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5/12/2004

Retaliation is actually just more killing

      6:46 am

    How can anyone justify killing and wounding civilians as part of a mission to try to collect the shredded pieces of the exploded bodies of soldiers killed the day before? What sad logic. Religious burial customs shouldn’t be used to justify reckless murder. They say a sixteen year old boy was killed by a missle fired from a helicopter into a crowd of people (? could this really be true?).

    War is not the way to peace. Killing is no way to mourn the dead or show respect for them. What makes this even worse is the fact that this madness is in part paid for by the leading military power in the world. And of course everybody knows where those helicopters came from.

    5/10/2004

    Campaign Slogan - ‘Not the America that we knew’

        4:25 am

      Will someone pass this along to John Kerry’s speech writer?

      Bush claims that a U.S. military that abuses prisoners is “not the America” he knows. But the ignorance of the president will not protect our troops or help end this war. A more sober appraisal is that America under George W Bush is not the America that we knew

      An America that begins a pre-emptive war without the approval of the United Nations to eliminate weapons that didn’t exist is not the America that we knew…
      An America that indefinetly and illegally confines POWs as ‘illegal non-combatants’ is not the America that we knew…
      An America where prisoners of war are subjected to humiliation and abuse is not the America that we knew…

      etc.

      5/8/2004

      Not on my watch

          9:53 am

        If Rumsfeld is responsible for the prisoner torture because it happened on his watch, then of course Bush is responsible as well, since Rumsfeld ‘happened’ on Bush’s watch. But what do these assertions of liability mean in practical terms? Will Rumsfeld pay personal injury claims to the surviving prisoners? Is Rumsfeld going to do prison time himself as a war criminal for violating the Geneva conventions rules against torture? Will he even leave his position? What then does his claim of taking responsibility mean?

        This claim of personal responsibility is most likely just strategic rhetorical wordplay, though perhaps it can be seen as a positive development nevertheless. Every attempt we make to take responsibility for the pain we have caused others is an evolutionary step.

        5/6/2004

        Puppet show

            8:38 am

          So the latest spin with the prisoner abuse story is that the right hand couldn’t see what the other right hand was doing. The buck stops with Rumsfeld then. As if it would make any difference if only Rumsfeld had told the president, who by implication couldn’t possibly have already known about any of this - “that’s not the America I know". The real spin in the ‘will Rumsfeld be fired?’ story is the embedded message that Bush didn’t already know.

          An article in the New Yorker indicates that this prison abuse appearantly was part of a strategy to ’soften up’ the prisoners to coerce information out of them short of actually torturing them, the idea being to take advantage of cultural fears of nudity etc. Like so much of the military policy, the method here is to try to blantantly violate the intent of the law without actually violating the law, playing with words to distract from the truth of the situation. The treatment of the ‘illegal non-combatant’ prisoners at Guantanamo and now these prisoner abuse photos clearly expose this doublespeak.

          It is critically important for the reputation of the United States that Bush lose the upcoming election. What a win for Bush would mean around the world is that Americans support pre-emptive war, torture of prisoners, and the whole heavy handed arrogant military approach associated with the Bush administration. Bush’s defeat would at least leave open the possibility that most Americans don’t actually support that way of doing things.

          Although it is ridiculous to assume that Rumsfeld alone is responsible for this mess, it would be an intelligent decision to remove him immediately. Someone is going to have to take the blame for this and he is an obvious choice. Simple apologies or long winded explanations are not going to appease the anger over this in Iraq and the rest of the middle east. It would be better for Rumfeld to go, even as a symbolic gesture of remorse - another act in this tragic puppet show - that to lose thousands of lives in the violence that will likely follow as a result of this enourmous policy error.

          5/3/2004

          Dark at the end of the tunnel

              7:00 am

            What a terrible mess those ‘borrow and spend conservatives’ have created in Iraq. Now we hear about the torture inflicted by ‘a few’ US troops. They say in psychological circles that abusers were often abused themselves as children. That rings true in this case. What could be more abusive to an 18 year old looking for a cheap education than going through boot camp and then being sent off to invade a far away land, shooting at strangers, getting shot at, and finally learning that the underlying motivation of eliminating weapons of mass destruction was exagerated. That sort of changes things doesn’t it? Therapists prepare yourselves. You’ll have plenty of work to do when these youngsters come home.

            The collapse

                4:23 am

              In war, torture is the rule and not the exception. The reports of abuse by american soldiers will be devastating to the occupation, though not really surprising, since war itself is so maximally abusive. The horrific pictures now shown around the world are a public relations catastrophy and are liable to undermine any hopes for the promised peaceful transition of power. The United States as an occupying power has a huge legitimacy problem to begin with. It just got much worse.

              This ugly exposure unfortunately cannot entirely be seen as the exception. The adminstration frequently refers to the Iraqi resistance fighters as ‘thugs’ and ‘terrorists’. The ‘good vs evil’ story, along with the ongoing demonization and dehumanization of the enemy fighters is in fact consistent with the photos we are now seeing. How were the Iraqi people supposed to trust a foreign occupying power claiming to come to ‘liberate’ them? Most people around the world (including the citizens of the United States) are nationalistic and many would resist a similar foreign occupation. It may be a wrong choice but it is understandable. Unfortunately for the Bush administration, the burden of proof falls on the invading army, which must do everything possible to demonstrate respect to the local people. Consistently showing respect is beyond the capacity of overtaxed soldiers threatened by suicide car bombs and snipers. It is also beyond the budget of a policy which for political reasons must minimize American casualties - even in situations where it means disproportionately transfering the risk to Iraqi civilians. Historic resentment against Saddam Hussein will only allow the occupation so much time, and perhaps that time has just run out.

              These photos of the humilation and abuse of prisoners are going to hit a raw nerve across the entire region. The ‘pre-emptive’ invasion was wrong to begin with, sold on a gullible and frightened American public with lies and exaggerations. But that is old news. The outstanding question now is what to do next. Is it better for the American forces to immediately withdrawl from Iraq - leaving an open the door for a terrible civil war and yet another unfriendly government, or to stay and try to establish some sort of stable power structure while simultaneously trying to contain the growing anti-US resentment and attacks? The very real possibility of this anti-American resentment boiling over now exists, which could lead to very large and aggressive anti-occupation demonstrations, where the distinction between insurgent and civilian would be difficult to determine. Surrounded 19 year old American soldiers with machine guns could be forced to make some exceptionally difficult judgement calls in tense high pressure situations. And sooner or later the inevitable panic stricken overreaction will occur, which will bring about even larger demonstrations. People in these large groups will begin to feel a sense of power and will demand influence. Attempting to control an angry population could lead to as much bloodshed as the feared civil war, and these attempts could fail as well, leaving afterwards a similar potential for civil war, though in that scenario after a huge death toll with many civilian causualties from the failed occupation.

              We all like to believe in the happy ending. Despite the expensive price of admission, this war may not have one.

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