Monday, January 08, 2007

Richard Posner, Partisan Hack

Posner's most recent book defending the administrations right to try suspected terrorists using secret evidence gained from torture, was harshly criticized in the New York Review of Books by David Cole. His letter responding to the review opens with an ad hominem attack based on guilt by association.
Professor David Cole, who doubles as the legal affairs correspondent of The Nation and has received awards from the National Lawyers Guild and the American Muslim Council (founded by Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi, a supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah who in 2004 was sentenced to twenty-three years in prison for illegal dealings with Libya), is far to the left on matters of civil liberties and national security.
This is the sort of cheap shot one expects from Ann Coulter or Michelle Malkin, not a sitting federal judge and important conservative intellectual. "My opponent is a liberal who associates with Muslims." Oooh, burn. Perhaps I am being unfair in calling him a partisan hack, though. One cheap shot does not mean the arguer has abandoned fair play in argument, right? Unfortunately, in addition to being an ad hominem attack based on guilt by association, Posner's comment is based on a simple falsehood. Cole explains in his rebuttal:
For the record, the American Muslim Council was not founded by Mr. al-Amoudi, and in fact the council fired Mr. al-Amoudi as its executive director in 2000, after he made statements supporting Hamas and Hezbollah.
It is possible that Posner made this mistake in earnest. The wikipedia page for the AMC listed al-Amoudi as a founder as of 11 PM on Jan 9. However the source listed on the wikipedia page says that al-Amoudi was not a founder, and even says that the current organization using the name is different than the original. (This has inspired me to make my first edit to the Wikipedia; the article now reflects the source.)

Whether or not Posner was honestly mistaken about the history of the American Muslim Council, attempting to tar your oponents by calling them liberal and assocating them with Muslims is not the sort of thing one expects from a sitting federal judge.

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