Sunday, August 05, 2007
Ignatieff recants posted by Richard SeymourHe's not the Messiah - he's a very naughty boy.
Michael Ignatieff says he was wrong to support the Iraq war: "The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president. But it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion." This is a logical move for a deputy leader of the Canadian Liberal Party, who would one day like to be leader, and Prime Minister. Perhaps the main reason he did not win a plurality of votes in the leadership convention is that he was one of the few Canadians who actually did support the invasion and occupation of Iraq. He got into such trouble over his support for torture that he was obliged to recant on that during his campaign. However, as is usual with Ignatieff, his sudden hindsight doesn't imply insight. He still says, for instance, that: "Staying and leaving each have huge costs. One thing is clear: The costs of staying will be borne by Americans, while the cost of leaving will be mostly borne by Iraqis. That in itself suggests how American leaders are likely to decide the question." So, in Ignatieff's new realism, Iraqis don't bear the costs of the occupation, and the Americans would much rather leave.
In fact, Ignatieff shows no sign of understanding why he was wrong. He says that he "let emotion carry me past the hard questions, like: Can Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites hold together in peace what Saddam Hussein held together by terror?" Which is to claim that Iraqis have proven themselves to be incapable of self-government and should be ruled through terror - an appropriate conclusion from the Wilsonian airhead. Almost 90% of the essay isn't about Iraq, of course: it is an extended, self-serving rumination on the nature of politics and the political career. He even hints that he may not be entirely sincere about anything he says: "Nothing is personal in politics, because politics is theater. It is part of the job to pretend to have emotions that you do not actually feel." But nevertheless, he is "worthy of trust" because he has not had a "charmed life" like the American president, and is a man of sorrow "acquainted with grief, as the prophet Isaiah says". Isaiah did indeed say this (53:3) - about the Messiah. What exactly is Ignatieff trying to tell us?