Blogs > Liberty and Power > Thomas Sowell Now One of the Anointed

May 15, 2004 12:44 am

Thomas Sowell Now One of the Anointed

Apparently, one of the casualties of the war in Iraq has been the intellect of Thomas Sowell. On Thursday the Washington Times published a column by Sowell which argued that the messenger deserved the blame for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. He wrote, “What the media did, irresponsibly, was send inflammatory photographs around the world.”

Sowell goes on to suggest that it would have been better to wait until after those responsible had been punished before making the pictures freely available. He asks the question, ”If a colonel is conducting a court martial and the generals over him are publicly denouncing those on trial, will that be considered a fair trial whose verdicts will stand up on appeal?”

In the first place, it is extremely doubtful that anyone would have had a court marital without the release of the photos. There may have been some low level non-judicial punishment done quietly but those responsible, those who gave the orders, would have had nothing to fear. Because these photographs have garnered so much attention it will be much more difficult to summarily penalize the enlisted personnel and stop there. After all, the media is talking about over 1800 photographs and that is not the work of a few rogue guards that is the work of a system. Also, while we are worrying about fair trials for the guards let us take a moment to remember that none of the Iraqi participants in the naked pyramids had any kind of trial, impartial or otherwise.

Sowell asserts, ”it is not too much to ask of the rest of us back home to act like adults and put things in perspective.” Well, what about the perspective of the nude Iraqi prisoner attached to a leash in the hands of a female guard? And, I would venture to say that a large percentage of the people being held at Abu Ghraib prison are there for one of four reasons: they were a government employee, they had the wrong associate, they angered an American soldier at a checkpoint, or they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Consider the possibility that the reason the military had to go to such lengths to get information out of these detainees is because many of them do not really know anything.

It saddens me to read such partisan drivel coming from the pen of Thomas Sowell. As a corrective, I am going to recommend that he go back and reread one of his own works, the brilliant and very insightful The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. On page 8 of the hardback edition Sowell talks about patterns of failure and he maintains that, ”A very distinct pattern has emerged repeatedly when policies favored by the anointed turn out to fail.” He lists four stages the crisis, the solution, the results, and the response.

In the case before us, Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction provided the crisis. Sowell argues that ”a situation is routinely characterized as a ‘crisis’ even though all human situations have negative aspects, and even though evidence is seldom asked or given to show how the situation at hand is either uniquely bad or threatening to get worse” During the entire build up to the war I never heard one reporter or public official ask the anointed George Bush why would Saddam Hussein, a man obsessed with his own personal survival, attack the most powerful nation on earth? In addition, when we consider the weapons Hussein had at his disposal in 1990 and the absence of WMDs found during the current occupation we must conclude that the situation, called a crisis, was actually improving.

As far as the solution and results stages go, the anointed promised us happy grateful Iraqis peacefully working with us on their new democratic paradise. Instead, we got 700 plus and counting dead American soldiers, a beheaded American civilian and no end to the violence in sight.

In the response stage the critics of the policies have their arguments dismissed out of hand, they retain the burden of proof. However, as Sowell points out, ”No burden of proof whatever is put on those who had so confidently predicted improvement.” The anointed imperialists who argued that the country’s safety hung in the balance, have never had to prove that their invasion has somehow made America safer. It is a good thing for them too, because they could not do that.

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