In my region of the world, a controversy has occupied the attention of a few people regarding Ambassador George Argyros’ defense of the Bush doctrine vis-à-vis Iraq and terrorism in general. Argyros represents the U.S. government in Spain, and he has, as would be expected, given various talks in which he defended the policies of the Bush administration.
Of course, it would be nice if ambassadors were non-partisan and told it like it is. But that is a ridiculous expectation. Most people, in most circumstances, don’t even know how to go about telling it like it is — there is rarely enough time and space to convey “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” And when one is a player in an explicitly partisan game, such as politics, siding with one’s employers is probably just what one is going to do.
Ambassador Argyros — who, by the way, has made major contributions to my academic institution, Chapman University (in Orange, Calif.) — was roundly criticized, however, for doing what is quite normal for an appointed official: defend his chief’s policies. This occurred in one of the local weeklies, a paper that is no-holds-barred left wing. (It even has on its staff someone who proudly calls herself “Commie Girl.” Imagine “Nazi Girl,” in contrast.)
After the criticism, some readers wrote in to defend what the ambassador did, one claiming that “Whether you agree with Bush’s policy on Iraq or not, George Argyros did exactly what an American ambassador is supposed to do, and he did it well.”
Maybe, maybe not — after all, it is arguable that even an appointed ambassador ought to have and speak a mind of his or her own. But that’s not why this matter is interesting.
In reply to the reader who made this observation, the author of the original piece came back with a real lulu. He wrote: “I agree completely with your letter … Argyros did what he was told and followed the Bush line. And look at the results of ‘doing the job well.’ : a nation that hates the United States, a broken alliance, and about 190 innocents dead.”
OK, this is just about the most perverse analysis of causation in geopolitical matters I have run across recently. We are being told, among other things, that Argyros’ speech — having said some words, in other words — produced “results” that included “190 innocents dead” (referring, of course, to the victims of the terrorist bombing in Madrid). No mention is made of the terrorists who chose — without any evident compulsion from Argyros or the Bush administration — to murder the 190 innocent people. No, the murder is among “the results of ‘doing the job well’ ” of giving a partisan talk.
I have been an opponent of the war against Iraq all along — unlike most liberal democrats in or out of the Congress — and I am unimpressed with all the arguments advanced by members of the Bush administration in defense of the war. Yet, it has never occurred to me to exculpate the perpetrators of terrorism by claiming their murders are the result of what the Bush people have said in their own defense. Why? Because it couldn’t possibly be.
A person who hears various things being said by another person, even the most provocative things, still must make the decision as to what, if anything, he or she will do about it all. One can do the right thing and attempt to refute the speaker. This is the civilized approach to those who give talks with which one disagrees.
Or the person can violently attack the speaker or can unite with a bunch of other persons and violently attack the speaker and maybe all those who agree with the speaker. Quite uncivilized, quite criminal, but in geopolitical contexts not entirely unexpected these days, since most players act in tribal ways — “them against us,” and words are never “only words.”
And then there is the worst way to address what the speaker has said: To violently attack a bunch of innocent people (including children) who had nothing whatsoever to do with what the speaker said, the job the speaker holds, the government the speaker speaks for. That’s barbaric.
What, then, about someone who claims, in the pages of a widely read newspaper, that it is the speaker, not those who actually carried out the barbaric terrorism, who murdered the victims?
Tibor Machan advises Freedom Communications, parent company of this newspaper. E-mail him at