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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

McIlheran Watch: Stroking his Dictator

The regular semi-regular feature of this blog (given that I've started a new feature) is the McIlheran Watch, wherein I examine what ridiculous ideas spring from the keyboard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's conservative affirmative action recipient, the now-begoateed Patrick McIlheran. (I'm waiting for jsonline to update its picture of him, so to the right (hah!) there is the proverbial "artist's conception.")

The Brawler, who also takes great pleasure in dissecting McIlheran's pithed frog, has already gotten the ball rolling on the latest of McIlheran's abominations. And no, I'm not talking about McIlheran's repeat belief that Ward Churchill (whom no one had heard of until the right-wing echo chamber essentially created him) is a liberal icon. I'm talking about P-Mac's lionizing yesterday of brutal Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who died over the weekend, at 91--an age many times that which his opponents ever lived to see.

(And what's the deal with this? McIlheran won't even link to the Associated Press story on Pinochet's death that ran in the newspaper he works for, choosing instead to link to the very same AP story in the conservative Washington Times. The Times is a loss-leader for Rev. Sun Myong Moon; is P-Mac that desperate to help the Moonies over the people who sign his paycheck? Maybe it's just some kind of passive-aggressive thing he's doing in his position as union steward, since management is squeezing employees. Either way, it's weird.)

McIlheran, I guess, kind of liked Pinochet. See, I thought uncontrollable nausea at the thought of herding human beings into soccer stadiums to torture and kill them was what separated us from the animals. McIlheran's standards are, apparently, lower:
Pinochet took power to overthrow an elected president that, he and others suspected, would drag Chile into Marxism. [. . .] Pinochet, for all his evil repression, liberated Chile’s economy, and now that he’s been out of power, Chile’s got a free, prosperous economy, generating about $11,900 of wealth per person in 2005. [. . .]

So, doubtless, we’ll hear again the wrong that Pinochet did. He did wrong. He was a bad man, a dictator. But he gave up power.
I ellipsized the parts where McIlheran speaks ill of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, not because I'm trying to gloss over the evils that Castro has done, but because I don't believe in playing, as McIlheran does, the Special Dictator Edition of Relativistic Pursuit. Rather, just consider what McIlheran has said about Pinochet; while qualified with an unavoidable "yeah, he did bad things," this is praise, people, praise for a man who led a coup against Salvadore Allende, the democratically elected leader, and who slaughtered thousands of his opponents in nearly twenty years of iron fisted rule. The U.S. has invaded to liberate other countries I could name for less heinous crimes.

The Brawler tells us that whatever boon Chile's economy may be seeing is due to Allende's having nationalized the copper industry, a slice of Marxism Pinochet never undid. This is assuming you give Pinochet any credit at all for how successful Chile is doing 16 years after he left office.

And McIlheran's pat-on-the-back to the guy because "he gave up power" is roughly like feeling relief that the Death Star is only half-built. Nearly two decades after he siezed power, Pinochet wrote a new constitution that set a date for an election eight years from its ratification, and left himself two years after that until he stepped down. Upon leaving the presidency, Pinochet assumed the title "Senator for Life," a position he created for himself in the constitution he wrote that guaranteed him immunity from investigation or prosecution for his crimes. That constitution passed a referendum under incredibly suspicious circumstances in 1980, and Pinochet was never indicted in Chile for any of his crimes until a couple of weeks ago, when, almost literally on his deathbed, he admitted that, yeah, he hadn't been a saint.

Way to go, man! You "gave up power"!

Perhaps McIlheran is building up the "it's okay to torture people if you aren't a communist" defense for President Bush. Or perhaps he's merely trying to cover for his occasional (example) attempts at rehabiltating Richard Nixon, who detested Allende and whose spooks fomented the 1973 coup that killed him. This country's long history of South American interventionism against people we don't like, elected or not, goes back to Wilson, and runs right up through recent history. I've been having some odd déjà vu of late knowing that Nicaragua just re-elected Daniel Ortega, and the US Senate just confirmed as Secretary of State one of the Reagan Administration's leading proponents of bombing Ortega's first administration back to the stone age. I want my MTV.

I'll end by noting that there must have been a memo going around that McIlheran got his hands on. As Matt Yglesias notes, the Washington Post ran an editorial today making many of the same points, including the favorable comparison of Pinochet to Castro. Googling up Pinochet on the blogs finds many conservatives taking the same line, as well. McIlheran himself claims inspiration from the conservative New York Sun.

Me? Yeah, I'm liberal. But it hardly seems a matter of liberal or conservative to say of Pinochet, as we will of Castro, as we do of Pol Pot and Hitler and Saddam Hussein and Idi Amin, that there is nothing to praise about a brutal dictator. Nothing.

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