I'm struck by the dichotomy of Nightline's "The Fallen" tribute on the one hand, and the news of torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
It would be easy to separate these two groups of soldiers -- the guilty torturers
and the honored dead -- into two separate compartments of the mind. And chances are no soldier killed in battle so far took
part in torture of prisoners. But please take a moment to step back and look at the bigger picture of soldiers in war.
Atrocities are part of war. This must be understood. We may not encourage
our soldiers to commit atrocities, and we must not make excuses for atrocities. But any nation engaging in a war must recognize
that atrocities will be committed, even by some of the same soldiers we honor as heroes. Not all soldiers, maybe not most,
but some. Atrocities will happen as surely as the sun rises and rain falls.
Anyone who approves of a war but regards its atrocities
as aberrations is a fool, or a hypocrite.
I have no personal experience of war. No doubt many who have will disagree with me.
But I say that atrocities will happen because they always do. Anyone with some exposure to scholarly (as
opposed to popular) military history knows this. War crimes might be compared to deaths by "friendly fire" -- something the
military wants to avoid but knows it cannot elminate.
Atrocities happen not because some soldiers are inherently bad, but because they
are human. They are human beings required to engage in the unspeakable brutality of warfare and to kill other human beings. In order to do that, soldiers learn to regard the enemy as less than human.
"For most human beings, it takes an awful lot to allow them to kill another
human being," said Anthony Pratkanis, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "The only way to
do it is to justify the killing, to make the enemy look as evil as possible." ...
"The secret in propaganda is that when you demonize, you dehumanize," said
James Forsher, a film historian and documentary filmmaker who has studied propaganda films, and who is an assistant professor
of mass communications at California State University, Hayward.
Shrinks who study the psychological process of dehumanization say it makes persecution of the enemy seem morally acceptable, even to people who could not have persecuted others earlier
in their lives. Thus a majority of American citizens approved of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, for example. Thus the Seventh Cavalry could massacre women and children at Wounded
Knee. Thus U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib could engage in cruelty to their
captives. And don't forget Andersonville.
For that matter, thus a majority of Germans of the Third Reich could
look away from the concentration camps, thus the Rape of Nanking by Japanese troops in 1937-1938, thus Israelis and Palestinians continue to slaughter each other, etc. etc. etc. This is
a fact of human behavior, yet through the centuries we continue to be surprised by it.
These days we expect soldiers to easily flip a dehumanization switch on and
off in order to kill the enemy on Monday but treat him humanely on Tuesday. Some can do it, but some cannot. Again,
this must be understood. It must be understood by the civilian politicians who define the soldiers' mission; it must
be understood that it may be unrealistic to expect the same troops to easily juggle war-waging
and peacekeeping. This is especially true when the enemy is engaging
in guerrilla warfare and supported by some of the civilian population.
Further, the reality of warfare must be understood by the civilians who choose to
send soldiers to war. It must be understood that soldiers who behave "honorably" (who can somehow flip the dehumanization
switch on and off) and "dishonorably" (who cannot) are not necessarily separated by a clear, bright line.
And further, if it were up to me, any lifelong civilian who uses the word honorable
to modify warfare should have his mouth washed out with soap. The word honorable is encrusted with
medals and parades and waving flags. Let's stop kidding ourselves about what war is.
Sometimes a nation has no choice but to go to war, to save itself. And when soldiers
fight for their country, it is right to honor them with medals and parades and waving flags. But let's recognize that much
of what these soldiers had to do in war was not pretty to look at.
Regarding war crimes by American troops, I tend to agree with blogger Citizen Smash:
THE UGLY TRUTH of warfare is that there are no “knights in shining armor”
who will always fight for Good. Evil lurks deep in the hearts of all men, and it doesn’t care what flag you wear on your sleeve.
We are most vulnerable when we suffer under the burden of tremendous stress – but the ultimate responsibility to resist Evil
lies with every individual.
When they do, we must not hide from the truth. Those repsonsible must be identified,
prosecuted, and punished appropriately. There must be a public accounting for these crimes.
Because we are a civilized society, we must never give in to the temptation
to brush aside such atrocities as “the way things are in war.” For if we fail in this responsibility, we will ultimately become
no better than those we are fighting.
And that would be the greatest tragedy of all.
This may seem contradictory to some readers -- to say that atrocities
are inevitable and yet those who commit atrocities must be punished. They must be punished, first, because soldiers
sent to war had damn well better learn to flip the dehumanization switch, for their own sakes as well as their country's sake.
Second, such atrocities must be exposed and brought to trial so that civilians can see that some percentage -- a small percentage,
we hope -- of the soldiers they send to war will be irretrievably f***ed up.
Weirdly, I found the Citizen Smash link on Instapundit, but Glenn Reynolds doesn't get it at all.
As with other reported misbehavior, it should be dealt with very, very harshly. But those
who would -- as Senator Kerry did after Vietnam -- make such behavior emblematic of our effort, instead of recognizing it
as an abandonment of our principles -- are mere opportunists.
Oh, please, Glenny, the invasion of Iraq was an abandonment of our principles.
Kerry and other Vietnam Vets Against the War didn't come home to diss
the soldiers; they were calling attention to how those soldiers were being f***ed up by the hellhole their country had sent
them itno. They were telling the truth about Vietnam. Glenny doesn't like truth when it disturbs his wittle ideology,
Glenny the warblogger needs to face reality -- the fact of war crimes is one reason
soldiers should not be sent to war unless there is no other choice. As far as I'm concerned, Glenny and others who encouraged our
entry into an unnecessary war are just as guilty of war crimes as the prison guards of Abu Ghraib.
There are more frightening reactions from other bloggers of
the Right: This fellow dismissed the torture as "some 'poor' Iraqi having his feelings hurt" and
shrugged off Arab anger with "Yawn...Wake me up when they are not angry about something." Yes, let's dehumanize the Arabs.
Way to go.
Someday I'd like to blog about the warbloggers' attitudes toward Iraqis, compared
and contrasted with the attitudes of the Victorian-age British Empire toward its colonial subjects in Asia -- the "White
Man's Burden." This fellow has already done something like it -- not quite what I plan to write when I get around to it, but
Sinclair Broadcasting Group ordered its affiliates not to broadcast Friday's
Nightline program. Here is the announcement, which speaks for itself:
The ABC Television Network announced on Tuesday that the Friday, April 30
edition of "Nightline" will consist entirely of Ted Koppel reading aloud the names of U.S. servicemen and women killed in
action in Iraq. Despite the denials by a spokeswoman for the show, the action appears to be motivated by a political agenda
designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq.
There is no organization that holds the members of our military and those
soldiers who have sacrificed their lives in service of our country in higher regard than Sinclair Broadcast Group. While Sinclair
would support an honest effort to honor the memory of these brave soldiers, we do not believe that is what "Nightline" is
doing. Rather, Mr. Koppel and "Nightline" are hiding behind this so-called tribute in an effort to highlight only one aspect
of the war effort and in doing so to influence public opinion against the military action in Iraq. Based on published reports,
we are aware of the spouse of one soldier who died in Iraq who opposes the reading of her husband's name to oppose our military
action. We suspect she is not alone in this viewpoint. As a result, we have decided to preempt the broadcast of "Nightline'
this Friday on each of our stations which air ABC programming.
We understand that our decision in this matter may be questioned by some.
Before you judge our decision, however, we would ask that you first question Mr. Koppel as to why he chose to read the names
of 523 troops killed in combat in Iraq, rather than the names of the thousands of private citizens killed in terrorist attacks
since and including the events of September 11, 2001. In his answer, we believe you will find the real motivation behind his
action scheduled for this Friday. Unfortunately, we may never know for sure because Mr. Koppel has refused repeated requests
from Sinclair's News Central news organization to comment on this Friday's program.
Sinclair Broadcast Group owns
62 television stations in 39 markets. Sinclair stations (only some of which are ABC affiliates) reach nearly one quarter
of American television households.
Here is how you can reach Sinclair Broadcasting Group to explain
to them what sick, twisted bastards they are:
Corporate Headquarters Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. 10706 Beaver Dam Road Hunt Valley,
Maryland 21030 410-568-1500 (Main Telephone) 410-568-1533 (Main Fax)
Here are the names of officers and chief executives, and here are directions to the corporate headquarters, in case you are in the vacinity.
Words cannot express how disgusted I am.
Update:Atrios has phone numbers of some local affiliates plus the email address of David Smith, President and CEO: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, an Eschaton reader in Columbus is organizing a reading of the names of
Please don't threaten anyone or commit any acts of vandalism.
Patti Davis (I assume it's that Patti Davis) asks if Bush can feel grief.
The president’s eyes twinkle and taunt, occasionally hold back and turn chilly.
I want to see pain there. He is the leader of this country and our soldiers are dying in a war he said we needed to fight.
Iraqis are dying, too—some of them civilians caught in the crossfire. I don’t understand how he can remain so composed.
I’ve also been watching how Bush walks—still that jaunty stride, I’m afraid.
Nothing to indicate that his bones have the leaden feel that bones always do when grief intrudes. [Newsweek web exclusive]
Douglas Brinkley writes in Salon "Why Kerry Threw His Ribbons." It's important to explain this. Us old fogies who are in the general vicinity of John Kerry's age know why he protested
the war, but I gather from reading some right-wing sites there is genuine confusion among younger (or stupider) people --
i.e., if he's so proud of having served, why did he throw his ribbons? I recall there are species that
eat their young. Oh, well.
Instead, if you run into such creatures, hand them a copy of this article by Scott Lehigh in today's Boston Globe.
I've talked to a number of the enlisted men who served under Kerry on the
swift boats he commanded. Although they didn't share Kerry's privileged background, most speak well of him. They considered
him a leader who genuinely cared about them, a commanding officer who was brave but not reckless with his men's lives. "It
took two or three days after he came on board the boat to know we had somebody special," says Jim Wasser, second in command
on Kerry's first boat.
Nor have I heard anyone credibly suggest that Kerry wasn't a legitimate hero.
Certainly James Rassmann thinks he was. He's the Green Beret a wounded Kerry plucked from the Bai Hap River in March of 1969.
Del Sandusky, Kerry's number two at the time, says the rescue took place during "an intense firefight."
Rassmann was bobbing up and down every 30 seconds," Sandusky says. The Viet
Cong "would shoot at him and he would go back down and swim under water." Kerry, who had taken shrapnel in his left buttock
and was suffering from a bruised right arm, directed Sandusky to steer the craft back to Rassmann, who grabbed a cargo net
hanging from the bow.
Rassmann couldn't pull himelf up -- he was too heavy, loaded with water and
the flak vest -- so Kerry lay down on the deck and pulled him up," Sandusky says. "This is in the middle of a firefight. .
. . He saved Rassmann's life."
That is the context that's missing -- and that demands consideration as the
Republican campaign tries to paint John Kerry as a shifty, irresolute politician who simply can't be counted on in tough times.
Here's another suggestion. Before you read today's New York Timesarticle on Douglas J. Feith and the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, read what Josh Marshall says about it here and here.
Nicholas Kristof offers advice for how to deal with Iraq in his column today. One point:
Count to one googolplex before rushing into Falluja and Najaf to wipe out
the resistance. Most Iraqis know that Moktada al-Sadr is a hotheaded blowhard. But nationalism leads Iraqis to rally around
anyone we go after. We have already made Mr. Sadr a hero by closing his newspaper, and our best hope for destroying him is
to leave him alone, let Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani discredit him and let the shadowy Thulfiqar Army carve up his Mahdi militia.
Sounds like we already screwed that pooch, at least in Falluja.
Be sure to read Wesley Clark's stirring defense of John Kerry's war record, this remembrance of the young Kerry who was a war protester, and this editorial damning Bush for the GOP's smear campaign. Harold Meyerson has an outstanding column on Kerry's and Bush's war records in
today's Washington Post -- "Prince Hal vs. King Henry." So guess who is Prince Hal? But does that mean Dick Cheney is Falstaff?
In the What Did You Do in the War Department: I don't know
why anything the GOP does should surprise me any more. The Bushies and their Party co-horts are craven hypocrites who will
stop at nothing. No appeal to decency affects them. But their continued efforts to smear Kerry's war record while expecting
Bush to get a pass have brought me to new depths of revulsion.
Mr. Kerry had previously declined to join other Democrats in raising questions
about Mr. Bush's National Guard attendance record. But during a contentious interview on national television on Monday, when
pressed on whether he threw away his Vietnam war medals in a protest in 1971, he defended himself and attacked the president.
"This is a controversy that the Republicans are pushing," Mr. Kerry said on
"Good Morning America" on ABC. "The Republicans have spent $60 million in the last few weeks trying to attack me, and this
comes from a president and a Republican Party that can't even answer whether or not he showed up for duty in the National
Guard. I'm not going to stand for it." [Adam Nagourney and Jodi Wilgoren, April 27, 2004]
(Perhaps Kerry read this by Steve at No More Mister Nice Blog.)
Salon does its part by featuring an expose by James C. Moore, "Bush's Flight from the Guard." Also in Salon, see "Mystery Man" about the dots that connect Bush's alleged National Guard service with Bush/Saudi business interests. And Joe Conason observes Karen Hughes' alleged concerns about Kerry's wartime record by recalling the role she has played in covering up
Bush's alleged "military record."
E.J. Dionne of the Washington Postnails it, as he so often does.
"Have you no sense of decency, sir?"
It was the classic question posed by Joseph Welch to Sen. Joseph McCarthy
50 years ago during the Red-hunter's hearings investigating the Army for alleged communist influence. With his query, Welch,
the Army's special counsel, began the undoing of McCarthy.
Unfortunately, the question needs to be asked again. It needs to be
posed to shamelessly partisan Republicans who can't stand the fact that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are facing off against
a Democrat who fought and was wounded in Vietnam. Cheney said in 1989 that he didn't go to Vietnam because "I had other priorities
in the '60s than military service." While Kerry risked his life, Bush got himself into the National Guard.
Dick the Dick. Our alleged Vice President is also
in the news. Yesterday the Supreme Court heard arguments from Solicitor General Ted Olson about why the details of Cheney's
secret Energy Task Force should remain secret. For commentary see Paul Krugman, "A Vision of Power." Atrios has the story of how Dick the Dick embarassed himself and the nation at Westminster College in Missouri.
The May issue of Vanity Fair (la belle Jacqueline on
the cover) has a must-read article called "The Path to War." The authors ( Bryan Burrough, Evgenia Peretz, David Rose, and
David Wise) have compiled Everything We Know about how the Bushies decided to invade Iraq. Well worth the price of the issue,
One paragraph that stuck out, describing pre-9/11 Iraq planning:
For months memos flew among the State Department, the Pentagon, the C.I.A.,
and the White House, but through a series of bruising meetings everyone stuck to his guns. The process swiftly became bogged
down in bitter interagency disagreements. In such cases, it is the national-security adviser’s job to forge a common line.
This, say numerous officials, is something Condoleezza Rice was unwilling to do. “She has no opinions of her own,” says an
insider. “Her supreme concern is preserving her own relationship with the president. She’s a chief of staff, not an advocate,
until she’s sure he knows what he wants to do.” The result, this insider says, is “there’s a tier missing in the foreign-policy
wedding cake. A subject will get up to a certain level and then just stick until Bush decides.”
Many have commented on Condi's failure to do her job as National Security Adviser.
But I want to know what is Condi's relationship with the president? She and Karen Hughes both have a sick need
to fluff Shrub up into the man he certainly isn't, which is interesting by itself. But then compare/contrast Condi's recent
dinner party flub, when she said "As I was telling my husb ... " then stopped and said, "As I was telling President Bush. ... "
She either has a secret husband stashed somewhere, or...?
Also in this VF issue: Snitch Hitchens on Ralph Nader, Dominick Dunne on
Martha Stewart, a look at the Disney Rebellion against Michael Eisner, and Jackie Kennedy's White House secrets. Juicy stuff.
Get this -- Bob "The Lizard" Novak writes, "Senate Majority Leader Bill
Frist is being urged by colleagues to threaten to close down the Senate for the rest of the year unless Senate Democratic
Leader Tom Daschle ends his disruptive tactics."
This is like Jeffrey Dahmer complaining that his victims were too chewy.
Senate Republicans are sputtering over the Dems' outrageous maneuvering to block
complete takeover of the U.S. by jack-booted fascist thugs concerned conservatives pushing a totalitarian
morally compassionate agenda. Life would be so much easier for the Republicans if those bleeping partisan Dems would just
sit down and shut up, huh?
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the
president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is
morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918
The War Prayer
I come from the Throne -- bearing
a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be
your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like
unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.
"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has
he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of
Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....
"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered
part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you
in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these
words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into
those pregnant words.
"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also
the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our
hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved
firesides to smite the foe.
"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody
shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown
the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;
help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their
little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the
sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of
the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter
pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded
feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset,
& seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor
& glory now & ever, Amen."
(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire
it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."
· · · · · ·
It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic,
because there was no sense in what he said.