If we fail, it’s because those damn, crazy Arabs didn’t listen to us, not because we fucked up the occupation and not because even the best run occupation will produce bitter hatred in the population. It’s the Arabs. Those crazy Arabs.

“But I still believe we will win. I have always believed we will win. Even though I find it difficult now to say why, exactly. But only those who lack a spine are backing down now.”

You’ve been reading Sully too long, George. That was too good.

posted by Sully 5/04/2004 06:38:00 PM

Monday, May 03, 2004


We’re sort of huffy over the Times story too, but only because it acted as if holding the conservative media and pundits to account online were some sort of newfangled liberal idea ... duh, look at what we’ve been doing for the past two years, without any fancy-schmancy liberal think tank money behind us (Although, if any wants to throw some our way, click on that white box to the left. We can always use some more).

But anyway, we’re glad Brock’s out there More players can only be good for the team.

Sullivan is also fatuous when he cites “hundreds of similar websites over the last few years that popped up to counter what they believed was liberal bias in the mainstream media” Hey, Blog Queen, conservatives have long since overplayed this “liberal media bias” thing to the point that it’s gotten to be a dog-bites-man, rock-star-in-drug-bust, ho-hum type of story. Some moron setting up a website just isn’t the universe-shaking event it felt like for you when you did it, OK?

ADDENDUM: Hey, just a thought: If Whittaker Chambers lied to federal authorities about Hiss not being a spy, was convicted of perjury later on, and repented of Communism and became a hero to conservatives, how is that different from Brock lying about Anita Hill in a book conservatives adored, not getting convicted of perjury because it wasn’t under oath, then admitting the lying later on and becoming a liberal? Especially considering that conservatives used to respond to the perjury thing on Chambers by pointing out that the lie benefitted the Hiss side and that Hiss’s supporters were thus admitting his guilt by smearing Chambers as a perjurer.

posted by Sully 5/03/2004 09:10:00 PM


Comparing abuses by the 372nd Military Police Brigade to those of Saddam’s Mukhabarat is really beside the point. Sullivan, among many others, laid the groundwork for these headlines way back last summer when, as the WMD argument for the invasion was increasingly hard to sustain, he switched to the human-rights line. It’s a bit like comparing whether Auschwitz or the Gulag was worse (which people who experienced both have, indeed, done, but they in our opnions are the only ones who have the moral credibility to do so).

The real point is that any credible allegation of this type of abuse (and you cannot get much more credible than those photos got) would make us worse than Saddam. It’s a sad fact of international political life, but the world grows accustomed to this sort of thing from dictators. Democracies, on the other hand, are supposed to spawn citizens who would never dream of doing such a thing (Not that it does, but it’s the perception that counts).

In fact, there have never been pictures shown on al-Jaziirah of Israeli troops doing similar things to Palestinian prisoners. Think about that.

As we ourselves said, quoting German Leader Who Shall Not Be Named, such a long long time ago, starting a war is like entering a dark room. In more ways than one.

This whole thing had to be accepted and confronted as a possibility the minute those tanks rolled across the line of departure, as one of those things that could leave our position in the Middle East worse off. We war critics accepted it and pointed to that. We are still amazed that the hawks did not.

George Cerny says it best today:

Sullivan doesn’t admit that he got anything wrong. At no point does he regret his failure to acknowledge the mounting disaster of our occupation. Still less does he rue his failure to anticipate the inevitable problems we’d face before we went to war. No, he stayed in character. Sullivan may have abandoned his optimism in the wreckage of the war, but his self-regard has survived, unscathed.

Sullivan’s turnabout is not good news. It’s actually quite terrifying. Sullivan has been so optimistic for so long that for him to change course means that the we really are as deep in the shit as I’d thought. I’d always wanted to be wrong about Iraq.


... his opponents were, Sullivan implied, “pro-Saddam and anti-Western” carpers who wanted a disaster in Iraq. No, we feared a disaster in Iraq. But that was, more than a year ago.

posted by Sully 5/03/2004 09:02:00 PM


Look, if even a diehard antiwar lefty like Max Sawicky thinks Rall’s cartoon was dumb, (“This is yuppie anti-working class prejudice, pure and simple ... This kind of crap helps Bush, among other reasons because it makes jingoists feel better than they are” ... Hey Andrew, why don’t you show some honor and link to that?) we’re not going to argue the point. In fact we think it was pretty lame too (Over and above the fact that it makes a staggering contrast with Bush, who argued for Vietnam while he was busy drinking his Air Guard career away, Tillman’s enlistment was an act of genuine character that reminds us of what we are wasting in Iraq).

But we’d advise Surly not to get into the MWO-type business of launching email campaigns against media outlets that offend him, because “[a] disgusting diatribe ... vile, so utterly devoid of any motive or argument but personal malice and hatred ...” can so easily be applied to a number of his past writings.

Sure you want to go there?

posted by Sully 5/03/2004 08:47:00 PM

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The Alaskan climate graph examined

Proof positive that Sullivan cannot, and should not, be trusted as a journalist to get his facts right.


The fisking of Norah Vincent

How we drove her out of Blogistan almost all by ourselves.


Excerpts from Lee Siegel's 2001 Harper's piece

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Why we blog the way we blog

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Why we blog the way we blog, Part II.

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Bush-hating and proud of it

Our response to David Brooks.


Who Was That Masked Man?

The Horse remembered.


How the media lynched O.J. Simpson

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Journalists behaving badly, updated.

Our wedding gift to Ruth Shalit, former TNR It Girl




Eve Tushnet's classic zinger

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"Bush reveals his poisonous colours"

Diane E. goes digging through the memory hole and finds a Times of London column Sullivan would prefer be forgotten.


The Datalounge list of potential titles for his memoirs

As reposted by Atrios


"The Princess of Provincetown"

Jim Capozzola goes further in that direction than we would ever dare.


Sullivan urges the Bush Administration to lie to the public

Brendan and Ben catch him in the act.


The Washington Times: An irredeemably left-wing rag

Bob Somerby shows the consequences of Sullivan's own logic of media bias


The Central Tenets of the Blogosphere

Derived from Sullivan’s blogging by s.z. of World O’ Crap and posted as a comment at Sadly, No!