The Times editorializes today on abuses in the Iranian prison system, and it is one of those pieces in which you can’t tell whether the writer is dense or stupid:
Iran’s Constitution and law prohibit torture; however, the 2008 State Department human rights report cites numerous credible reports over the years in which security forces and prison personnel tortured prisoners.
The government should be ferreting out and putting an end to these abuses.
One could attempt to take this seriously and ask, Why would the government “ferret out” and “put an end” to the very brutality by which it keeps itself in power? This is like saying to a mafia boss, “You should ferret out the people in your organization who are involved in stealing, bribery, and extortion, and put an end to these abuses.” Seriously?
But this is a long tradition on the Left. It works like this: if you want to call attention to the atrocious behavior of a group of thugs or terrorists, you have to be respectful and pretend that the thuggery and terrorism were accidents of bureaucratic oversight or inattention.
When Hezbollah was shooting up Beirut last summer, Barack Obama put out a memorable statement on the crisis that fit this model perfectly:
This effort to undermine Lebanon’s elected government needs to stop, and all those who have influence with Hezbollah must press them to stand down immediately.
Just as the Times seems to think that the systematic rape and torture of prisoners in Iran is being conducted in the absence of regime approval, Obama portrayed Hezbollah as somehow engaged in major hostilities in Lebanon without the approval of Iran and Syria. Another fine example is Human Rights Watch, which in 2008 sent a letter to the Hamas leadership saying:
We ask that you publicly and unequivocally call on the military wing of your organization, the Qassam Brigades, and any other groups or individuals acting on behalf of Hamas . . . to desist from any attacks or acts of reprisal that deliberately target civilians, or cause them disproportionate harm.
Foreign policy is so much easier when everyone involved has good intentions.