Unpacking A Fragment Of Packer

by tristero

It's just a throwaway line in a rambling blogpost by George Packer, but it stopped me in my tracks. The background:

Unthinkingly, Christopher Hitchens got himself waterboarded and concluded from the experience it was torture. You'd think someone as intelligent as Hitchens is supposed to be would know that without enduring it himself, but when you refuse to think, you do stupid things.

Now, Packer blogs about Hitchens' waterboarding:
This is the beginning of an argument with himself—not craven self-denunciation, but a genuine effort to draw out and clarify the hard trade-offs and ideological confusions that the past years have forced on all thinking people.
The "hard trade-offs and ideological confusions that the past years have forced on all thinking people." What a bunch of doubletalking gobbledy-gook. What on earth, or rather, who on earth is Packer talking about?

He's talking about himself, of course and no one else. Unthinkingly gulled by Kanan Makiya - who was happy to trade off bitter experience for a thoughtless hope - Packer was all gung ho Bush/Iraq in 2002/03. Then, like Hitchens with waterboarding, he experienced it for himself and became opposed to the war.

Now, as thinking people here on Hullabaloo, let's think about what Packer's yakking about in his little throwaway. Packer says that thinking people, during the past years, had forced on them hard trade-offs and ideological confusion. But even five minutes of thought in 2002 would have revealed Bush/Iraq as screaming yellow bonkers. But Packer didn't have the moral integrity to give Bush/Iraq five minutes of thought, as so many others did around the world. Instead, Packer let himself be unthinkingly swept away by Makiya's rhetoric - and others'. Packer checked his brain at the door and went with his gut: LET'S DO SOME GOOD!

No, George. I ain't beholden to an ideology, and there was nothing confusing about Bush/Iraq. Nor were there any hard tradeoffs to consider: Obviously, only deeper misery would come from an invasion of Iraq. And so it came. And nothing was forced on me, either, except the horror and shame of watching my country become mired in a ghastly, pointless, unnecessary, and disastrous war advocated by unthinking fools like yourself and Hitchens.