Gosh, this is strikingly different in tone from the statement her spokesman issued a few hours ago defiantly doubling down on comparing the United States to the Taliban. The International Criminal Court is investigating alleged crimes committed by both sides in Afghanistan, her office noted. Why shouldn’t she compare them?
A few hours later comes this new press release insisting that of course Omar never meant to draw an equivalence between a democracy that follows the rule of law and a terrorist outfit.
Which doesn’t sound like her at all.
I wonder how much notice Pelosi gave her that she’d be issuing this statement.
Rep. @IlhanMN puts out a statement clarifying her remarks earlier this week: "I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems. pic.twitter.com/5hlpo8tkdP
— Nicholas Wu (@nicholaswu12) June 10, 2021
Omar’s politics is an endless prosecution of the charge that the United States is an unjust society. If pressed on whether she thinks its injustices can be cured, she’d have to say yes — otherwise why be in politics? — but in practice people as far left as she is believe the country is irredeemable. Under those circumstances, it’s laughable for her to say that she wasn’t equating democratic societies with judicial systems to terrorist groups. She’s no admirer of America’s version of either of those things; normally she’d talk your ear off about how corrupt our institutions are.
Does that make her pro-Taliban? I’d say it’s more like anti-anti-Taliban inasmuch as she and they have different grievances with a common antagonist, which leaves her naturally disinclined to draw favorable moral comparisons between us and them. Every kind word about the status quo in the U.S. is a step backward for “progress,” after all, whereas every unkind comparison to a primitive Salafist outfit underlines just how urgent the cause of “progress” is. The most we’d get out of her by way of a concession, I suspect, is her allowing that the Taliban is worse than the U.S. in some ways — and not worse in others.
So no, needless to say, she didn’t issue that last statement because she felt remorse over her earlier equivalence. She issued it because Pelosi forced her. And as if to confirm that, Pelosi and the Dem leadership issued a statement of their own this afternoon making the same point about avoiding false equivalencies:
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) June 10, 2021
If there’s any lingering doubt that Omar had words put in her mouth by the leadership, note that her friends in the Squad are in a fighting mood this afternoon. They’re not concerned about drawing moral equivalence, as we’re supposed to believe Omar is. They’re concerned about her being criticized:
Pretty sick & tired of the constant vilification, intentional mischaracterization, and public targeting of @IlhanMN coming from our caucus.
They have no concept for the danger they put her in by skipping private conversations & leaping to fueling targeted news cycles around her.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 10, 2021
Stop attacking @IlhanMN. Stop attacking us.
I'm not surprised when Republicans attack Black women for standing up for human rights. But when it’s Democrats, it’s especially hurtful. We’re your colleagues. Talk to us directly.
Enough with the anti-Blackness and Islamophobia.
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) June 10, 2021
“Anti-blackness” is an interesting charge to level given that James Clyburn and Hakeem Jeffries are both part of Pelosi’s leadership team. David Harsanyi pointed out this afternoon that whenever Omar takes a dump on her party’s messaging, her defense follows the same playbook. First, she and her allies smear her critics as Islamophobes — or anti-black, per Bush — even if they’re fellow Democrats and black themselves. Second, they play the victim by insisting that the criticism is fomenting threats to Omar’s personal safety. (“[I]f we are going to start holding politicians responsible for the actions of third parties, then Omar has a lot of answering to do for the spike in anti-Semitic violence last month,” Harsanyi points out.) AOC handled that task for her this afternoon.
The key is that at no point is victim status to be relinquished by admitting error, even an error as mild as “maybe I wasn’t clear in what I was trying to say.” Which is how we know that leadership forced Omar to issue this new statement. She’d never give her critics the satisfaction of admitting that she was the cause of a legitimate grievance rather than a casualty of one.