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Susan Sontag: On the Torture of Others

Michael Ernest
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So I haven't wanted to see "the pictures" any more than I have wanted to see a video of the beheading. But when Sontag's article came out, I wanted to see how she applied her method of inquiry and analysis to the news of American soldiers torturing whomever -- detainees, prisoners of war, wtf-ever -- it is they have in those Iraqi prisons.

One of the images incorporated into this article just disturbs me. I simply fail to understand its meaning, other than the obvious. The contents of what Sontag reports is disturbing, but as has become a popular mantra here and elsehwere, pictures convey information with an impact and immediacy words often cannot.

I saw this image for the first time yesterday and I've yet to come up with some way to respond to it, for my own sake. I can only imagine the standing man's father raging against the obscenity of a Mapplethorpe exhibit in his town, and faced with hard evidence that his son is in this picture.

My folks and I get tired of California for various reasons, and from time to time we talk about where we'd move to. The San Francisco Bay Area is beautiful, but it is also hectic, as politically complex as any major urban area, stunned into merely coping with recent by political and economic turns as they occur. We pay ransom for gas these days, but I think most people have the idea there's nothing we can do about it.

The running joke around the family table is that we wouldn't move to any part of the country that would be glad to have us. The not-so-funny joke comes from photographs like this, that here in the Bay Area are several thousand square miles of provincial bliss, surrounded by what my stepfather likes to call "reality." I can understand the brutality of combat, how the science of destroying the enemy can devolve into killing for its own sake. What I can't understand is how a man who calls himself a patriot in service of his country gets from his oath of service to an act like this, under the ostensibly watchful eyes of not a few other people.



[ May 24, 2004: Message edited by: Michael Ernest ]
[ May 24, 2004: Message edited by: Thomas Paul ]

Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.
- Robert Bresson
Warren Dew
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    2
Michael Ernest:

What I can't understand is how a man who calls himself a patriot in service of his country gets from his oath of service to an act like this, under the ostensibly watchful eyes of not a few other people.

Consider the possibility that the soldiers involved didn't take their oath of service seriously in the first place. Keep in mind that they are currently being court martialed, and that the military investigations leading up to these court martials were well under way months before the pictures hit the press.

There are hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. military. Expecting every single person in any population of that size to be perfect is unrealistic.
[ May 24, 2004: Message edited by: Warren Dew ]
Michael Ernest
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Joined: Oct 25, 2000
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
I think that last paragraph of your's violates the "be nice" rule.


Amend it as you see fit.
[ May 24, 2004: Message edited by: Thomas Paul ]
Michael Ernest
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Posts: 7292

Originally posted by Warren Dew:

Consider the possibility that the soldiers involved didn't take their oath of service seriously in the first place. Keep in mind that they are currently being court martialed, and that the military investigations leading up to these court martials were well under way months before the pictures hit the press.

There are hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. military. Expecting every single person in any population of that size to be perfect is unrealistic.

Ok, I feel somewhat patronized with this kind of response, but perhaps I am inferring an unintended tone.

I am aware that our military size is substantial, Warren. I'm no expert in military operations but I have some appreciation for the complexity of logistics in emergency services which, while different, speaks to similar problems of control and communication.

I am also less concerned with the anxiety that the actions depicted in written accounts and photographs are either an aberration or an epitome of our operations over there.

The idea that 'nothing is perfect' seems to me out of place in this context. But let's say this is some fly in the ointment, an outrageous but confined matter that we can safely isolate to a few people with expansive power and limited judgment. Doesn't even that fact point to a lack of proper checks and due diligence in making sure, according to convention, that prisoners are treated according to international accords? How does this sort of thing happen with no one else the wiser?
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Michael Ernest:
Doesn't even that fact point to a lack of proper checks and due diligence in making sure, according to convention, that prisoners are treated according to international accords? How does this sort of thing happen with no one else the wiser?

I doubt very much that one young lady from West Virginia and her boyfriend did this by themselves. I am just guessing but I believe that certain civilians were instructed to get all the information they could out of the people in that prison and used that order as an excuse to become animals. Sadly, the military in the prison didn't seem to think that there was anything wrong with what they were doing. I am sure that we have not heard the last of this and that the investigation will find someone of higher authority involved.
Resident Troll
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They ought to ban digital cameras. Digital cameras are undemocratic.
Michael Ernest
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Quite the contrary. Nothing is more democratic than freedom of information.
Warren Dew
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Michael Ernest:

I am aware that our military size is substantial, Warren. I'm no expert in military operations but I have some appreciation for the complexity of logistics in emergency services which, while different, speaks to similar problems of control and communication.

I guess I didn't express my point clearly. That should teach me to post in a hurry - sorry about that.

I wasn't trying to make a point about complexity or logistics. I was just trying to make a point about numbers. Let me explain.

After some web surfing, and neglecting the other services for the moment, I find that the U.S. Army has just under half a million soldiers, excluding reserves. So, to put it in terms more familiar to me, how many is that? Well, it's a lot more than the population of my home town (Somerville, MA). It's also a lot more than Somerville plus Cambridge, which was my first guess. Going only a little further, it's slightly less than the population of Boston, which is just over half a million. Add in half the Marines, and we've got about the right number of people.

Now, how much outrageous behavior can we expect from that number of people?

Restricting ourselves to violent crime, I guess I'd expect a fair number of assaults, and some number of rapes and murders. In fact, the City of Boston crime statistics provide a number of 7174 violent crimes happening in 2003, including 263 rapes and attempted rapes and 39 murders, in 2003.

Now, are 263 rapes and attempted rapes, and 39 murders, a bad thing? Of course they are, a very bad thing. In fact, that's more violence than I can easily imagine at one sitting. 302 rapes and murders are 302 more than there should have been, of course.

But, do 263 rapes and 39 murders demonstrate that there were "a lack of proper checks and due diligence"? No, they don't. Given the total number of people in Boston - 500,000 or so, roughly the number of people in the army, and 'way more faces than I can imagine in a year - it's not actually that high a crime rate. More importantly, if appropriate steps are being taken to minimize the crime rates - for example, proper investigation, prosecution, and punishment as appropriate - then the system is working, even if some crime still happens. It's not possible to be "perfect" - crime free - with that many people to deal with.

Looking at things from that point of view, I think the case of the Abu Ghraib prisoners is a case of the system working. The ICRC raised concerns to the Army last year, culminating in a report presented to the Army in February of this year. By that time, the Army had already ordered its own investigation - started by General Sanchez in January. The investigation was already far along by the time the photos were released, which is why it's resulting in convictions already. It's continuing and will no doubt result in more courts martial and convictions in the future.

Without the juicy photographs, the evidence is that the system would still have worked - since it was already working before the photographs were made public. The only difference would have been that it would have been buried on page 27 of the papers, rather than spread all over the front page for weeks on end, and most people wouldn't even have noticed - just like most people didn't notice those 263 rapes and 39 murders that happened in Boston last year.
Ashok Mash
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Originally posted by Warren Dew:
Restricting ourselves to violent crime, I guess I'd expect a fair number of assaults, and some number of rapes and murders. In fact, the City of Boston crime statistics provide a number of 7174 violent crimes happening in 2003, including 263 rapes and attempted rapes and 39 murders, in 2003.


I am not commenting on the main subject here, but just wanted to point out that its hardly fair to compare and defend the deeds of half a million Soldiers on duty (under oath, living in barracks, under constant order � organised in general) to Boston�s half million ordinary folks (including children, woman, CEOs, but also lawless drug dealers, addicts, small time thugs and organised mafia). Thats all.


[ flickr ]
Jeroen Wenting
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Maybe not Ashok, but it does show the likely makeup of the US Army as a whole which is supposedly a crosssection of US society.

Remember also that people living under constant stress and restraint will at some point snap, especially if those restraints are temporarilly loosened or left without strict enforcement.

Troops stationed in a prison are in constant close contact with the worst of their enemies, and those in a helpless state.
The urge to take out your frustration on those enemies must be massive and while I in no way condone doing so I can understand that some troopers would be unable to restrain themselves properly at all times.
As long as checks and ballances are in place to penalise those who do so as both a means of justice towards the Iraqi citizenry and as an example and deterrent towards repeat offenses there is little more that can be done.

What gals me much more is that some of those troopers thought it fun to capture their acts on camera and then brag about them, even sending them to friends and family and in the end causing the pictures to reach the press.
What gals me more than that is that in their eternal strive for sensationalism the press then published all the gory details in vivid colour instead of working through proper channels to get the guilty removed from duty and convicted for their crimes.
Even worse, the press didn't get enough so they staged their own little torture scenes and published those as the real thing (so far proven I think only in the UK).


42
Joe King
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Originally posted by Jeroen Wenting:

Remember also that people living under constant stress and restraint will at some point snap, especially if those restraints are temporarilly loosened or left without strict enforcement.

While this would be understandable, what happened in Abu Graib was not a "snap", but a sustained series of actions which no person could really think could be legal or justified. I find it hard to believe that not one person in the command hierarchy in that prison did not think that what was happening was wrong. What is worrying is quite how far up the chain of command this may go. So far we've only seen some of the low level soldiers punished, but what about their superiors? Surely the buck must stop somewhere, and that person must be punished.

As long as checks and ballances are in place to penalise those who do so as both a means of justice towards the Iraqi citizenry and as an example and deterrent towards repeat offenses there is little more that can be done.

What is disappointing is that one of the soldiers who was found guilty of abusing a prisoner was sentenced to just one year in prison. Now while we may not know much of the details of his case, this hardly seems to be a damning condemnation of the abuse.

What gals me much more is that some of those troopers thought it fun to capture their acts on camera and then brag about them, even sending them to friends and family and in the end causing the pictures to reach the press.

Agreed - this is probably one of the worst things about it - not only did the soldiers abuse the prisoners, but they were proud of it, and thought that their families and friends would be too.

What gals me more than that is that in their eternal strive for sensationalism the press then published all the gory details in vivid colour instead of working through proper channels to get the guilty removed from duty and convicted for their crimes.

Would the guilty have been removed and convicted if the pictures hadn't been shown? How can we know that it wouldn't get covered up, or not investigated as thoroughly? The fact that the pictures have come out in the press are a good thing, as it puts pressure on the politicians and army to try and solve the problem. Besides, the pictures would have come out anyway, so its better that the public hear about from their own press, rather than from Al Jazira.

Even worse, the press didn't get enough so they staged their own little torture scenes and published those as the real thing (so far proven I think only in the UK).

Yeah, this is a current scandal in the UK at the moment - a tabloid published pictures of abuse which turned out to be fakes. The paper claims that they were conned, but I'm not so sure - I doubt that they made the pictures themselves, but they may well have suspected them to be fakes and published anyway.
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Jeroen Wenting:
Maybe not Ashok, but it does show the likely makeup of the US Army as a whole which is supposedly a crosssection of US society.
Most crimes in the US are committed by people between 16 and 35 which is also the ago group that most soldiers fall in. So Ashok is right in the sense that the population of Boston includes many very young and very old people that would never be involved in criminal acts.
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Posts: 13974
What is disappointing is that one of the soldiers who was found guilty of abusing a prisoner was sentenced to just one year in prison. Now while we may not know much of the details of his case, this hardly seems to be a damning condemnation of the abuse.

It apeears that the deal was made to get his testimony in future cases. This is pretty standard in the US and I'm sure in Europe as well.
Jeroen Wenting
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Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
Most crimes in the US are committed by people between 16 and 35 which is also the ago group that most soldiers fall in. So Ashok is right in the sense that the population of Boston includes many very young and very old people that would never be involved in criminal acts.


yes, which makes the picture of the US armed forces even better at the same time which is what I intended to portray.

If the majority of crimes is committed by people in the agegroup which makes up the US military and crime in that military is significantly lower than it is outside the military despite being made up of the group that outside the military causes the most trouble (as seems the case) then the military is doing something right.
Maybe it's time to reintroduce the draft and kick some discipline into the common street youth?
Michael Ernest
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The Army is among many institutions I would never look to for a cross-section resembling an urban society.

But the presence of a criminal element in any institution isn't the issue here. The systematic abuse of prisoners that occurred here and its documentation, if you will, speaks to an organized activity that was either ignored or tolerated -- up to a point.

I don't think we're looking at something comparable to random crime borne of desperation, or degraded moral behavior reinforced by constant exposure to street crime, drug use, or emotional neglect. We're talking about an organization of trained men and women on a specific purpose.

Even assuming the Army also figures that their recruits come from the demographic most likely to commit violent crimes, you'd think some manner of oversight would be part of the plan. I assume most of these soldiers are not college-educated and did not leave behind trade or professional vocations to return to. It stands to reason they'd be supervised by someone with more experience who could explain to them how things work in a land they occupy.

In her article, Sontag notes one of Rush Limbaugh's on-air reactions to one form of abuse, in which he equates stacking naked prisoners on each other as a kind of fraternity prank, much like a hazing. If she's quoting him accurately, part of his response to this treatment concludes with the rhetorical question, "Haven't you ever heard of emotional release?" I for one don't see this world where humiliating young men in the name of fraternity is thought of as having an appeal anyone should be able to understand, not the least of which are American soldiers who probably haven't been inducted into a college fraternity.

There was at one time an argument against exposing certain elements of combat conditions and war-time occupation. It was a stiff and angry reaction to many images coming from Vietnam, images that were hard to reconcile with our stated purpose for being there. But these images were produced by the pesky media. When soldiers themselves choose these forms of abuse and make records of it, it doesn't seem to me a question of the Fourth Estate, informed by whatever agenda anyone cares to imply, poking its nose where it shouldn't. And it isn't a question of your average street-punk, taking a picture of a someone he's mugged, drugs he's sold, etc. This was an organized activity. It appears to have no sense of criminal behavior in that the a record of it was documented and distributed; it has none of the alleged impropriety of third-party cameras exposing an ugly side of war that damages the greater cause.

This was an inside job: well-lit, even celebrated.
[ May 25, 2004: Message edited by: Michael Ernest ]
Paul McKenna
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Originally posted by Michael Ernest:
In her article, Sontag notes one of Rush Limbaugh's on-air reactions to one form of abuse, in which he equates stacking naked prisoners on each other as a kind of fraternity prank, much like a hazing. If she's quoting him accurately, part of his response to this treatment concludes with the rhetorical question, "Haven't you ever heard of emotional release?" I for one don't see this world where humiliating young men in the name of fraternity is thought of as having an appeal anyone should be able to understand, not the least of which are American soldiers who probably haven't been inducted into a college fraternity.


As an avid listener of Rush, I will rise to defend him if necessary. What most people lack, Rush has plenty of.. and that is passion. Here is a man who spends 3 hours a day, 5 days a week and 52 weeks a year in front of an audience of 20 million. Give him a break if he sometimes says something that appears outrageous.

Rush has himself asked repeatedly on his show why the media and other liberal outlets are so keen on using that one excerpt from his show over and over again and that too to demonstrate that conservatives are not compassionate. Michael, assuming that you do not listen to Rush, let me put into context what Rush said and more importantly what he meant

In the first few days of the prison abuse scandals the pictures that were coming out were more along the lines of fraternity pranks. Example: Man with womens underwear on his head, naked men standing in a line, men performing stimulated acts of sex etc. And he was wondering why Donald Rumsfeld should be resigning over this.. He made the remarks that Susan questions on his first monologue on this item. Since then, more brutal images have surfaced and Rush has absolutely condemned the acts. But the media persists on using the first monologue to make their case. In this situation they have obviously gotten to you and their mission is accomplished. But do try and listen to Rush once or at the very least go to his site at www.rushlimbaugh.com and verify the facts for yourself.

On a side note, Rush has for free, on his site a discussion with an actual American soldier who spent a year in Iraq. The soldier describes in much detail how he arrested an Iraqi man who had raped and stabbed his wife and three daughters and then sent him off to Abu Ghraib. Listen to it, you might find yourself questioning your assumptions.


Commentary From the Sidelines of history
Jason Menard
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Just a note to people who mistakenly think that any kind of abuse that goes on must be part of some scheme organized somewhere along the chain of command. The military represents a cross-section of American. People from all over the country, who grew up everywhere from Po Dunk Iowa to drug infested inner city housing projects, make their way into the military. A large portion of the people enlisting these days haev at least some college, and just about all of them have graduated from highschool. Their depiction as uneducated is largely erroneous. These people represent every race, religion, color, and creed, and have equally diverse background values. The military assimulates them all as part of its culture, but still with so many people, things sometimes go wrong, despite their military training.

During my time in I have known of a group of military police who would break into government buildings they were protecting to steal materials. I have known of groups of racial supremacists, black and white. I've known of organized prostitution rings. I've heard of groups of people committing violence against other military folks for one reason or the other. And these were just things that organized groups have done. I won't even bother to tell you some of the horrible things that individuals have done. My point is, these things happen, and they are in no way organized or otherwise influenced by people higher up in the chain of command. It is equally as likely that this is the case at Abu Ghraib. Saying that they are too stupid or uneducated to pull something off like this themselves is a bit far off the mark I suspect.

However, it should be noted that people who do these kinds of things make up only a tiny percentage of the military population, far fewer than are found in the population at large.
Michael Ernest
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PM: Give him a break if he sometimes says something that appears outrageous.

ME: Oh no no no no. Rush Limbaugh has the power and means to distribute his message over a vast audience; I don't. The man, in my eyes, has the means, the ability, and the publicists and image-makers to help him determine what he can reasonably say and unsay. He has no problem shooting from the hip. He therefore, I am sure, has no problem dealing with the consequences of what he says. He's way out there on this one, Paul.

He freely uses that forum to denounce the presumably rash statements of others; let him live by his own standards.

PM: Rush has himself asked repeatedly on his show why the media and other liberal outlets are so keen on using that one excerpt from his show over and over again and that too to demonstrate that conservatives are not compassionate.

ME: I haven't spent any time at all listening to Rush Limbaugh for years. Back when he was better known purely as a firebrand and a ridiculer of all things liberal, Rush Limbaugh demonstrated daily that he cared for nothing more than whipping up conservative sentiments on the least of factoids that made any left-leaning figure appear stupid, hypocritical, or out-of-touch with reality. It was all grist for the mill.

It would be very convenient and shrewd now for Rush to suggest there's really only one example anyone could point to of his apparent heartlessness, as if we were all taking him to task for one ill-timed gaffe, and not the logical extreme of what he really seems to be about.

Now I'm no fool here. I realize, as many people do, that the so-called conservative agenda in the form of Rush or other talk-show hosts is far more about entertainment than "real" politics. That said, when he or any other voice goes over the line in the name of entertainment, he deserves to be called on it, just as Michael Moore or any other entertainment-based commentator on our political scene would be.

PM: In the first few days of the prison abuse scandals the pictures that were coming out were more along the lines of fraternity pranks. Example: Man with womens underwear on his head, naked men standing in a line, men performing stimulated acts of sex etc.

ME: This is a war, not a college campus. People are fighting for their beliefs, risking themselves and their families to defend what matters to them. Where is the joke in doing this to captives?

PM: Since then, more brutal images have surfaced and Rush has absolutely condemned the acts. But the media persists on using the first monologue to make their case.

Here is the excerpt I am referring to from Sontag's article:

To "stack naked men" is like a college fraternity prank, said a caller to Rush Limbaugh and the many millions of Americans who listen to his radio show. Had the caller, one wonders, seen the photographs? No matter. The observation -- or is it the fantasy? -- was on the mark. What may still be capable of shocking some Americans was Limbaugh's response: ''Exactly!'' he exclaimed. "Exactly my point. This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation, and we're going to ruin people's lives over it, and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time." "They" are the American soldiers, the torturers. And Limbaugh went on: "You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people. You ever heard of emotional release?"

I don't see the point that subsequent, more horrific images, have played some inadvertent role in fully demonizing what Rush Limbaugh said. What I hear, albeit not directly from the source, and not in the context that you are offering, is a man who is completely out of touch with the realities we or our enemy face in this conflict.

Kill or be killed; I get that. If I catch you I'll make you live in fear and humiliation; you'll strip naked when I require it; you'll wear whatever I want you to wear; I'll humiliate you for my own amusement. That I don't get.

PM: In this situation they have obviously gotten to you and their mission is accomplished.

ME: Easy there, Paul. I'm basing my comments off a given source and now I've taken your perspective into account. For what it's worth, I never thought much of what Limbaugh had to say well before this quote. In that light, if anything's worthy of noting, it's that even a detractor like me never thought he would go as far as he did.

PM: The soldier describes in much detail how he arrested an Iraqi man who had raped and stabbed his wife and three daughters and then sent him off to Abu Ghraib. Listen to it, you might find yourself questioning your assumptions.

ME: Which assumptions are those?
[ May 25, 2004: Message edited by: Michael Ernest ]
Paul McKenna
Ugly Redneck
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Posts: 1006
ME: Oh no no no no. Rush Limbaugh has the power and means to distribute his message over a vast audience; I don't. The man, in my eyes, has the means, the ability, and the publicists and image-makers to help him determine what he can reasonably say and unsay. He has no problem shooting from the hip. He therefore, I am sure, has no problem dealing with the consequences of what he says. He's way out there on this one, Paul.

PM: Are you telling me, you have never said anything that you may have, perhaps, regretted later on? Every public personality has some comment of their comeback to haunt them later on. From Bill Gates and his infamous "640kb ram" statement to GWB and his frequent goof ups. In the case of Rush, it is more compared to less and what I notice is that there are deliberate attempts to "create" such statements by quoting him out of context.

ME:He freely uses that forum to denounce the presumably rash statements of others; let him live by his own standards.

PM: Show me one example where he did so and I will show you that he rather apologized for it later on after realizing the complete context or he would never ever bring that up in the future again. But if Rush makes one rash statement, he can expect that statement to be used by the media over and over again to demonize him for the rest of his broadcasting life.

ME: It would be very convenient and shrewd now for Rush to suggest there's really only one example anyone could point to of his apparent heartlessness, as if we were all taking him to task for one ill-timed gaffe, and not the logical extreme of what he really seems to be about.

PM: Are you reading the FAIR report? If so, Rush has rebutted every one of those on his website. Please do pay a visit to his website so that you "atleast" get a balanced picture.

ME:That said, when he or any other voice goes over the line in the name of entertainment, he deserves to be called on it, just as Michael Moore or any other entertainment-based commentator on our political scene would be.

PM: The difference between Moore and Rush is that Moore will twist "facts", Rush wont! If you think so, show me one example! Rush might make "assumptions" about facts that are not available or events that have not taken place but he will never twist facts to support his argument.

ME: This is a war, not a college campus. People are fighting for their beliefs, risking themselves and their families to defend what matters to them. Where is the joke in doing this to captives?

PM: So 7 soldiers are conducting the war and those 7 decide the conduct of all soldiers on the field??? Is this making sense to you, Michael???

ME:What I hear, albeit not directly from the source, and not in the context that you are offering, is a man who is completely out of touch with the realities we or our enemy face in this conflict.

PM: What you are seeing is a man who is in touch with the pressures and complexities of a war and a man who is not afraid to defend his men who put their lives on the line for him.

Aside from this, do you realize that those prisioners are still alive? They didnt have their arms amputated or their foreheads crossed like they would have if they were under Saddam. They simply had to act silly for the deranged amusement of 7 soldiers. That number is important here!

ME:Kill or be killed; I get that. If I catch you I'll make you live in fear and humiliation; you'll strip naked when I require it; you'll wear whatever I want you to wear; I'll humiliate you for my own amusement. That I don't get.

PM: Again, 7 others didnt seem to get it either. 7 out of 138,000

ME: In that light, if anything's worthy of noting, it's that even a detractor like me never thought he would go as far as he did.

PM: How are you going to come to a fair opinion if you declare yourself as biased from the outset?

ME: Which assumptions are those?

PM: Assumption that Rush is a blowhard, Rush is a compasionless man.
Michael Ernest
High Plains Drifter
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Joined: Oct 25, 2000
Posts: 7292

PM: Are you telling me, you have never said anything that you may have, perhaps, regretted later on?

ME: Of course I have. I may have even said my words were taken out of context when I was called to account for it.

PM: Every public personality has some comment of their comeback to haunt them later on...In the case of Rush, it is more compared to less and what I notice is that there are deliberate attempts to "create" such statements by quoting him out of context.

ME: I don't suspect anyone is tallying the man's remarks. "More compared to less" in that sense strikes as a qualitative, not quanititative assertion.

PM: But if Rush makes one rash statement, he can expect that statement to be used by the media over and over again to demonize him for the rest of his broadcasting life.

ME: To his advantage, I might add. Controversy builds an audience. People tune in to hear what outrageous thing might be said or done. It worked for Phil Donahue, it worked for Morton Downey, Geraldo Rivera, Jerry Springer, Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones, Chris Mathews, Bill Reilly, and so on.

PM: Are you reading the FAIR report?

ME: I don't know what the FAIR report is.

PM: The difference between Moore and Rush is that Moore will twist "facts", Rush wont! If you think so, show me one example! Rush might make "assumptions" about facts that are not available or events that have not taken place but he will never twist facts to support his argument.

ME: This is just hair-splitting to me. Calling one kind of distortion out of bounds and another kind ok boils down to what each person finds fair from their own perspective and interests. We can hardly agree on something like that.

PM: So 7 soldiers are conducting the war and those 7 decide the conduct of all soldiers on the field???

ME: I never said anything like that. Have those particular seven people damaged an entire war effort? There is no question about that. Do I personally think only seven people are involved? No. To me that premise is not credible. Is the whole Army implicated? Well, no, but it doesn't matter; we've given to our enemies and their supporters some of the most compelling propaganda they could ever ask for. Our enemy is within, and it's not some tree-hugging liberal in San Francisco with an dyed-in-the-wool anti-Bush agenda, either. It's some GI Joes, serving this country's freedom-fighting cause who can't keep their pants on at work.

PM: What you are seeing is a man who is in touch with the pressures and complexities of a war and a man who is not afraid to defend his men who put their lives on the line for him.

ME: If 'defend' you mean 'speak on their behalf,' there are far more people who do this than Rush Limbaugh. I do not consider Rush Limbaugh as a representative or even praiseworthy speaker in that regard. You do. That's as far as we can get with that.

PM: Aside from this, do you realize that those prisioners are still alive? They didnt have their arms amputated or their foreheads crossed like they would have if they were under Saddam. They simply had to act silly for the deranged amusement of 7 soldiers. That number is important here!

ME: In the pictures I have seen, one man hand to stand on a box with wires attached to his hands. At least two other men were stripped naked, handcuffed and made to fellate other men. Another I saw was lying on his side and leashed by the neck. He appeared to be in some amount of pain.

I don't know where to plot these acts on a scale that ranges, say, from mutilation to being made to wear panties as a hat. But I would not use the word 'silly' to describe them.

At 10 years of age I was accosted by some neighborhood kid, who it later turned out mentally wasn't all that well. I can't remember the entire sequence of events now, but at some point I had my back to a high wall. The boy had several darts, and made clear his intent to throw them at my face. With those things aimed at me, I was forced to 'act silly' by taking off my clothes, and turn my back to him. The boy was later going to make me walk home that way, but at some point calmed down and left my clothes. I don't know what I said or how much I cried, but I imagine I did no small amount of begging not to be harmed.

What I apply to these photographs from that experience is that threat of pain is a powerful tool. After a few years of football, baseball, firefighting, and some this and that, I learned real pain isn't nearly so bad, but not until much later. Fear for one's own life and no sense of control over it, I can tell you, tends to suck the entertainment value out of someone else's idea of an amusement.

More importantly, coming from a society that follows a predominantly Christian ethos, we're the ones that tell the world and ourselves that human rights, dignity and liberty are worth fighting for. What these photographs give to the world and to the enemy goes beyond the mere appearance of impropriety. It turns all of us into potential monsters who have been selling a bill of goods while the cameras are rolling, and doing something no different than the rest of them, possibly, when they're not. The world hasn't seen footage of Soviets raping Afghani women, or beating children to death. I would not lay odds on the bet that such things never happened, but I would bet a substantial amount that few people were stupid enough to capture such acts on film for their photo albums.

As I've said before, the notion that this series of events is utterly confined to seven people is, to me, not credible. I don't have evidence or proof, mind you. I only have my doubts, but I trust them.

PM: How are you going to come to a fair opinion if you declare yourself as biased from the outset?

ME: I could ask you the same question, Paul. What makes your opinion 'fair' when your first stated objective is to defend Rush Limbaugh? By your own words, you seem to be an advocate.

PM: Assumption that Rush is a blowhard, Rush is a compasionless man.

ME: Ah, good. Those are right on the money. I do think Rush Limbaugh is a blowhard and a mean-spirited individual. But I thought that well before he had anything to say about these photographs.
[ May 25, 2004: Message edited by: Michael Ernest ]
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
The main difference between Rush and the people he picks on is that Rush is not an elected government official. He is a radio personality whose job is to get good ratings. He is not a representative of the American people and can not be held to the same standards as someone like Ted Kennedy or GWB should be held.
Joe King
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 02, 2003
Posts: 820
Originally posted by Jason Menard:
Just a note to people who mistakenly think that any kind of abuse that goes on must be part of some scheme organized somewhere along the chain of command.
.....
My point is, these things happen, and they are in no way organized or otherwise influenced by people higher up in the chain of command. It is equally as likely that this is the case at Abu Ghraib.


I disagree. What happened at Abu Graib wasn't a one off event, or a small set of people doing a small set of violent acts, this was a sustained action - the abuses have been wide spread and numerous. Abu Graib is the most well known prison, but there have been reports of similar abuses in several other prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, and needless to say, also in Guantanamo. Its hard to beleive that their commanding officer or his/her commanding officer etc could not have been aware of it. There seem to be two possibilities - either the commanders were not aware, in which case there has been a serious break down in the chain of command if soldiers can do this with their commanders knowing about it, or the commanders did know about it, in which case its imperitive that we find out how far up the chain of command this goes.

Its not only important to get to the bottom of this for moral reasons, its important for tactical reasons - these abuses are causing more harm to the coalition cause then a host of militia men or bombers.
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
of course it's important to get to the bottom of this, noone will deny that.

What is also important though is to get it into the thick heads of the leftist controlled media and those they indoctrinate that there doesn't have to be some sort of highlevel conspiracy and that there almost certainly are no higher authorities ordering any atrocities or whatever.

Of course the leftist media have an agenda and that agenda is to get their favourite fair haired boy Kerry into the white house and they'll do whatever it takes to achieve that goal (up to and including withholding facts, twisting the truth and making up things that never happened).

If is quite possible that some local superiors knew what was going on (or at least suspected), but this would have been at squad level and not much higher.
I doubt any higher level officer stationed outside the actual prisons themselves had any knowledge or could have had.
What do you expect, that generals make daily rounds of all their troops to inspect them? They rely on reports from colonels who rely on reports from majors who rely on reports from captains who get their reports from leuitanents.
If the captain was involved all he has to do is not report the goings on and noone up the chain of command will be the wiser unless someone skips the chain of command and files a complaint outside normal reporting channels.
Joe King
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 02, 2003
Posts: 820
Originally posted by Jeroen Wenting:

What is also important though is to get it into the thick heads of the leftist controlled media and those they indoctrinate that there doesn't have to be some sort of highlevel conspiracy and that there almost certainly are no higher authorities ordering any atrocities or whatever.

Of course the leftist media have an agenda and that agenda is to get their favourite fair haired boy Kerry into the white house and they'll do whatever it takes to achieve that goal (up to and including withholding facts, twisting the truth and making up things that never happened).

You're having a laugh! Compared to most of the rest of the world, the American (I'm guessing that this is, in part, the media your are referring to) media appears quite right wing. Even the reasonability sensible ones have news bulletins that seem like movie trailers. Fox News (although I know this isn't typical) seems more like right-wing fiction than fact.

A left-wing media conspiracy is as far more of an odd idea the "highlevel conspiracy" you mentioned above. Its more likely that the media just like to report stories that aren't so good for the present administration - when Clinton was in power there was a lot of media stories against him, and its no different now - they love to focus on the current leader.

Its a fairly standard claim for a group such as the far-right to claim that the media is against them - its not exactly true, they're against just about everyone


including withholding facts, twisting the truth and making up things that never happened

This reminds me of something... oh yeah, the current administration's evidence of WMD


If is quite possible that some local superiors knew what was going on (or at least suspected), but this would have been at squad level and not much higher.
I doubt any higher level officer stationed outside the actual prisons themselves had any knowledge or could have had.

In that case then we need to find out which local superiors did not pass on the information and punish them. Their commanders also need to be reprimanded for not investigating further - there were rumours about abuse for a long time, and I doubt that no-one thought to investigate what was going on. We know that there was some investigation, but this was quite some time after the rumours started. The evidence that is coming to light seems to suggest that the abuse was continuing at the same time as the rumours were spreading. The higher level officers seem therefore to either have known about it, or to have been slightly naive/negligent for not stopping this as soon as it started.
[ May 26, 2004: Message edited by: Joe King ]
Paul McKenna
Ugly Redneck
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 08, 2000
Posts: 1006
Originally posted by Michael Ernest:
ME: Of course I have. I may have even said my words were taken out of context when I was called to account for it.

[QB]PM: So you know what it feels like to have your words taken out of context. Now, why not extend the same courtesy that you would have liked applied to yourself, to Rush.

ME: I don't suspect anyone is tallying the man's remarks. "More compared to less" in that sense strikes as a qualitative, not quanititative assertion.

[QB]PM: The man makes a living by stating the Politically Incorrect. He makes a living by giving otherwise obvious and honest opinions on events. What you and I may think about a particular incident maynot be to the liking of several other ranchers. Would you then accept an assertion that everytime someone dislikes a comment of yours, it is a "qualitative" judgement of your remarks??

ME: To his advantage, I might add. Controversy builds an audience. People tune in to hear what outrageous thing might be said or done. It worked for Phil Donahue, it worked for Morton Downey, Geraldo Rivera, Jerry Springer, Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones, Chris Mathews, Bill Reilly, and so on.

[QB]PM:Also to his disadvantage, I might add. As in this case.. where his remarks, taken out of context, are used to demonize him and villify him. He might, and a big might at that, have had you as his audience member if not for the villification by Susan Sontag influencing your judgement.

ME: I don't know what the FAIR report is.

[QB]PM:Good!

ME: This is just hair-splitting to me. Calling one kind of distortion out of bounds and another kind ok boils down to what each person finds fair from their own perspective and interests. We can hardly agree on something like that.

[QB]PM:I dont see making "assumptions" as distortion. For example, if I were to say "Michael Ernest, thinks Rush Limbaugh is a blowhard without even knowing who he is" that is distortion of information. Because I have pieced together bit and pieces of facts to form up a whole new lie. On the other hand if I say, "Michael Ernet thinks Rush Limbaugh is a blowhard, I think he doesnt know what he talking about.." that is an assumption. The latter is acceptable, wouldnt you say??

ME: I never said anything like that. Have those particular seven people damaged an entire war effort? There is no question about that. Do I personally think only seven people are involved? No. To me that premise is not credible. Is the whole Army implicated? Well, no, but it doesn't matter; we've given to our enemies and their supporters some of the most compelling propaganda they could ever ask for. Our enemy is within, and it's not some tree-hugging liberal in San Francisco with an dyed-in-the-wool anti-Bush agenda, either. It's some GI Joes, serving this country's freedom-fighting cause who can't keep their pants on at work.

[QB]PM: If the acts of 7 soliders makes you think that indiscipline is rampagant in the military. I am going to show you 2 images and tell you that this is what the other 137993 stand for.





More later...
Jeffrey Hunter
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 16, 2004
Posts: 305
Bravo, Paul, for showing our military in a positive light, as lately all I've been seeing on the news circuit is American soldiers laughing at piles of naked Iraqis, or leading Iraqis around on dog leashes, or reporters and politicians questioning just how far up the command hierarchy the deviance goes.

What's going on with the Nick Berg investigation? Seems to have taken a back burner and it's on the fast track to falling off the stove all-together.

It just seems to me that the big story is always how bad we're screwing up, or how we need to blame the administration, or how we need to uncover the next conspiracy because it's just so unfathomable to think a group of soldiers can commit atrocities on their own without the direction of the higher brass.

I'm not blaming the media. For the most part, I respect the American media (hey, don't laugh at me!). But let's be real, collectively the media does seem to sway towards the left, contrary to a previous post which alleged that our media is much more comfortable on the right wing (haha). It is ultimately up to the viewers to take the reporting with a grain of salt, so to speak, and seek their own truth if so inclined, because, as we all know, not everything is always as it seems.
Jason Menard
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 09, 2000
Posts: 6450
More on the vast majority of the type of thing our soldiers are doing over there:

Rebuilding the Iraqi Fire Service: Firefighter Tells Of Six-Month Mission To Iraq
[ May 26, 2004: Message edited by: Jason Menard ]
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24183
    
  34

Originally posted by Jeffrey Hunter:
It is ultimately up to the viewers to take the reporting with a grain of salt, so to speak, and seek their own truth if so inclined, because, as we all know, not everything is always as it seems.


This is an extraordinarily important statement. If you've had your 15 minutes of fame and been interviewed for TV, radio, or magazines, you'll understand the profound significance of this. Even without malicious intent, reporters can terribly mislead their readers.

True (trivial, but relevant) story: the first time I was ever interviewed was when I was in college. "New England Magazine" was doing an article about pre-medical students. I was a chemistry major, so I took the same classes as many of these people, and many of them were my friends, but I wasn't pre-med. Also, believe it or not, I can be funny on occasion. So the reporter made me into a sort of bemused bystander and included my comments on many of the people, places, and goings-on. I think there were more comments from me in that article than from anyone else.

Anyway, there was this one student who was not a friend of mine. I had a rather intense dislike for him, as a matter of fact, as did most of my fellows. But the reporter felt just the opposite: the reporter thought this guy was the most promising doctor, and so wanted to have the article center on him, with the comical exploits of the other pre-meds serving as counterpoint.

When the reporter asked me for my take on this person (let's call him Fred) I had a lot to say. I told him a few stories about Fred that painted him in a negative light. As was (is?) my usual discursive style, these stories were dripping with sarcasm. The reporter was able to lift direct quotes out of the interview and drop them into the article, without any indication that these things were said sarcastically. As a result, I sounded like Fred's biggest fan. Did the reporter make anything up? Nope. Were the quotes taken out of context? Yes, but did I actually expect that he'd print the 1,000 words I had to say about Fred in their entirety?

When that article came out, I was flabbergasted. I learned two extremely important lessons that day: first, that you cannot believe what you read in the papers; and second, when you are interviewed, choose your words with extreme discretion.

And we wonder why politicians speak in "sound bites." It's because if you take more than one sentence to make a point, reporters can take single sentences out of context and make you look bad!


[Jess in Action][AskingGoodQuestions]
Tony Alicea
Desperado
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 3222
    
    5
NY Times:

Abuse of Captives More Widespread, Says Army Survey

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/26/politics/26ABUS.html?hp


Tony Alicea
Senior Java Web Application Developer, SCPJ2, SCWCD
Warren Dew
blacksmith
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 04, 2004
Posts: 1332
    
    2
Joe King:

Compared to most of the rest of the world, the American (I'm guessing that this is, in part, the media your are referring to) media appears quite right wing.

"most of the rest of the world" - that would presumably mean the media of the most populous nations, like, say, China and India? I don't think American media is "right wing" or "left wing" compared to that. I'd say American media is more diverse and more entertainment centered, though - I've noticed that I can get more facts about American events by reading Xinhua than by reading U.S. media websites, which tend to dilute the facts with lots of spin and outright opinion of various stripes.
Warren Dew
blacksmith
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 04, 2004
Posts: 1332
    
    2
Let me practice my journalism here....
Originally posted by Ernest Friedman-Hill:
believe what you read in the papers

How's that?
Jeffrey Hunter
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 16, 2004
Posts: 305
Hahha.

Hence the quintessential answer to all questions:

No comment.
Paul McKenna
Ugly Redneck
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 08, 2000
Posts: 1006
Originally posted by Tony Alicea:
NY Times:

Abuse of Captives More Widespread, Says Army Survey

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/26/politics/26ABUS.html?hp


Do you still believe the NY Times??

Here is another link to their own admission of fault
Paul McKenna
Ugly Redneck
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 08, 2000
Posts: 1006
ME: If 'defend' you mean 'speak on their behalf,' there are far more people who do this than Rush Limbaugh. I do not consider Rush Limbaugh as a representative or even praiseworthy speaker in that regard. You do. That's as far as we can get with that.

PM: You have already decided that Rush is not a speaker worthy of your attention. But I made no such judgement about Susan. Now, you tell me, who is more balanced here??

ME: In the pictures I have seen, one man hand to stand on a box with wires attached to his hands. At least two other men were stripped naked, handcuffed and made to fellate other men. Another I saw was lying on his side and leashed by the neck. He appeared to be in some amount of pain.

PM: "Appear to be in some amount of pain" is very different from actually being in pain. Either way, I will give you the benefit of doubt and conceed that the Iraqi prisioners were indeed in pain. But tell me, if I committed some acts of violence and a few other Indians in America commit acts of violence would you apply your same generalization and say that violence is more widespread amongst the Indian community??

ME:
At 10 years of age I was accosted by some neighborhood kid....What I apply to these photographs from that experience is that threat of pain is a powerful tool.

PM:But the threat of pain is a powerful tool in war. It can prevent aggression in the first place. If I have a gun and threaten to shoot it into an audience, it can prove to be quite a deterrent for any individual who wants to challenge me. Though, I may not actually fire the weapon.

ME:More importantly, coming from a society that follows a predominantly Christian ethos, we're the ones that tell the world and ourselves that human rights, dignity and liberty are worth fighting for. What these photographs give to the world and to the enemy goes beyond the mere appearance of impropriety. It turns all of us into potential monsters who have been selling a bill of goods while the cameras are rolling, and doing something no different than the rest of them, possibly, when they're not.

PM: The attitude espoused by yourself in the above paragraph is that of "Holier than thou". Your enemy's attitude is "Deadlier than thou". You decide who is going to win!!

ME:As I've said before, the notion that this series of events is utterly confined to seven people is, to me, not credible. I don't have evidence or proof, mind you. I only have my doubts, but I trust them.

PM: You are making an assumption here. Shall I apply the same yardstick you apply to Rush and call the above a distortion???

ME: I could ask you the same question, Paul. What makes your opinion 'fair' when your first stated objective is to defend Rush Limbaugh? By your own words, you seem to be an advocate.

PM: But the difference is I have read both Susan Sontag as well as Rush. Have you read Rush?

ME: Ah, good. Those are right on the money. I do think Rush Limbaugh is a blowhard and a mean-spirited individual. But I thought that well before he had anything to say about these photographs.

PM: So go ahead, listen to that interview with an American soldier. You really might find yourself questioning your own assumptions. Here is the link..
Audio Clip of Rush
Tony Alicea
Desperado
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 3222
    
    5
"Do you still believe the NY Times??

Huh?!

The point is that

Abuse of Captives More Widespread, Says Army Survey

"The document, dated May 5, is a synopsis prepared by the Criminal Investigation Command..."

I bet it will eventually come out that Rummy ordered the tortures himself... I just hope it happens before November, he he!
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Originally posted by Tony Alicea:
I bet it will eventually come out that Rummy ordered the tortures himself... I just hope it happens before November, he he!


Why? Do you think anyone will change their vote because some Iraqis were tortured?
Joe King
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 02, 2003
Posts: 820
Originally posted by Tony Alicea:

I bet it will eventually come out that Rummy ordered the tortures himself... I just hope it happens before November, he he!

Originally posted by Thomas Paul:

Why? Do you think anyone will change their vote because some Iraqis were tortured?


Hypothetically speaking, If it was revealed that the government ordered or ignored the torture, then of course people's votes should be changed. How can someone condone voting for a government which knowingly tortured people? That's one of the excuses for invading Iraq in the first place - to stop Saddam from torturing people. Personally I don't think that it was ordered from the very top, but if it was then voting them in again would be a very hypocritical decision.
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Originally posted by Joe King:
Hypothetically speaking, If it was revealed that the government ordered or ignored the torture, then of course people's votes should be changed. How can someone condone voting for a government which knowingly tortured people?
Ask Nick Berg.
Michael Ernest
High Plains Drifter
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 25, 2000
Posts: 7292

PM: You have already decided that Rush is not a speaker worthy of your attention. But I made no such judgement about Susan. Now, you tell me, who is more balanced here??

ME: I'm not rejecting Rush Limbaugh on the basis of his reputation. I've heard him, I've seen him, and I've drawn my conclusions that I will gain nothing from listening to him. If this is your same experience with Sontaq, I'd be happy to say you appear more open-minded than I am in that respect. If you've not read her before, then it's not an equal comparison.

PM: But tell me, if I committed some acts of violence and a few other Indians in America commit acts of violence would you apply your same generalization and say that violence is more widespread amongst the Indian community??

ME: I haven't said (yet) that abuse of prisoners is a widespread problem in our Army. I've said the idea that only seven people controlled and knew about these acts is not credible. Apparently yesterday's news reports bear that out.

PM: But the threat of pain is a powerful tool in war. It can prevent aggression in the first place. If I have a gun and threaten to shoot it into an audience, it can prove to be quite a deterrent for any individual who wants to challenge me. Though, I may not actually fire the weapon.

ME: The threat of pain is a powerful motivator. It can be used for example, to make a man believe he has no choice but to fellate you if you demand it. It may make you believe you have to stand on a box, with a hood over your head and endure the possibility of being electrocuted through your hands in order to survive. It may make you believe you have little choice but to to held on a leash while your picture is taken.

I do not think any of these situations can be rationalized as acts of war. These are acts of humiliation, torture. They represent an exercise of raw, unchecked power. I have heard no evidence to suggest these acts were even designed to extract information from these captives.

PM: The attitude espoused by yourself in the above paragraph is that of "Holier than thou". Your enemy's attitude is "Deadlier than thou". You decide who is going to win!!

ME: It's not my message to the world, Paul, it's the one America is sending. As to the second point, listen again to that second caller in the audio clip you linked. He says it as well as anyone: these people can't possibly take what we can dish out. Deadlier than us? It's laughable. More determined, possibly. More zealous, ok. Deadlier? That's a joke. Terrorism starts with the idea that your enemy is either too humane ot too tied to moral obligations to engage in the tactics you choose. One can only hope they're right. They'll never win, mind you, so they need us to believe they will never give up.

There's no easy answer to that. They'll inflict harm where they can. And so, the true cost of liberty, Paul: eternal vigilance.

PM: So go ahead, listen to that interview with an American soldier. You really might find yourself questioning your own assumptions. Here is the link. Audio Clip of Rush

ME: I listened. I didn't hear anything that would change my mind.
[ May 27, 2004: Message edited by: Michael Ernest ]
Oid Sporschik
Greenhorn

Joined: May 15, 2004
Posts: 5
And what disturbs me, is that in Afganistan and Guantanamo,
it is officially permitted to make anything just because nobody cares and international opinion supposedly supports US there.
In Iraq it is reproved only because it became unhandy for teaching others in american virtues
 
wood burning stoves
 
subject: Susan Sontag: On the Torture of Others