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scratching my head

I do have one question on this whole torture/hostage/prisoner thing. [see here for story]When the "insurgents" hold American civilian employees hostage, show them on television all blindfolded and tied up, that's ok because hey, they're just mercanaries and they get what they deserve, anyhow. But when we tie up some al-Sadr or Saddam henchmen and capture it on video, it's not ok because hey, even terrorist prisoners have human rights. Oh, and when guy joins the Rangers and goes over to Afghanistan and dies in battle, that's ok, because he was just an idiot Arab killer who was duped into thinking Afghanistan had something to do with the war on terror. And say there's this guy running for president, and he's spends 25 million dollars on a campaign to tell everyone he fought in Vietnam, therefore he's qualified to run the country, but gee, didn't he say Vietnam was a horrible war filled with atrocities perpetrated by our side and ummm...didn't he take part in some of those atrocities and then later on denounce the very war experience he is now basing his campaign on? So, I'm not really about torturing prisoners, as that's kind of what we were over there to put a stop to, in some part. But I'm also not into double standards, as in insurgents can tar and feather our guys and hang their charred bodies from wires, and rebels in Afghanistan can shoot down our guys and terrorists can blindfold hostages and threaten them with death but that's ok, because...err...because why? Oh yea, and people can come into our country and kill a few thousand of us but when we go on the hunt after them, we're like, the bad guys. Weird, eh? You know, I'm not really into torture from any side of any given war, but I gotta admit, there are an awful lot of people who are going apeshit over these war crimes committed by U.S. soldiers and these same people have been eerily silent about even worse crimes and atrocities committed by the very guy these prisoners are fighting for, and come to think of it, they don't say much about all that torture and criminal activity going on in Iran either. Hmmm.. Weird. It's ok, I know you'll explain it in full detail. You know, all the ways in which I am wrong, mistaken, swayed by lies and hypnotized by Rumsfeld's kung-fu. Update: Because I need to clarify this and repeat it, I shall quote myself: bq. I abhor what was done to those Iraqi prisoners. But I also abhor what was done to the very same people under Saddam's regime. I abhor the fact that thousands of people have come out of the woodwork to denounce these actions and (rightfully) vilify the soldiers who committed them, but failed to make so much as a peep while Saddam was torturing, killing, maiming and raping. And I abhor those who are justifying the torture and abuse of the Iraq prisoners while lashing out against Saddam's bullies for the very same thing.


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» Fire Rumsfeld? from Drumwaster's Rants!
I shouldn't be surprised that a bunch of left-wing Congressmen has their collective panties in a bunch over Rummy. But I hope this isn't akin to a head coach getting the vote of confidence from the owner. Fire Rumsfeld? Don't... [Read More]


I think Glenn Reynolds' made a good observation about CNN -- "more coverage of prisoner abuse in a week than they gave Saddam's torture and mass murder in a decade."

The phrase "the soft bigotry of low expectations" works so well in such varied instances. Maybe it's time a lot of countries (and the U.N.) had the bar raised a little.

Very generic response:

(1) I would expect American forces / intelligence agencies to hold to a higher standard than despicable, kidnapping thugs in Fallujah or the theocratic assholes in Iran.

(1a) Geneva Convention.

(2) You know for a fact they're all Saddam henchmen or terrorists? Well, OK then. The Army Report found that 60% of the people held at the prison were "not a threat to society". (http://www.detnews.com/2004/nation/0405/04/nation-142131.htm, format if necessary)

(3) There are people that care about all abuses regardless of state perpetrator or political angle or shifting foreign alliance; however, they tend to belong to organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

(4) Don't worry, Rumsfeld might not be around much longer to hypnotize you with the Open Swan Palm.

On a related vein, my comments on Rush's verbal vomit comparing the torture to fraternity hazing.

(Did I do it right? Am I good? ;-)

Gosh darn those folk for trying to hold the United States of America to a higher standard than some masked thugs in Iraq!

Get over it. It comes with being powerful, rich, envied, and accepting of criticism.

Who is saying that whatever they do to Americans is OK? Who?

As others have noted, Americans are supposed to be the enlightened ones, the ones bringing freedom. If I find it disturbing when Americans undercut our cause and our reputation--AND EXPAND THE FIELD OF HATRED--by stooping to the level of lawless insurgents and terrorists, hey, sue me.

I wouldn't want to be guilty of the soft bigotry of low expectations.

The difference between someone being blindfolded and someone with a hood on their head being lead around on a fucking leash by a smiling Army staff member is that we're civilized. Or at least I thought we were. Comparing our military to a bunch of crazy people who hate the West is insane.

Can we get a matter of perspective here? Of course, I'm outraged by these soldier's behavior and they will be punished for it.

The worst part about this is that at least two prisoner's were apparently murdered; yet most of the outrage seems to be based on the pictures which show abuse but not torture. Obviously, the line between abuse (which is still illegal behavior) and torture is a fuzzy line, but compared to historical incidents of torture I don't think these cross the line.

Norb, you're dreaming if you really think Rummy's gonna lose his job over this.

The fact that we are the world leader puts us to a higher standard then the country or Iraq. They have spent the last 20 some years with only torture to solve problems, and we have not. We cant go over saying that we are trying to better their country, and then act like them and give them the same respect they give us.
It's like a child who says they hate you, you cant just hate them back, you have to deal with it and realize they will come around. We shouldnt be there in the first place, but now we are so we need to tolerate and deal with it, instead of sinking down to their level.

JFH: (1) Well, don't forget the guy packed in ice, (2) There are more pictures every day, (3) don't get me wrong, I don't WANT him to lose his job (nor necessarily think that he will); that crazy SOB is a veritable gold-mine.

"that crazy SOB is a veritable gold-mine"

a gold mine for who (whom?)

Ummm... exactly how many hours was it between the post about how unfair it is for every side of the torture issue not being covered and the post right below it about how you're not obligated to discuss every side of the issue?

The application of Saddam's actions as the meter for what's justifiable from the country that's supposed to be better than that is ridiculous. The notion that there is any necessity in what the U.S. soldiers did in these photos is inexcusable.

And to pass off what has been uncovered in the past few days as "tying up someone and capturing it on video" just to create an analogy about how horrible certain people are is, frankly, just pathetic. Exactly what is your argument here: it's not fair how much coverage U.S. atrocities are getting compared to how much I hate Kos and Ted Rall?

Michelle writes
"But I'm also not into double standards"

I suppose I am into double-standards. I'm a patriot. I think America is the world's best hope. We should be ashamed to compare our conduct with that of totalitarian societies. We have our own standards for ourselves.

Also, Michelle, I'm not sure who holds all of the opinions that you're decrying in your post other then Ted Rall-type lunatic-fringers. Is that who you understand yourself to be responding to with your blog?

All this said, you're absolutely right that many members of the American left should have been shouting about human rights abuses in countries like Iraq and North Korea for years now, and many haven't been. So that perspective is useful, and an important lesson tothe Left.

However, I think there has to be a distinction between standards and perspective. Viewing America through the proper perspective must lead us to holding Americans to a higher standard. We're the hope of the world.

That's my point, Norb, the new pictures are more of the same... It's the murder and rape allegations that have got me the most upset, yet it's the pictures that seems to have everyone outraged.

Mary: Me and my weblog, naturally. Not for actual 49ers.

JFH: I agree, but we're a TV nation. At least we can all agree that the abuses contained in the Taguba report are a few degrees higher than "frat boy pranks" (insanely popular talk show host name withheld).


Sorry for misspelling your name in my post above! Please don't give me the bunny!

norbizness - So if Rumsfeld is incompetent, he’s a gold mine of ammunition for the real war – the one against those creeps who stole the 2000 election.

Just want to be clear about what we’re fighting for here.

Mary: OK, now that the thread's derailed and headin' towards the bottom of the canyon, I'll be even more specific to the point of near-herniation. Rumsfeld's fighting poses and garbled pronouncements are a gold mine for pseudo-humorists and satirists such as myself, a highly unpaid and unaffiliated consultant to absolutely nobody. Nobody's fighting. Take it easy.

If this were a campaign bludgeon, the spiel would go "Why won't Bush fire Rumsfeld?!?", which is today being echoed by such diverse persons as Thomas Friedman and Joseph Biden.

I came to this comments section to make the point August J. Pollak id, but she made it better than I would have, so let me just second her comments.

Plus, I also agree with the other commenter that we Americans SHOULD hold ourselves to higher standards.

Also we are soveriegns over our government. Complaining about abuses by Iran's government is supperrogatory: Those who do so should be commended for going above and beyond the call of duty. But We the People are ultimately responsible for abuses by our government, and complaining about those abuses is just fullfilling our duty as citizens.

Thank you, Michele; I agree wholeheartedly.

It's not about comparing relative levels of abuse and atrocity, or about justifying one act because of others, or about who is civilized, or about being held to higher standards.

My outrage is directed at TheMedia for using this story (while ignoring others) to win hearts (and not minds) against the war--any war, to force policy changes (and thereby inflate their own egos), to make heads roll (so there will be yet more breaking news to cover tomorrow), or simply to profit by getting away with pornography-as-news.

The pundits say 'it's the pictures, stupid' as the reason TheMedia is covering this story so strongly, endlessly, ad nauseam. And it's the very depravity of those pictures that TheMedia uses to excuse their endless display, for the youngest of our children to pore over and embed in the back of their brains for later recall by TheMedia.

If so, then where is TheMedia's endless coverage and display of pictures of broken bodies lying at the foot of the World Trade Center after a 102 story drop, the pictures of barbecued torsos of food transporters being dragged through Fallujah, the pictures of Iraqi children crawling over masses of unearthed skeletons looking for their parents, the pictures of fedayeen dropping live people into a wood chipper?

"Too graphic for broadcast."

"It might incite ethnic profiling, discrimination, hatred, even violence."

"We need to focus on why they hate us."

"This story is more important because we're supposed to be the perfection of civilization, a shining example, the light of the world."

Gimme a break. America is the hope of the world, and most people outside our borders know it, including the abused prisoners. One of them said he hoped to be given a visa to live here as a result of the investigation. He didn't gain that perspective from TheMedia.

Every minute we spend picking the lint from America's navel is one less minute spent saving lives and extending our freedom overseas.

Sorry for riffing too long, but you inspired me.

Dec, August is he. Just so you know.

If you blame the media, you're a loser. They're just the messenger.

And before some idiot says that my phrase "picking the lint from America's navel" means I'm belittling or excusing military abuse:

There was never any doubt that this abuse would be discovered (by the military itself, not by CBS!), investigated, the guilty punished, and justice served. I was referring to TheMedia's endless coverage as 'lint-picking while navel-gazing'.

whose messenger, bg?

The American media is the messenger to the American public.

This is the first thoughtful right-wing take on the Iraq photos I have read in my search for other opinions. Needless to say, I lean toward the left and, as such, I need to comment:

It is the political right that doesn't want Americans to think about the soldiers who are dying in Iraq :"The story of what we've done in the postwar period is remarkable. ... It is a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day." George Nethercutt (R-WA). Consider, too, the recent Sinclair boycott on a Nightline tribute to the soldiers who have died in Iraq, saying that it was "a political statement disguised as news". Note that Sinclair donated more than $130,000 to Bush.

But to be fair, let us consider that the program is a left-wing plot. What would it accomplish? I would think that, since the right doesn't seem to care about the truth behind our 'war on terror' (indeed, the more that comes out to support what the crazy liberals have been saying all along, the more quick-witted right-wingers say, “So what if we're in there for oil?, etc.), it must be an evil left-wing plot to make Americans question whether or not those soldiers are dying for good reason.

Concerning the Glenn Reynolds quote: human rights organizations have followed and covered Saddam's torture and mass murder for well over a decade, as well as other examples of man's inhumanity to man that we, the United States, last bastion of hope and salvation for mankind, have not yet put a stop to. Secondly, this is our war. Of course the media is going to cover our actions in Iraq.

I don't know of anyone, left or right, who thinks Saddam's actions are inexusable. The right can come up with sophmoric one-liners all day about how the left is 'pro-Saddam' and 'anti-American' and doesn't support the troops, ad nauseum, but I think they know it's ridiculous. We've got Saddam, and it's not at all odd or inappropriate that there should be discourse and diatribe over the Iraq photos. If the right is so darned concerned about crimes against humanity, why the heck are they moaning and complaining about the Iraq photo coverage? You'd think, being that the right's only motive is to combat terror, restore peace and establish a democracy in Iraq, that they would be appalled by the recent news, not accusing those covering it of un-American, pro-Saddam or pro-terrorist.
I apologize for the length.

I’ll agree that Rumsfeld can be a gold mine for comedy on the left and the right, but I don’t think I’d want an incompetent person to stay in office just because he’s funny. But that is beside the point..

The point is that there are a lot of people who are using those photographs and Rumsfeld as a campaign bludgeon, and they seem to be bludgeoning beyond the point of reason.

They couldn’t possibly be doing it because they hate Bush and the GOP, and they couldn’t possibly be doing it because they’re still angry about that stolen election. They’re doing it to fulfill their duty as citizens. They’re doing it because we, as Americans, should hold ourselves to higher standards.

We shouldn’t concern ourselves with the abuses of foreign governments (well, unless those foreign governments are harming the environment or some really big statues). That’s not our job. We should only criticize the American government. When it’s GOP. Because we have higher standards and everything.

August had a point?

Funny I could have sworn that Michele was taking the mainstream media to task for ignoring Husseins torure and abuse of his own people for over a decade while leaping all over the actions of a few American idiots in Iraq.

Michele, August, is not the mainstream media. She doesn't claim to be 'the fourth estate'. She doesn't claim to be the embodiment of the public. She's putting forth her opinions. The mainstream meadia is the one that is supposed to report the whole story. They don't. Yet you'd be damned lucky to get them to admit it.

And it is perfectly reasonable--given the context--to point out that the same people who ignored the peopleshredders are having conniptions over naked LIVE Iraqis.

The actions on all sides were wrong, but to go ballistic over the lesser of the two is disingenuous at best.

Maybe "I abhor" without the "but" would clarify things. I don't know about you and all the others who are saying no one said a word about Saddam, or no one said a word when soldiers were killed, or no one said a word when civilian contractors were tortured horribly....but I remember reading all those stories, and remember reading plenty of commentary.

And saying "I abhor" in this instance is not giving an inch to the antiwar side, or aid and comfort to the enemy....it is showing that you have a fine sense of decency and what America stands for and must be seen to stand for.

This is not about Left and Right despite the attempts of some on one side or the other to make it so. It is they who have a problem with values, whether it's DU or Rush Limbaugh.

The same people caterwauling over "a few idiots" and thier equally idiotic and unfortunate behavior against Iraqi prisioners should be screaming from the rooftops that what Saddam did was wrong and he should have been nuked - twice - instead of civilly imprisioned.

Has that happened? Nope. They're still saying we shouldn't be there freeing opressed people who have been subjected to far worse. Yes, we need to be held to a higher standard. Yes, what happened was really really bad. It's not Bush's fault and it's not Rummy's fault. For crying out loud, people, it was some low-morale, pissed off soldiers with nothing better to do. They were angry and took it out on prisoners. Bad. Very bad. But, as someone pointed out above, we didn't put them in woodchippers. And the rape pictures have been proved as fakes. Get over it, indeed. It's not who we are, and the Iraqis know it. So do we.

I tire of bleeding heart idiot liberals, I really do. They're (with a few shining exceptions) simply ridiculous and completely laughable.

Thank you!

You are right, Michele. It's too bad organizations like Amnesty International, Voices in the Wilderness, and OxFam have been ignoring Iraq for decades. I hope they have learned their lesson and will start paying attention to the human rights issues that exist all over the world today. Maybe you should take your concerns to them! You might know something they don't know!

Or, wait...maybe those organizations are affiliated with the far right, and already know everything.

You'd have a lot less to pack if you'd stop constructing all of these straw men all over the place.

Or, wait...maybe those organizations are affiliated with the far right, and already know everything.

How exactly does this work, drublood? You just swing by here and think to yourself, "Hm, I wonder what I could say that would reinforce everyone's belief that people on the Left are a bunch of paranoid crackpots. I know! I'll say that AI is a tool of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy!"

Fuck's sake, man. Put a sock in it. You're embarrassing the rest of us.

As far as the charge that nobody was paying attention to what was going on in Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion, the Amnesty International reports on Iraq from 1997 on are available online, and every one of them acknowledges the use of torture, mass executions, and extra judicial assassinations of political dissidents. While it is true that this was not reported on the front page of the New York Times, I feel compelled to point out that it also wasn't reported on the front page of The Washington Post or the FOX News website or even on Rush Limbaugh's radio show. If not having been obsessed with Iraq before the invasion is a crime, it's a crime the Left and Right are both guilty of. And now the Left and Right each have their own ideas of how that situation would best have been rectified. I disagree with the ideas most popular on the Right. But I do acknowledge that they address the issue of human rights abuses committed under Saddam Hussein. That many on the Right claim that my opposition to their ideas for how to have handled the situation in Iraq means that I was opposed to handling the situation at all is a particularly offensive form of political doublethink.

As for Michele's question about why Americans are so much more upset about torture and possible murder committed by U.S. soldiers against Iraqis, I think others here have answered that question well enough.

Though I would add, Michele, that I'm a little appalled you decided to come at it like this.

fake wars/fake controversies or not -- here's what i'm focusing on.

by the end of 2005, we will have spent over 300 billion on various operations in that area. that could have bought a college education for our nation's children with change left over. hell - it could have almost bought a college for each child in america.

by the end of 2004, military shortages will be so acute that they will be seriously considering drafting your children to go and fight the war.

i know where i would like to have spent that money.. and fake wars or not -- they become real very fast when my teenagers get called.

my 2c.


I sure hope that's a nickname, 'cus if you're a real professor, I fear for our children. Your lack of understanding in basic economic theory, statisical extropolation, history and foreign policy are appalling.

prof - If you’re worried about the draft, don’t vote for the Democrats. Rep. Charles Rangel and his democratic cronies are determined to reinstate the draft.

If we only hadn’t wasted all that money fighting the fascists in WWII. That war is one reason why our nation has the worst roads, the worst economy and the weakest military in the western world. War should always be avoided in favor of the peace that comes from living side by side with fascism.

My father served in the army, my cousin was in the navy, I have friends in the military. Despite what I feel about this war - seeing our own soldiers behave this way has been like a punch in the gut. I would never have guessed this was going on.

The way I heard it most of America didn't really pay much attention to Saddam's crimes before we went to war - or know much about them.

The reason a lot of people are so upset? We're supposed to be the good guys - that's what we're all raised to think. We have a lot of lip serve going about how we're the moral example. And then - this. And now the troops who are still overseas face the possibility of retaliation. And the military knew about this since Dec or Feb. If the abuse was encouraged higher up the chain of command - and everyone's finger pointing at the moment, no one seems to know which way is up - well, this makes it even worse.

Plus looking at the photos - so soon after seeing some photos of US dead - well, it makes me sick.

Strangely I thought both the right and the left would find common ground in condemning this. Not question why we weren't more outraged over other things. I don't have an outrage scale - I get upset over quite a lot that goes on in this war - and blasted out by both left and right. I'm in a military town, where a large majority of the troops are shipped out - so I think a lot about this. I don't think the divisive politics of either side is much comfort to anyone.

lip serve=lip service

And by seeing the photos of the US dead I meant the photos of the bodies at Falluja, which were horrible.
Then the prison photos, and that made me ill.

I really want to find out that this is the work of a few wackos. But until there's an investigation I have no idea, and can't make assumptions as to what's going on. I can only wait for more information and then try and decide for myself what the hell is going on.

Walter Williams had a great article yesterday about the draft. Short summary: if you want more soldiers, offer to pay them more.

Also, everyone in the entire world has double standards. For example, if you have children, do you hold your children to the same standard you hold everyone else's children too? To say it another way, if your child uses the argument "but everyone else is doing it," do you say "oh well then go for it?" Shockingly, as a citizen of the United States, I'm 1000x more concerned about our soldiers committing attrocities than I am about some screwball banditos in a third world country.

Finally, in a random third point, again with no segway, what makes Iraq under Saddam Hussein so special that it should have received massive coverage? It was a third world country with a dictator! If there was a third world country with a dictator and without institutional torture, rape, murder, and mass graves, that would be news.

is the administration talking about Saudi Arabia yet?
didn't think so.

gee. i hope we "win" in iraq soon.

and that every iraqi who dares to pick up a gun to defend his home is dead.

good point soli. and squeegee, i hope the nuke thing was a joke. The only way we could have done more harm then invading them was to nuke them and kill even more innocent people then have died already in a needless war. If it really was to eliminate an oppressive govt, we got a lot more work to do in places like Saudi Arabia. But sisnce the Prez is buddies with the royal family, thats not gonna happen.

Actually we're not required to honor the Geneva convention when we're fighting people who don't honor it...

That said, humiliating prisoners was a bad idea from every viewpoint.

Notice that they don't humiliate the prisoners at Guantanimo Bay. They generally do the opposite.

Why? Because treating prisoners with some respect is effective.

It worries me that they're overreacting. Never hooding prisoners means that prisoners (once released) have a better idea of what the camp lookes like, in case they decide to attack it. It also means that they know who their guards were in case they decide to get revenge.

I don't know enough to make a judgement call on whether outlawing the use of sleep deprivation as an interigation method is also going too far. I suspect that this is also an overreaction.

So, just as an aside, I notice as I cruise through the AI reports on various countries that Brazilian police killed something on the order of 1300 people in 2002 and that Brazilian prisons featured massive overcrowding, poor nutrition, terrible sanitary facilities, as well as torture and illegal execution by various prison officials. Human rights activists and political dissenters were the targets of extrajudicial killings, and arrests for trumped up charges.

Strangely enough, I haven't heard about any of this stuff in major U.S. news sources since the 1992 massacre of unarmed protestors by Brazilian police, that made world news.

So that's Brazil.

In spite of all this, the United States would appear to have completely normalized relations with Brazil. Not only do we not invade to depose the government that slaughters its own people, we trade with them and invest in their economy. U.S. aid mostly focuses on land and resource management. The Senate Congressional Budget Justification doesn't say anything about a human rights rider on financial aid, nor does it contain an aid package specifically aimed at judicial or police reform. And, just to make it really clear what our priorities are in all this, our last big concession to the quality of life in Brazil was when their government had to twist our arm to get us to give them a cut rate on AIDS medication.

Now, I don't want to get into a generalized debate about Brazil here, so let me just specify what my point is with all this: some Americans have looked at the problems of Brazil, tried to think of what they can do to fix them, decided the answer is "not much", and moved on to address problems they can fix. But I'm fairly confident that most Americans, right and left, don't know a fucking thing about what's going on in Brazil. In fact, I daresay most Americans don't even know what language they speak in Brazil.

And that's pretty fucked up.

But also--

Suppose some Brazilians-- say, some Brazilians with AIDS --decided that the United States needed to be taught a lesson and flew an airplane into a building in the U.S. I imagine that, on that day, lots of Americans would get an opinion about conditions in Brazil. By and large, they would fall into two camps (though obviously there would be a great many, myself likely included, who fell into neither).

Some would say, "We must invade to effect regime change. They are a danger to us and they murder and torture their own people!"

Others would say, "We must negotiate for change! We must feed their hungry and clothe their poor, and then they won't want to kill us anymore!"

And there would be a pause.

Both groups would look at each other.

And then they would scream, in unison, "You callous bastards! You never cared about what happened to the people of Brazil before! ...Hey! Stop copying me! Stop copying me!"

And so on from there.

Of course, in my imagination, there would be a third group that would ultimately set policy in all of this. Call them the McDonald's Cattle Growers and Rain Forest Paper Mill Coalition. And this group, which is much less inclined to announce their intentions or debate their reasoning, would do whatever seemed most likely to ensure maximum control of Brazil's resources, and the stability of Brazil's economy; they'd push for an invasion, or set up a puppet pseudo-democracy-- or whatever seemed appropriate. And because they have a lot of power and money, whatever they pushed for is what would actually happen.

And if the MCGRFPMC invaded, the group that had advocated invasion would cheer, and the groups that had spoken out against invasion would attack them.

Or, if the MCGRFPMC negotiated a shallow regime change, the group that had advocated negotiation would cheer, and the groups that had spoken out against negotiation would attack them.

And so on.

But that part is just my cynical little imagination at work. Obviously I'm inclined to believe that the electorate have more power than that. But, divorced from the specific antagonism of current events, it does seem sort of... disturbingly plausible. Does it not?

"it does seem sort of... disturbingly plausible. Does it not?"

It absolutely does not.

But yes, I would agree with you that your understanding of the war on terror comes entirely from "[your] cynical little imagination."

By the way, just as a heads up, the goal of Islamofacism is not "to teach the United States a lesson" but to fulfill God's plan for complete domination of the world.

They don't need realistic goals or methods because they believe that if they prove their worthyness, God himself will insure their victory.


So, Joshua. I've made a special t-shirt for you. It says, "Hi, I'm Joshua Scholar. I'm frightfully literal-minded, and I never miss a chance to attack someone who disagrees with me. Handle with care."

Is there a particular mailing address you'd like me to send it to, or should I just hand it to the next incredibly hostile person I meet?

Uhm, ok, I'll keep in mind that next time you post some increadibly long screed that strikes me as being wrong from beginning to end, I'll just ignore it.

I'm not actually literally minded, I just thought that there were more wrong assumptions there than I have the energy to tackle, so I made a hit on a main, politically important one.

Everyone who believes that Al Q'aeda and the Islamofacsicst they represent just tried to teach us a lesson instead of being a long term, existencial threat to our civilization will miss the point of the war on terror as thoroughly as you do.

Oops, I already broke my own promise to ignore your missing the point.

Statement 1: I'm not actually literally minded.

Statement 2: Everyone who believes that Al Q'aeda and the Islamofacsicst they represent just tried to teach us a lesson instead of being a long term, existencial threat to our civilization

Statement 2 contradicts statement 1.

Because I'm clearly not suggesting a 1 for 1 comparison between the imaginary scenario I described and the events leading up to and following the 9/11 attacks. For one thing, the scenario I describe obviously conflates our reasons for invading Afghanistan (in brief: planes flying into buildings) and Iraq (human rights abuses, etc). For another thing I would expect it to be obvious on the face of it that some Brazilians with AIDS who feel they have nothing to lose have exactly nothing in common with 19 perfectly healthy religious fanatics who fly planes into buildings because they think god told them to.

And on and on like that. I could spend all day pointing out all the obvious ways that my little story wasn't meant to relate directly to current events-- as suggested by the specific reference to divorcing the scenario from the specific antagonism of current events.

The point is, Statement 2 makes it clear that you do think I'm attempting to draw a comparison between the motives of some imaginary Brazilians with AIDS and 19 perfectly healthy religious fanatics. I wasn't, and I believe that's obvious. That you failed to grasp what I consider to be a painfully obvious aspect of my initial post would seem to suggest a profoundly literal reading of the scenario.


If I say to you "the sky is blue", and you think I said, "the sky is red," and argue with me, is there any achievement?

If I say, "No, no, I said the sky is blue!" and you say, "Yes, you said the sky is red," and continue arguing, does that help?

If I say, "Look you idiot, I said the sky is blue BLUE BLUE!" and you say, "Oh, but you said the sky was red before! I win the argument!" do you really have a grip on the argument?

No. You don't.

Do us both a favor. Walk away from the keyboard. Take a walk around the block. And come back when you have a grip on what I'm actually saying.

(clash of the joshuas, part two: the revenge of the endless argument that seeks revenge against itself for seeking revenge for being too vengeful)

Joshua Norton – on 9/11, wealthy Islamists, funded by wealthy Sauds, slaughtered thousands of innocent people in an unprovoked act of war.

Can you explain why our allies and trading partners did this?

And if we’re trying to avoid literal mindedness, can you explain why all war is bad?

Well, I for one don't consider the Saudis are allies. I don't want to be friends them anymore.

Joshua Dudes, you guys are gonna sucked into a vortex one of these days.

Joshua, wouldn't your analogy make some more sense if some Argentinians flew a plane into an American skyscraper?

mary: It should go without saying, but no one was not apalled and revulsed by 9/11. But there were good ways and bad ways to react to that atrocity. Good ways were to go after the perpetrators and wipe out them and their organization. Surely among the bad ways, however, was to engage in activities which would make the United States less safe and threaten to make a repeat of 9/11 more likely. The Bush administration has done exactly this. In fact, it's hard to imagine actions that would have been more wrongheaded than those promoted by the administration and its apologists in the two and a half years since 9/11.

prof - define 'their organization'

Is it al Qaeda? Is it the billion dollar terrorist economy, mostly fueled by Saudi/Iranian oil money? Is it the Islamic fundamentalist/Baathist fascist movement that has been waging war against us and murdering and enslaving thousands for the past few decades?

mary: whatever definition we agree on, i think we can agree that it didn't have anything to do with saddam.

Saddam had nothing to do with the Islamist/Baathist movement?

no - he had nothing to do with 9/11... nice try though. ;-)

Baathist/Islamist???? ROFL!

It’s hard to fight a war, or argue against a war, unless you know who we’re fighting. Here’s more a good article, Naming the Enemy

against my better judgement i took a look at this article. ho ho, mary, you're right -- it was absolutely stunning.

the only mentions of saddam are:

"Saddam Hussein's Baathist Iraqi regime was no less sinister. His publicly stated objective was to conquer the entire Arab world"


"Saddam had publicly threatened to "burn half of Israel" with chemical weapons"


"Sometimes the connections are slight and indirect, as seems to have been the case with Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein"

yes. indeed. so incredibly slight and indirect as to ... NOT EXIST!!

let's face it -- saddam was a petty tyrant who couldn't find his ass with both hands.

you'll have to do better than to convince anyone we have business in iraq.


I agree Mary, it's impossible to take someone seriously in a discussion of the war unless they've made an attempt to understand the enemy, which is why I sigh and bang my head against the wall when I read things like this:

"All these groups have a few things in common. They're all Islamic, they're all totalitarian, and they're all up to their eyeballs in terror." - Michael Totten (in the article Mary linked)

Actually, no, no they don't have all those things in common. In specific, the distinguishing characteristic of the Baathist party is that they are primarily secular. Also, Totten seems to be playing 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon to justify the war, which is just sad.

when we go on the hunt after them, we're like, the bad guys. Weird, eh?

I assume you're referring to the West Virginian heritage of the "smoking woman" who was bravely comparing her thumb to a naked prisoner's genitals. At least I think that's what you mean by "on the hunt. " Maybe some kind of slang involving nuts? Actually, I can't tell what you meant...

You know, I have a question too: why is there this sudden urge on the right to compare America to Iran? I really want to know. Has the bar fallen so low that pointing out that that America isn't as bad as Iran seems like an insight?

A follow up question: how does it feel to have to say that American soliders are not as bad as Iraqi prison keepers? How does it feel to have to climb down from lofty utopian goals of freedom and liberation, and then crawl all the way down into such a slimy vat of moral relativism that you feel the need to point out that our torture dungeons aren't as bad?

Yeah, I'm scratching my head too.

You really have to do your own research before you can come to a conclusion as extreem as the one I came to - that all of the regimes in that area, and all of the civil cultures in that area are our enemies and supported terrorists.

Then it becomes a question of which one was it politically feasable to make an example of and to attempt to break open the culture.

Iraq was it. As Egyptian peace activist Ali Salem said of the Iraqi war, "You beat the dog to scare the lions."

He did support the liberation of Iraq by the way.

Bitter Mastermind:

"Why is there this sudden urge on the right to compare America to Iran?"

Well, I'd have to say that first off, there isn't a sudden urge to compare us with anyone. The question is "why are you so concerned about torture all of a sudden, when you've been ignoring so much of it for so long?" I'd say that it's a good thing that the United States is held to a high standard, and we should think about holding other countries to a high standard as well.

"Has the bar fallen so low that pointing out that that America isn't as bad as Iran seems like an insight?"


"How does it feel to have to say that American soliders are not as bad as Iraqi prison keepers?"

I have no intention of defending the soldiers who were involved in this, or any of their commanders, all the way up to the commander of the prison. However, if you are trying to tar American soldiers in general for this, I'm going to have a huge bone to pick with that!

"How does it feel to have to climb down from lofty utopian goals of freedom and liberation, and then crawl all the way down into such a slimy vat of moral relativism that you feel the need to point out that our torture dungeons aren't as bad?"

Actually, I get to keep the goals of freedom and liberation, plus demonstrate the lofty goal of holding people accountable for their actions.

Anyway, hope that clears up your confustion.

why are you so concerned about torture all of a sudden, when you've been ignoring so much of it for so long?"

Um, yeah. All of the sudden. Maybe you have "me" confused with right-wing organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

the lofty goal of holding people accountable for their actions.

Accountability. All the way up to the director of one prison, huh? Not military intelligence? Not the contractors? Not their corporate managers at CACI? Not any other prison in Iraq? Not in any of the other extra-legal compounds out there, keeping American values alive?

Well then, I guess you are keeping your utopian ideals. Best hold on tight to that utopia while the horror show of evidence keeps rolling in. Meanwhile I'll pray that your utopia doesn't actually look like one of those frat boy "blowing off steam" snuff parties Rush is in to...

prof, Soli - I’m not trying to convince anyone that we have business in Iraq. If it were up to me we would have joined with Europe, Russia and maybe even China to dismember the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and redistribute control of the world’s oil supply among world leaders a few months after 9/11.

But I don’t run things (and a lot of people might say Thank God for that). The point of Totten’s essay is that the Sunnis, the Shi’ites and the Baathists have been working together to wage war on the west (and India, and Nigeria and the Sudan) for decades.

For years we’ve been using the divide and conquer rule to define the Arabs. We think that Sunnis won’t work together with Shi’ites and neither will work with socialist/secular Baathists. We’re wrong, they’ve been working together for decades. Saddam financed Hamas, Hamas and Hezbollah fight for the same cause, Shi’ites and Sunnis fight together in Iraq.

They’re using the same divide and conquer tactics against us (ie. bin Laden’s offer of a treaty to Europe).

More than a million have died as a result of this fascist movement.

Even if you don’t agree with everything Bush has done, it does help to know what we’re fighting.

Do you have any evidence of this huge anti-west conspiracy? Because, as you said, we've been using a divide and conquer strategy for years and year, and all our intelligence points to it working well. I'm hardly going to take Totten's word for it, since he doesn't even seem to realize that the Baathists are secular. Fun trivia: Osama has given Saddam a nickname in some of his addresses. What is that nickname?

Bitter Mastermind:
The "you" would be the media. Duh. A little more translation "all the way up to the commander" includes every single person we can implicate, including the contractors and military intelligence. However, I have a real hard time believing anyone father up can possibly be implicated in this. We can't punish people just because we think they're culpable, we need proof, and there's not much chance we are going to get anything on the CACI managers.

You are quite correct in one thing, however. There is no way I will suggest that we hold people in other prisons who may be committing other acts of torture responsible for these acts of torture.

Oh yeah -- TheMedia. Duh.

Well Soli, since we're playing the vague globalizing category game: TheLeft has been paying very close attention to torture for decades, but TheRight has been calling that "whining."

But I wasn't referring to TheMedia or even TheRight. I was specifically wondering why self-stated pro-war conservatives have been so quick with the response: "It's not as bad as [brutal third-world dictatorship]." Because America is not on par with brutal thrid-world dictatorships, and I'd like to keep it that way. But putting our actions side-by-side with them effectively puts America below the hundred some odd countries that are also better than Iran or pre-war Iraq. It makes it sound like the goal here was to have torture that is not quite so bad as it was before. And that's not really the goal... uh.. is it?

we need proof, and there's not much chance we are going to get anything on the CACI managers.

We need proof. You don't you don't yet know of that proof. So there's nothing more to see here. Wow. The only reason I can think of to explain such cowardice in the face of so much horror? The Media.

There is no way I will suggest that we hold people in other prisons who may be committing other acts of torture responsible for these acts of torture.

Try this: if military intelligence made it a policy to conduct interrogations of suspected terrorists and petty thieves by sexually humiliating them, brutally beating them, and occasionally "stressing" them to the point of an anonymous burial out the back of a truck, then aren't the people responsible for that policy responsible?

And if, as you seem believe, the employees of corporate security firms can "interrogate" in any way they might enjoy, without oversight, without being answerable to military justice, and the corporations are somehow immune to any investigation, shouldn't somebody, somewhere be somehow responsible for that?

(This utopia of yours doesn't actually resemble the world of Mad Max, does it?)

Baathist/Islamist???? ROFL!

That was pretty much my reaction too.

The point of Totten’s essay is that the Sunnis, the Shi’ites and the Baathists have been working together

You know those mass graves they keep finding in Iraq? Those are mostly full of Shi'ites, massacred by Baathists. Could you explain to me, please, how that adds up to "working together"?

Hey, Solis. Rumsfeld apparently just tried your "who knows" tactic regarding the people in charge of the people in charge:
Senator John S. McCain, Republican of Arizona, wanted to know what private contractors were in charge of questioning the prisoners and had authority over the guards.

When the secretary did not answer immediately, Mr. McCain grew exasperated.

"No, Secretary Rumsfeld, in all due respect, you've got to answer this question, and it could be satisfied with a phone call," Mr. McCain said. "This is a pretty simple, straightforward question. Who was in charge of the interrogations?"

Mr. Rumsfeld did not answer directly at first. Finally, he said, "That is what the investigation that I have indicated has been undertaken is determining."

Mr. McCain was clearly not satisfied with the answers. "I think these are fundamental qusetions to this issue," he said.
Like the man said, it could be answered with a phone call. Looks like the "nothing more to see here" maneuver isn't going to wash this time...

Do you have any evidence of this huge anti-west conspiracy? Because, as you said, we've been using a divide and conquer strategy for years and year, and all our intelligence points to it working well

Those are mostly full of Shi'ites, massacred by Baathists. Could you explain to me, please, how that adds up to "working together"?

9/11 was proof that soft diplomacy works! Saddam’s support of Hamas and the insurgency in Iraq is proof that divide and conquer will never fail! The Arabs will never catch on to that one. We’re way ahead of them.

Okay then. Um. (edging toward the exit) Nevermind then.

Mary: 9/11! Iraq! 9/11! Iraq! Iraq! 9/11! I wonder who knows more about this ... Totten or ... President Bush, who said "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th."

Here's the simple version: Baathists are totalitarian secularists who want to rule with an iron fist over all Arab nations. Al Qaeda are totalitarians who believe that the Kingdom of Islam (defined by nations who are ruled by Islamic dictators) must continue to grow until the entire world is Islam. These goals are mutually exclusive. We don't even need to do anything to keep them apart, they do it for us if we let them. Again, if you want to "know your enemy" then find out what nickname Osama used to refer to Saddam in his press releases.

Bitter Mastermind: No evidence, no conviction. No conviction, no punishment. End of stupid conversation. You got evidence, go for it. That's my policy, which I've now stated 3 times. Go as high as you can. I don't think you will be able to find anything to get the company executives, because I doubt they did anything. There's no bottom line in it for them, and even if there was, I'm sure they've deep sixed any hint of their involement.

Soli: what you actually said was you'd go as high as the commander of the one prison, and that the current evidence had no bearing on what was happening in other prisons. So although it may have been a stupid conversation, I'm glad you've finally come around -- it be followed as high as it can.

I also didn't say corporate executives -- I said companies. No human rights, no contract. Seems fair, no?

Soli - Yes, Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. I don't believe that Totten said that he did.

Explain why he funded Hamas. Why did he spend millions building mosques. Why did he have a copy of the Koran written in his own blood?

Do you believe everything bin Laden says in his press releases?

When you are the 'good guys' you have to act like the good guys. If it's ok for us to torture prisoners and Iraqis because hey they do it to us too, this war of lies becomes less and less about Freeing the Iraqi people and more just a plain old war.