The Disingenuous Leftist Defense of Vladimir Putin (No, Crimea is Not the Same as Iraq)

The ideologue Left - more aptly referred to as the emoprog cadre -  a meltdown over President Obama's comments in Brussels, part of which took on the callous, fundamentalist, and anti-American talking point spread by Russia and its allies that the United States' invasion of Iraq makes it hypocritical for Americans to now criticize Russian annexation of Ukraine. President Obama, reiterating both that he opposed the American invasion of Iraq and that he's the president that withdrew American troops from Iraq, nonetheless laid out the prima facie case why Russia's assertions held no merit.

Nothing exemplified the Left's latest jump-all-over-Obama phrase than Common Dreams' hair on fire bloviating about Obama "defend[ing] US invasion of Iraq" - something the President, you would be shocked to learn, never did. This is the passage of the President's speech to European youth that seems to have sparked so much Leftist poutrage at home:

Russia has pointed to America’s decision to go into Iraq as an example of Western hypocrisy. Now, it is true that the Iraq war was a subject of vigorous debate, not just around the world but in the United States, as well. I participated in that debate, and I opposed our military intervention there.

But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people in a fully sovereign Iraqi state that can make decisions about its own future.

OMG! The President said WHAT? Burst out the screaming Left. How dare the president distinguish Russia's annexation of Crimea from the American invasion of Iraq, which, for all its follies, did not actually annex any part of Iraqi territory? And obviously, any distinction between the two is tantamount to a defense of the war in Iraq. Because you see, you are not allowed to distinguish two actions if you believe both of those to be wrong. You are not allowed to distinguish between two wrongs, because if you do, it means you are defending one of those. To follow this logic to its ... uhh... logical conclusion, anyone who believes that murder is not the same as rape is obviously defending rape.

This absurdity is in full display by the anti-Obama, blame-America first Left's luminaries. As Common Dreams so helpfully documents, among the first to step forward in condemnation of Obama's action is a prominent blogger at FireDogLake:

Responding to the speech on FireDogLake, DSWright shot back: "Worked within the international system? So if Russia had gone to the UN to get a resolution, failed, then annexed Crimea it would have been OK?"

OK? When did President Obama say that the invasion of Iraq was "OK"? The precise answer is exactly never. In fact, President Obama reiterated both his opposition to the war in Iraq and his decision to withdraw American forces from Iraq in the very passage these loudmouths are responding to. Nothing like selective memory that also allows for imaginary statements, is there?

Another familiar talking point has been that Obama should not have said the invasion of Iraq was different in terms of international law simply because people died in Iraq. In great defense of Vladimir Putin, Common Dreams even quotes tweets asking "how many died in Crimea?" in comparison to the dead in Iraq. As though conflicts in which deaths occur should always be ranked below conflicts in which deaths are minimal.

That's a fine principle, but one few will adhere to when push comes to shove. Technically, it's not the secession of the South that caused the deaths in the Civil War, it was President Lincoln's military response to it. So was the act of secession more moral than the act of fighting a war to keep the union together?

Of course, that is no way to compare Iraq and Ukraine. But it does demonstrate that "people died" in and of itself does not make an action more or less legitimate. It was also not what the President was talking about.

So what was he talking about? The president was actually responding to Russian accusations of American hypocrisy. The first example President Obama took on was NATO's actions under President Clinton in Kosovo to end ethnic cleansing. Kosovo was also fought without a resolution from the UN Security Council. The link was that not all actions waged without an UNSC resolution have the same legal standing.

None of the Left's anti-Obama tyrades would be complete, of course, without the AOL Huffington Post chiming in. Ryan Grim of the HuffPo tried to delegitimize the president by claiming that the president was factually wrong when he said that America did not take Iraq's land or resources for its own.

In fact, the U.S. forced Iraq to privatize its oil industry, which had previously been under the control of the state, and further required that it accept foreign ownership of the industry. The effort to transfer the resources to the control of multinational, largely U.S.-based oil companies has been hampered in part by the decade of violence unleashed by the invasion.

Except that the very LA Times piece Grim linked to lays out nothing more than a US State Department suggestion for privatization of Iraqi oil industry - and more importantly, it lays out recommendations that only a sovereign Iraqi government be allowed to make that decision rather than the provisional interim authority. The US "required" Iraq to do nothing.

Grim them makes this mind-numbingly stupid declaration:

Obama's assertion also hinges on how broadly one construes the word "our." Taxpayers on the one hand are worse off, as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have added $2 trillion to the national debt, according to one study. But contractors reaped tremendous gains, and Halliburton -- a company often associated with the invasion, of which former Vice President Dick Cheney served as CEO -- saw its stock price surge from under $10 a share to over $50, before falling along with the rest of the market in 2008. (It has since recovered.)

Yes, genius. The President of the United States speaks for American taxpayers, not Halliburton.

Once again, President Obama never - not once - defended America's actions in Iraq. But his critics on the Left seem more than eager to defend Vladimir Putin's Russia. They seem essentially incapable of talking about Crimea without invoking Iraq, and incapable of condemning Putin without condemning the United States. I am not even sure we need Putin to make the charge of hypocrisy against President Obama when the American Left does it so well for him.

The idea of delegetimizing critics of certain actions on the charge of hypocrisy is also in and of itself hypocritical. When the United States invaded Iraq and nations from China to Russia to Germany were united in condemnation, no one in the American Leftist media deemed China's critic invalid because of its strong-armed tactics in Tibet, or Russia's critics invalid because of its own one-time imperialistic policies, or Germany's critics invalid because - well, I don't have to say. The charges did not exist because they did not matter. We do not operate on the principle that once you have acted badly, you have lost the right to criticize all future bad acts.

One can independently condemn America's actions in Iraq, and condemn Russia's in Ukraine, without wading into false equivalencies. There is no conflict between condemning America's role in Iraq and also recognizing that ultimately, under President Obama's leadership, America left Iraq to Iraqis, and did not seek to annex its land. And there should be no difficulty in recognizing the difference between that and Vladimir Putin's annexation of a neighboring sovereign country.

Unless, of course, one's ultimate goal is not simply to criticize American foreign policy, but to support and justify Putin's. In any debate class, going after the individual rather than addressing the point is considered a weakness. Attacking America for hypocrisy every time Ukraine comes up - even if such argument had imaginary merit - indicates that the reactionary Left is unwilling to discuss Ukraine and Russian actions on its own merits.

Why, I couldn't say. But the most likely reason that comes rushing to mind is Putin's sheltering of Edward Snowden - whom the disingenuous Left has dubbed a hero. It seems that neither Snowden nor any of his advocates or protectorates can do any wrong in the eyes of the Left's pencil pushers.

Like what you read? Chip in, keep us going.

When history is inconvenient, rewrite it

What to do now