« FRED ON THE NEWS | Main | WERE THE BRITISH ABUSE PHOTOS FAKED? »

May 14, 2004

Comments

Media Hound

"So why hasn't there been a comparable brouha..."

I know you won't like this answer, but I think it's
the truth: Kennedy is a Democrat, like most of the
media.

The media also gave Senator Dodd (D-Connecticut) a
pass several weeks ago, when he praised ex-KKK recruiter
Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia)

Senator Dodd stated on the Senate floor:

"He [Byrd] would have been right at the founding of this
country. He would have been in the leadership crafting this
Constitution. He would have been right during the great
conflict of Civil War in this nation."

Note that in addition to serving as a recruiter for the KKK,
Byrd filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

This Dodd remark parallels a similar blunder made by Trent
Lott, who praised 100-year-old Strom Thurmond at his birthday
party (he died 6 months later). Lott was forced to resign as majority
leader after weeks of a media feeding frenzy.

Dodd received no frenzy. Dodd did not resign.

Also, the media gave Senator Byrd himself a pass in 2001,
when Byrd made comments on live television that I will not
repeat here but you can read about at the below link:

http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?id=383

Mike H.

Teddy apologize? Now for the experiment...how long can I hold my breath.
.
.
.
.
.
.
thunk!

Ron Hardin

The right doesn't much use the taking of offense as political posture (``You are wrong because I am offended''). So there's nobody inclined to ask for an apology in this case. Asking for apologies is weird in the first place. Somebody should look into when and how that started.

Lugo

I'm sick and tired of all this apologizing crap. Never apologize, never explain!

I'm sure you've noticed the tag team act of the Massachuessetts Mountebanks: Kennedy says something outrageous that appeals to the Loony Left, then Kerry vaguely distances himself without actually repudiating the remark. Thus Teddy brings in the extreme while Johnny appeals to the center.

Bryguy

We don't have to be as bad as Saddam to be like Saddam. The comparison is apt in many ways, if not perfect. Since the difference is one of degree and not of direction, what is required is a clarification, not a condemnation. Besides, we're not as far off as you suggest- we've kidnapped families, we've beaten people to death in interrogations. We let vicious dogs loose on men with uncovered genitals. We're not quite as barbaric, but then we've got plentiful modern weaponry and a seemingly bottomless treasury. Those helicopter guns probably inspire a degree of terror among Iraqis not so different from that created by a beheading among Americans.

If a reporter asks the question you suggest, Kennedy will be able to say "the torture rooms were in fact reopened, and while we can say 'We aren't as bad as Saddam was', we would prefer to say 'We are NOTHING like Saddam was". We live to a higher standard because our military is accountable to the people, whereas Saddam's was not. Even if we're only a little like Saddam, that's too much."

I sure wish this hadn't happened at Abu Ghraib. The symbolism of that place makes it so much worse. The only thing that makes it slightly better is that there's a process whereby people like Senator Kennedy can be made aware of what's happening and can legally speak out to stop it. The insistence on an exact equivalence of horror between Saddam's torture and US torture to my ears sounds like saying that it's ok to be a little like Saddam.

Robert Cox

Senator whatshisname....Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK)

Media Hound

"Those helicopter guns probably inspire a degree
of terror among Iraqis not so different from that
created by a beheading among Americans."

The "terror" (?) from gunshots is the result of
Saddam's refusal to comply with his cease-fire
agreement, which was implemented in 1991 after
the United States and its allies ejected Saddam's
invading army from Kuwait.

Do you think the Iraqi people would prefer a mass
grave, or the sound from gunshots aimed at regime
loyalists (who brutalized them for decades) and
foreign terrorists?

Your sense of context is nonexistent, leading
to a truly warped perspective.

Bryon Gill

70-90% arrested by "mistake". How many shot that way?

Leon

I don't want Senator Kennedy to apologize. I want him condemned by his fellow Democrats. I want the press to ask those tough questions and see him embarrass himself with his answers/nonanswers.

To suggest that, "We don't have to be as bad as Saddam to be like Saddam..." misses the point that those who abused the prisoners are being held to account whereas nobody in Saddams regime ever was. We can say "We are nothing like Saddam was" because we don't as a matter of policy do what was done in those photos or do what Saddam did and when renegades do, they are punished.

Leon

"70-90% arrested by "mistake". How many shot that way?"

Jason van Steenwyk of Iraqnow addressed that claim in a post. There is a big difference between arrested and detained. Click on the link to read it.

Shot by mistake? A few, it's war, it happens. But far less by our hand than by the enemies, who, against the Geneva Convention, deliberately use civilians as shields.

dauber

BryGuy, you should be a speechwriter: if Kennedy had said the portion of your post you put in quote marks, we'd have a real, robust, throw down, an honest to God debate -- but that ISN'T what he said, is it?

Media Hound

Regarding civilian casualties, again, you omit
all context.

How many people would Saddam have raped, murdered,
assasinated, starved to death, gassed, and brutalized
had he remained in power for the past year?

To complain about civilian deaths, while ignoring
that had America done nothing there would be an
order of magnitude more civilian deaths (and not
by accident, but on purpose) is absurd.

As the world has stood by and done nothing, there
have been two million people murdered in Sudan,
and hundreds of thousands are today, right now,
serving as slaves to 'mujahadin.'

http://www.iabolish.com/today/background/sudan.htm

If a thousand people were killed in the liberation
of Sudan, would you complain that 1,000 people died,
ignoring that perhaps another two million were saved?

Context is everyting -- you omit reality and
compare things to a perfect fantasy world which
does not exist.

We must deal with the challenges of the real world.

Bryon Gill

Media Hound:
Do you remember the 2nd Bush-Gore debate where W joked that he had a "conflict of interest" over Iraq? It wasn't a joke. Why do you have to keep asserting that your view is the one that's aligned with reality- do you think that people would think it wasn't if you didn't say so?

Dauber:
I wasn't confused by Kennedy's remarks, because the strict equivalence interpretation is obviously not correct. In fact, if we were worse than Saddam or even simply as bad as Saddam, he would certainly have said so directly since it would have sounded more dramatic. In fact, he doesn't even make the comparison explicitly, he just implies it by saying that the torture rooms have reopened, which they have. This is my big complaint about Abu Ghraib, this wouldn't be so hamhanded if we had at least not done it in a place associated so strongly with Saddam's horrors. I can't help suspecting that this was done deliberately in an attempt to scare the population, but that's all speculation on my part. Finally, Kennedy's purpose in that speech was simply to condemn what happened at Abu Ghraib, not to condemn Saddam; there's certainly no shortage of that. If someone asks him about the comparison I think you'll hear something like what I wrote.

At any rate, if you hear of any openings for progressive speechwriters, send them my way.

Michael B

BryGuy, your tortured, contorted logic reminds me of reading passages from Adolph Hitler's "Mein Kampf." Not that you have to be as bad as Hitler for your posts to be likened to his writings. The comparison is apt if not perfect, I'm sure you'll agree.

Get real. Some aspects of Abu Ghraib are criminal and they will be prosecuted. In Saddam's Iraq they were immeasurably worse, they were the norm, and the perpetrators were promoted and given job title's like "rapist" and nom de guerres like "Chemical Ali."

What's next, a guy in Cleveland or Biloxi looses his job, so the U.S. administration is like Stalin perpetrating the Ukrainian terror and mass starvation?

dauber

I don't think comparisons to Hitler are at all helpful, certainly without much more explanation than you provide, and probably not then.

Im still not buying your arguments about Kennedy. Im not ASKING him to condemn Saddam, Im asking him to see we ARENT Saddam, and for you to ask us to assume that it's just an imcomplete enthymeme is really a bit much -- you've had to fill in too much of the blanks.

As for destroying the building, you know we agree.

Michael B

To be clear, or at least to attempt to be clear, it wasn't intended to be an honest comparison with Hitler, I agree they're over used. It was intended to say that if a comparison can be made between Saddam's abuses and the abuses at AG, then that's on a level with a far too facile comparison with that type of rhetoric and Hitler's Mein Kampf as well. It was an attempt to mock the former comparison by positing something equally absurd.

dauber

Fair enough.

Bryon Gill

Michael B:
Hitler holds a special place in our culture that Saddam does not. Godwin's law is evidence of this. For all intents and purposes Hitler represents THE DEVIL whereas Saddam is a guy who once shook Don Rumsfeld's hand for a photo-op. I've never read Mein Kampf though, was Hitler a good writer? I would imagine that Hitler was a very talented communicator who held some very sick assumptions about the importance of human dignity, and that one would find his writing torturous not so much because it was fallacious as because its goal was ultimately evil. Perhaps you can educate me.

Dauber:
Regarding the "just-how-much-like-Saddam-are-we" enthymeme, here's the body of an email I've sent to Sen. Kennedy's office requesting clarification:

Greetings from a former resident of Massachussetts.

I have a question about Senator Kennedy's position on the Abu Ghraib prison abuses. When he said "Shamefully we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management, U.S. management", he implied that the U.S. had become at least a little like Saddam Hussein, and perhaps more.

My question is, given our actions at Abu Ghraib, are we a little like Saddam, exactly like Saddam, or worse than Saddam? I would like to believe that we are not as bad as Saddam, and yet I can see that even being a little like Saddam would be bad. I just wanted to make sure that I didn't misunderstand the Senator's comments; if he meant that we are as bad as or worse than Saddam, please let me know!

Thanks,
Bryon Gill

dauber

I dont know what field of study youre in, but there's a very famous, very brilliant essay in Rhetoric (well, the lit crit people claim it too) by a man named Kenneth Burke. Totally prescient, it was published in the '30s: it was a review of Mein Kampf published as a warning. But its still taught today b/c it lays down such a brilliant template for how scapegoating works in political discourse. Its annoyingly dense but you might want to check it out.

Let us know if the Senator's office answers you.

Michael B

BryGuy,
I've never owned a copy but have read several passages, though none at any great length. I recall that what sent shivers up my spine in reading some of it was the wholesale abandonment of most any reason, logic or proportion in favor of a usurping moral triumphalism that seemingly knew no bounds, gave heed to no commensurable qualities. If, due to the regretful aberration of AG, you can liken the coalition's presence in Iraq, in part examplified by this Iraqi blogger here,

http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/archives/2004_05_01_iraqthemodel_archive.html#108464084373553084

to Saddam's reign of terror documented by writers like Kanan Makiya, then I can, with equal facility, contrast your incommensurable comparison above to some of the passages I've read in Mein Kampf. If you want to take the gloves off, then don't complain that the gloves have been taken off.

Bryon Gill

Michael B:

You can do so with equal facility but that doesn't mean it makes any sense. You're doing something tricky here; you're saying my comparison is false, so I'm Hitler because Hitler made false comparisons too. Two problems with this.

First, my comparison is not false. It is factually accurate.

Second, what made Hitler uniquely bad was not that he used cleverly misleading rhetorically devices (this is bad, but hardly uncommon among modern American politicians - but please, don't make me go there). What made him bad was the fact that he KILLED MILLIONS OF PEOPLE. We are torturing people in Saddam's rape rooms, and perhaps not with the same zeal. This makes the comparison reasonable, if not perfect.

If someone kills a person, you can compare them to Hitler, and the more they do it the more the comparison will stick. Until they kill someone the comparison is frankly kind of stupid, and that's the nicest thing I can say about it.

I am glad that you have found some Iraqis willing to praise the occupation; at the risk of drawing your ire again though might I suggest that there were Iraqis willing to praise his reign as well. I understand that if you didn't do so you might be taken to Abu Ghraib in the middle of the night.

Ron Hardin

Kenneth Burke's ``The Rhetoric of Hitler's Battle'' is in _The Philosophy of Literary Form_. I didn't know anybody still read him; the lit crits dismiss him because he's self-taught, even if he was years ahead of them. Scapegoating, perfection, purification, victimage are constant themes in all his work (mostly Rhetoric of Religion, Rhetoric of Motives, Language as Symbolic Action). From the latter p.18

``The principle of perfection in this dangerous sense derives sustenance from other primary aspects of symbolicity. Thus, the prinicple of drama is implicit in the idea of action, and the principle of victimage is implicit in the nature of drama. The negative helps radically to define the elements to be victimized. And inasmuch as substitution is a prime resource of symbol systems, the conditions are set for catharsis by scapegoat (including the ``natural'' invitation to ``project'' upon the enemy any troublesome traits of our own that we would negate). And the unresolved problems of ``pride'' that are intrinsic to privilege also bring the motive of hierarchy to bear here; for many kinds of guilt, resentment, and fear tend to cluster about the hierarchical psychosis, with its corresponding search for a sacrificial principle such as can become embodied in a political scapegoat.''

Derrida ``Plato's Pharmacy'' in _Dissemination_ is about poison/remedy pharmakon and Plato's inability to quite say what he wants to say, casting the sins of speech onto writing; and avoiding noticing pharmakos, scapegoat, which Socrates himself was. Scapegoating cannot be avoided; but it can be noticed.

Burke story : I was wandering at the local university and a car of parents stopped and asked where Burke Hall was. I don't know what came over me, but I asked ``Edmund or Kenneth?'' They didn't know. ``Well you probably want Edmund then, it's over there...'' I'm not sure why this extra and pointless turn was funny.

Michael B

First, more good news, this time from Afghanistan:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0517/p18s04-hfes.html

Bryon, I'm not doing anything "tricky," I've been quite above board and direct with what's been forwarded. Secondly, I did not compare you to Hitler, rather I indicated it would be no less valid to compare aspects of your rhetorical/posting style to aspects of the style found in "Mein Kampf" than it is to compare the abuses at AG with Saddam Hussein's reign of domestic terror. I was contrasting two comparisons and indicating they were both equally invalid. You can disagree with that, but you might at least credit my position for what it plainly is.

Secondly, your "factually accurate" statement is too ripe on the vine to resist. It is no more "factually accurate" than, for example, comparing some criminal elements that existed among Allied forces in WWII (and there were some, presumably including at least some occasional prisoner abuses as well) with the criminal regime in Hitler's Nazi Germany.

Certainly one can make the comparison in writing or in a speech or using some iconography and symbols to get the message across. That there were criminal elements among the Allied forces during WWII is a "factually accurate" statement. That there were abuses, in some cases severe abuses at AG is also a "factually accurate" statement. But that there is reasonable or at any level commensurate moral equivalence between those levels of abuses and the the criminal regime of the Nazis or the criminal regime of a Saddam Hussein is not a prima facia "factually accurate" statement. Both quantitatively and qualitatively they are worlds apart.

Finally, and what is truly tortured in your prior post, is your final comment that - just as I linked to an Iraqi story that gave seemingly substantive evidence of Iraqis who were grateful and deeply thankful and warmly appreciative of the presence of the coalition forces in their country, you could similarly find people who were grateful, thankful, appreciative of Saddam Hussein's reign in Iraq!

WOW! Now that's a level of moral equivalence that's truly revelatory about where you're at as regards Iraq, the coalition, S.H., prospects for a new govt., etc. Yes, there apparently are people in Tikrit, Fallujah and other locales as well, no doubt, who were and perhaps still are appreciative of Hussein's reign. We know for example that Uday and Qusay were appreciative in that vein. At that level of moral equivalence I can certainly see why you had no problem at all describing the other comparison as being "factually accurate."

Have a nice week.

Bryon Gill

70-90% arrested by mistake Michael. That's where I'm at. Stunning failure of leadership, whether through negligence or malice. And that's even spotting you that the war had been worth fighting in the first place, and that we've seen the worst of the images. I don't believe either of those.

You can go back to talking about Hitler now if it makes you happy.

Michael B

They were detained on purpose, during time of war. That's not the same as a false arrest during time of peace. That excuses none of the abuses, but it does reflect a problem related to identification, separating the wheat from the chaff, in this type of war.

Too, many in AG were in fact apprehended as enemy combatants. By contrast, Nick Berg was entirely innocent, and the Left, from Annan to Mandela to many others, did little more than attempt to mute and marginalize that discussion. So I'm not at all convinced the Left's concern is simply guilt vs. innocence. If they were so concerned in a more principled manner, they would also be more willing to take the lead concerning the oil-for-kickbacks scandal Annan, Sevan, et al. are facing instead of relegating that to secondary importance. They would also be much more willing to allow an open-book, outside auditor inspection instead of stalling and tergiversating.

And your spotting me nothing; the war, justification for it, etc., is another, and larger, debate. It would be like me saying I'm spotting you the fact that you haven't disproved the war was justified. We already know we disagree, in attempting to have a discussion we're, presumably, attempting to say more than "I'm right and you're wrong" and vice versa.

Finally, the analogies or parallels used were in fact apt, not in the least disproportionate.

The comments to this entry are closed.