Abu Ghraib != (does not equal) My Lai

Dear Diana Moon. I know a lot about My Lai (I was leading demonstrations against the Vietnam war at the time). I even know who Hugh Thompson is. And in all my discussions of My Lai with my fellow protesters and at our events, I made it a point to bring up his story.

Why? Because it showed My Lai for what it was – a criminal act, rather than state policy. If it had been state policy, Hugh Thompson would have been court-marshaled, not Lt. Calley.

But enough about my experience with Vietnam; I’m not John Kerry.
Your conflation of My Lai – where American troops massacred helpless villagers – with the treatment of Iraqi prisoners is right up there with PETA’s conflation of Purdue Farms with the Holocaust.

It’s not that I’m offended at you personally; it’s that you represent with this argument a form of ‘argument by hyperbole’ that’s too common in modern discourse, and sadly, has completely captured the left today. ‘Bush=Hitler’ and commenter Jussi’s quote that: ‘The US Army,at the Abu Ghraib,acted like Gestapo.Like GPU.Like Saddam’s Mukhabarat.” No, they didn’t.

They acted damn badly – immorally, and certainly criminally. They deserve what they have coming to them, which is, I trust a long stretch of experience as an inmate, rather than a guard.

I’m obviously having trouble getting my point across, since this is the second time (the first was in regards to the release of the kids convicted of raping and beating Central Park Jogger). I’ll do a longer post on it, but let me promote a comment I made in the thread below as a starting place:

I must just see the world oddly.

Every day – hell, every hour – things much worse than what happened in Abu Ghraib happen here in Los Angeles. Prisoners are brutalized, police officer abuse their authority, women are raped, beaten or murdered, children are abused.

Now as far as I can tell, those – awful – things don’t define this city, any more than dog droppings define Paris.

They are an aspect of it; and the issue isn’t whether they happen – they have, are, and will – but whether they are central to the nature of our society (could we get along without them) and how much effort and success do we have in stopping them, and in catching and punishing those who do them.

One thing that I believe about the anti-Western Left is that they have, for whatever historic reason, chosen these elements of Western society as defining it.

I think they do so as a way of validating their rejection of it; and I think that they do so – as did Jussi in his comment above – in complete and total ignorance of history and of what truly brutal and amoral societies are like.

This isn’t a “well, our guards only killed 3 guys, and the NKVD killed 300, so we’re 100 times better” (although there’s an element of that which must be considered). It’s the simple fact that our guards who murder or torture run the risk of joining their charges in jail. That we have a process – which works more often than not – to discover, investigate, and resolve these issues. We don’t ‘accept’ that innocent kids went to jail for a rape they turned out not to have committed. We investigate it, fix it, and try to improve our systems so it doesn’t happen again.

That’s a damn good thing. That’s good news.

And after all this, I still believe that it is. I do need to do a better job of making my case, and it’s in the works.

55 thoughts on “Abu Ghraib != (does not equal) My Lai”

  1. That’s bullshit. We accept injustice, even beg for it, and you know it. Just look at the death penalty in this country. Now when is that damn unjust institution going to be reformed? We don’t investigate, fix and try to improve our systems of justice. Just look at the other blithe comments you made about LA. When bad stuff happens, people just say “it happens”. And that’s when no change occurs.

    As for the “anti-Western Left”, have you considered how convenient and frankly intellectually dishonest it is for you that no one can respond to this because they would only speak for themselves, as individuals? What you ascribe to them is hardly relevant anyway because what others do does not morally justify our own actions.

  2. It’s a difficult argument to make A.L. I think it would have been easier if you had not said “it is a good thing” but rather had said “it is a bad thing” but our way of dealing with it is good and tends to minimize it more than other systems. This is what I think you meant.

    When you set out to find the silver lining in an really recent abhorent act it shouldn’t be a surprise that most people won’t get there. It was bound to spiral out of control.

    Attrocities will happen in any military effort. In fact it is not a difficult task to get people to commit them. History – even recent history – is full of examples. The difficult task is to keep people from committing them.

    “Our” way of preventing them is imperfect but better than many.

  3. Actually, SOY, have you considered the repercussions of not having a death penalty? Or, better, have you considered the repercussions of allowing murderers to go free, get on probation, get clemency (see Illinois), or furlough as they can do now?

    We demand a death penalty because more innocent people are killed by murderers who are let out of jail than innocent people killed by our penal system. Check your recidivism rates for murder, rape and such.

    The difference, SOY, is that people like you can pretend that the executing of innocents by the State is wrong when letting murderers who have a high recidivism rate out of prison to kill again is not. Like Pontius Pilate, you get to pretend to wash your hands of it. (“Well, I didn’t get out of jail and murder those kids.”)

    And that’s just plain gutless.

    But the hell we don’t try to improve our justice system. The hell we don’t try to give every prisoner, everyone accused of murder a pretty fair shot. Oh, sure, you can find a case here or there where someone got a lousy trial. And for every one of those, I’ve got ten where people who were obviously guilty got to see the light of day. Many of them kill again.

    Are you going to take responsibility for the innocents they kill? Don’t answer. We already know.

    BTW, if we didn’t try to do something, how come those kids are free? Facts, SOY. They get in the way at times.

    Now, I know, you, like so many others, don’t want to have to deal with the fact that so, so many on the left are anti-West. Yes, you’re going to cry, “But I’m an individual! You’re dishonest for calling me an anti-Western leftist, you fascist Bushitler Nazi Repugnican.”

    Yes, you’re an individual with fairly predictable opinions based on a leftist, anti-Western worldview. Telling us “Peace is Patriotic” isn’t going to pass muster. “Dude, Where’s My Country” isn’t going to work either (besides, it collapsed in the early 90s).

    It is convenient to use categorizing as shorthand for a range (albeit in this case a very small range) of views. But is that intellectually dishonest?

    Put in another context, is it dishonest to say a dog is one species and a fox is another?

    If so, you should understand that species are shorthand for biological facts that are rather somewhat fluid (when is a bird a bird, and when was it a dinosaur?), just as “anti-Western leftists” is shorthand for Marxists, Social Democrats, Transnational Progressives and such. Are zoologists intellectually dishonest or are you for quibbling over a detail as though that disproved the whole?

  4. A.L.,

    Abu Ghraib merely confirms the views already held by people. Those that hate the USA will use this to validate their lies and self-delusions about America.

    Those who love America will see the system trying to punish the guilty here as freedom and justice making itself felt.

    I am less concerned about either than I am with the institutional corruption and ethical climate that had to have existed so that this happened. I have made clear here on Winds more than once that sex-power games are a problem with the American military.

    At the very least I hope the U.S. Army learns not to use reservists who are state prison guards in their day jobs as MPs guarding prisoners.

  5. The death penalty is barbaric? Why don’t you ask people living in Sydney if they wished they had the death penalty as an option for those men who gang-raped a 16 year old over 15 or 16 hours. They got off with sentences like 9 years. It’s times like that that we find ourselves wondering if you yanks might have the right idea…

  6. SoY –

    Sorry, but you’re the one dealing bullshit tonight. The death penalty? Ask the Governor of Illinois. Ask the lawyers my wife works with who run a pro-bono appellate practice specifically for opening old death penalty cases.

    We don’t investigate, fix, or otherwise try to improve our system of justice? I don’t know if you’re ignorant or or just wrong, but I’ll suggest that you go find a criminal defense attorney, district attorney, or law enforcement officer in your community and ask them if the practice of criminal justice is anything like it was fifteen years ago. Hint: it isn’t, and it isn’t in the interest of defending the rights of the accused.

    As to the ‘anti-Western left’ you can certainly comment in defending it; it’s amusing to me how people who point on ne hand to systems which brutalize Iraqi prisoners (as opposed to individual bad actors) are so damn quick to say ‘Well, it’s only the bad nut-ball actors who say and mean those things. There’s noting institutional about it on the left.’

    Yes there is.

    You want to talk smack, SoY, feel free; just try and connect it somewhat to the reality that we all share.


  7. Update: one of the people who committed these acts, Steven Stephanowicz, appears to still be working at Abu Ghraib. This is not yet confirmed.

  8. A.L.

    It doesn’t appear that we share the same reality. You know very well that the justice system in this country continues to apply the death penalty unevenly — by that I mean killing a disproportionate (read: unacceptable, at least to me) number of innocent people and people of color (where whites under similar circumstances go relatively free). Illinois is one state — an exception to a cruel and unusual rule. And contrary to what the hysteric grayson thinks above, there are equally effective ways of dealing with people who are now unfairly getting death in return for their crimes.

    I’ve also had experience in the criminal justice system, and no it ain’t pretty, it ain’t never pretty. Your standards are too low compared to mine if you think the stink emanating from our prison system is ‘good news’ too.

    Finally, about this “anti-Western Left”. First of all I consider myself a moderate, by which I mean I’m conservative in attitude but liberal in assessment. That means I support gay marriage because it strengthens the institution of marriage. That means I dislike Bush’s fiscal irresponsibility, and I would like to hold him accountable for all the mistakes his seeming incompetence has made of the Iraq situation. But I supported the war and would do so again and all the fabrications/dissimulation doesn’t bother me so much — it was necessary. It also means I admire his guts and his fortitude and his clear-sightedness. But it means I hate his unwise dismissal of scientific research, especially as it concerns the biomedical and environmental sciences. I’m secular, but I want strong families, as well as a strong economy.

    AND YET I think it’s pretty clear that I disagree with you. It’s also pretty clear to me at least that I don’t hate the West whatever that means (I’ve never met anyone who did — even in the liberal blogosphere!!!) — I’ve just heard people talk about West-haters and quickly deride their intellectual opponents with one sweep of mislabeling. Cowardly in my opinion, or at least too easy. Where’s your itch for challenge?

  9. Trent Telenko

    I would argue that those who love America will see this clear-eyed for what it is — a death blow to our Middle East policy for some time to come and therefore a grave danger to our security. Whatever its merits on a moral planet (on this I thought it was clear, but obviously not), the effects are easy to see (well I guess that’s not obvious either). Nevermind. We don’t inhabit the same reality. Where’s the basis for discussion?

  10. Josh Yelon and A.L.: Kevin Drum has a post on Steve Stefanowicz indicating that he was playing golf on the roof of Abu Ghraib two months after the fact (and probably not the only fact). Not quite shamed, fired or arrested, eh? Surely not defending the rights of Iraqi POWs! As grayson said, those pesky facts can get in the way sometimes.

  11. It’s pretty obvious I’m pissing into the wind, at least it concerns A.L.

    My opinion is here:


    And it is summed up by this:

    Senator Joe Biden told “Fox News Sunday” that “This is the single most significant undermining act that’s occurred in a decade in that region of the world, in terms of our standing.”

    Well I know not to come here if I want good news in my reality!

  12. The torture at Abu Ghraib appears to have been systematic and a matter of policy. See Seymour Hersh’s piece in the New Yorker:


    The investigative report he quotes from also notes that about 60% of the prisoners there appeared to be innocent.

    If the United States *does* have protections against abuse and torture, it is no thanks to people who minimize those problems as you do. The fact is that you guys lose no opportunity to mock those on the left who point out U.S. authoritarianism and human rights abuses.

    In the year we have controlled Iraq, we have killed thousands of innocent civilians and imprisoned and apparently tortured thousands more. We have refused requests for elections from Sistani. We have written the Irais an “interim constitution” that maintains U.S. military occupation of the country for the indefinite future. Is this the kind of policy you want to stand for? Right now, like it or not, it is what you are supporting.

    Step back from your ideological support for this war for a moment and examine the record. Do you really believe our government’s motivation for the occupation of Iraq is about freedom or rights for the Iraqis? It’s time to give them their country back.

  13. “I have made clear here on Winds more than once that sex-power games are a problem with the American military.”

    Trent, could you elaborate a bit more? This is the first I’ve heard of it.

  14. There are two nasty effects from this though that haven’t been covered here yet.

    One is the senior brass have just realized that they have a serious cultural problem on their hands. Not the one everyone’s thinking about though. The problem is really that since the military’s been getting blamed for everything in the mainstream media and among the various foam-at-the-mouth leftie types (see above posts for example), with various ‘human rights groups’ blaming them for actually conducting war for all intents and purposes, and operating under severe self induced handicaps, they’ve ended up with a distinct ‘who really cares anymore’ culture. Counter PCism. It’s been running through the ranks for years now, but looks like some of it pooled, and now the Pentagon realizes they have something of a problem but don’t really know how to correct it. It’s a really vicious morale problem that no one really knows how to fix, other than to expect individual unit commanders to enforce discipline.

    Which brings up the other nasty thing. MP and other ‘rear security’ units have always been something of a dumping ground. Physically/Mentally fit personnel get routed to front-line combat units, personnel with the mental/technical skills but not the physical skills get routed to technical/support positions, but MP units need physical skills, but don’t attract top notch personnel who want combat positions (which lead to promotions), so they (in the past) tended to accumulate the dregs. The all-volunteer army helped a lot with this, and really cleaned up the general personnel pool. The officer pool and senior non-com pool is still in the same shape though. MP unit commanders don’t get fast-track promotions the same way combat unit commanders do, and so they don’t attract talented officers.

    The military thought they had a solution though. Since women aren’t allowed ‘combat’ postings and rear area security units aren’t technically combat postings, they can route the best and brightest of the female officer pool to these units. They get good officers into needed posts. The women get, with the new tactical situations and needs, what are just as much combat postings as anything else these days, maybe more, everyone was happy (theoretically).

    That just took something of a kick in the teeth though, and expect the reactionary elements in the Pentagon to jump on this though. Not right away, but in 3-5 years when the post-engagement analysis begin to come out.


  15. This whole debate is being conducted here and elsewhere as if the actions of the prisoners are irrelevant. I don’t presume to know whether they are murdering terrorists or semi-innocent hangers-on caught in a maelstorm, merely to point out that we don’t care and set similarly high standards of behaviour in both cases. There is a very strong public feeling that American ideals and actions must always be of a higher moral order than the enemies’ whatever the enemies’ actions, or they will somehow pollute American society or ideals. The days when the notion of war crimes and Geneva Convention obligations were understood to be mutual are long gone.

    This may be to the glory of the U.S. in many ways, but it should also be recognized as a military weakness that the enemy understands well and takes full advantage of. So is the necessary myth that the Iraqis are all innocent victims of a few butchers and yearning for democracy. The kind of shock and zero tolerance for this stuff that SOY feels puts an almost superhuman burden on the troops, who have to fight a ruthless, hidden enemy on his home turf knowing that one false move born of the release of fear and anger may cause public support at home to collapse. Eisenhower recognized the same problem in WW 11 and famously snapped at a shocked soldier at Dachau–“Still having trouble hating them?”

    No one is happy and everyone wants the malefactors punished quickly and harshly. But try to imagine whether those prisoners threw a few women into shredders or tried to ambush U.S. soldiers or even danced a jig on 9/11. Does it make a difference? Should it? I have no easy answers, but I do know you can’t fight a war for long without hating the enemy as much as he hates you, or it will cost you.

  16. Problem is, Peter, it’s not clear that these people were, in fact, “the enemy.”

    According to Hersh, the majority of them were just picked up off the street.

  17. asdf:

    That may well be so, although given Mr. Hersh’s record it might be reasonable to seek a second opinion. But my argument is not that the perpetrators should be treated differently on the basis of the nature of the prisoners or that the U.S. should be casual here. I am concerned about how these incidents hit so many in the gut to the extent they panic about local opinion or even call into question the whole exercise. It is almost as if the war is being fought like an election with all eyes on opinion polls and our side has been caught out in a scandal.

    These incidents should make everyone angry, not demoralized.

  18. Bravo, AL

    Diana’s comments are colossally ignorant. Namely this:

    Am I wrong in assuming that even in a military court, the accused has the right to face his/her accuser openly? That will be a big problem in an Arab country where to admit to being sexually violated would be to literally lose your honor and reputation. (It took us hundreds of years to get past the idea that the victim of a sex crime is at fault.) Do you think that any Arab male, let alone female, is going to show up in a US court and testify? Will mere photographs be enough to convict them?

    I guess she’s oblivious to the fact that CID already has deposed eyewitnesses, including the brave guys who came forward when the saw things that were simply wrong. That, plus the photos, oughtta do it.

    But I do hope that more people become familiar with the names Wisdom and Darby than they were of Thompson and Ridenour.

  19. >I would argue that those who love America will
    >see this clear-eyed for what it is — a death
    >low to our Middle East policy for some time to
    >come and therefore a grave danger to our
    >security. Whatever its merits on a moral planet
    >on this I thought it was clear, but obviously
    >not), the effects are easy to see (well I guess
    >that’s not obvious either). Nevermind. We don’t
    >inhabit the same reality. Where’s the basis for


    Wrong answer.

    Abu Ghraib means very, very, little because the Arabs would rather believe and tell comfortable lies than the truth.

    This is from Strategypage.com.


    Iraq has another problem that soldiers and reconstruction workers have to deal with. There’s a tendency to allow emotions, rather than logic and analysis, drive Iraqi public opinion and policy making. Rumors and the most outrageous stories spread rapidly and are readily believed. This is actually quite common throughout the Arab world. Go to an English language version of an Arab news outlet and you’ll see it in action. Actually, the English language versions tend to be a little more objective and accurate than the Arab language ones. These versions are usually done by Arab journalists who are “bi-cultural” because of being educated in the West. These journalists have to operate in two quite different worlds of truth and reality. The American side tries (not always successfully) for objectivity and accuracy in reporting. In the Arab world (and many other parts of the world as well), the party line, and a desire for the most exciting and shocking spin on a story, come first. This kind of journalism makes the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government into a great tragedy. It leads to inventing an endless litany of fictional American “atrocities” against Iraq. At the same time, the dozens of Iraqi torture videos discovered in Iraq, showing Saddam’s secret police at work, were rarely broadcast by Arab media outside Iraq. These videos were very popular inside Iraq, but foreign Arab news organizations shunned them because they did not agree with the fantasy these outfits were pushing. Actually, the disconnect between reality and Arab news organizations (especially satellite news outfits al Jazeera and al Arabia) has become so great that Iraqis (according to a recent survey) are switching more to local TV stations. Too many Iraqis have been witnesses, or even participants, in events that were completely distorted by Arab media (as in American troops coming to help with something, like a small fire, and that visit being described by al Jazeera as some kind of invented atrocity). But many Iraqis do believe the propaganda, and that results in rock throwing, refusal to cooperate and other self-destructive behavior. Truth is not an abstract, lack of it can kill in places like Iraq.

    Given this sort of cultural predeliction for comfortable lies and staged news events where Al-Jazeera buys attacks on American troops so they can stage “atrocities” the reality of Abu Ghraib “don’t mean nothing.”

    It is merely provides a comfortable and socially acceptable way for opponents of the war and America haters in general to vent their emotions.

  20. >Trent, could you elaborate a bit more? This is
    >the first I’ve heard of it.
    >Posted by: andursonne on May 3, 2004 07:24 AM

    Do a search on Winds using the “air force academy” as your search term.

    This is the link and opening passage from the first Winds post on the subject.


    March 09, 2003
    The Air Force’s Serbian & Saudi Values
    Trent Telenko

    Can we entrust nuclear weapons to an institution that has rape as a primary value? That is the question Americans face with the U.S. Air Force Academy rape scandal. The bottom line is that male upper class Air Force cadets are raping lower class female cadets. And it now appears that the rapists have official support for covering up what has happened from the Air Force chain of command.

    Air Force institutional values exhibited at Colorado Springs have more in common with the Serbian Army in Bosnia or with Saudi Arabia than the moral values Americans expect from their military. The corrupt “honor system” at Colorado Springs has gone so far as giving demerits for having sex in the barracks to women cadets who reported their own rape. The only difference between the Air Force and the Gulf Arabs is the lack of “honor killings” for rape. The Air Force settles for merely killing a female cadet’s military career.


  21. Right Trent Telenko… I think it’s time you take your meds now.

    It hasn’t been mentioned here, but this is a huge victory for Al Qaeda. Which usually means a loss for us, if you don’t inhabit Trent’s world.

    Also, I didn’t realize it wasn’t socially acceptable for opponents of the war and “American haters” to vent their emotions. Dissent is the beauty of our political system and I certainly wouldn’t want to participate in the stifling of emotion. Now I supported the war, but I still support dissent. Anything less is cowardly — if your arguments can’t stand on their merits, then what can they stand on? Debate I say. Our lives will be the better for it.

  22. Trent, is Robert Kagan an “America hater”? He sure echoes those damnable comments from those commie lefties!

    All but the most blindly devoted Bush supporters can see that Bush administration officials have no clue about what to do in Iraq tomorrow, much less a month from now. Consider Fallujah: One week they’re setting deadlines and threatening offensives; the next week they’re pulling back. The latest plan, naming one of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard generals to lead the pacification of the city, is the kind of bizarre idea that only desperate people can conjure. The Bush administration is evidently in a panic, and this panic is being conveyed to the American people.

    Events in Fallujah have also conveyed another impression: The administration is increasingly reluctant to fight the people it defines as the bad guys in Iraq. This reluctance is perfectly understandable. No one wants more American casualties. And no one doubts that more violence in Iraq may alienate more of the Iraqi population. But this reluctance can also appear both to Iraqis and to the American public as a sign of declining will. Among the many lessons of Vietnam is that American support for that war remained remarkably steady, despite high American casualties, until Americans began to sense that their government was no longer committed to what had been defined as victory and was looking for a way out. If Americans see signs of wavering by the Bush administration — and Fallujah may be one of those signs — support for the war could decline sharply.

    Bush himself is the great mystery in this mounting debacle. His commitment to stay the course in Iraq seems utterly genuine. Yet he continues to tolerate policymakers, military advisers and a dysfunctional policymaking apparatus that are making the achievement of his goals less and less likely. He does not seem to demand better answers, or any answers, from those who serve him. It’s not even clear that he understands how bad the situation in Iraq is or how close he is to losing public support for the war, a support that once lost may be impossible to regain.

    Or maybe those critics were onto something…Maybe they weren’t living on another planet after all. Quit sliming your opponents. We all have our piece to say and we all have the right to say it.

  23. One technical comment, A.L. Use HTML entities fo show symbols. For example, ≠ gives you ≠. Use that in your heading.

  24. Actually “Shame on You”, your quote is fascinating as a great example of anything but what you claim for it. For your quote contains nothing but namecalling and vapid assertions. Kagan doesn’t make an argument when he claims that actions are the result of “panic” without even bothering to explain why the action he is criticizing is necessarily a poor response.

    Certainly you don’t address Trent’s point about the prisoner abuse incidents not being as bad for us as you claim, which is that the audience for arab propaganda is already hearing and believing worse lies about the U.S. than the prisoner abuse incident. Perhaps you should actually read his comments rather than seeing yourself so quickly as the “america haters” he refers to.

  25. Hey, SoY –

    This is a potentially great discussion; one that’s making me (and I hope other people) think hard about assumptions, and you’re cheapening it with stuff like ‘I think it’s time you take your meds now.‘.

    We may disagree – even disagree heatedly – and I’ve certainly had my share of knock-down debates with Trent, but one basic rule about my threads is that we treat each other with some measure of respect. I may believe you’re wrong, but I’ll never suggest that your error is the resule of a psychological deficiency. Please extend that courtesy as well.


  26. The torture at Abu Ghraib appears to have been systematic and a matter of policy. See Seymour Hersh’s piece in the New Yorker:

    Yeah sure, that purveyor of unvarnished, unbiased truth: Seymour Hersh.

  27. A.L.,

    C, C++, Java, Perl, Python, and similar programming languages use !=.

    Ada uses /=.

    BASIC uses <>.

    Human beings use ≠. [Note that I typed & n e ; to get the ≠ symbol. The semicolon is required. And, I typed &amp; to get the & for these examples.]

    I don’t know what your background is, so I wouldn’t know where you learned to use !=. It is ugly, however.

    My favorite online HTML resource is Index.html, by Brian Wilson. I’m guessing he doesn’t sing. He has a page for character entities. Your page will look better if you remember these entities:

    &ldquo; “

    &rdquo; ”

    &lsquo; ‘

    &rsquo; ’

    &hellip; …

  28. Well, A.L, I wouldn’t exactly consider “America-Hater” a compliment. And I’ll leave it at that.

  29. Actually, I would really like you to address this question. How is calling someone an America-hater showing them a measure of respect, or extending any sort of courtesy, and how do you expect to hold us commenters up to such standards when right there in your post you add an insult to your opponents? Maybe other people are willing to let people call them unpatriotic on an ideological whim, and to let people get away with this but I’m not. Outside of this forum I believe I have shown the utmost patriotism and I certainly do not hate my country — I am grateful for all the blessings that come with American citizenship and I work to extend them indefinitely. Trent, you, others, don’t even know who I am, what I do, what my family has done for others in this nation and just on a point of disagreement you are willing to smear another person. I find this distasteful to say the least and it makes me spitting mad. I understand that you wish for commentary here to be thoughtful but so far no one has apologized for impugning the patriotism of people that dissent and to even raise the question is only to invite more bile to be piled on to me for justly given opinions.

    It obviously takes effort to come here and disagree with you. It takes effort to disagree anywhere. How easy it would be to simply shrug your shoulders and say jack*ss or hey — how ’bout those people aren’t patriotic anyway, they don’t share my values and since obviously my values are American, they must be anti-American! When you make such comments obviously you are disinviting dissent because only those that agree with you already are worthy of your attention!

  30. SoY –

    Well, it’s a somewhat blurry line. Here’s the basic distinction I make and try and hold people to (note that in my own world, I’d use a much tighter one). Is the criticism around the positions you take or about who you are?

    Basically, here’s the deal: you can call me wrong about issues, or even a ‘fascist’, because that’s about the positions I take. If you call me an idiot or insane, we’ve moved into the realm of namecalling.

    I wish Trent would use more temperate language. I wish you would, too. But while Trent’s language did focus on positions, yours crossed the line to insulting Trent-as-a-person.

    Feel free to challenge me or anyone else here based on what we say and the positions we take. Please don’t suggest that those positions aren’t the result of an independent person looking at the information they have and coming to a conclusion.


  31. SOY,

    It is clear you are losing this arguement on Abu Ghraib that you changed the arguement to Fallujah.

    Face facts, Arabs are so far in their fantasy world that Abu Ghraib is a less bloody and messy version of what they are getting their yah-yah’s off about on Al-Jazeera anyway.

    As for the home front, American supporters of the war are not shaken in their support it by Abu Ghraib. They fall in either the “Punish the guilty prison guards” or the “We don’t care, you can’t be nasty enough to Arabs” catagories.

    People who oppose the war in Iraq oppose it. Abu Ghraib is simply the latest fad of the moment to thwack American war supporters with. For them it isn’t about the reality of the War on Terrorism. It is an a means to vent their feeling about America.

  32. Sheesh, I swore I wasn’t going to do this any more, BUT– A.L. is so spot on with his Good News that the probability of him being wrong is approaching negative aleph-nought. Guess what? Abu Ghraib totally validates the Rule of Law in a Hobbesian Universe! Why is that not obvious to every one here?

    /for non-mathematicians, aleph-nought is a variety of infinity :-)

  33. That Fallujah still exists (1) is a tribute to American forbearance (2) and evidence of American weakness (3).

    All of those will change.

    “War is the ultimate moral solvent” – George F. Will.

    “The differences between us pacifying Iraq’s Sunni Arab tribes, and not doing so, will chiefly be these:

    (1) how many Sunni Arabs remain in Iraq once we leave. Note that the Iraqi armed forces are being rebuilt with an all-new, i.e., non-Sunni, cadre. Unreconciled Sunni Arabs in Iraq will have the following choices once our occupation ends – (a) becoming reconciled, (b) becoming gone or (c) becoming dead.

    (2) whether there is a significant prosperous and peaceful Sunni minority in Iraq to serve as a model for reconstructing the Sunni majorities in other Arab countries. It will be much more difficult for us to succeed with the latter if we don’t.

    Keep in mind that we will win the war on terror. The major question is how many Arabs survive the experience.

    posted by: Tom Holsinger on 10.28.03 at 08:48 PM”


  34. One thing more, given that there is a biological basis for all behavoir, we will NEVER be able to completely prevent the Abu Ghraibs from occurring. But we can deal with these abberrations in a just and honorable fashion, employing the Rule of Law.

    A.L., you and I are isomorphic for once! ;-)

  35. I don’t have time for such silliness, and that in my opinion, is a statement of your positions, A.L., Trent and Twisterella. Why reason with unreasonable people? There is more than one fool here, but I am also one. Good luck to all.

  36. Reading this online article did not inspire confidence in the level of initiative being taken to clean this mess up.

    My initial reaction was much like A.L.’s, that we were taking appropriate action. I’m less sure now.

  37. Andrew, I read the article, and it doesn’t dampen my optimism a bit. Sure, there will be a lot of debate about the form, but in the end the function will be the same, and we’ll ‘do the right thing’.

    I guess I don’t mind being an unreasonable fool as long as I’m in such good company. :-)

  38. “!=” is used for “≠” in the C programming language, and in C-influenced languages such as Awk and Perl.

  39. Strangely, no one’s yet got around to mentioning, that A.L.’s attack on Diana Moon in the head post is a crock of shite. Moon is disputing Glen Reynolds‘ (and Will Collier‘s) claim that “the people who did this will spend most, if not the rest of their lives in Kansas making small rocks out of big rocks”. She points out that Lt Calley served — not life imprisonment at hard labour — but three and a half years house arrest. The fact that his crimes were so much more serious than those at Abu Ghraib, only makes Collier’s / Reynolds’ assertions so much more unlikely.

    A.L.’s suggestion that Moon is equating Abu Ghraib with My Lai is somewhat less than baseless.

  40. Abu –

    You raise a fair point (about my post responding to Diana’s and my not engaging the point she made about Calley’s sentance), and you’re more than narrowly right and I should have qualified my criticism based on it.

    But, with due respect, I think that Diana’s post tied the acts together a bit cloer than you suggest.

    That’s not a strong defense, and I’ll do better next time.


  41. “Argument by hyperbole.”

    Good characterization A.L. It seems that some Liberals are also doing something of that sort in this thread, trying to pigeon hole you somewhere outside their own comfortable nest where Bush = Nazi. After all, what difference does virtually any other comparison make after that one’s been made?

    Liberals and Conservatives seem to be participanting in a contest to win the title of “more polarized.” I’m not certain the world will be able to stand the victory of either.

  42. Post Abu Ghraib, this 12/02 article on USA interrogation techniques in Afghanistan reads a little differently. Maybe the only difference is that there aren’t any low-level low-IQ MPs with digicams at Bagram? Now I remember that Army doctors classified the deaths of two prisoners there as homicides.

    I still don’t think we’re near the bottom of this. And I notice that after starting on page A24 of the American press (really, the first WaPo article), it’s moving front and center.

  43. Steve:

    If you can actually argue your case, instead of just asserting it, perhaps you could show where Moon asserts, implies, or relies on any equivalence between Abu Ghraib and My Lai in degree of blameworthiness.

    While you’re at it, perhaps you could identify the pigeon hole into which those otherliberals are trying to stuff the Armed one.


    I think that Diana’s post tied the acts together a bit cloer than you suggest.

    Well certainly she draws parallels, suggests that similar mechanisms are at work. Needless to say, that doesn’t imply moral equivalence.

  44. SoY:

    killing a disproportionate (read: unacceptable, at least to me) number of innocent people and people of color

    So, according to you, our justice system doesn’t give the death penalty to enough “people of color”? Because that’s what the statistics say: white murderers receive the death penalty at a higher rate than non-white murders.

  45. Labeling his opponents unpatriotic is the first resort of the nationalist, and it’s a path that’s been walked down, by, among others, Hitler. We should not be so ignorant of history as to think we are “above” such paternal condensation, and hold true to our love for freedom of speech enough to allow all who speak the benefit of doubt — which in this case, is a measure of good faith. Without greater evidence of traitorous intentions (and a high standard for judging its existence), we should assume a genuine desire to communicate on the part of our other citizens, especially in such forums for participation is voluntary. “Pre-empting” truly open discussion by implicitly dangling the danger of social castration is evidence of the worst of America, not the best. We can and must do better.

  46. A.L.

    Alas I’m temporarily on dialup access only and, in the best of circumstances, am not up to the task of arguing against irrational commentary.

    In March 1968 when My Lai occurred you and I were both demonstrating against the War in Vietnam it appears. My Lai was not yet in the headlines but soon would be, not that either of us needed that tragic event to justify our opposition to the war.

    In May of that year there were four friends. They all received a degree of one sort or another. On Sunday, the day after commencement, they met to have a last discussion session before all dispersed to their homes the following day.

    That next day a Monday, two of the friends went north to Canada with no advance warning to the other two (or to their famlies, still present in town, ready to aid in hauling their personal things home). That Monday two shocked families eventually packed up what was left and took no sons home with them.

    The other two for reasons unknown to this day enlisted in the military service and both volunteered for duty in Vietnam. Why the two did what they did and why the other two took a differ path remains a puzzle.

    I seem to function best in posing questions, making general observations, or pointing those I believe to be confused about issues in a direction where they find information which explains circumstances which they don’t appear to understand, hence my limited comments about My Lai and a link to an article which shows there was more to My Lai than some writers suggest.

    If they choose not to consider my comments or follow the links that’s their decision. While your request is a reasonable one I don’t see myself capable of responding.

    While, at the time, I thought my background in debate (in H.S. and college), the study of philosphy and literature, would serve me well that didn’t happen. That was a “lost weekend” of a different sort.

    I you aren’t John Kerry I suppose that one of my friends and I were. The other two, whose opposition to the War in Vietnam differed little if any from ours, and who gave no warning of leaving for Canada (perhaps believing we would persuade them otherwise), resulted in an inability on my part to do much more than observe.

    Both of us who had enlisted (to avoid the draft?) and then volunteered for Vietnam came home after military service opposed to the war. But we had friends, returning vets, who belonged to both sides. The commaraderie was stronger than the rightness or wrongness of the war. While the group of young men to which I belonged preceded that which followed, i.e., Kerry’s, I don’t think the circumstances were much different.

    Is a My Lai where perhaps 500 died worse than ordering napalm attacks where villages were sometimes the targets for “tactical” reasons, i.e., the presumed sheltering of V.C. or the direction of fire that was coming from that affected a platoon of soldiers? a Swift Boat in the Delta? The killing was difficult, more than a bit horrendous in view of the weapon used….ah but the “motives” or “intent” were different from My Lai…or were they?

    We have more modern and more destruction weapons for dropping on population centers of presumed bad guys these days. Napalm doesn’t work as well, outside the jungle, etc. etc. And it’s possible, although unlikely, that napalm never equalled the “body count” of civilians at My Lai.

    The article I linked to contains a commentary to wit (paraphrased) the public was displeased at the outcome of the verdict in the My Lai case.

    Yet the first public pole following the decision regarding the war shifted, for the first time, to a majority of the American citizenry in opposition to the war, a major turning point, although “Johnson’s (and Kennedy’s) War” would not end until the very end of the first Nixon administration, a farce “negotiated” by that beloved of Americans, Henry Kissinger.

    Perhaps, in a sense, this description of events, or perhaps my linking to the article in question, may itself serve as the “argument” you’ve requested. I’m skeptical. I’m also skeptical that those who have abopted hyperbole and are so entrenched in their positions that no argument will change their minds, may perhaps learn something from my approach or comments. Maybe not.

    The Right and the Left are well entrenched. Both sides are so polarized in their views that I see little opportunity for discourse.

    Hence I adopted, at one time, the use of “Armed Moderate,” although I don’t have a clue what a “Moderate” is or how to define one. Moderates in many ways are more hated by the extremists than the hatred they have for their opposites. This may be because the Moderate is perceived to have no “real” views at all. So I’ve abandoned that childish word play on your preferred user name.

    My only hope was that some might read the link I posted and come to understand the real meaning of My Lai, what its consequences were, and discontinue mindlessly grabbing at metaphors when the comparison to Abu Ghraid is entirely different.

    Demonizing something which is wrong, through hyperbole, merely obscures the reality, the tragedy that is Abu Ghraid.

    Sorry, I can’t really respond. My observation you’d been “pigeon holed etc.” was merely intended to imply that you stand outside the wholly irrational group of those who prefer hyperbole to informed discussion. You do this well in articles which follow this. You provoke thought with your articles, something that goes beyond the irrational content I find on the site of the great god Kos, for example, although I note that several, here and there, have found further defense for the comments made by Kos which have become so well known that only a vague reference must be made and all readers will understand that meeting.

    What a blog legacy to bear….

  47. Susan

    Didn’t know there was a requirement that I respond to the hyperbole of others by arguing “my case.”

    I’ve pointed to a summary of the My Lai trial. I presumed it was self explanatory to someone with an open mind as many participants in this thread seem to be either inadvertently or selectively uninformed about that event.

    No one was punished? The next public opinion poll after trial’s end was anti-war for the first time. The public found the trial, to put it mildly, a travesty of justice. In what way? Educate yourself by actually reading about the events and the outcome. Simplified comments about My Lai tend to be attractive to the simple minded.

    A.L.’s “pigeon hole?” Hmm…I suspect my meaning would not be understood by those with inflammatory argument or unreasoned thought.


  48. I’ve been very busy moving things I got from my mother’s house after she died, and so haven’t had time to respond.

    Briefly, Abu Frank caught Armed Liberal’s mistake. Thanks, Abu Frank. I won’t be coming around here anymore, because this website makes me want to vomit.

    Now, as to Bill, I was simply asking a question.

    Fuck both of you.

    What happened at Abu Ghraib was a crime against humanity, in the middle of a disastrous war.

    Both of you are useless excuses for manhood. You both deliberately misunderstood and misrepresented what I wrote, and AL didn’t have the balls to write to me to alert me to the partial acknowledgement in his comments section.

    In case you didn’t hear me: FUCK YOU.

  49. Whatever will Diana Moon do when she runs out of enemies?

    What a boring world that will be for her then.

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