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September 24, 2005

Winning Hearts and Minds
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 03:11 PM * 158 comments

From the New York Times via The Agonist.

3 in 82nd Airborne Say Beating Iraqi Prisoners Was Routine By ERIC SCHMITT

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 - Three former members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division say soldiers in their battalion in Iraq routinely beat and abused prisoners in 2003 and 2004 to help gather intelligence on the insurgency and to amuse themselves.

The new allegations, the first involving members of the elite 82nd Airborne, are contained in a report by Human Rights Watch. The 30-page report does not identify the troops, but one is Capt. Ian Fishback, who has presented some of his allegations in letters this month to top aides of two senior Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee, John W. Warner of Virginia, the chairman, and John McCain of Arizona. Captain Fishback approached the Senators’ offices only after he tried to report the allegations to his superiors for 17 months, the aides said. The aides also said they found the captain’s accusations credible enough to warrant investigation.

The captain tried to report the allegations to his superiors for 17 months. Were they all on the phone? Washing their hair? Why wouldn’t they take this report?

This wasn’t at Abu Ghraib:

In separate statements to the human rights organization, Captain Fishback and two sergeants described systematic abuses of Iraqi prisoners, including beatings, exposure to extremes of hot and cold, stacking in human pyramids and sleep deprivation at Camp Mercury, a forward operating base near Falluja. Falluja was the site of the major uprising against the American-led occupation in April 2004. The report describes the soldiers’ positions in the unit, but not their names.

Abu Ghraib, as you recall, was just a small group of rogue junior enlisted. No widespread pattern of abuse, no sir. Pure coincidence that these fellows came up with the same things to do to the prisoners.

So, what was being done with these prisoners?

In one incident, the Human Rights Watch report states, an off-duty cook broke a detainee’s leg with a metal baseball bat. Detainees were also stacked, fully clothed, in human pyramids and forced to hold five-gallon water jugs with arms outstretched or do jumping jacks until they passed out, the report says. “We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs and stomach, and pull them down, kick dirt on them,” one sergeant told Human Rights Watch researchers during one of four interviews in July and August. “This happened every day.”

If the Taliban were doing that to captured US troops, what word would you use to describe it? Does that word start with a T? If you had to describe these actions in two words, would those words start with W and C?

All this in the name of gathering intelligence, of course:

“They wanted intel,” said the sergeant, an infantry fire-team leader who served as a guard when no military police soldiers were available. “As long as no PUC’s [persons under control] came up dead, it happened.” He added, “We kept it to broken arms and legs.”

Never mind that the intel you get that way is useless — the prisoner will tell you anything at all to get you to stop hurting him. “Anything at all” isn’t limited to truth and reality. But then, we have it on the highest national authority that “reality” isn’t important.

But was getting intel the only reason for abusing the prisoners?

Not at all:

The sergeant continued: “Some days we would just get bored, so we would have everyone sit in a corner and then make them get in a pyramid. This was before Abu Ghraib but just like it. We did it for amusement.”

I guess collecting stamps just wasn’t as much fun.

Did we learn anything from Abu Ghraib?

Even after the Abu Ghraib scandal became public, one of the sergeants said, the abuses continued. “We still did it, but we were careful,” he told the human rights group.

Good thought, there, sergeant.

The whole article is worth reading.

This is a sign of a chain of command that’s broken, from top to bottom. This is the time for finger pointing. This is the time for blame. If not now, when?

Write to your senators. Write to your congressman. Write to your governor. Write to the editor of your local newspaper. If you’re outside of the USA, write to your representatives and to your ambassadors. How can anyone remain silent?

Comments on Winning Hearts and Minds:
#1 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 04:13 PM:

How long before the rightwing spin machine starts up on this one? I give it less than 24 hours before they're smearing the sources of this.

#2 ::: Henry ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 04:16 PM:

The Human Rights Watch report that spurred the NYT story should be read in its entirety. Particularly revelatory is the story of the officer who tried to get some guidance or action from the senior people in his chain of command. Nobody cared until he tried to go to the senate with his story. Then they tried to confine him to base to stop him meeting with senate staffers.

#3 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 04:19 PM:

And if it weren't military and in another country, the local DA, and probably the state AG, would be charging them with all kinds of things, including probably the RICO act (pattern or practice of ...).

Of course, we all know that It's Okay to commit crimes in The War Against Terrorists. Excuse me, terrorists aren't an army, they're criminals, and you fight them with lawyers and police, not armies and bombs. And you Do Not Ever use torture on people in their own country, because then you lose whatever support you might have had. (/rant)

(This administration lies the way it breathes: constantly, automatically, and even when not doing so would be greatly to its advantage.)

#4 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 04:23 PM:

Everyone should read Billmon as well. This goes so deep into our national psyche. I plan to write Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell tonight after soccer is over.


#5 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 04:49 PM:

Billmon is referring to this and this.

#6 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 04:54 PM:

And ThinkProgress does a little digging into the timeline:

The Captain revealed this abuse to Human Rights Watch in July 2005. He also reported his charges to “three senior Republican senators,” including Majority Leader Bill Frist and Sen. John McCain. The torture, he said, was due primarily to “chronic confusion over U.S. military detention policies and whether or not the Geneva Convention applied.”
On July 27, the same month the Captain came forward, Sen. Frist single-handedly derailed a bipartisan effort — led by Sen. McCain — to clarify rules for the treatment of enemy prisoners at U.S. prison camps. In what news reports at the time described as an “unusual move,” Frist “simply pulled the bill from consideration” before it could be debated.
I love the ideals for which America stands for. I hate and feel disgusted by how far we've fallen from them.

#7 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 05:08 PM:

You can also find a summary here (Time, online, 9/23/05)

Pattern of Abuse
A decorated Army officer reveals new allegations of detainee mistreatment in Iraq and Afghanistan. Did the military ignore his charges?

#8 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 05:09 PM:

You can also find a summary here (Time, online, 9/23/05)

Pattern of Abuse
A decorated Army officer reveals new allegations of detainee mistreatment in Iraq and Afghanistan. Did the military ignore his charges?

(sorry, the ref got mislaid the first time through)

#9 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 05:20 PM:

The other truly nasty downside of behavior like this is that, by now, absolutely no one in the entire world will really believe (collective) you about being upset about systematic torture-for-torture's-sake unless there are a lot of executions of very important people -- Rumsfeld and his top three levels of civilian appointtees are the absolute minimum it would require to have any hope of being convincing.

Having to do that, trying to do that, breaks the Republic in completely permanent ways, because it removes the assurance of personal security from political activity.

The Neocons figured this out ages ago, and from their point of view it's a desired outcome; they want, very much, authoritarian rule and a general agreement in the legitimacy and necessity of the politics of obliteration.

#10 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 05:42 PM:

When you consider that Bush is trying (and has so far succeeded) in making it lawful for an American citizen to be held incommunicado, without charges being brought or counsel available, for years ... and when the Attorney General's greatest claim to fame is that he wrote a memo justifying torture -- Bush isn't just trying to roll back the American Revolution. He's trying to overturn the Magna Carta.

Why are the right-wingers letting him do it? Don't they recognize that they, personally, are just one anonymous denunciation away from indefinite detention, subject to the whims of bored jailers?

#11 ::: Lizzy Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 05:44 PM:

I want Frist's head, thank you very much, and I don't understand why McCain let himself get derailed since he KNEW ABOUT THIS STUFF. I would like very much to ask him. Damn it, damn it, damn it. The Times story sickened me. Thank you, Jim, for posting it. My senators are Boxer and Feinstein: Boxer should be all over it without prodding, so I guess I'll contact DiFi, and perhaps McCain as well.

Graydon, I think it's so highly unlikely that this will get to Rumsfeld that you shouldn't even bother hoping for it. But I suppose I could be wrong...

#12 ::: Lizzy Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 05:49 PM:

Why are the right-wingers letting him do it? Don't they recognize that they, personally, are just one anonymous denunciation away from indefinite detention, subject to the whims of bored jailers?

They don't believe that. They can't believe that; it would make a mockery of their deepest belief, which is that they DESERVE to hold power, and therefore will. They also know that they do not have to fear similar treatment from anyone to the left of them, because lefties are wimps. (I know some Stalinists the right would not be so sanguine about, but the likelihood of them getting into power is so small that they don't even believe it.)

#13 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 06:11 PM:

Jim --

Well, no, they don't.

Corporations, medium to big ones, are the default successful social organization in the entire industrial world.

Corporations are socially mediated autocracies. (The ones that function as meritocratic autocracies even as much as they function as socially mediated autocracies are rare and have serious problems staying that way.)

So there are now a lot of people whose default organizational expectation is socially mediated unilateral autocracy -- it is the right, the successful, the appropriate way to run things so far as their emotional map of the world is concerned, and it is also the way they, personally, are getting ahead in life. Of course they're in favour of it!

Couple that with a combination of really sincerely heartfelt exceptionalism and total, abject ignorance of history and there's enormous perceived benefit and no perceived downside.

This is somewhere past crazed and into "you can't even call that mewling stupid", but it's really there. The base of support really believe that the nasty things will of course never be applied to them.

Lizzy Lynn --

Keep in mind that the members of Congress -- the full Congress, Senate too -- who are not part of the conspiracy are effectively in three categories.

The ones with brain lock of the form "If we really try to fix this, I won't be rich anymore" -- they can't expect to do anything decisive, and trying will have certain high personally costs, and even succeeding would suck, because succeeding means major structural change in how the US does political power mediation. (Such as finding a way to make money stop being speech.)

The ones who are perfectly well aware that there's a slow coup going on, and don't have any options other than raising the standard of the Bill of Rights and starting a civil war or pretending nothing is wrong. (It's clear that, frex, Kerry is firmly of the belief that the civil war would be so insanely expensive that almost anything else is preferable.)

The ones whose emotional expectation is utter corruption, so they don't think anything significantly out of the ordinary is going on.

Given that both of the first two groups are clearly aware that the votes are not being counted, and clearly aware that a moderate amount of political assassination on the part of the conspiracy can't be ruled out, they're not finding themselves with a whole lot of fits-the-current-rules options.

Oh, and as a side note -- I haven't got any hope that this will get to Rumsfeld; I am describing what would have to happen for anyone outside the US to believe that the Sovereign People really are against a policy of widespread gratuitous torture.

#14 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 06:13 PM:

When they open up the George W. Bush Presidential Library, there needs to be a tractor-trailer Counter Museum just outside the gates, with big blown-up Abu Ghraib pictures on the outside, and video screens inside running a loop of these soldiers' testimony.

#15 ::: Lizzy Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 06:30 PM:

It will be interesting to watch the spin machine get to work here.... (Notice how thoroughly they've destroyed Cindy Sheehan. Even the fact that she lost a son in combat is being used against her, as in "Why did she even let him enlist if she felt this way? She's just feeling guilty...")

The three soldiers who let this out will be villified and lots of untrue things will be said about Human Rights Watch. Ultimately the soldiers (a captain and two sargeants) will be made to pay for having spoken out and nothing else will happen to anyone.

#16 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 06:49 PM:

Personally, I'd like to see George, Dick, Donald, and Alberto get treated like these prisoners for, oh, two or three days, including the cameras, and see how long they last. Appeals to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Geneva Convention will not be heard, since they haven't been charged with any crimes and aren't prisoners of war. There are a few other people who also should be in on this, but I don't have names.

When are the UN's black helicopters scheduled to arrive? They might be an improvement.

I e-mailed Boxer, Feinstein, and my Congress-critter.

#17 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 06:50 PM:

Why are the right-wingers letting him do it?
One of the checks-and-balances on partisan excess has been the realization that the majority won't be in power forever. What scares me is that the current Republican majority acts in ways that presumes they're never going to give up power.

Last month, I heard a scary new phrase:

"Backlash Insurance", it refers to the Republican efforts to institutionalize a majority through means such as partisan redistricting, destabilizing the funding constituancy groups of the Democratic Party through intimidation or legislation, and appointing as judges those ideologues that are in their 40's-50's to insure multi-generational judicial rule. For the minority-visioned Republicans, it's all about thwarting the majority through undemocratic means, by rigging the system so that even with a 60% majority nationally opposed to their leadership direction, they remain entrenched in power.
Around the same time I somehow got on a GOP fundraising call list. They were specifically talking about the "Permanent Republican Majority."

I worry about this country.

#18 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 07:20 PM:

Lis: You're not alone. Another part of this is the GOP/neocon assumption that once someone has voted for them, that person will always vote for them. Which has implications I am still working out, including secret ballots that aren't.

I'm wondering about drugs, hypnosis, and the use thereof by Karl and his buddies, at any function where there might be beverages and food served. Possibly I'm just being paranoid.

#19 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 07:26 PM:

"I'm wondering about drugs . . ."

Self-righteousness and power.

#20 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 07:33 PM:

' The Captain revealed this abuse to Human Rights Watch in July 2005. He also reported his charges to “three senior Republican senators,” including Majority Leader Bill Frist and Sen. John McCain. The torture, he said, was due primarily to “chronic confusion over U.S. military detention policies and whether or not the Geneva Convention applied.” '

I love the implicit assumption that, as long as you're in a situation not covered by the Geneva Convention, it's perfectly FINE to beat people up for fun!

#21 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 07:51 PM:

It's depressing how vastly not surprised I am at these revelations.

#22 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 08:42 PM:

Have emailed both senators and my representative. The senators are both hardcore Republicans (Dole and Burr) but I hold out foolish hope that maybe, just maybe, enough angry letters from their constituents....and "enough" starts one at a time...

I read Billmon, which made me think about the fact that it's the horrible, depressing, painful things like these that drove me back to belief in God. After the 2004 election I felt compelled to go to church. I had to, and have to, believe that there is a God, that there is an ultimate source of Goodness in the universe, that there really is Right and Wrong, not just power -- and that love, forgiveness, and compassion are on the side of Right. Otherwise I don't know what I would do. I don't know if I would still be alive.

#23 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 09:28 PM:

Wow. I got the first of my two free weeks of New York Times delivered to me today, and guess what leaped out at me. Well, I did my duty and wrote my Senator and Congressman. Next is to post that article on my door. Spread the word. Pass it on.

#24 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 09:33 PM:

Just. A. Few. Bad. Apples.


Frist's "blind" stock portfolio.

Tom DeLay's accepting of bribes.

The politicaly motivated outing of a CIA agent.

No WMDs.


Blah blah blah. Fill in the blanks with yet another scandal that had no impact on Bush, or his political pals.

None of it matters. Bush could rape babies and eat the corpses on national TV, and the Republican voting base wouldn't care.

We *could* be torturing Iraqis just for the fun of it, and we could get away with it, because we *are* getting away with it. Until someone other than Republicans who're all lockstep with Bush get elected, we will continue to get away with it.

#25 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 10:16 PM:

Both senators (Isakson, Chambliss), representative (John Barrow), President, Vice-President.

Barrow *might* at least read the email.

#26 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 10:54 PM:

None of it matters. Bush could rape babies and eat the corpses on national TV, and the Republican voting base wouldn't care.

Exactly why I was wondering about drugs/hypnosis. On one of the other threads (and I can't track it down easily) it was described as 'Stepford'.

#27 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 11:04 PM:

Over on kos they're in the midst of a maelstrom as the pro-Israel types debate the ANSWER folks who put on today's demonstration in DC against the Iraq War b/c ANSWER is extremely critical of Israel. The Dems can't even keep it together to stay on message about the Iraq war, though if you grabbed each of them by their ears and asked if they supported the war, they would 99% say no. It's just that they fall apart squabbling about an issue that should be debated AFTER we get the heck out of Iraq, i.e. Israel's world role and our complicity or not therein.

I cannot see the Republicans ever doing something remotely similar to this, and it is why they can seize the middle ground and hold the country.

Unless the Dems can find someone strong enough to get the warring factions to put down their weapons and at least elect someone other than Republicans, we will not get out of this morass.

I think I'm going to the bookstore tonight. I want to lose myself in some fantasy.

#28 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 11:49 PM:

What can I say? As someone who isn't from the US of A (and has no desire to be), I have to admit this just left me completely unsurprised. Now, admittedly I'm a cynic, a pessimist, and someone who disagrees with the prevailing political climate in my own country (.au) but even so... I stop and think about this and realise that it's something I'm coming to accept. I sort-of-know a number of people who are citizens of the US of A through the internet, and I've come to accept that the majority of them don't agree with the decisions of their own government.

To be deadly honest, I'm quite willing to accept that the majority of US citizens don't approve of torture, war crimes, or even of the current war. I just don't think it'll make a blind bit of difference. Folksen, you're in the same position as the English populace at the beginning of the English Civil War - your ostensible leader is leading you in directions you don't want to go, and those who are supposed to be restraining him (the nobles, in my historical example) are either too caught in the web of positive consequences to them of his behaviour, or too frightened of the negative consequences of speaking out to be bothered with their own responsibilities.

Unfortunately, my opinion is that it's going to need something more than letters and protests to make a change here.

#29 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 01:00 AM:

I love the ideals for which America stands for. I hate and feel disgusted by how far we've fallen from them.

Like Meg, I'm not a US citizen and I've only just moved to the country (following the jobs, inevitably). I have plenty of friends, American and otherwise, who love the ideals of the country. Somehow I can't get into the same frame of mind - I suppose it's partly because most of what I've always seen reported is incidents like this. The ideals of the Founding Fathers seem a long way away. Even the often laudable behaviour of American GIs in WW2 seems like a different era. What has happened? Is this kind of degeneration inevitable in any powerful country?

I'm beginning to wonder whether there is a parallel to be drawn between the US constitution and the founding principles of communist Russia; and the Bible and Koran for that matter. If you found your civilisation on a text stating certain firm and valuable principles, does that end up doing more to encourage the replacement of ethical thought with mere exegesis? I mean, do we argue about how to interpret the constitution, or the Bible, or the Geneva convention, at the expense of asking whether something is right? Does the existence of a constitution encourage a secular fundamentalism (in the worst sense)? Sometimes the British system of reinventing the law case-by-case seems to be a less dangerous procedure.

Don't get me wrong: I have no quarrel with the ideals of the constitution or the existence of a Bill of Rights. And I know that many Americans make good ethical decisions for themselves. I'm currently teaching college students about Just War theory, and whether Christian, conservative, liberal, socialist, or dull, or uninterested, each one of them will volunteer the idea that there is an ethical requirement to treat enemy soldiers with respect for their humanity - and that the kind of torture we're seeing here is a violation of that. And it's not that they are unusually smart: it's just that they have been asked the question. What is it about those making the decisions about this war that stops them doing and thinking the same thing?

I'm not sure this is very clear. It's difficult to find much of value to say.

#30 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 01:02 AM:

"something more than letters and protests"

Those are still necessary . . . just not sufficient.

#31 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 02:05 AM:

Things like this make me ponder hanging it up. I want to know who the Intel guys who told them to do this were.

Then I want to never be allowed in a room alone with them.

I've talked about this before. This shit is nonsense. On the guys who won't answer aren't gonna because you beat on them, and the ones who will, don't need to be beaten on.

I'm tired I ahave outrage fatigue. I am so tired of being furious that (and I've been swapping war stories with my father, and drinking the leftovers of the port I was poaching pears in, so I'm mellow) I can't actually express my fury.

I want to hurt people. I want to string them up. I want to try them, put them in stocks, mock them in public, brand them, imprison them and then tell the world about them when they get released.

I know all this is wrong to want (well apart from trying them and imprisoning them), but I want to.

I want to offer them freedom for telling the truth about the orders they got, and who gave them and who authorised them and take it as high as it goes and hale them before the Hague and see them in the cell next to Milosovic.

And when those people die, I intend to piss on their grave, no matter if they get called to account or not.

#32 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 02:31 AM:

And it was the 82nd Airborne who were sent to New Orleans.

If you're letting soldiers get away with this sort of behavious, what does it do to their collective relationship to civilians?

Watching news footage on the BBC, when they started patrolling, I was struck how similar they looked to similar pictures from Africa. And I wasn't sure why. Was it just the black faces of the soldiers?

Could it be something less innocent?

I just don't know...

#33 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 02:34 AM:

And a side thought on cliches...

It's easy to imagine the British Army having a friendly football match with the locals.

The idea of a friendly American Football match just doesn't seem plausible. Baseball, perhaps?

#34 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 02:50 AM:

That captain's ass is grass. He's likely gotten as far as he's going to get in rank in the military, unless there is a decapitation attack by Congress on the executive branch of US Government and the chain of command deep into the military, throwing a whole bunch of people into Leavenworth for a long, long time.

It's not the military I was in--there was training back then that legimate orders required three things:

1. They had to be legal.
2. They had to comprehensible/make sense.
3. They had to be able to be accomplished--ordering someone to go sit at the bottom of the pool for a half an hour without a snorkel or scuba gear of such, it an illegal order, for example.

Orders which failed any or all of those three tests, it was the duty of the military member to at least protest, if not refuse to carry out (with the CYA memo documenting the circumstances and entering an official protest).

The Air Force Academy scandals that have been occurring during Schmuck's Misadministation are indicative of systematic corruption, degradation, and malfeasance at high levels. The Naval Academy was more successful at covering up gender abuse than the Air Force Academy, apparently, there was a recent report that came out, that's gotten little attention, that the same types of abuse that had occurred at the Air Force Academy to the female cadets, had also happened to female cadets are the Naval Academy. And then there is the promotion and partisanship favoring Christianity and Christians, particularly promoting and encouraging on-campus Evangelical Christian proselytizing and disrespecting non-Christians in particular, that was occurring at the Air Force Academy.

The military upper ranks seem to be loaded with slime like Lt. Gen. Boykin, a bigot whose bigotry seemed to help his career and promotion, as opposed to being busted down at least as far and Custer, and retired with prejudice, and full of self-serving lickspittles to the treasonous Bush Misadministration and the Republicraps in the majority in both houses of Congress.

They are not loyal to the oaths they took to uphold the Constitution of the United States, in carrying out and failing to refuse to accede to the torture carried out in Iraq,they have abrogated the Constitution and their oaths to uphold it. They are oathbreaking stinking scum, committers of high treason, and deserve the full measure of that law they have transgressed with their broken oaths, applied to them.

#35 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 05:11 AM:

As far back as 1976, Prof. Norman Dixon was worrying about the sources of military incompetence. He was concerned about the training of junior officers, among other things.

He remarked that at Sandhurst, and at West Point and at Annapolis, at least, officers in training were required to memorise swathes of meaningless detail (about, for example, the performance of every piece of ordnance preserved on the campus, including cannon from the War of 1812; formulae for calculating to the second the amount of time to graduation so as to instantly answer an upperclassman's enquiry) and were required to march exactly parallel or perpendicularly to the sides of buildings, even when alone. There were countless other practices of a similar nature. The whole effect was to remove from the graduating stream any person who questioned authority; any person who thought for hirself; any person who attempted anything innovative; any person who was anything other than submissive and obsequious to those above him or her. At the same time it encouraged the most extreme authoritarian behaviour - amounting to actual physical abuse and cruelty - towards those below.

Nothing that I have read regarding the training of officers indicates that the system has changed, at any of those places, except that there has been some shortening of the courses in some places.

I have seen no specific detail regarding the regimen at the Australian counterpart to those famous colleges. However, successive (I might say perennial) scandals involving brutality and mindless bastardisation give me no confidence that matters are any better there.

It goes without saying that training junior officers in this fashion might as well be designed to turn out bigots, bullies and mindless automata.

#36 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 07:08 AM:

It just keeps getting worse, doesn't it?

"Don't they recognize that they, personally, are just one anonymous denunciation away from indefinite detention, subject to the whims of bored jailers?"

They identify with the jailers, not the jailed. There is an utter failure of imagination.

#37 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 07:28 AM:
He remarked that at Sandhurst, and at West Point and at Annapolis, at least, officers in training were required to memorise swathes of meaningless detail (about, for example, the performance of every piece of ordnance preserved on the campus, including cannon from the War of 1812; formulae for calculating to the second the amount of time to graduation so as to instantly answer an upperclassman's enquiry) and were required to march exactly parallel or perpendicularly to the sides of buildings, even when alone. There were countless other practices of a similar nature. The whole effect was to remove from the graduating stream any person who questioned authority; any person who thought for hirself; any person who attempted anything innovative; any person who was anything other than submissive and obsequious to those above him or her.
In Turkmenistan, the dictator Sapurmurat Niyazov (or 'Turkmenbashi' -- Father of the Turkmen) has written a mystical tract called the Ruhnama. Anyone who wants to pass an exam, get a government job, pass the driving test, etc., has to memorise a large chunk of it and answer questions about it, including such arcane details as the name of Niyazov's horse's mother. I imagine that forcing people to fill their heads with such nonsense has the same purpose in Turkmenistan as it does at West Point. (I don't know if the same kind of thing still goes on at Sandhurst, but I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised if it does.)

Niyazov's other achievements include closing all the hospitals outside the capital (and replacing nurses with soldiers) and building a giant golden statue of himself that rotates to face the sun. Before the breakup of the Soviet Union he was a garden-variety Communist Party hack (he supported the 1991 coup against Gorbachev), so I wonder whether he's really an insane megalomaniac or has decided that making people think that you're an insane megalomaniac is a good way to stay in power.

#38 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 07:42 AM:

I fear Graydon is right.

We have two superimposed social/political systems -- the republican/democratic model to which most governments adhere, and the embedded model of absolute autocracy by which most corporations are run. This is what you'd expect to happen when the corporate autocrats get their hands on the levers of power in a republic.

I don't have an immediate answer for this. I fear any answer is going to hark back to Thomas Jefferson's quote (or was it Washington?) about trees, liberty, and irrigation with the blood of patriots.

#39 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 08:04 AM:

A reminder that neither corporate rule over our republican/democratic model, nor the imperial abuses of power in far-off dominions, nor the Congressional whitewashing of torture and quiet American acceptance of the same, are anything new in our history...

#40 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 09:08 AM:

Dave: West Point was exactly the same when it turned out General MacArthur, who certainly was innovative and flexible and arguably invented a new form of warfare.

Candle: I've wondered the same thing about venerating the words rather than the spirit. Unwritten constitutions are also a problem, however. Thatcher violated the British constitution all over the place, and nobody could say anything but "Nnnng?!" Blair is following down that same path.

Canada has a constitution that seems to work by case law -- there was a case where a court decided that there wasn't anything about it in the constitution but it was the kind of thing they'd have put in if they'd thought of it so they supposed the right existed.

#41 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 09:33 AM:

"I love the ideals for which America stands for. I hate and feel disgusted by how far we've fallen from them."

I am an American and I completely agree with this.

I actually marched in the anti-Bush protest in DC yesterday. I hadn't realized how anti-Israel some of the marchers were, though there were many Jewish people at the march. It's kind of sad because there's lots of blame to go around on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

But, still, even those of us who believe in a free Israel AND Palestine, felt it was more important to show opposition to our own government than to merely fight amongst ourselves.

Watching the counter-demonstration was kind of fascinating. You'd see signs along the lines of "We're fighting for your freedom." Honestly, I think the last war Americans fought for "American freedom" might have been WWII. Anyone who thinks the Iraqi war is being fought for "American freedom" is many cards short of a full deck.

And the latest prisoner abuse evidence...completely disgusting. I'm particularly disappointed by McCain, who ought to know better.

#42 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 09:59 AM:

Jo: Oh, quite so, but I would rejoin that no educational system ever totally succeeds in its objectives with all participants. Military academies cannot be expected to turn every person who passes through them into a mindless brute and bully, hard though they may try. Some human beings retain genuine creativity, despite everything.

They try pretty hard, though.

And I'm an Australian, so as far as MacArthur is concerned, please let's not go there.

#43 ::: Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 10:40 AM:
And a side thought on cliches...

It's easy to imagine the British Army having a friendly football match with the locals.

The idea of a friendly American Football match just doesn't seem plausible. Baseball, perhaps?

Well, to speak of another time and another America, there is a reason that Japan has a professional baseball league.

On Charlie Stross's point about superimposed systems, there is a legitimate question about whether the more authoritarian mode of pre-Enlightenment societies ever really went away. The United States certainly has a distinct upper class, with direct continuity going back in some cases to the founding of the Republic (when the du Ponts made gunpowder for the revolution) --- and in many cases (Rockefellers, Mellons, etc.) to the 19th century. And a lot of what we're seeing in recent politics is scions of those families, like Richard Mellon Scaife, patron of numerous right-wing "think tanks", taking conscious and direct action to reshape society towards their own ends. But never mind that --- my point here is simply that these people exist. Though here in America, we wouldn't dream of calling them a titled nobility; instead, we call them Old Money.

As to what those ends are, John Holbo has an interesting take here, based on a close reading of their propagandist, David Frum:

The thing that makes capitalism good, apparently, is not that it generates wealth more efficiently than other known economic engines. No, the thing that makes capitalism good is that, by forcing people to live precarious lives, it causes them to live in fear of losing everything and therefore to adopt – as fearful people will – a cowed and subservient posture: in a word, they behave ‘conservatively’. Of course, crouching to protect themselves and their loved ones from the eternal lash of risk precisely won’t preserve these workers from risk. But the point isn’t to induce a society-wide conformist crouch by way of making the workers safe and happy. The point is to induce a society-wide conformist crouch. Period. A solid foundaton is hereby laid for a desirable social order.

So, if you want to undestand what's going on in America, that's as good a thing to read as any. I might also quote another propagandist of theirs, Niall Ferguson (unusually well-placed; faculty of Harvard right now) whose recent book Colossus says that Europe is doomed to be a second-rate power because it lets its proles take long vacations, and advocates that America be an imperial power --- though one problem with that idea, he will acknowledge, is that our lower class historically hasn't been desperate enough to want to build careers by enforcing order in the colonies. Well, I'm not sure what histories of our occupation of the Phillippines he's been reading, but regardless, looks like we're working on that now.

(And then, on a last, SFnal note, there's the Baroque Cycle, which is ostensibly about the construction of a new System of the World, the one we think we live in today, run by engines of commerce and not the will of an aristocracy. But particularly in the volume with that title, Stephenson seems to be hinting at a different view, in which the aristocracy has not so much vanished as put on a mask...)

#44 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 12:04 PM:

Laurie, there's lots of blame to go around on all sides of the Palestinian-Zionist conflict, indeed. (Although the conflict would be resolved the moment all parties gave up the fight and shared power on the same strip of land... ...equal rights to all, one-man-one-vote, all that good stuff that works so well in democracies. Except when it doesn't, and therein lies the dynamite.)

But there's a common thread between a bunch of westerners showing up in Iraq and taking over (2003) and a bunch of westerners showing up in Palestine and taking over (first crusade, Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1917, 1948, 1967...) - and many of the same people object to both varietiers of arbitrariness.

There are many ethical/philosophical good reasons to object to it, but there's also one large and flashing practical one: subjugated people fight back. Sometimes it takes only days (Falujah) sometimes it takes years of mistreatment until a subjugated group fights back (about which, perhaps the Or Commission report will be enlightening to you. There are some excerpts here: and if you read Hebrew, I can direct you to the full text, which makes rather horrifying reading for someone who believes in the American ideal of all-men-created-equal, equal-before-the-law or even the much weaker principle of fair play. Which is what the commission was on about.)

I think that this issue is very difficult for people who support the Israel-is-a-state-for-Jews-and-anyone-else-should-go-away side of things. My only comfort in this (as an American who lived in Israel for 30 years and knows it inside and out) is that I know the extent to which propaganda was used to recruit American Jewry to the flag of Israel-is-right-no-matter-what. I have faith that as more information gets out, the people whom I know to be fair and careful thinkers will abandon that position and back more globally the principles of fairness, etc., that were so crucial in libertating *them* from the opressions *they* faced.

And hopefully, the river of blood will subside.

#45 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 12:44 PM:

Dave Luckett: Military academies cannot be expected to turn every person who passes through them into a mindless brute and bully, hard though they may try.

Hoo-boy. I've met quite a few Annapolis, West Point and Air Force Academy graduates, and on the whole I've been more impressed by them than by most of the Ivy League graduates I've met. The good ones tend to be very flexible thinkers and effective leaders. They do run more conservative than I'd like, but I haven't met too many bible-thumping wackos from those schools, either.

The goal of the military acadamies is not to turn out mindless brutes. It's to turn out effective leaders. Right now, I think that of the US academies, only the Air Force Academy may be too far gone to save without starting from the ground up.

As to the "mindless memorization," they're also institutions, and institutions have traditions. Why does medical training make residents stay up for days at a time? Why do business schools load up the work so that all-nighters are essential? Why does law school take three years when the content could be covered in two? For better or worse, tradition.

Like it or not, we need a strong military and the academies and other military educational institutions, like the language school in Monterey, CA, are essential to this end. What we also need is civilian leadership that doesn't think of the military as just so many toy soldiers. The problem lies more at the top of our governments than at the top of the military.

#46 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 12:55 PM:

'You'd see signs along the lines of "We're fighting for your freedom." Honestly, I think the last war Americans fought for "American freedom" might have been WWII. Anyone who thinks the Iraqi war is being fought for "American freedom" is many cards short of a full deck.'

Thank you.

I've been trying to find the words this for some time.

An especially infuriating variant: "They're putting their lives on the line so you can have freedom of speech!"

#47 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 12:58 PM:

Charlie Stross:

I don't have an immediate answer for this. I fear any answer is going to hark back to Thomas Jefferson's quote (or was it Washington?) about trees, liberty, and irrigation with the blood of patriots.

Terry Karney:

I want to hurt people. I want to string them up. I want to try them, put them in stocks, mock them in public, brand them, imprison them and then tell the world about them when they get released.

Yeah, wouldn't it be great if the good guys got to do all the killing and torturing? Of course, we're so enlightened that if we did it it would be completely justified, limited only to the manifestly guilty, and not at all like the sadistic lashing-out that yahoos did after 9/11; and there would be no chance at all of it expanding into a reign of terror.

(I know, that was probably the point you were making.)

#48 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 01:02 PM:

I really must learn to use emoticons. Is there one that means "my tongue is so far in my cheek that it's sticking out of my ear"?

#49 ::: Marie Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 02:21 PM:

I've met quite a few Annapolis, West Point and Air Force Academy graduates, and on the whole I've been more impressed by them than by most of the Ivy League graduates I've met.

A friend of my brother's graduated from the naval academy and then, because he'd been so high in his class, was sent to Stanford by the navy for an advanced degree. He said after getting to Stanford that he was terrified there, because nobody was going to hold his hand and make sure he passed his classes, whereas at the academy, they did everything possible, up to and including dumbing down content, to make sure nobody failed. The level of rigor had been higher in his high school than at the academy.

But admittedly, that can be separate from the issue of whether they're taught to be good leaders. You can lead very well without being able to do calculus.

#50 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 02:22 PM:

I fear any answer is going to hark back to Thomas Jefferson's quote (or was it Washington?) about trees, liberty, and irrigation with the blood of patriots.

Which will not happen. The American Liberal does not fight. The reason the GOP doesn't even try to hide what they are doing anymore is that the own the government, they own the press, and they know the opposition won't truly fight. They might protest, but when push comes to shove, they'll run. When the lines form, the rethugs will quickly kill and string up a few liberals, and then simply march the rest into the camps.

Quit planning on how to save the US, and start planning on how to deal with the US as a hostile country. We were lost on Dec. 12, 2000.

Oh, it may look like Bush is slipping now. Of course it does. It's an odd year. He always sucks in odd years. Then the year changes, Rove makes a few phone calls, and lots of New Evidence Of Evil Liberals is released, and the polls spike nicely in time for the next "election", which is rigged anyway, just to be sure.

Repeat, each time, ripping out a few more rights, stealing a few hundred more billion, and so forth. Repeat. Forever.

#51 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 02:44 PM:

Marie - funny you mention Stanford, because of all the Ivies, I've been least impressed by its graduates. I didn't realize that there was so much hand-holding at the academies. The academics of the academy grads I ment in business school (small sample size) were merely OK, but they were darn good organizers.


Dave - Yes, please do use emoticons. (Please note - I am NOT trying to offend, but I am being honest.) After the fiction and contemporary music discussions, it's hard to tell if you're serious, joking or just going after a reaction.

#52 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 02:48 PM:

Erik, giving up is just not an option.

I am not sure what does constitute an acceptable option, but although that irrigation plan is distasteful, the alternative is much, much worse.

I happen to be involved in a translation project which really brings home to me the consequences of the sudden disenfranchisement of large segments of a population. The results tend to involve worse consequences than the alternative you suggest (read, extensively, what happened to the non-Jewish population of Palestine in 1948). It follows Kant's categorical imperative to the point where suicide bombings make sense to large enough a section of a population to gain acceptance for them.

We do not need to go there.

That said, the Democratic party is not showing much initiative by way of getting the current batch of bad eggs out of the mix. Perhaps a better path would be via the Republican party itself?

#53 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 02:54 PM:

Oh, it may look like Bush is slipping now. Of course it does. It's an odd year. He always sucks in odd years. Then the year changes, Rove makes a few phone calls, and lots of New Evidence Of Evil Liberals is released, and the polls spike nicely in time for the next "election", which is rigged anyway, just to be sure.

Erik, the statement about the polls, at least, isn't consistent with the evidence. Bush's popularity has spiked three times: once after Sept. 11, once for the invasion of Iraq, once for the capture of Saddam. Each spike was half as large as the last and dissipated more quickly. The Saddam spike barely lasted a month.

The general trend outside of those spikes has always been downward, except during the 2004 election campaign. This was a massive, extremely expensive propaganda/smear campaign that slowly pushed up his approval percentage by somewhere between 5 and 10 points over a period of several months; this marginal effect only worked because the electorate was close to fifty-fifty to begin with.

Once the effort was expended, he started to lose minds again, and he's never been this far down. It looked as if the slide was leveling off for a while, but it looks to me as if it actually started to accelerate again just before hurricane Katrina, as a result of Cindy Sheehan being camped out on his doorstep.

When you lose a lot it's easy to come to the conclusion that you'll always lose, that losing is what you do, and that the only way out is to kill a whole lot of people. It is a strange kind of inverted faith to stick with this when the people seem to be moving toward you. I am not there yet, not now.

#54 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 03:33 PM:

Stefan: "The goal of the military acadamies is not to turn out mindless brutes. It's to turn out effective leaders."

Then why are our officers acting like mindless brutes?

Charlie, "the republican/democratic model to which most governments adhere, and the embedded model of absolute autocracy by which most corporations are run." To some extent, social order is like climate; a complex system which can take on the settled state for a time, but which is never actually stable. So societies can jump from one state to another; these are not distict--the a society in a democratic and liberal state can jump to a different part of the social "attractor", as it were, and turn dictatorial and brutal. We bow to the monkey god: every human society is built from elements of ape behavior. But the arrangement of the bows is significant.

#55 ::: Laina ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 03:50 PM:

Then why are our officers acting like mindless brutes?

So far, the only officer involved that we know attended the Military Academy was the one who reported the problem.

#56 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 04:00 PM:

Erik Olson:

"I fear any answer is going to hark back to Thomas Jefferson's quote (or was it Washington?) about trees, liberty, and irrigation with the blood of patriots."

Which will not happen. The American Liberal does not fight.

What made you think I was suggesting the liberals would shed blood? (Other than their own exsanguination. Yes, I'm being bleakly pessimistic here.)

On the up-side: if this goes on, if it isn't all a bad dream, the USA will be irrelevant in another generation.

(The down-side of this is that we have to hope China sorts itself out first.)

#57 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 06:28 PM:

James D. McDonald:Why are the right-wingers letting him do it? Don't they recognize that they, personally, are just one anonymous denunciation away from indefinite detention, subject to the whims of bored jailers?

Because they buy into the Wild West theory of the Second Amendment. They are the group with the bumper stickers which read, "when the revolution comes, we'll be the one's with guns."

They don't imagine they might be powerless. They don't believe (which is croggling given the underpinnings of their reactionsism) the Gov't will come for them, only for other people.

Matt McIrvin: You left out the next two sentences, "I know all this is wrong to want (well apart from trying them and imprisoning them), but I want to.

I want to offer them freedom for telling the truth about the orders they got, and who gave them and who authorised them and take it as high as it goes and hale them before the Hague and see them in the cell next to Milosovic.
" As well as the eaerlier sentence, I want to never be allowed alone in a room with them."

I know that what I want is wrong. I even know that what I want won't make me feel better, once I've done (during, well I hope never to find out how I'd feel during), but I am not a nice person. I am civilised. I want lots of things which are morally questionable.

I know they are questionable, some of them (like taking an interrogator who tortures people and leaving him with a razor blade and telling him he has 20 minutes to kill himself, or someone will be along to do it for him, and with much less speed, or care for his comfort) aren't questionable, they are flat out evil.

I know those things should never be done. But it doesn't stop me from pondering them.

#58 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 08:18 PM:

I was going to stay out of this, but then I saw on a CNN crawl that the 82nd Airborne has been moved from NO to Lafayette. There is flooding, and plenty of people without electricity--I was going to say "without power," but in this day and age that could be misinterpreted--but there has been neither trouble nor rumors thereof. Now I'm wondering why a nice small laid-back Cajun city would need a bunch of thugs to "keep the peace."

#59 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 09:03 PM:

Erik, giving up is just not an option.

Funny, if that was the case, Bush would be hanging from a tree by now. You already have given up. You keep thinking that things like "elections" matter. You think a protest will help -- but the so called opposition party won't show up.

Meanwhile, the GOP shuts down more right, steals more money, and kills more people.

Repeat until dead, arguing the whole time about what "Right vs. wrong" means, and how you can't resort to violence, because that would be wrong.

On the up-side: if this goes on, if it isn't all a bad dream, the USA will be irrelevant in another generation.

Charlie: No nation with 5000+ nuclear weapons and the ability to place them anywhere on the planet in 30 minutes or less is irrelevant.

Imagine Germany in 1945 with the same capability. Because that's the road we're heading down. When the economy collapses because of oil, BushCo will not go down quietly. They'll tell everyone all the oil is theirs, and when China or the UK or Iraq -- or anyone -- argues, cities will die.

These are people who postulate the end of the world as a goal. And they don't give a flying fuck how many other people they kill.

#60 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 09:42 PM:


Thinking out the options carefully and thoroughly is not the same as giving up.

I have found several examples in history where violence didn't make things much worse. Not many, though. In the current situation in the U.S., violent attack on what is perceived to be the legitimate governemnt would make things much worse, and give the blackhats a good reason to shut down the pieces of civil liberties they haven't gotten to, quite yet.

As to arguments of the "it's 1933, you're in Berlin, CHOOSE!" variety - instant gratification isn't important. What is at stake is bigger than rightnowness. I have a gut-level faith in the evnetual correction mechanism working in the U.S. Maudlin patriotism, perhaps, but it *is* my country, right or wrong: when right to celebrate, when wrong to set right.

And with all that I know about humans, government, and uprisings, I believe that a U.S. groundroots uprising (Initifada?) would make things worse, rather than better. Despite the tempting notion of Gordian solutions and swiftly resolved heroism.

#61 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 10:51 PM:

I'm a big fan of playing percentages, and don't like dualism, so I have to guess that if I were in this situation I probably would be one of the enablers/permitters. I'd like to think that I'd be one of the whistle-blowers, and I hope I wouldn't be one of the criminal abusers, but the odds are higher that I'd be at least a garden-variety monster than someone willing to risk his career for the sake of men I've been taught are The Enemy.

My sympathies are with the victims, not the perpetrators, and maybe I'd behave as well as I'd like, but I'm not going to turn the perpetrators of these vile acts into yet another Other, as over-used and clichéd as that sentiment might be.

(I'm limiting this to myself not just out of boundless egotism, but because I'm the only one I really know: courtesy demands that I assume that you fine people out there would be better.)

#62 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2005, 11:47 PM:

OK, this is serious, and this is what I meant to say:

I think it likely that the sheer prestige (from ancient days) of some of the military academies has the effect of raising the standard of their graduates, because it raises that of their inductees. I include among these institutions West Point, Annapolis and Sandhurst, and even Duntroon, our own equivalent. There is no doubt of the prestige of these institutions.

However, I have seen descriptions of practices at these places that appal me. The practices include ritualised cruelty, the enforcement of mindless authoritarianism, empty and useless memorisation of ephemera, institutionalised bullying, idiotic and time-wasting rites with no useful purpose, and the elevation of irrational and mechanical practices into compulsions and dogma.

I quite agree that some officers emerge from this regimen with their creativity, humanity and intelligence intact; and I would agree that these officers would be all the more remarkable for that. It is even possible that the experience might have the effect of making rational and enlightened values all the more precious to them by contrast.

Nevertheless, I cannot help but think that these practices will often have the reverse effect: that they will tend to produce young officers whose approach to problems is to apply rote, effort and dogma; whose relationship to subordinates is characterised by bullying and authoritarian bluster, and to superiors by fawning and obsequiousness; who put their faith in ritual, not ratiocination; and whose loyalty implies blind obedience, and excludes the demonstration to their superiors of uncomfortable truths.

I am greatly reassured to hear that the officer who reported the abuses was in fact a graduate of the Military Academy, and I salute his ability to stay on mission despite all. I commend his courage, too. An officer and a gentleman, and a credit to his training and his country. There must be something in the former despite my misgivings. There is, to my mind, certainly a very great deal in the latter, despite the misgivings of others here.

#63 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 12:59 AM:

I have no real experience of any of the military academies or their graduates (with the exception of an ethics professor from Annapolis who gave a guest lecture here - I left with the impression that she was employed to justify what the Navy did, rather than to think critically about it, but that may have been my own prejudice). On the other hand, my father was an officer in the British Navy and trained at Dartmouth Naval College. He left the Navy once his tour of duty was over with similar objections to the ones Dave Luckett is making: that far too much of the training was intended (often explicitly) to inculcate mindless obedience at the expense of initiative or even thought.

I don't think this is necessarily to consider the academies or their graduates as worthless. The justification, I think, is that soldiers very often need to be able to act immediately on orders from above, need to have marching and orderly behaviour, and factual knowledge, available as second nature: one of the fundamental principles of modern western armed forces, at least since the Romans, is that the most efficient and effective means of achieving one's aim is for the commanding officer to make the decisions and his (or her) subordinates to follow them. It's debatable whether this is true, but I think the argument is explicitly made. And it isn't blatantly obvious that it is untrue. (After all, who wants to deal with a disorganised and ill-disciplined occupying army?)

Of course, the system falls down when the commanding officer (or commander-in-chief) has no ethical awareness, or is simply unprincipled. It also fails when commanding officers forget that the idea was for *somebody* to make the decisions rather than to rely on the ritual and tradition to make it for them. I'm not sure we can blame the rituals for this: it should be possible to encourage discipline while retaining room for independent thought. The problem is when discipline is equated (by instructors or students) with mindlessness.

Probably you all knew that already. My father, incidentally, still resents being disciplined for walking up the wrong set of steps at Dartmouth. I can't say I blame him.

#64 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 01:17 AM:

Unwritten constitutions are also a problem, however. Thatcher violated the British constitution all over the place, and nobody could say anything but "Nnnng?!" Blair is following down that same path.

Well, yes, and things are by no means perfect in the UK. (What was that recent proposal to bring back the detention of suspected terrorists without charge or trial? I'm half-Irish, and let's say I'm not convinced that the terror laws of the 70s are a great model for the UK to return to.)

But I still feel - perhaps mistakenly - that the debate in Britain takes place on more sensible terrain. The argument is usually over whether the behaviour of Thatcher and Blair, say, is appropriate or not, rather than whether it is legitimated by the constitution. So at least the ethical question is there.

(There is also a further question, which is: can we do anything about it? But note that if Blair's approval rating were as low as Bush's is now, there would be a real prospect of his removal by his party long before 2008.)

I'm not saying it's ideal, and the lack of written limits on power does seem worrying at times. But it does seem to mean confronting issues directly. As opposed to backing into the matter of abortion via the debate over a Supreme Court appointee and his views on the existence or otherwise of a constitutional right to privacy.

...there wasn't anything about it in the constitution but it was the kind of thing they'd have put in if they'd thought of it so they supposed the right existed.

I quite like this, but even then it seems to arrest a country's development at the moment of its foundation. I suspect James Madison might well have allowed the states to make their own laws on abortion. But that transforms an ethical question into an historical one (and as a professor of history, I think that's a really bad idea!).

#65 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 01:19 AM:

Thinks: Might there be a market for What Would James Madison Do? bracelets?

#66 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 01:24 AM:

As I think I've said before, I now have my answer to my question, Why didn't all the Jews leave Germany before it was too late? I don't know who my government is likely to target, and I don't know if they'll come for me, but lord knows I've said enough on the Usernet over the years that if they start trawling for anarchists or sexual deviants or atheists, they'll find me.

I don't know what they will do nor how bad it will get. Every time I think I've seen rock bottom, it gets worse. I often think that if I had the brains god gave a door knob, I'd go someplace, durn near anyplace, but here.

But here I am. I'm a frog in a beaker with the heat rising very slowly. I have too many friends, and too many material goods to be very interested in getting the hell out. And even if that weren't true, I have no way to run. I only have debt, no money, and no skills likely to allow me to legally immigrate to, well, anywhere.

I'm not fighting hard enough to say that I love my country and won't leave because I refuse to give up. I am also not leaving, even though I think that things could get a whole lot worse. Like a lot of people, I'm just sitting here.

I do not trust the theory of the pendulum. If that were true, would things have continued to move to the right for forty years straight? Shouldn't there have been some ground regained? But what are the options? If elections are truly corrupt, what do we do?

I suspect that because the infrastructure of modern society is so fragile that a violent revolution is a terrible idea if what you want is to reform, rather than occupy, the country. We are dependent upon big, easily targeted, necessary systems to provide for water, heat, food transport into urban areas, sewage treatment, power, and about every other damn thing that comprises a comfortable physical existence. Nobody likes having their house bombed, even if it is by the good guys.

This gives the government a serious advantage because it maintains the status quo, and severely handicaps the revolutionaries, who need to fuck with the infrastructure in order to over-tax the governmental resources. Unpopular revolutions fall rapidly to a coup or a counter-revolution.

#67 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 01:47 AM:

In 1948 somewhere between 700,000 and more than a million Jews (I don't recall the numbers I saw in references) from the Middle East poured into what is today Israel, from countries that included Libya, Morocco, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Algeria, etc. It was about the same number as non-Jews that went in the other directions. The Jewish community in Iraq had been there for over 2500 years, but under the influence of hatemongers of the likes of Amin al-Husseini, elevated by the British to the position of Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who eventually packed up and move to what today is Iraq and who lived in the house that Saddam Hussein grow up in (they were related), there were pogroms organized against the Jews in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of them had been there, and ran for their lives to what today is Israel, from the 1880s or so through until 1948, in the largest numbers in the late 1940s.

The claim that the area that today is Israel was mostly non-Jewish is as accurate as the screed from the Republicrap Noise Machine, and most of it is every bit and impartial and unbiased. There were rotten things done by e.g. the Haganah, but given what some of them had been through, and not only in Europe, but in the surrounding countries--many of the most ardent Likudniks come from families which hand been settled for centuries in Muslim lands, and for millennia in what became Muslim lands (since Islam wasn't around back during the time of the Babylonians, the Persians, etc.) .

There was a large influx of Muslims into what today is Israel during the days of the British Mandate, coming in from the surrounding areas--the Ottoman Empire had deliberately kept the region impoverished and economically destititute. Many of the Jews in Jerusalem and surrounding areas were supported by funds sent by Jews fomr the rest of the know world, a very old tradition which the Greeks in Alexandria in Roman times complained bitterly about (see e.g. Jews in Their Land in Roman Times, I think is the title of one book one book which discusses it....) and which was one of factors leading to a horrendous large scale massacre of Alexandrian Jews, fully two millennia ago. There are extant records, from the Cairo Genizah, of the twice-yearly caravans which took funds to Jerusalem from far-flung Jewish communities to support the Jewish communities in Jerusalem and the Jordan River valley.

Years ago I used to have a lot more sympathy for non-Jews who claimed to be on the short end of the stick with the establishment of Israel. But after more than a half century, what makes them so much more special that people who emigrated to the USA because they were Armenians fleeing from genocidal Turks, of Jewish survivors fled from the countries and the countryfolk of the Europe who stood by or collaboarated in attempted genocide of Jews, of Jews from the Middle East who fled to Israel to escape supression and mayhem and murder in Islamic Middle Eastern countries, than the descendants of those who survived the Trail of Tears in the USA, than the plight of those in ex-Yugoslavia, in Africa, in the Indian subcontent, etc.? Why didn't the countries surround Israle settle the people who on the advice of those countries evacuated (and the people who left fearing for their wellbeing for reasons other than the Arab League telling them to get out of the way of the armies coning to "drive the Jews into the sea") and integrate them into their societies (answer, keeping people from getting citizenship and integrated, created a permanent, disaffected, angry, eager source of human cannon fodder to use as shock troops against "the enemy." I don't have lots of respect for people who decade after decade after decade enthusiatically volunteer on to being throwaway cannon fodder bred and raised. What an utterly stinking, vile, despicable WASTE of human talent and potential.


Stanford is not and Ivy League, or even Ivy Group, school


It takes a minimum of 89 minuts to orbit the planet. A suborbital ballistic trajectory therefore is 45 minutes, not 30 minutes, to get to a target on the other side of the planet. And missiles have to fly to where they are programmed to fly to, and if I knew what the "latency" time involved in performing targeting were, I wouldn't provide that information. Directing a precision long-distance Beyond Line of Sight strike interactively is not a trivial undertaking, for a whole lot of different reasons.

There are limits on the ranges of different classes of missiles -- intercontinental missile don't work inside a theater/for "short" ranges where "short" isn't thosands and thousands of miles.

#68 ::: Marie Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 02:05 AM:

Stanford is not and Ivy League, or even Ivy Group, school

Of course not. But I figured that, in his original point, Larry didn't so much mean actual graduates of actual Ivies as people who went to prestigious universities. I hear people using the term in that loose manner all the time.

#69 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 02:26 AM:


In 1948, rather a lot happened beyond your description of "Jews pouring into Palestine". This includes an ethnic cleansing of about half of the Arab population residing in Palestine, from just over half of the area - and a military subjugation of the others (read the reference to the Or (or Orr) commission findings, it's upthread).

The numeric balance of population transfer that you claim seems unfair - the Palestinians were forced out of their homes at gunpoint*; the Jews of the Muslim world had a bit more choice in the matter (despite the fact that the Haganah sent emissaries to organize the local young male Jews into armed troops, which may have had something to do with the way Jewish organizations were viewed. Paramilitary orgs are rarely welcome in sovereign countries.)

As to The claim that the area that today is Israel was mostly non-Jewish - the area that is today under Israel's control *is* about half non-Jewish. That does not count the "right of return" crowed outside of Israel, I'm counting just the local population, people who live there right now. The thing is, there are very different rules for Jews and for Christians and Muslims. 38 years of occupation (and the current situation in Gaza is occupation; for instance, who controls the ports of entry?) mean that middle-aged people have known nothing but the indignity of second-classhood. That's gotta stop.

About the history of Jerusalem and its traditions, I recommend Karen Amrstrong's book Jerusalem, One City, Three Faiths. The book discusses the Jewish, Muslim and Christian roots and claims to the city. I found it terrifying, but enlightening. It might set you striaght about the question of whether Muslims were there, too, or if it was indeed only an "influx during the British Mandate". Karen Amrstrong's book is recommended by Jewish rabbis, so it can't be too far off base.

As for keeping people from getting citizenship and integrated, created a permanent, disaffected, angry, eager source of human cannon fodder to use as shock troops against "the enemy." - you've described with accuracy and compassion the tactics used by Israel on the non-Jewish population under its control (although it does indeed describe the handling of the Palestinian refugees by their neighboring countries). WHY Israel wants to have that situation is beyond me. As I said upthread, one-man/one-vote is the only way the blood will cease fertilizing that ground. (And on other occasions, I've wondered why they all want so very badly to feed the Molloch.)

...people who decade after decade after decade enthusiatically volunteer on to being throwaway cannon fodder bred and raised. What an utterly stinking, vile, despicable WASTE of human talent and potential.

We are in complete agreement about that. I only wish my money, as a U.S. tax-payer, wasn't funding Israel's part in that.

* I know, that's not the Israeli story; but Israeli historians have had access to archives in recent years, and the story is more complext than was sold to the court of world opinion. For more details, I recommend reading Benny Morris (right wing Israeli who believes a genocide of the Arab population is one of the likely and acceptable outcomes), Tom Segev (more center than Morris), Ilan Pappe, Avi Shlaim... ...Segev is the best writer of the bunch.

#70 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 03:16 AM:

Years ago I used to have a lot more sympathy for non-Jews who claimed to be on the short end of the stick with the establishment of Israel. But after more than a half century, what makes them so much more special...?

I don't claim to be hugely well-informed on the history of the modern Middle East, but at least one distinctive feature of the case of Israel is that the state was created by the mandate of a colonial power in the modern era: that is, that a new nation-state was created where a nation-state had been, without the agreement of (and ultimately to the exclusion, on ethnic or religious grounds, of) a large number of the residents of that state. I don't say this was a unique occurrence: much of eastern Europe, and certainly the former Yugoslavia, can claim the same dubious position (along with Liberia and other modern states). But it is not quite the same as fleeing to join an existing state, as with those immigrants to the US who fled from the Armenian genocide. I don't know that this gives anyone any particular moral rights, though.

This isn't an issue which can be resolved by looking back to some historical justification. It surely can't be a matter of who was persecuted first. I take it that this was in part Paula's point (ie. that everyone involved has been persecuted at some point, and that this gives nobody the moral high ground).

Just to be slightly pedantic, though: the tithes paid to the Jerusalem temple by the Jews of Rome and Alexandria (and elsewhere) are no proof that the area was impoverished, any more than my payment of taxes to the British government from abroad or a Catholic's contributions to the collection-plate prove that those institutions are destitute. And it seems to me misleading to call the riots between Greeks and Jews in Alexandria under the Emperor Claudius a 'massacre' of Jews, even on a small scale: certainly there were ethnic tensions, but in part brought on because the Jewish community enjoyed special privileges not permitted to the Greeks (eg. freedom from Roman taxation on account of those tithes, and the sought-after privilege of not having to serve as a local councillor); and the records, AFAIR, record a series of riots rather than an assault by Greeks alone on Jews alone, and I'm not even sure that they suggest that more Jews than Greeks were killed; and it should be recorded, at least, that the Emperor responded with a formal reaffirmation of the rights of the Jews to their existing privileges.

This can be read the other way, of course, as an early example of ghettoisation, and I don't mean to suggest that the Jews should have taken what they had and kept quiet. Besides, not all emperors were remotely as benign, and the conquest of Judaea and destruction of the temple at Jerusalem were not too far in the future. But to paint the Jews only as victims, and as the only victims, is more of that partial and biased propaganda we are trying to do away with here. This again I take to be Paula's point. Personally, I continue to be annoyed by partisan (mis)readings of history being used to justify present-day policy.

In the modern conflict I don't support the Palestinians; nor do I support the Israelis (and I do my best to think of Israelis as a group distinct from Jews); and I think the British government only made things worse in 1948, and is arguably to blame for the whole present mess.

History can't be taken out of these things entirely. But history isn't on anyone's side. I'm fed up of it being enlisted as a political ally.

#71 ::: a ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 05:13 AM:


#72 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 07:26 AM:

Terry, there are people with guns who believe they can defend themselves against the government. I think this is wrong-headed, but it's not the same as believing they're safe because the government will only come for other people.

As for why all the Jews in Nazi Germany didn't leave in time, it's not something I've studied, but I gather many did, but thought France was far enough. Some couldn't get permission to enter other countries. Some presumably didn't have the resources. Some had elderly relatives who wouldn't move and who they weren't willing to abandon. No doubt, some had trouble believing that a nation which had treated them well was going to turn on them so completely.

As a sidetrack, I was surprised to find that a very large part of the Holocaust was of Polish Jews. They had a lot less warning.

As a general point, I believe that refusing to allow refugees into other countries does a *lot* to facilitate genocide.

#73 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 07:41 AM:

Right now, the Bushies aren't coming after "us" (those of us who disagree with them).

Of course, they are going after "them" (anyone who looks like a Muslim terrorist). Do those people "deserve" rights? Apparently not. Apparently we now live in a country where people can be held indefinitely. What's wrong with this picture?

And then I remember the very famous writing of Pastor Niemoller:

First the Nazis came…
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

I hate the way the current government is subverting the idea of America. But I don't plan to leave. Yet, anyway.

#74 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 09:01 AM:

The only person I knew at all well, who had been to a US military academy - the Air Corps didn't have one back when - had come from one of those old Southern military families, and was trying to follow in the tradition. But left, because of the lack of critical thinking, the overreliance on frontal assault, and the disregard for unnecessary casualties, both their own and civilian. He became a Taoist and a forester.

And the way that American Zionists steadfastly ignore the testimony, both verbal and silent witness, of the Refuseniks, and others like Gil Na'amati, and the amateur artist soldiers from the IDF with their protest multi-media exhibit - is nothing short of shameful.

#75 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 01:59 PM:

How ironic that complaints of a left splintered over the politics of Isreal and Palestine would completely derail the discussion in this thread about the torture of prisoners by members of the 82nd Airborne.

#76 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 02:16 PM:

Dave Luckett: I've known more than a few officers, and some of those from West Point.

The problem I see with them isn't rote, it's caste. They look after each other, and the history of the Army is such that they tend to do well, out of proportion to their numbers (since acadamy grads make up a small percentage of officers, and not all of them stay in, so the higher number which seem to make flag rank means something is at work. It may be they are, as a class, better officers, but that hasn't been my experience. Like the others the vary).

When they get in a jam, the equivalent of "the blue wall" comes down being a graduate of The Point matters more than the merits of the case.

The reverse is also true, if a Point grad is one of the targets, then (should a Pointer be on the team looking into it) the non-Pointer is likely to be given the harder fall.

This is purely my sense of things, I have no good data to back it up.

The thing to remember is being a success in a political organization (and the Army, esp. at the upper levels, is political, and from three fronts, internal, Governmental and external [press and public]) means knowing how to go along to get along, and that leads to a lot of the sorts of reflexive ass-covering we are seeing here, because the last two are trumping the first (needs of the Army, as an Army, rather than a player in politics).

#77 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 02:16 PM:

Sean--anything to avoid the elephant in the living room.

#78 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 02:29 PM:

I got to thinking, the other day, as to why Seymour Hersh hasn't let loose the remaining Abu Ghraib pictures, audio, and video.

There are a lot of possibilities, but a new one occurred to me:

Perhaps he's waiting for Gonzales to be named O'Connor's successor.

#79 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 02:31 PM:

Nancy: Part of the reason I keep guns isn't to protect myself from the gov't. It won't do that; what that will do is get me killed: maybe as a martyr, and maybe even as a useful martyr (but that won't matter much to me, once I'm dead).

No, I keep them because small arms make effective tools to overthrow a gov't. It takes awhile, and it means those who do it have to mean it, because, (esp. in the beginning) the gov't has a materiel advantage.

But (contrary to the claims of many) a tank, or an attack helicopter, is 1: expensive, and 2: not that useful in defeating a dedicated resistance (look at Iraq, or Palestine, or even Ireland).

I don't want to do that, but if a revolution comes, I don't want to be trying to get a gun with a knife. The tanks and choppers I can deal with by other means, but the infantry, that takes rifles.

What the nut-jobs I'm referrring to believe, however is the only threat comes from the left, who will try to have a real revolution with marches and rallies (a la the Orange Revolution in Ukraine) and they will be there to answer with, "a whiff of grapeshot," and that whiff will be painless for them because the "liberals" will be unarmed.

They really do think the gov't (at present) is on their side. When the "leftists" were in power (sub Clinton) they believed in black helicopters, but they didn't believe (if they could find the spark; see McVeigh, and The Turner Diaries the "left" would be able to stand against the popular revolt, which was certain to come, because they have all the guns (really they think this. Gun-toting liberals isn't just an oxymoron to them, it's a third-dimension in Flatland to many of them).

So they are safe, because the only threat to what they want is the system, because it doesn't prevent Liberals and Leftists from imposing their un-Godly and anti-American agenda on the good folks like them.

Yes, I sound (even to myself) as if I am foaming at the mouth, but I've heard too many (and read too many more) people saying things like this to take it anything other than seriously.

And if they rise up, well I'll be on the side of the gov't, and push come to shove, I'll privide my own arms.

#80 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 02:56 PM:

As for why all the Jews in Nazi Germany didn't leave in time

I know what some of the survivors said - I'm not sure how to interpret the all phrasing, maybe "not all" - some of the Jews in Germany left in time, some didn't and of course some who left found nowhere to go and were sent back.

In that connection I've heard Elie Wiesel speak of his own family's thinking. Despite all the knowledge among the Western powers Wiesel says he and his family had no idea the camps were truly death camps

[Wiesel suggested FDR in particular bore some guilt for not simply making sure everybody knew - I'm inclined to agree: regardless of the costs of making the skies darken (including alternative costs) the cost of different scripts for the radio broadcasts seem minimal to me.]

When the Wiesel family was taken, after the Normandy Invasion, Elie Wiesel says they opted to go expecting to survive until the Allied victory. Wiesel specifically says they were offered the Anne Frank option of hiding - again expecting it to be months not years - and turned it down to spare family connections any risk. Perhaps some people have taken a this too will pass atitude too far.

I've heard Edward Said say the only solution to the State of Israel is a unitary one man one vote secular state with citizenship for all the claimants. Given that only a handful in millions of the current or recent past residents seem to want that I'm not inclined to support imposing it. "You really oughta wanta" Doesn't leave many options does it?

I've been fairly well acquainted with folks who went to assorted military schools, West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, Citadel and VMI among others. Takes all kinds and some enjoyed it some didn't. See Heinlein's The Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail for one view of the not terribly soul deadening effects from learning quick mental arithmetic to compute seconds until graduation.

I suppose there are people who do take The Turner Diaries literally in terms of armed citizens changing the government - on both sides. I suggest people read that book - not for inspiration but as a guide to the enemy's thinking. There are lots of gun owning people I'd have trouble calling right wing including Jews For The Preservation of Firearms Ownership or Pink Pistols (active in North Idaho - see Palouse Pink Pistols). See Frank Church in Restricting Handguns the Liberal Skeptics Speak Out - I suspect the best known man for saying "from my cold dead hands" (Charlton Heston) had joined in "we shall not be moved" a few times but I suspect any people with guns who believe they can defend themselves against the government are thinking in terms of groups not individuals. Again I can point to Freedom Riders from the 60's who believe they are alive today because armed citizens (NOT right wing - see also the Kalashnikov so prominently displayed at Pine Ridge some years ago) protected them from local government. I've no idea what other people really think.

#81 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 03:07 PM:

If anyone has links to this story, i.e. the 82nd Airborne one, which do not come from a "known liberal" source I'd appreciate hearing about it. I want to do some education and they just won't believe it from the NYT or the WaPo. Those newspapers are liberal and you just can't trust them. This is gospel for the people I want to educate. As in a given that you don't even think about. It's just one of the basic facts of the world. Has the WSJ done anything on this yet?


#82 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 03:12 PM:

According to AMERICAblog, the Pentagon is aware of the photos soldiers are posting (described in the comments above) and doesn't care:

Centcom spokesman Matt McLaughlin said that, in general, "Centcom recognizes DoD regulations and the Geneva Convention prohibit photographing detainees or mutilating and/or degrading dead bodies." He added, "Centcom has no specific policy on taking pictures of the deceased as long as those pictures do not violate the aforementioned prohibitions."
The fact that US military officials refuse to denounce combat photos posted on a porn site is troubling, since the very act of posting pictures of dead civilians for entertainment value is degrading.
In addition, one photograph of detainees sitting on the back of a flatbed truck with burlap sacks on their heads does appear to break even the narrow rules on photographing detainees set forth by the Defense Department.
Digby (and Andrew Sullivan) point out similarities between our current political culture and a 14-point description of fascism. The comparison isn't a pretty one.

#83 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 03:20 PM:

Mary Kay, is Time Magazine considered particularly liberal? Because they've got the story.

I didn't see anything offhand from the Wall St. Journal or Washington Times, which I usually consider conservative press. I did find something from Bloomberg.

Try searching Google News for "Camp Mercury" and looking through the result list for publications your friend will trust. [I see USA Today, Houston Chronicle, and plenty from the foreign press.]

One possible "catch" is that this comes from a report by a human rights organization, which may be suspect in- and of- itself. On the other hand, Balloon Juice (a conservative blogger I tend to read) found it credible, so maybe that'll help.

Good luck.

#84 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 03:29 PM:

I got to thinking, the other day, as to why Seymour Hersh hasn't let loose the remaining Abu Ghraib pictures, audio, and video.

There are Freedom of Information Act suits going back and forth over this. The US Govt has been resisting releasing the images using a variety of tactics, claiming that their release would violate the Geneva Conventions, would interfere with current court cases, would endanger public safety by provoking riots, etcetera etcetera.
The administration has been trying every stalling tactic in the book to keep those photos from getting out.

TalkLeft has been following the case (search the archives for "Abu Ghraib" and aclu) or the ACLU's page may offer a history of the case.

#85 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 03:42 PM:

The tone may not suit but some facts (not 82nd or Captain Fishback specific) can be found in:
Detainee Details
Accountability and progress.
By Francis J. Harvey & Peter J. Schoomaker
— Francis J. Harvey is the secretary of the Army, and Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker is the Army chief of staff.
National Review Online at:

#86 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 03:50 PM:

claiming that their release would violate the Geneva Conventions, would interfere with current court cases, would endanger public safety by provoking riots, etcetera etcetera

It sounds as if they know that the charges are true, and are afraid of what will happen to them if their tame voters find out that the charges by the evil liberals were actually correct.

If the pictures violate the Geneva Convention, that would indicate that the activities when they were taken also violate it, yes?

The LA Times had an article about this, focusing more on McCain. It's hiding on their website, and you may need a log-in to get to it.

#87 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 03:57 PM:

It sounds as if they know that the charges are true, and are afraid of what will happen to them if their tame voters find out that the charges by the evil liberals were actually correct.

Yup. Especially since they've been fighting this since before the 2004 elections. Maybe if these had been released in a more timely manner, we'd be operating under a different administration today.

#88 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 05:38 PM:

I've heard Edward Said say the only solution to the State of Israel is a unitary one man one vote secular state with citizenship for all the claimants.

Yes, like Northern Ireland in the 1960s (admittedly not an independent state, but distinct enough from the mainland that it behaved like one). I suppose it *might* represent an improvement.

Sean: you're right. Sorry about that.

#89 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 05:43 PM:

Charlie: The full quote and citation is

1787 Nov. 13. "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it's natural manure." (to W. S. Smith, B.12.356)
from the Jefferson Quotations on Liberty at Monticello (about as much an official homepage as anyone can have who's been dead 179 years).

Laurie: Very well put!

Similarly, for anyone here who hasn't yet read it, Avedon Carol posted on The Sideshow some excellent comebacks to "Support Our Troops".

Mary Kay: As of this writing, there are 606 stories about the 82nd Airborne at Google News. Because they're most recent first, a lot of the newest ones as I type this are from overseas -- Ireland, the UK, Australia, etc. You might find something there you can use. And it will show that it's giving the US a black eye in world opinion.

#90 ::: Katharine ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 06:14 PM:

Just another comment on the "Nazi" discussion, despite the rule that says once the N-word is mentioned, it's no longer a discussion... it seems to me, whenever the matter is brought up, it is from our near-omniscient historical perspective, an accumulation of over half a century of testimony, documentation, and viewpoints.

I think it is an often forgotten point, and one that Clark, above, touched on, that few people, Jews OR others, in Germany at the time, knew the true extent of the crimes being perpetrated in their name. My mother's family was in Germany during the war; they emigrated in the fifties. My grandfather was a minister, and he did preach with fair regularity against the political regime. I am told that he was occasionally "asked after" in a threatening manner by the authorities, though never in any real danger by the sounds of it. Both his sons, my uncles, fought in the German army. (NOT the SS, I emphasise. The German army. In defense of their country and family.)

They knew some of what had happened, after the Allied victory, but my mother says that they didn't get the full picture until after coming to Canada.

I think it is more difficult to pull that off on such a large scale these days of course, what with the Web -- but then again, are a majority of American citizens surfing the alternative news sources? Are the majority of American citizens that well versed in history? The majority of the Canadian ones I know, aren't. To them, Nazis is "something bad, Jews were killed, swastikas."

My point, I suppose, is that if the comparison is going to be made, it must be made fairly, and not with the attitude of one who has seen the whole movie. We make these assumptions, and are then surprised when average people think us hysterical, or paranoid.

#91 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 06:49 PM:

P J Evans: No. By way of example. I have some pictures I took at a compound we were running SSW of Baghdad (people standing and sitting behind concertina, some of them are smoking, some are talking). No one is recognizable, so I can publish them, if I wanted to.

If those people were recognizable, and I elected to publish them I might be committing a crime, because it might be violate article 13 of the present conventions, ""prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity".

It's the recognizable status which moves them into public curiosity, and so makes such publication a crime, even if what was happening in the pictures wasn't.

You will recall there was a great hue and cry when our POWs were shown on Iraqi TV, this was the reason cited.

We said we had to show the corpses of Udai and Q'sai., because the Iraqi's need to know they were dead outwieghed the conventions.

#92 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 08:06 PM:


You addressed other people in this discussion, accusing them of having given up (when a person says "you", whether singular or plural, they are not including themselves).

Have you--you, Erik Olson, personally--given up? If so, when are you emigrating? If not, please state your plan/thoughts for improving matters, because I and others here might be able to help.

#93 ::: FranW ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 08:19 PM:

I think they should get Michael Brown to investigate these abuses. He'd be perfect for the job.

Well, after he finishes with his _new_ job, that is.

His new job. As consultant. To FEMA. To evaluate FEMA's response to Katrina.

Somebody please shoot me now.

#94 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 09:28 PM:

Terry: I'll accept that reason. It's true, they didn't say where the riots would be provoked. But if the pictures are like some of the ones that have been released, I could see riots on both sides; the harming of prosecutions and provoking riots was what got my attention.

#95 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 10:39 PM:

Mary Kay,

As one native Oklahoman to another, let me say something not about your relatives, or mine for that matter, but people generally: By the odds, there are some folks you just can't reach.

I hate to think of giving up on people, but consider it triage: The people to concentrate on aren't black tags--dead inside--or greens--aok by me--but reds and especially yellows.

Some of the black tags will end up getting well, but not due to our efforts.

My apologies to anyone who finds this analogy disturbing in any way. I assure you, so do I.

#96 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 10:41 PM:

The anti-Israel warmongers fought and lost, and started more wars and fought and lost, etc. The Jews who left the surrounding lands didn't "have to leave" neither did the Jews of Europe before Nazi Germany took over the whole area....


The treatment of Muslims in Israel after 1948 was not worse than the treatment of Jews in the region between the rise of Arab nationalist in the 1880s and beyond. Jews were driven out of what became Saudi Arabia under convert-or-else, anyone who's a citizen of that country MUST be Muslim. There were pogroms in various countries including what became Iraq.

The immigrants to Israel from the surrounding regions took various grudges with them against the people and governments who had driven them out of the homes (or merely made it impossible for them own businesses and hold jobs that could support them) their families had occupied, again, for hundreds, even thousands of years, why -wouldn't- they have grudges? Many of the most ardent promoters of "Israel for Jews" are people whose families came to Israel from the Arabian Pennisula, North Africa, and Middle Eastern Asia. Why should they like Muslims, who were full citizens in those countries and had rights and privileges denied Jews, any more than people of Armenian descent in the USA like Turks?! The vicious takeover of Armenia by the Turks was longer ago in time than the attempted extermination of European Jewry and the actions of Germany's Middle Eastern allies against Jews... or has it been forgotten that Hitler had Middle Eastern allies? Turkey was one of the few states in the region that wasn't busily making life totally miserable or impossible for Jews.

[I went looking for the book I mentioned in the previous post, and mislaid Jews in the Roman World by Michael Grant when I was looking for the other book; Grant mentioned "pogrom" regarding the Jewish community in Alexandria, and noted that there were a lot of people who died, and that what had been the most affluent Jewish community in the world, went into poverty and major decline... converting community from affluence to poverty over a very short time, when there aren't any hurricans, tsunamis, long-term droughts, watercourse changes, wind changes, loss of flora and/or fauna, etc., but only -political- changes, that involves a downsizing of the community... I suspect that Grant was going out of his way to avoid using any term like "massacre." He did mention that there were deaths involved.... I can't find the other book at the moment, though, to quote the sections that had information that was much more quantitative.]

I am -not- excusing various Israelis. I did, however, back in the mid-1990s, when I was over there with a widowed aunt, hear a Likud politians who her late husband was a cousin of, say, "What are we doing in Lebanon? Lebanon isn't our country!" The week before than I was with my aunt in Jerusalem, and the F-15s flew over the city at night on probably a bombing raid north over the border. My aunt had a flashback to WWII (she had been in the US Navy) seeing soldiers, male and female, gathered and lined up on sidewalks waiting to get on buses, being called up to active duty service. (Israel eventually left Lebanon, but Syria stayed... the massacres at Shatilla and the other site were committed by Lebanese Christians, which seems to be a factor that gets glossied over all the time. The Israeli general who did nothing to try to prevent the massacre was censured by Israel's parliament if I recall correctly, that got glossed over, he. He didn't participate in the massacre, but he didn't act to try to prevent it and so was considered culpable and convicted of contributing to the massacres... but the actual perpetrators the world seemed to have chosen to leave off equal or greater condemnation for.)


But my point about the planes flying over Jerusalem in the night was that it is a -very- small country. No place on it it is out of range of relatively short-range weapons. The only country in the area which geographically is smaller, is Lebanon.

As for "ethnic cleansing" which is a term I find utterly obscene, what was done in ex-Yugoslavia involved mass murder and rape done systematically as terror weapon. Central Africa had mass murder. I haven't noticed mass expulsion of Muslims out of "occupied territories" into Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Saudia Arabia, etc., and the only country in the area that seemed to have offered real refuge and citizenshp the past 60 years was Kuwait....

Where's the blame to dump on the other countries in the area for failing to help establish non-sectarian nations where e.g. Jews and Yezed and those who left voluntarily or involuntary from the only state in the world where Jews aren;'t discrimated against for their religion (it was very odd to me to be in a country where the country didn't revolve around -Christian- holiday and the Christian Day of Rest regarding when businesses were open and closed and schools open and closed, and voting set.... voting in town elections where I live is on -Saturday-, which discriminates against observant Jews. Most public schools are arranged around Christian holy days being vacation days, but people who are of other religions don't get such consideration. Commerce and industry in the USA is accommodating to Christians and not non-Christians in business hours generally--while most states abolished most of the "Blue Laws" that banned most commerce on Sunday, still store hours on Sunday are much shorter than hours open other days of the week. The entertainment industry has default assumption of Christianity, be it characters in a soap opera getting married for the fifteenth time, or "holiday special" shows. The USA is permeated with Christianity and assumptions that the default is Christianity, and then there is the Christian right, and the bill that passed last week in the House of Representatives saying that Headstart programs run by sectarian organizations can discriminate against applicants for jobs paid for with federal funds on the basis of religion. the only organizatiions which have gotten faith-based initiative grants have seemed to have been Christian organizations, though non=Christian organizations have applied. There definitely seems to be bias involved. And, there is more and more pressure for tyranny by the majority regarding such things in this country.

It felt very, very, very odd to be in the situation where the social order was consonant with the Jewish Sabbath being a day of rest instead of errands, where kosher food wasn't something one had to go searching out for with a fine-toothed comb, where Christianity wasn't pervasive.

Yes, I am seeing occasional foods in supermarkets marked "halal" (some particular types of packages of Cabot cheese have a crescent moon halal marking, along with Tablet-K kosher certification) and such, but the pervasiveness is Christianity. It only becomes noticeable just how all-encompassing it is, when in a country that isn't permeated with Christianity.


How many countries in the Middle East allow Jews to have full citizenship and rights, despite there havintg been Jews in them prior to the rise of Arab nationalism for thousands of years? Seems to me that there is a massive double standard in effect... one lousy country tries to be a place where Jews are not a discriminated against minority, and gets shit from it from the nearly the entire rest of the world, while the neighbors vary from preference for Islam to rabid xenophobia for non-Muslims regarding citizenship and rights and the rest of the world is mostly quiet about their habits regarding "human rights" and the status of women...

#97 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 11:52 PM:

The issue - as far as I am concerned - in not where people of various religions can feel that the social order is consonant with their particular bias (religious or otherwise). The issue is: U.S. energy (soldiers under direct order from the US in one case, billions of dollars in U.S. tax money in the other) is being used to support torture. People object to it when it happens in Iraq - and in Israel. Some people (Laurie, upthread) found it alraming that so many anti-Israel people were at the anti-war demo. I hoped to explain a bit why the same people are drawn to both causes.

As to the rest - the gulf between our axioms is too great. It is not just your facts that I see as problematic (Turkey had other scapegoats. Would you like to discuss Armenians? Kurds?) but the foundation on which they rest.

I hope we can agree that the U.S. should not be using torture.

#98 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 12:16 AM:

I guess I don't have much to say on this thread, other than that I'm not surprised. It was pretty obvious that this must have been going on everywhere, if it was going on at a half dozen other Army-run prisons in three countries as has already been reported on.

It's good that this guy came forward, but there is not the least chance that there will be any real consequences. Who's getting prosecuted in the Abu Ghraib cases? People who took photos or appeared in photos. Who's not? Well, the CIA torturers. The soldiers who repeatedly killed prisoners. The officers who told them to do so. The commanders who were aware of all this. Need I go on?

#99 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 12:19 AM:

Er, not ironic at all, Sean, unless you're using a different definition of "irony" than the one usually used on this planet, or in this continuum.

A few weeks? months? back I posted the link on my blog to an "On This Day" from the BBC (a feature where they post what was on their broadcasts 10, 20, 50 years ago) - a lengthy diatribe against the genocidal actions of the Nazis against the Jews, by a British cabinet official, from 1942 or 43. So those who say that the Allies didn't know, or couldn't have known, are just wrong. The truth *was* out there. And around the same time I posted a lot of the leaflets of the White Rose, with background information on the membership, and how they found out about the atrocities in Poland and Russia - some of these kids were in the German Army, remember, and working as medics because that was the closest they could get to CO status - some of the guys saw things themselves, and came home on leave, or heard about them from buddies who *committed* them. They were *adamant* in their reproaches, directed towards their fellow German citizens, that only those who chose not to know as hard as they could, who made the mental choice to disregard the testimony of atrocity as "unreliable" compared to the assurances of their government that they were behaving honorably towards the Poles and Russians, who were themselves barbarians - only willful ignorance among adults was possible. (Remember that many of them were teens, had been resisting since they were *young* teens some of them, and none of them very old at all, except for the professor they recruited eventually.)

I'm not at my own computer, and don't have access at the moment to all my research - but it wasn't farther back than July and it wasn't hard to google up in the first place anyway. The only hard stuff was tracking down about the Gray Order, the extinct liberal Catholic youth group, which has been almost totally memoryholed and required a lot of translating of German source matter.

In short, "none so deaf as will not hear, none so blind as will not see." As ever. Why? Because knowledge requires change of belief; change of belief requires action, or change of action, or cessation of action.

Micah 7:10-17 (I am no prophet, nor any prophet's daughter, but I was a clerk, and a pusher of pixels, and the LORD took me from before the desk...)

#100 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 01:09 AM:

from sisyphus shrugged:

September 27, 2005

...Car bombings and other insurgent attacks, as unknown in Baghdad before the invasion as suicide subway bombings were in London until this summer, have killed more than 3,000 people in the capital since late spring...

3,000 killed just in Baghdad in what, five months?

And maybe this bit of wisdon isn't in the Army's counterinsurgency manuals, but this doesn't seem like the way you go about keeping people from hating your guts:

....In Karrada this summer, Mohammed and the neighborhood watched as American soldiers on patrol grew irritated at an Iraqi who had left his car in the street to run inside a store on an errand, blocking their armored convoy.

The Americans took one of the empty plastic water bottles they use to
relieve themselves when on patrol, Mohammed said. When the Iraqi driver ran
out to move his car, an annoyed American plunked him with the newly filled
bottle and rolled on, Mohammed said.

He started crying," Mohammed said of the Iraqi driver, humiliated in front
of the neighborhood.

#101 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 01:12 AM:


I've been outraged at the activities, values, methods, and actions of the Bush Misadministration for months. I didn't apply such sobriquets as "Gag Order Gorge," and "Bully Boy Bush and his Bunch of Buddies," "the Schmuck," "Chief Thief," etc. I have about five positive things to say about the Schmuck--he got the dams that dried up the marshes at the Gulf breached and the marshes with water in them again, he sent troops into Afghanistan toward the goals that including ending the Taliban reign of terror and spread of terror (but where oh were is Osama bin Laden alive or dead "Osama, hey sama, sama sama O-sama.. who's the threat?", and the USA has been sustaining warlords who in their treatment of the populace and especially women, are indistinguishable from how Taliban treated the people of Afghanistan), and I forget the other two or three things. I don't think he's Evil Incarnate, merely evil, and his buddies evil also, and his goals evil, and his methods evil.

The reports coming out now regarding the 82nd Airborne, are consonant with reports of atrocity reports/rumors out of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Afghanistan, the "ghost prisoners" and the spook plane allegedly shuttling them to countries where the laws don't have niceties that Schmuck and buddies want overlooked and excised regarding cruel and unusual punishment, arrests requiring duly implemented warrant, habeas corpus, speedy trials, counsel, etc. in their national laws, or enforced if present; etc.

The methods alleged used by the 82nd are consistent with those allegedly to have been used elsewhere.

That is, bottom line, it's systematic and endemic, and the ONLY statistically highly probable way for that to happen, is if there are connections involved--done truly independently the methods used ought to be different.

That is, mathematically things that happened totally independently, tend to not have those degrees of commonality. And even when there is -some- commonality, there can be some substantial differences, as with the development of radar, where it was invented in Britain and research into it in the USA was based on British technology, one country used magetrons and the other klystrons as the microwave-generating tube technology at the hearts of their radars, one could build working klystrons and not magnetrons, and the other could build working magnetrons and not klystrons--even though they were developing the radars starting with the same research and development notes and information and plans!

Different people working independently do things differently--Newton and Leibnitz were working independently developing calculus (Archimedes' work in the area not having survived intact visibly to be rediscovered until very recently using modern technoloby on a palimpset under much later writing on the physical medium) but used very different notation. Newton invented the x-dot, x-double dot, etc., notation, Leibniz invented the dx/dy, d2x/dy2, etc. notation. They were describing the same ideas, but using very different shapes of tools in their characterizing of them.

The US troops, however, were using the same techniques in different places, in different outfits. The common factors include:

- Military Intelligence direction of prisoner treatment and "interrogation,"
- Contractors involved
- in at least Guantanamo and Abu Graib MGen Miller,
- the intentional flouting of the Geneva Convention--the captain of the 82nd was quoted as saying that he wasn't bothered by the Geneva Convention violations because he thought that it was the policy of [the Bush Misadministration] US Government to not comply with the Geneva Convention regarding treatment of prisoners, it was only after the Schmuck stood and [mendaciously...] claimed the USA was complying with the Geneva Convention (now who was it, Judge Roberts? who ruled that the prison abuse the US Government directed wasn't "torture" ? US military Judge Advocate General (JAG = lawyer/legal officers) officer had been so disturbed and appalled at US Govenment prisoner abuse they had gone to either the state or local legal oversight agency in New York state/City to file protests against the US Government policy and actions in the matter -- at all sites with different excuses only offered up--at Guantanamo the excuse was that it wasn't torture and didn't transgress the Geneva Convention, at Abu Ghraib the excuses were poor training that failed to address what was and was not allowable and the unacceptable activities being carried out by rogue low-ranking low quality Guard not-regular-Army enlisted v/e/r/m/i/n personnel, in the 82nd the excuse was that the US Government policy was to blow off the Geneva convention entirely with regards to treatment of prisoners,

The individual units having custody of the prisoners were different, but Military Intelligence reports up a different chain of command that seemed to cross geographic boundaries, the contractors reported back to whoever was paying them to be contractors doing whatever they were doing out of DC and the contractor headquarters back somewhere in the USA and who knows who gave the contractors direction, and MGen Miller reported back to Rumsfeld or so.

The trails of suspicion of "what do they situations have as common elements" points up the chain of command of the contractors, MGen Miller, and Military Intelligence. Other common points in Iraq only, include Lt General Sanchez. Former Guard BGen Karpinsky, who failed to be sufficiently suspicious and didn't write those critical things called CYA (Cover Your Ass) memos, detailing the -verbal- orders she alleges were given her by e.g. Lt Gen Sanchez and the direction by MGen Miller, who both outranked her, taking authority from her and handing it over to Military Intelligence and contractors and given them direction over various personnel who were supposed to be under her command and control via the chain of command, and the conversations in which she was she alleged stripped of authority and shoved off to the side as regards actual exercise of command and control at Abu Ghraib; got made into the sacrificial goat in the inquiry when the sweep-under-the-rug strategy sprung some unplugable leaks.

The worst of the atroticies, however, pictures alleged to show homicide committed resulting from prisoner abuse, the Bush Crime Gang has so far successfully kept control of the damning photographic evidence of and prevented release of, and refused to return pictures to their rightful owner, the person who took them adn turned them over to US Government authorities blowing the whistle, or TRYING to blow the whistle, on the situation.


There's allegedly an Israeli component to this obscene, noxious, offensive, immoral, despicable horrorshow, allegations that among the advisors/contractors are Israelis who used brutality/torture against prisoners in Israeli jail accused of terrorism.

Being angry at people who commit/committed/are alleged to have committed atrocities--bombing schools, shooting civilians, blowing up buses full of civilians, etc. is understandable. But it is a measure of being -civilized- and -decent- to not abuse even imprisoned mass murderers, until/unless they are convicted of heinous crimes, and even then, the US Constitution prohibit "cruel and unusual punishment." It allowed capital punishment, but not torture.

For the US Government to have facilitated/enabled/promulgated/lied about/tried to cover over torture at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the facility the 82 Airborne oversaw prisoners at, and elsewhere, are offenses to and violations of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights themselves, in addition to being violations of human decency and civilized behavior.

It makes the US Government massive, vicious, lying hypocries, but then, that Bush Crime Gang are a pack of rabid, vicious wolverines, vicious and vituperative and scheming for the sake of viciousness and vituperation. The methods used at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the 82nd Airborne, etc., again, show a systematic approach and conspiracy, intent to deliberately mislead and lie about methods, Star Chamber tactics, and breakdown of enforcement and INTEREST in enforcing letter and spirit of the most basic legal documents at the heart of the country the United States of America.

I'm not interesting in shooting myself, I'm interested in those who have spectacularly and noxiously broken their oaths to uphold the Constitution, from the top down, be held liable to the full extent of US and prosecuted for high treason for malfeasance--from the top down.

#102 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 01:16 AM:

my apologies. It was not sisyphus shrugged that posted the note about US troops behaving badly in Iraq, it was Laura Rozen over at It's late. Time for bed.

#103 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 01:17 AM:

Tbat should have been, instead of I didn't apply such sobriquets as "Gag Order Gorge," and "Bully Boy Bush and his Bunch of Buddies," "the Schmuck," "Chief Thief," etc.", rather "I didn't casually apply such sobriquets as...."

#104 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 01:30 AM:

Why are the right-wingers letting him do it? Don't they recognize that they, personally, are just one anonymous denunciation away from indefinite detention, subject to the whims of bored jailers?

I have no idea why the right-wingers are letting him (who he specifically? who leads and who follows?) do it in this case - but perhaps someone could tell me - I'm curious based on stories of life in the Kremlin say, why left-wingers let him get away with it when he was Lenin or Stalin or Tito or Mao or Pol Pot or again why Papa Doc or some of the others? It's reported that Paul Robeson performed brilliantly on nights when he knew his friends were being killed but there was no enemy on the left. So far as I know, especially given tales of life among the nomenklatura there was little ignorance and less protest?

" Clark, above, touched on, that few people, Jews OR others, in Germany at the time, knew the true extent of the crimes being perpetrated in their name"

Well no, I'd say that many - but not all -people Jews AND others in Greater Germany at the time knew the true extent of the crimes - notice that Wiesel wasn't in Germany of course. As I am perhaps too fond of saying I've known only one German soldier who owned up to being a true believer Nazi - but many - some Italians too - who did their very best for the Third Reich. It wasn't Germans who made the name of the Velodrome d'Hiver a name that will live in infamy though. The prisoners in the dock being tried for the killings at Oradour sur Glan - carried out by soldiers of the Der Führer Regiment of the 2nd Waffen-SS Panzer Division Das Reich; they killed a total of 642 men, women and children without giving any explanation for their actions and to this day there is no universally accepted explanation for the massacre - sat in court in French Army uniforms - they were Alsatians who served first the French, then the Germans, then the French again including service in Indo China (comparisons between actions in France and Vietnam omitted as being perhaps invidious). Perhaps like Mother Courage both good and bad just muddle through?

As for the corporation's many problems I'm not sure Boeing was better run when it was Bill Boeing's whim - and it was his whim until he lost an argument with Hugo Black as Attorney General. For those who aren't fans of Wal-Mart is it the corporation or Sam Walton - Microsoft or Bill Gates and Paul Allen? The great man or the times? Have to ask Mycroft Holmes sometime what changes the course of events.

Ex-thread, anybody knocking Blackwater for hiring Schmitz (Inspector General but not as competent as Danny Kay)?

#105 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 01:40 AM:

Paula: I'd be interested if you could track down that Michael Grant reference (and I shall try to look it up in the library here if I have time tomorrow). I'm surprised he is prepared to call it a pogrom - I had understood that the sources described only a riot, which suggests a very different set of events. But he will know more about it than I do.

#106 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 02:11 AM:

That is, bottom line, it's systematic and endemic, and the ONLY statistically highly probable way for that to happen, is if there are connections involved--done truly independently the methods used ought to be different.

Of course there are connections involved. To quote myself: posted here 05.09.04 on entry User base persistence (we've been appalled by this for a long time - anybody getting fatigued?)(

Somebody set up a torture machine and walked away and left the machine running.

The current accounts (which are of past occurances) explicitly include a trail back to early days in Afghanistan or a chain of tribal knowledge coming forward if you will. Both
(1) this is the way it's done
(2) it's OK to do it this way.

According to long previously published reports there was a torture machine setup and approved by National Command Authority for a limited purpose with a limited time and place.

Sort of like the Dynasty of Western Outlaws out of Missouri from Quantrill through Pretty Boy Floyd there is an outlaw chain of tribal knowledge and influence.

It does appear to me that Command Authority went off and left it running rather than acknowledge and deal with it.

I'd guess the sin is one of ommission rather than commission - and the reserve one star forgot she was a general officer and acted like an MP but I really want to know what happend that all the first shirts and officers failed - didn't take care of their men and women - didn't know what was happening backchannel - even if they chose to hush it up they should have nipped it in the bud. Don't know why Captain Fishback had no influence down or sideways if also none up? Obs SF - Starship Troopers - Rico hears a Court and consequences including an interesting discussion about who failed first.

#107 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 07:29 AM:

Can anyone elucidate this?

It's reported that Paul Robeson performed brilliantly on nights when he knew his friends were being killed but there was no enemy on the left.
I don't quite know exactly what the context is meant to be -- His black friends being murdered by segregationists?; something to do with his connections in Soviet Russia? I also just completely don't understand what "but there was no enemy on the left" means. Is it all related to some particular known story or incident?

Also, on the "how could they let him do this"? subject, there was something touching on this earlier: We never knew (December 7th, 2004) mentions this website, called "We never knew".

A couple of relevant books:
Six Against Tyranny - Inge Scholl, Translated By Cyrus Brooks: Original Title: Die Weisse Rose or The White Rose* (London: John Murray, 1955). There's another English-language edition, also called The White Rose (Translator: Arthur R. Schultz) 'Recounts the resistance to the Nazi regime waged by a group of disillusioned former Hitler Youth at university in Munich'; and
When I Was a German, 1934-1945: An Englishwoman in Nazi Germany (Also called The Past is Myself) by Christabel Bielenberg (adapted for TV as Christabel by Dennis Potter in 1988)

[*Rose Blanche, by Roberto Innocenti (USA translators Martha Coventry and Richard Graglia, UK Ian McEwan) is a children's picture book tangentially touching on the subject. The protagonist is a young girl called Rose Blanche. I saw a professional, published review of it once which completely missed the reference.]

#108 ::: Donald Johnson ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 10:49 AM:

What Israel did in 1948 was ethnic cleansing, complete with massacres and rapes. According to Benny Morris, the pro-ethnic cleansing historian, in subsequent years thousands of Palestinians, most of them unarmed, were shot when they crossed the borders, many for the crime of trying to sneak back to their homes. And Sharon, responsible for Sabra and Shatila, who also dropped bombs on Beirut, killing thousands, and committed his first known massacre in 1953--he is currently Prime Minister. Considering that he ought to have spent the last 50 years rotting away in jail, he hasn't done too badly for himself.

Yeah, Israel is singled out for blame in much of the world and that's wrong--they are a fairly typical Western democracy, IMO, which isn't intended to be praise, but they're not as bad as some of their critics. But the overly bad press they get elsewhere is balanced by the absurdly kind press they get in the US. In my experience, people know about Palestinian terrorism, but little or nothing about Israeli crimes.

#109 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 11:37 AM:

From Epacris,
Can anyone elucidate this?......

I had posted:

It's reported that Paul Robeson performed brilliantly on nights when he knew his friends were being killed but there was no enemy on the left.

I don't quite know exactly what the context is meant to be -- His black friends being murdered by segregationists?; something to do with his connections in Soviet Russia? I also just completely don't understand what "but there was no enemy on the left" means. Is it all related to some particular known story or incident?

I'd like to think so - see e.g.
The story of Itzik Feffer is cited by some as an example of the lengths to which Paul Robeson would go to avoid criticism of the Soviet Union.

In 1948 Robeson was on one of his periodic visits to the Soviet Union when he asked to meet with Yiddish poet Itzik Feffer. Feffer, along with the actor Solomon Mikhoels and other prominent Jews were victims of the latest anti-Semitic purge by Stalin. They had been hosted by Robeson during a World War II visit to the U.S. as part of Stalin's Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee and Robeson had been urged to intervene on their behalf. Though he had been cleaned up and dressed in a suit, Feffer's fingernails had been torn out.

Though he couldn't speak openly, Robeson later told his son that the poet indicated by gestures and a few handwritten words that Mikhoels had been murdered on the orders of Stalin and that the other Jewish prisoners were being prepared for the same fate. After the two friends said goodbye, Feffer was taken back to the Lubyanka and would never be seen alive again.

However, when Robeson returned home he condemned as anti-Soviet propaganda reports that Feffer and other Jews had been killed. Not once did Robeson denounce Feffer's murder. Later on Robeson confided in his son, Paul Robeson Jr., the details of his meeting with Feffer. He made his son vow not to make the story public until well after his death, "because he had promised himself that he would never publicly criticize the USSR."

It was in appreciation of his support that in 1952 he was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize. Robeson’s actions at a concert broadcast live across the Soviet Union, is seen by some as a defiance of Stalin's campaign against Jewish "cosmopolitism" by ending his set with a song sung in Yiddish, Dos Partizanenlied (also known as Song of the Warsaw Ghetto Rebellion). The Yiddish song was cut from rebroadcasts of the concert. (This is recounted in Mary M. Leder's book My Life in Stalinist Russia). Robeson also wrote a tribute to Joseph Stalin in April, 1953 shortly after Stalin's death entitled To You Beloved Comrade.

No enemy on the left is equally a well known quasi quote, google on the exact phrase -

I was responding to an earlier discussion of the failure by some on what might be called the American right to criticize what might be called the more extreme right. I could explain that only by assuming each is waiting for someone else to do it - psych experiment: put a group in a room and blow smoke in - folks will hesitate to be the first to yell fire though alone in the room people are said to typically respone more quickly.

My suggestion was that the same behavior has been observed in a particularly extreme form on what might be called the left - given an explanation for the left perhaps an explanation for the right will appear.

Clear now?

#110 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 11:53 AM:

"Why didn't anyone on the left criticize the Soviet Union?" isn't equivalent to "Why didn't Paul Robeson criticize the Soviet Union?"

In the same way "Why doesn't anyone on the right criticize the Bush regime?" isn't the same as "Why doesn't Rush Limbaugh criticize the Bush regime?"

#111 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 12:00 PM:

Speaking of Nazis.....

Back in the 80's there was a guy who sugested that only six million people were killed in the Holocaust rather than the 11.5 million that was generally agreed on. He was rapidly labeled a Nazi sympathizer, and Holocause revisionist became a synonym for neo-nazi.

Lately I've seen the phrase, "six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust" which is true as far as it goes but leaves a double helping of mass murder on the table. Anybody else notice this? Can anyone point to where this trend began?

#112 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 12:52 PM:

For the original question of Why are the right-wingers letting him do it? I am, given thread drift, reminded of Kruschev's "Who said that?" - "Now you know" quip as reported.

"Why didn't anyone on the left criticize the Soviet Union?" isn't equivalent to "Why didn't Paul Robeson criticize the Soviet Union?"
Why didn't (a,b,c,..n) criticize name is equivalent to: Why didn't a criticize name + Why didn't b criticize name + Why didn't c criticize name....+ Why didn't n criticize name Induction~Deduction

I believe I can understand the failure of Rush Limbaugh to criticize the Bush administration, though I confess I fail to see much equivalence between Rush Limbaugh and Paul Robeson as people despite their shared status as popular entertainers. I'd have hoped for better from Paul Robeson. For an expanation why i failed to critcize the Soviet Union I like Being Red by Howard Fast(ov)- arguably egoboo coupled with resentment and idealism. Perhaps that explains Paul Robeson on one axis but I don't think it generalizes. Equally there are examples of i criticizing the Bush administration - the harder question is identifying (justifying) the set(s) to which i belong(s).

If the expectation of rational behavior could be validated for all cases then many problems - e.g. the economy - would collapse to solved cases and Socrates would lack a fallacy named for him.

#113 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 01:32 PM:

The Michael Grant book is I think _Jews in the Roman World_, the page is something like page 117 +- 12 pages --I was looking at it some hours back, and mislaid it when looking for that book with the title something like Jews in their Lands in Roman Times.

31 BCE: Ptolemaic forces are beaten by the Romans, and Alexandria falls under Roman control.
116 CE: A revolt among local Jews leads to an annihilation of the Jewish community, and heavy destruction of the city.

"The Decline of the Library and Museum of Alexandria
"by Ellen Brundige
"December 10, 1991

"...By the time Caius (Caligula) succeded to the principate...Alexandria was once more embroiled in civil unrest. There was extensive rioting between Greeks and Jews, an old Alexandrian problem which had resurfaced. This was, perhaps, partly due to Caligula's appointment of Herod Agrippa as King of Judea, who was a debtor to many Alexandrian moneylenders, and who unfortunately stopped at the city en route to Jerusalem. The Jews themselves were annoyed at his appointment, and the Greeks were even less pleased. Furthermore, the Jews were refusing to erect or worship statues of Caligula. Tensions and riots multiplied. The Jewish historian Philo recorded these events and his own participation as an envoy to Rome in 38 A.D. in his Delegation to Caius and On Flaccus..."

The Catholic Encyclopedia

[From the 1913 Public Domain edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia... the section quoted below which unequivocally states that the Jews of Egypt and Cyrene attacked Greeks in those places, I have considerable doubt about--the attitudes of the Catholic Church towards Jews back in 1913 was ery much not what is not what it is today. Back then the official policy of the Roman Catholic Church was that Jews killed Jesus, for example. While originally Christianity was an offshoot frm Judaism, over time the focus shifted towards more Greek heritage (note that the oldest versions extant of the Christian Gospels are in Greek) and Roman culture.... There are websites from claimants who say that the numbers of Jews who were victims of systematic attempted genocide in central Europe last century, were only 1.5 millon, not four million. I decline considering those sites worthy of websurfing to beyond that first visit that had that "information" prominently starting at the top of the page... The Flying Spaghetti Monster has more credibility and much more merit for credibility. The line "In Cyprus and Cyrene, Jews massacred gentiles in great numbers" in abstracts on Google is a very strong indicator of those sorts of hatemonger or hatemonger-slander-repeating webpage.]

"History of the Jews

"...Up to the reign of Caligula (37-44), the Jews enjoyed, without any serious interruption, the universal toleration which Roman policy permitted to the religion of the subject states. But when that emperor ordered that Divine honours should be paid to him, they generally refused to submit. Petronius, the Roman Governor of Syria, received peremptory orders to use violence, if necessary, to set up Caligula's statue in the Temple at Jerusalem. At Alexandria a fearful massacre took place, and it looked as if all the Jews of Palestine were doomed to perish. Petronius, however, delayed the execution of the decree, and in fact, escaped punishment only through the murder of Caligula in A.D. 41. The Jews were saved, and with the accession of Claudius, who owed the imperial dignity chiefly to the efforts of Herod Agrippa, a brighter day dawned for them. Through gratitude, Claudius conferred upon Agrippa the whole kingdom of Herod the Great, and upon the Jews at home and abroad valuable privileges."

"...When the Jews in the East revolted yet again under Trajan in 116, Alexandria followed suit, beginning yet another ethnic and religious clash fueled by the grievances of the refugees from Judea.[41] Roman troops helped Greeks in Alexandria's guerilla war that continued throughout Trajan's reign, but there is evidence that anti-semitism was sated with the many bloody massacres and began to turn once more to anti-Romanism.[42]..."


Europe's traumas to Jews made lasting impressions--some Jews from Europe hid their background when they came to the USA and threw themselves into assimilation. There there are what appear to be the cryptojudaic communities in the US soutwest who migrated there from Spain 500+ years ago evading the Inquisition and accusations of heresy for false conversion to Christianity. They've been sitting in what became the Southwest USA for all those centuries keeping their ritual lives private and the women tracking family lines and keeping a closed society, FOR FIVE HUNDRED YEARS! Some of that have started to come out of the closet, FIVE HUNDRED YEARS LATER!!!! Some families in Spain have started doing the same, five hundred years later, for whom the family secrets didn't get lost in transmisson along the way....

For that matter, Mayans started coming out of the closet, too, having hidden their religious heritage and beliefs and ceremonies for the same amount of time, when the Iberians arrived and took over Latin America.

#114 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 01:58 PM:

Consider that someone "sneaking across" a hostile border is automatically suspected of being a terrorist bent on committing atrocities like executing a suicide bombing: the standing orders for such situations are to shoot to kill ANYONE who crosses the border. For that matter, here in the USA, for certain military facilities, the orders for the people patrolling those facilities has been "shoot to kill" anyone detected trying to go over, under, or through the fencing around the facility. The only acceptable place for people to get onto the base from are the official gates. Anyone other attempted access, again, the standing orders are shoot to kill attempted intruders. And that was in a peacetime US, with borders with countries who are allies of the USA and open borders.

Anyone trying to get into Israel from the surrounding countries surreptiously, was under immediate and deadly suspicion of being a hostile agent. I think there were a number of deadly attacks that did happen from people getting across the border. In a warzone, anyone who tries to cross a border surrepticiously [hmm, that spelling looks wrong], has the status of "probable enemy, shoot to kill before they can launch an attack."

Killing a stupid civilian [someone trying to get across a hostile border between two countries which are not at peace with one another and borders that have hostile fire exchanges across, any civilian who sets foot trying to cross the border ranks as someone with a death wish, or merely "too stupid to live"--it's tantamount to suicide] who voluntarily sets foot in a shoot-to-kill zone, versus allowing a suspected terrorist bomber to get into the country and blow up dozens to hundreds of people, the vast majority of people in the world would shoot to kill the person intruding trying to secretly cross the border: it's called self-defense and protecting the citizens of the country from lethal attacks.

The human rights records of the countries in the Middle East varies from Israel's record of frustration trying to deal with people in a culture raised with the idea of "driving the Jews into the sea" and which extols suicide bombers who murder busloads of school children, to the record in places like Syria and Saudi Arabia. Hafez Assas, the father of the current head of Syria, was a mass murder who had a city of 10,000 or more people gunned down for objecting to his rule. Saudi Arabia executes people for religious heresy and the religious police showed schoolgirls back into a burning school to die because they weren't in their head-to-toe outside clothing....

#115 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 02:01 PM:

Let's get the US out of Iraq before we try to figure out the Palestine/Israel question.

#116 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 03:03 PM:

According to Amnesty International, this is what Israeli 'frustration' led to last year:

The Israeli army killed more than 700 Palestinians, including some 150 children. Most were killed unlawfully — in reckless shooting, shelling and air strikes in civilian residential areas; in extrajudicial executions; and as a result of excessive use of force. Palestinian armed groups killed 109 Israelis — 67 of them civilians and including eight children — in suicide bombings, shootings and mortar attacks. Stringent restrictions imposed by the Israeli army on the movement of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories caused widespread poverty and unemployment and hindered access to health and education facilities. The Israeli army destroyed several hundred Palestinian homes, large areas of agricultural land, and infrastructure networks. Israel continued to expand illegal settlements and to build a fence/wall through the West Bank, confining Palestinians in isolated enclaves cut off from their land and essential services in nearby towns and villages. Israeli settlers increased their attacks against Palestinians and their property and against international human rights workers. Certain abuses committed by the Israeli army constituted crimes against humanity and war crimes, including unlawful killings; extensive and wanton destruction of property; obstruction of medical assistance and targeting of medical personnel; torture; and the use of Palestinians as “human shields”. The deliberate targeting of civilians by Palestinian armed groups constituted crimes against humanity.

#117 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 03:57 PM:

Avery: I've been noticing it since I was in college, some 20 years back.

I don't know when it started, nor where, but it was, as a member of my campus Hillel (no, I'm not jewish) when B'nai Brith had a set of posters for some remembrance week.

It bothered me, and I complained.

I think the nazisymps like to leave out the others, becuase then it's just Jews, and that's ok by them.

Lots of others leave out the non-Jews because their is a special place for those who were the largest group.

And others just don't know, or care.

#118 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 04:53 PM:

Avery, I don't think it's a trend: leaving out the rest of the dead has been the dominant way of reporting the history as long as it's been written about (Consider Bob Dylan's line "they murdered six million, in the ovens they fried, but he Germans now too have God on their side;" I don't think he wrote it that way because it scans better than 11 and a half million: I think he wrote it that way because it's the way he always heard it).

But there are a lot of people who don't get the import of the "first they came for . . ." speech, and they don't actually want to think about communists, homosexuals, Gypsies, or the developmentally disabled. And I think that's how it started right after the war -- that because there was this tremendous sympathizing with the Jews not that it was safely too late to do anything about it, and redbaiting was gearing up and nobody wanted to confront it (least of all the communists), and it was just about time for homosexuality to be downgraded from a sin to a disease but nobody really wanted to think about it, and gosh, who wants to defend Gypsies? And the last is too sad and scary to think about -- I think it just became easier for people to talk about the one six million group instead of all those others.

If I remember the numbers right, it was two million Gypsies. But there were only six million to start with . . .

#119 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 04:54 PM:

James McD: The Israel/Palestine genie has been let out of the bottle and both sides are so pleased to see it take joint top billing that neither are willing to let us solve the Iraq quagmire first.

#120 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 05:32 PM:

First principles--dealing with symptoms and effects instead of the disease, might not even bring relief for the symptoms.

The US is in Iraq because of George Walker Bush and his associates. They are continuing to made the world a worse place. One of the most recent offenses is appointing a rightwinger extremist Republicrap fundraisers as is it the new head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This particular ideologue apparently thinks that Bill Moyer is the most biased person in the media....

Schmuck is now telling US citizens to drive less--not to use more fuel efficient vehicles, but to drive less. My car drives three miles for each mile that a monster SUV gets off the same gallow of gasoline. Schmuck said nothing above -real- conservation, as opposed to glib bull excrement.

So long as the the people who are occupying the Executive Branch of US Government are in there, the USA is going to continue to have execrable governances, a foreign policy based on lies and deceit and ideology that accepts no input contrary to its Belief, obscene badly run foreign policy and operations which make existing enemies more hostile and creates enemies from people who had been neutral or even once upon a time inclined towards friendliness, police state treatment of both citizens of the USA and citizens of other country, abrogation of the the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, disempowerment of women and minorities, and persecution of anyone who isn't a current Bush or Cheney Buddy in good standing--compare that DeLay seems to continue to be skating in the investigations in Texas regarding illegal election-related and redistricting activitis, while Frist is under investigation personally following his defection from Bush's stem cell research policy.

Getting the US out of Iraq would be boosted immeasurably by ejection of the Bush Crime Family from Washington. Until that bunch of corrupt evil slime are gone, the chances of effecting anything COMPETENT, much less desirable, are low.

#121 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 05:34 PM:

Israel/Palestine was a mess long before we invaded Iraq. My guess is that it'll still be a mess long after we declare victory in Iraq and get out.

If the goal of the Iraq invasion was to create a moderate, secular, democratic state in the Middle East that would have diplomatic relations with Israel, well, we can give that up as a bad job and try something else.

#122 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 05:40 PM:

If the goal of the Iraq invasion was to create a moderate, secular, democratic state in the Middle East that would have diplomatic relations with Israel, well, we can give that up as a bad job and try something else.

We might have better luck turning sharks into vegetarians, given that we have now taught the Iraqis Everything Necessary For Terrorism. The Shrub will never figure out that if he'd left things alone, there'd be more people alive today. Not necessarily happy - Hussein was not on the side of Good - but alive and probably well.

#123 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 06:26 PM:

Hmm, even delivering Karl Rove, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay, and selected other Republicraps to Osama bin Laden in chains wouldn't put Iraq back together again today I suspect. Partitioning the country -might- work. India was paritioned after what, more than a million people died in the violence that was going on?

I wonder what opinions are at the UN, except the Schmuck recesss-appointee Boltcracked made has the diplomacy skills and interests and competence and consideration of a braindamaged screaming three year.

Again, I don't think that there will be "improvement" until there is major regime change in the USA.

When the sewer's backing up, trying to unplug the toilet with metal line snacking down into the toilet, doesn't do anything useful, it won't fix the symptoms and doesn't address the problem.

#124 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 09:48 PM:

Why would delivering anyone to bin Laden fix Iraq? Iraq had nothing to do with al Qaeda in the first place.

#125 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2005, 09:59 PM:

BTW, PFC Lyndie England got three years for her part in the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal.

Is there anyone at all who still thinks that this was just a few poorly-trained and badly supervised reservists on the night shift who came up with this stuff all on their own?

#126 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2005, 12:36 AM:

Why would delivering anyone to bin Laden fix Iraq? Iraq had nothing to do with al Qaeda in the first place.

1. It would get oust some of those most responsible for the misadventure from positions where they could perpetrate additional damage to the USA and its interests and the people of Iraq.

2. It might mollify those in Iraq who because of the US Misadministration's actions, decided to ally with Al Qaeda.

Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were not friends or anything close to it five years ago. They were both male and Muslim and in positions of authority. But regarding their personal values, the two were massively in oppostion to one another. Saddam was a secularist, who broke Islamic rules on all sorts of things including alcohol and who appointed women to positions of high responsibility in the country. Osama bin Laden is a religious extremist who possibly has never tasted alcohol in his life and who imposes the full regimen of worse-than-medieval restrictions on society, including the complete sequestering of women inside women's quarters in a house with no privilege, let alone right, of self-determination. (Sort of what the extremist Christian agenda gets to, but the mandatory beards don't appear to be part of Christian right wing extremism. There's variance about alcohol, some branches of Christianity ban it, others don't. Regarding the position of women in society, note that Laura Bush is not to be seen side-by-side with her husband, she's always that half-step behind being to the side of him )

3. Iraq is -very- broken at the present, and the actions of the United States Government have made the situation more polarized, more dangerous, more full of people with grudges that have gotten bigger and bigger and more and more inclined to act on those grudges with attack and homicide and disinterest in peaceful coexistence and cooperation. Saddam's Iraq was in some ways like Tito's Yugoslavia, with long-standing cultural divides and anger and grudges, suppressed by the central government in ways that included "you aren't going to get away it with, because we're meaner and better armed and more ruthless than you are." When the central government came apart/evaporated, the thugs on all sides rejoiced in the removal of the controls on them and celebrated by launching attacks on every other groups that was convenient for them to attack with mayhem and murder in mind.

The Coalition in Iraq started out regarded even providing the level of policing in civilian America and Great Britain get, acts as tacit permission for every person in Iraq with any inclination to larceny, looting, arson, mayhem, and murder to start rampaging. With -that- for a start, the situation ever since has been one of incompetent asses in the US Government weeks too lates scratching their rumps and throwing piecemeal under-equipped troops in too few quantities composed substantially of weekend warriors plucked from home and family and job and civilian life to a manufactured crisis crisis zone, where the manufactured crisis mutated into civil war that just keeps getting bigger.

5. The policies that the US Government has been engaging in in Iraq are astonishing and appalling in their level of hypocrisy and deceit and malfeasance and abrogration of international law, and their waste and inefficiency and incompetence and sheer vituperation against anyone objecting.

6. The comment about handing over certain people to Osama bin Laden in chains I wrote somewhat ironically and hyperbolically--it would show the Islamic world that the USA has repudiated those persons and their actions and is turning the perpetrators over to someone whom the perpetrators claimed they were hunting and seem to have put very little actual effort behind a lot of hot air; instead of getting Osama Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld went on their noxious ill-conceived ill-executed incompetent misconceived lying deceit etc. invasion of Iraq.

At least Osama bin Laden doesn't -lie- about his intentions and doesn't put patronage lying weasels who have no ability to carry out operations they're appointed to manage, to positions that need competence. I have the same sort of respect for Osama that I have for Beverly LaHaye, Karl Rove, Elaine Donnelly, etc.: I find their attitudes and their actions and goals vile and despicable and obscence etc., but they work hard in the furtherance of their goals. They have energy, creativity, drive... and use them in goals and pursuits that I consider evil and revolting and despicable. I admire their level of dedication, I despise what they put that dedication to and their values systems, and oh what a waste of drive and talent, working to the ends they work to.

#127 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2005, 02:38 AM:

At the risk of annoying Jim McDonald (at whose invitation I guess we are all talking here at all), I am still interested in this historical point. But I'm not trying to prove anything about modern Israel or Palestine (because I think using the distant past to justify the present, especially in this case, is a good way to avoid making the relevant ethical decisions).

I didn't get to the library today. I shall have a go tomorrow.

116 CE: A revolt among local Jews leads to an annihilation of the Jewish community, and heavy destruction of the city.

Fair enough, but this is a different incident from the ones under Claudius which I'm interested in. By 116 CE the Romans had invaded and taken over Judaea, and I can well imagine that they were willing to regard the Jews as an internal enemy. (The Maccabean revolt and the Bar-Kokhba revolt will have justified that - which is not to say that the revolts were not themselves justified.) I'd be inclined to think of this massacre as political rather than anti-semitic, if that makes a difference. The Romans massacred plenty of people on the basis of their national origin. (More people were killed in one day during one of Caesar's battles against the Gauls, apparently, than on any single day in western history before or since - ie. including the Somme. I don't have a source for this statistic and it sounds suspicious to me, but the numbers were often high enough that it is not impossible.)

"...The Jews themselves were annoyed at his appointment, and the Greeks were even less pleased. Furthermore, the Jews were refusing to erect or worship statues of Caligula. Tensions and riots multiplied..."

Again, this is a different (and earlier) incident. Note that this is (again) a revolt of the Jews *and* Greeks in Alexandria against the Romans: or rather, given Petronius' behaviour, more like a revolt of the provinces against the Emperor. Caligula would have been quite willing to massacre the Jews, I suspect, since they were refusing to worship him as a god. But then, he was happily massacring Romans, Greeks and even his own family at the time. The Jews were a major target because they had an identifiable religious objection to Caligula's version of Roman religion(which they shared with the Christians, in this case). But Petronius refused to carry out the order, and Caligula was killed in a palace revolt.

The Catholic Encyclopedia

Certainly I'd be suspicious of it, but it is a more respectable source than many of the others available online (except Grant, which is why I want to find out what he says). I suppose one advantage is that we know exactly what its bias is. And it did have some obligation to get its facts straight, regardless of interpretation.

"At Alexandria a fearful massacre took place..."

Again, this is the Caligula one - ie. the revolt of Greeks and Jews (and Romans) against imperial policy. But I'm sure there were riots distinct from the ones sparked by Caligula's claim to be divine - and I'm interested in whether those can be reasonably described as a massacre of Jews by other Alexandrians. I will have to look them up.

I appreciate that none of this has much to do with the systematic presence of torture as a tool in the US army's dealings with prisoners, which I condemn absolutely. But then, lots of us have condemned it here already, at length, and some of us have taken practical steps towards making a fuss about it to our political representatives. Meanwhile, I'm a european liberal, and so my opinion will no doubt be doubly discounted by anyone who isn't already in broad agreement with me.

Why doesn't political debate have any impact? Is it because so much of the power is vested in the presidency, and that position is only contested for a few months every four years? If a president can make it through the campaign, and avoid being caught personally doing anything indisputably illegal, then he (or she?) has a completely free hand for four years. Margaret Thatcher may have governed in Britain for 11 years, but the fact that she could be deposed at any time meant that she at least had to justify herself throughout.

What is it we were supposed to admire about the US constitution again? Where are those checks and balances?

#128 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2005, 03:43 AM:

Personally, I like the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy. True, large and supine party majorities in the legislature can produce much the same effect as executive rule for the term of the Parliament; but at least the members of the Parliament are all very much aware that the Cabinet governs by their day-to-day consent. A Cabinet and Prime Minister that too openly flouts Parliament can be removed by a single vote in the House, at any time. Prime Ministers therefore cannot rule on any issue. They must carry majorities with them - and they cannot afford open party disunity, which is what they will get if their policies become too extreme.

Thatcher railed against the Wets even in the Tories and even in her Cabinet - but she had to work with them, and they weren't going to go along with the Poll Tax. Howard, in Australia, would love to destroy the unions and Medicare and sell off Telstra, but he has to deal with a large number of ordinary members of Parliament in swinging seats. Party members they might be, and in a majority, too, but they're getting rather a lot of mail on those subjects, and it makes them nervous.

#129 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2005, 05:17 AM:

Thanks to Clark for those details after my questions, and others for relevant comments.

Update on the first book by Christabel Bielenberg (nee Burton) in case someone is looking around library catalogues, bookshops or online. It's been published & republished quite a few times under different names. When I Was A German, 1934-1945 - An English Woman Living in Nazi Germany (Als ich Deutsche war 1934 - 1945. Eine Engländerin erzählt), a review, -- I think that's the most recent -- The Past is Myself, Ride Out the Dark: The Experiences of an Englishwoman in Wartime Germany, and, in conjunction with the 1988 BBC Dennis Potter/Adrian Shergold miniseries featuring an early incarnation of Elizabeth Hurley, it was put out under the same name, Christabel. There's an abridged version for schoolchildren as well, called Christabel Bielenberg and Nazi Germany.
Her book of the post-war years is The Road Ahead, not to be confused with Bill Gates' one.

I use her name as a code-word for something that keeps me going when my spirits have drooped. In an early scene of the TV version in mid-thirties Germany someone asks her opinion of the Chancellor's policies and she says something like "Oh, I don't follow politics". When I hear people say something like that, and that what politicians do doesn't affect their lives, I remember that scene, and also a few quotes like "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter" (Martin Luther King, Jr), and "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest" (Elie Wiesel).

Even if it's not about pogroms and 'disappearing', but alienation of public lands, or cutting the funds of charities which criticise government policies, or 'voluntary student unionism', or farming out public services to the private sector (eg FEMA in the USA), or cutting back the Department of Women's Affairs, or funding for health services which mention abortion or contraception, etc., etc., politics certainly affect your life. You might not realise what effect they have because the chain back isn't obvious, or only find out in emergencies, like the people who suffered from the failure of emergency services after Hurricane Katrina. <dismounts from hobbyhorse>

#130 ::: Lizzy Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2005, 07:34 AM:

Check out Eric Schmitt's report in today's NYTimes. No surprise -- the army is going full speed ahead after the whistle-blowers.

#131 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2005, 08:37 AM:

I think the reason the right don't speak out against Bush is in fact the same reason Robeson didn't speak out against Stalin as explained upthread, a belief that the end justifies the means.

The end Robeson would no doubt have liked would have been the ideal of communism, equality and brotherhood, from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs. For that, he was prepared to see a few people being tortured, quantities of people being left to starve and so on.

The end the similar "useful idiots" who keep on condoning and voting for Bush would like to see, is themselves becoming rich. (I want to add "and powerful" but I don't think it's necessary, rich is sufficient, in this imagination of the world. Rich covers it.) For this, they're prepared to see a few people being tortured, quantities of people being left to starve and so on.

Teresa's quote "Just because you're on their side doesn't mean they're on your side" applies here to both.

Footnote: "No enemies to the left" means "don't squabble among ourselves such that we appear disunified to the real enemy on the right". It's certainly wrong when it means condoning evil, but if the German socialists had been practicing it in the 1930s, Hitler wouldn't have come to power. I think the long shadow of the events of the 1930s taught two lessons really well, which have been messing things up ever since. First that one, and secondly, appeasement. Appeasing Hitler was wrong, but avoiding appeasement doesn't mean never talking to anyone. The trouble with learning from history is applying the lessons at the wrong time, and the trouble with not learning from history is not applying the lessons at the right time. History repeats itself in patterns, not in specifics. It's a chaotic system. The thing that worked last time won't necessarily work again. This isn't fascism, this is the thing where you give the contract for buses to someone who made a campaign contribution and not to the person who actually has the buses.

#132 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2005, 09:25 AM:


You've just summed up a lot of what I've been trying to think lately, but much better than I've been managing. Thank you!

#133 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2005, 09:40 AM:

Actual link to the Schmitt piece here --- or at least I think it is:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 - An Army captain who reported new allegations of detainee abuse in Iraq said Tuesday that Army investigators seemed more concerned about tracking down young soldiers who reported misconduct than in following up the accusations and investigating whether higher-ranking officers knew of the abuses.

The officer, Capt. Ian Fishback, said investigators from the Criminal Investigation Command and the 18th Airborne Corps inspector general had pressed him to divulge the names of two sergeants from his former battalion who also gave accounts of abuse, which were made public in a report last Friday by the group Human Rights Watch.

Captain Fishback, speaking publicly on the matter for first time, said the investigators who have questioned him in the past 10 days seemed to be less interested in individuals he identified in his chain of command who allegedly committed the abuses.

That the one?

A bit of relevant history here: accusations of "fake testimony" are one of the right-wing canards that saw heavy use in attempts to discredit the Winter Soldier meetings, and other first-hand reports of abusive conduct in Vietnam. Looks like they're getting started here, too...

#134 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2005, 02:25 PM:

Also helping to win hearts and minds, or something:

Web site: U.S. troops traded Iraq photos for porn acces
No evidence of felony, Army says

The website owner (in Florida) says his site is run from a server in the Netherlands, and he's a civilian, therefore UCMJ and US law don't apply.

We can hope something does.

#135 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2005, 05:19 PM:

The website owner (in Florida) says his site is run from a server in the Netherlands, and he's a civilian, therefore UCMJ and US law don't apply.

We can hope something does.

Probably the British libel laws. They seem to apply to everything.

#136 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2005, 07:24 PM:

The troops trading pictures of dead Iraqis for porn was what was being alluded to up-thread here and here.

And here's what an Iraqi thinks about it.

#137 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2005, 09:00 PM:

What is it we were supposed to admire about the US constitution again? Where are those checks and balances?

There is a subjective side to any government--the people who run a government, are people. If the top of the government are corrupt arrogant vicious mean-spirited vermin who run reigns of terror over others who are muzzled and marginalized and disempowered by them, it doesn't matter what the words of laws say, the despots do as they will, be their name Saddam Hussein, Josef Stalin, Nicolai Ceascescu, Hafez Assad, Peron, Marcos, Milosevic, or George W. Bush.

In the US Congress the first two years of the Bush Misadministration there were enough Democrats in the US Senate to sustain objections to the revolting agenda and legislation pushed by the Misadministration. But after than the elections gave majorities to the Republicrap in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and they changed the rules so that simply majorities, which the Republicraps have in both sections of Congress, get to do anything they want. The Deomcrats are -powerless-. And the Schmuck is the President.

Dune has a line about when politics and religion are in the same vehicle, and that's the situation here in the USA. The Republicraps had welded themselves to extreme intolerant bigot self-professed Christians

(whose values and attitudes offend a lot of other people who regard themselves as Christians and try to be religiously observant to what they see as Christian values.... one difference is that I don't see e.g. Jim and Teresa playing hypocrite, as opposed to the likes of James Dobson, Pat Robertson, George W. Bush, etc.) (and certain rightwing Jews whose attitudes are little different from rightwing extremist Christians, I don't fully comprehend the collaboration, the fondness of some rightwing extremist "Christians" for pushing a restoration of the 2000-years-gone Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as precursor to the arrival of Jesus and a convert-to-Christianity-or-be-damned-forever apocalyptic End of Days scenario doesn't strike me as being a sane base for collaboration--the rightwing Jews aren't interested I presume in converting over to Christianity but allying with people who have the view that the Jews with either accede to conversion or go to hell for eternity seems lacking in sense, to me.... I presume that the apocalyptic rightwing Christians see the situations as offering them allies whom they have whatever time until Apocalypse is remaining, to attempt to save the souls of...)

and they they sit controlling the US Congress, the US Presidency, and all US federal court appointees... the majority of federal judges hold appointments made by the Republican Nixon, Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, and the Repubicrap Schmuck. The party that Sen Jeffords was bred to, born in, and raised as, id -gone-. What's left is Republicraps who imposed and promulgate an utterly abusive system and misadministration which facilitated the atrocities the Republicraps tried to deny and cover up even while their regime was promulgating them, at Guatanamo, in Afghanistan, in Abu Ghraib, at the "detainee" camp presided over by the 82nd Airborne, and at those unnamed foreign locations the ghost prisoners are shuttled to.

The US has laws; the Republicraps abrogated those and the very principles the USA was founded with. And they have had the wherewithal to prevent others from forcing compliance with US law, and the Republicraps have been dismantling all layers of protection and avenues of legal civil recourse and objection and redress.

#138 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2005, 10:36 PM:

A more prosaic answer to the question of where checks and balances went:

We often hear in school that the founders designed a constitution to be operated by power-hungry scoundrels. The key to that system was that they were supposed to be jealous of their own, personal power --- and in particular, that Congressmen (of both houses) would be motivated to keep the other branches of government in check to preserve their own power, as Congressmen.

What's happened to that is, simply, that the Republicans have put their loyalty to party ahead of everything else.

(This is a gloss on a much more complicated history. It doesn't always make sense to speak of "the intentions of the founders" as if they had their intentions in common. It was a fractious group. But most of them didn't want to have political parties at all --- viz. the warnings of the dangers of "faction", i.e. party loyalty, in the Federalist papers. But Congress was quite definitely supposed to keep the executive in check, and vice versa. And when Democrats controlled both branches, it did kinda work like that. Of course, one reason for that may be found in Will Rogers' description of his own political affiliation: "I belong to no organized political party. I'm a Democrat.")

#139 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2005, 11:33 PM:

I find it hard to believe that more people died in a day of the Gallic Wars than died in the days of the Somme.

It isn't that I think Caesar was unwilling to use that much violence, it's just that I don't think he had the means.

The first day of the Battle saw 20,000 British fatalities, and a total of 60,000 casualties, most of those in the first hour. The French lost no small number, and the Germans as well took losses. The Germans lost less, but that doesn't change the horrific numbers for the battle (which lasted four months) in which the number killed was 1.7 million.

Caesar, by way of comparison, spent eight years to kill, by his numbers, about 1 million Gauls.

I haven't been able to find numbers (my google-fu seems weak today) for Caesar's claims of slaughter, but in the most brutal portion of the campaigns (52BCE) he was never in one place with more than 6 legions, which would be (on paper) not more than 30,000 men.

So, assuming we are talking about a massacre, instead of a fight, yeah, you can get more than, call it 40,000 for the first day of the Somme, but I don't know that I'd say it was the same.

Troops in the line can take about 25 percent casualties before they break (less in open order) so to get the sort of number we need to surpass the Somme, a reasonable number for the Gauls would have to be, call it 60,000; and credit them with incredible morale.

I guess it depends on how one measures things; dead, or dead in combat.


#140 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2005, 11:59 PM:

Terry, six late-Republican legions is indeed about 30 000 men (slightly more on paper, but as always with formal armies, field strength is something else), but that's just the legionaries. There would almost certainly be an equal proportion of auxilia as well. The backbone of a Roman army was always (until very late on) its heavy infantry legionaries, but the Roman army was a balanced field force including light infantry, missile troops, and heavy and light cavalry. These, not being Roman citizens, often went unrecorded.

So, for a six-legion field force, you'd be looking at around sixty thousand men.

#141 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2005, 12:05 AM:

It isn't that I think Caesar was unwilling to use that much violence, it's just that I don't think he had the means.

You know how they say the pen is mightier than the sword? Keep in mind that all we have for evidence of the prosecution of the Gallic Wars are Caesar's own words, written to be sent back to Rome as essentially political advertisements.

Parallels to media coverage of more current wars are left as an exercise.

#142 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2005, 12:28 AM:

I too find it hard to believe that more people died in a day of the Gallic Wars but it has long been argued about see e.g.:
Where in Holmes' commentaries on Caesar's Bellum Gallicum we read -

(see the first note on i, 29, §3)

AFTER listening to professor Delbruck's lectures, delivered at University College, London, on October 6 and 7, 1913, I thought it advisable to write a supplementary note on Caesar's statement of the numbers of the Helvetian host. The professor, who holds that Caesar habitually and deliberately exaggerated the numbers of his enemies,[1][I have myself in various notes called attention to exaggerations, which may have been due to erroneous reports. Professor Delbruck in his lectures did not specifically refer to the question of the Helvetii, which he had discussed before, See my note on i, 29, §3.] referred to a familiar sentence in his account of the destruction of Sabinus's brigade - Erant et virtute et numero pugnandi pares (v, 34, §2) - from which he concluded that the brigade was annihilated by an equal number of Gauls, and therefore that Caesar could not have defeated the Helvetii if they had been as numerous as he says. But the passage in question is notoriously corrupt and, as it stands in the MSS., untranslatable; Caesar's narrative (v, 26 - 37) shows that Sabinus's force was greatly outnumbered by the Eburones; it is incredible that Ambiorix would otherwise have ventured to attack a fortified Roman camp, situated on a commanding position; and Professor Delbruck himself justly remarked that Roman armies overcame superior numbers by superior discipline. Let us therefore test Caesar's statement about the Helvetii on its own merits.

Caesar had four veteran legions in the battle (i, 24, §2). As we have seen (7, §2), the ideal strength of a legion in his time was 6,000 men: these four legions had apparently suffered little or no loss before they went into action; and it is reasonable to slippose that immediately before the battle they numbered about 20,000. The original strength of the allied Gallic force, according to the Helvetian schedule (29, §2), was 92,000. About one-fourth had been destroyed or dispersed in the affair on the left bank of the Saone (12, §§2 - 3): the natural rate of mortality and casualties in the skirmishes recorded in 15, §3 would account for the loss of a few hundreds more. Accepting provisionally the Helvetian estimate, we may suppose that on the day of the battle the allies numbered about 68,000. Is it credible that 20,000 Roman veterans defeated 68,000 brave but undisciplined semi-barbarians? I gathered from Professor Delbruck's remarks that, considering the power of discipline, he was willing to admit that a Roman army might have defeated a Gallic force which outnumbered it in the proportion of 2 to 1 or even of 5 to 2; and I may add that the efficiency of the allied force would have been weakened by its consisting of tribal groups which lacked interdependence and cohesion. It was for this reason among others that Sir Charles Napier defeated an army of warlike Baluchis, which several times outnumbered his own, in the battle of Miani. Still, 7 to 2 is an excessive diserepancy (though if, as I believe [Caesar's Conquest of Gaul, pp.239, 630], many of the Gauls never came into action, it would have been considerably reduced); and one is the more inclined to be sceptical when one remembers that, according to Caesar's own estimate (i, 31, §§5, 10) the army of Ariovistus, which, after a hard struggle, he defeated with six legions, amounted to not more than 36,000, or perhaps about 40,000 men (see Caesar's Conquest of Gaul, pp.654 - 5 and 655, note 5). Again, Caesar tells us (i, 29, §3) that the host, including women and children, which he sent back to Helvetia numbered 110,000; and, as I have shown in Caesar's Conquuest of Gaul (pp.240 - 1), if we accept both this estimate and his abstract of the Helvetian schedule, we must infer that about 126,000 perished in the battle (!), or else that very large numbers had dispersed on the march. The former supposition at all events is utterly incredible.

Emphasis of course added
is Body Count of the Roman Empire with many more general references.

#143 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2005, 12:48 AM:

For an accessible English reference see:Caesar, Julius, The Conquest of Gaul (New York: Penguin Books, 1982), 28-42

#144 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2005, 01:49 AM:

I looked up the Michael Grant book on Jews in the Roman Empire today, and I was going to describe what I think the actual sequence of events was under Claudius and Caligula - but my posts keep being blocked for questionable content. Is there a limit on the number of times I can include the word "Jews" in a comment, or am I falling foul of something else? It's not as though I am swearing or anything.

#145 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2005, 02:08 AM:

As for Caesar and the Gauls - well, yes, I said I find the numbers pretty hard to believe (and it's certainly true that Caesar had a vested interest in ramping up the numbers he killed). On the other hand, I can believe that one of the armies Caesar faced in 52 BCE might have numbered 60,000 and still been on the receiving end of a massacre. Dave Luckett is right to point to the auxiliaries, although I'm not sure how common they were this early in the battle; and it seems reasonable (as it did in 1913) to suppose that the Romans could have triumphed at a numerical disadvantage of 2:1 or worse.

120,000 for the force of Helvetii does seem ridiculous, but IIRC that was one of the earliest battles against a single people, in around 58: by 52, Caesar was facing a unified Gallic force under Vercingetorix. Again, 60,000 seems to be not unreasonable. And morale there would certainly be, given that this was a final effort to avoid total Roman conquest.

Of course, though, it isn't the same thing as the Somme: it's an intentionally misleading statistic even if it is true. The battle no doubt ended in a massacre, so these are deaths in and out of combat. (I suspect the number of surviving wounded was significant at the Somme, and almost zero in the case of the Gauls.) And the battle in Gaul was a one-off, or close to it, whereas the Somme (as pointed out) went on for four months in the same fashion. I doubt anyone could claim much broader equivalence for the Gallic Wars and the First World War.

One possible conclusion, though, is that France might be a place to avoid if there is a war on.

Meanwhile, the rider attached to the statistic in the form I was given it made sure to specify 'the western world'. I'm not sure what that was intended to exclude: the Khmer Rouge?

#146 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2005, 02:23 AM:

it doesn't matter what the words of laws say, the despots do as they will, be their name Saddam Hussein, Josef Stalin, Nicolai Ceascescu, Hafez Assad, Peron, Marcos, Milosevic, or George W. Bush.

Well OK, but there is the significant point that (although he may be evil) GWB has not actually been found doing anything illegal or unconstitutional. (Partly thanks to hiring a friendly attorney-general, but part of the point is that all sorts of things can be made to fit the US constitution.) Blaming the politicians for being evil doesn't help: why isn't the system set up so that lunatics can be removed with a minimum of fuss?

It is interesting to explain it as the dominance of the party system - but of course the party is only really a tool to get each politician elected, and so it ought to mean (as it seems to mean in the UK and Australia, and elsewhere) that you are even more motivated to get rid of an unpopular party leader who might cause people to vote against *you*. Why doesn't that happen? My feeling (which is largely uninformed) is that this works within Congress and the Senate (witness DeLay now) but has little impact on the president and his advisers.

What I'm really wondering, I think, is what you expect your congressmen and senators to *do* when you write to them to complain. If Bush can't be proved to be acting illegally or unconstitutionally, is there anything any other politician can do but shout at him? Can anyone fire him for incompetence?

Presumably there is such a thing as a vote of no confidence in the president? I don't expect it to get used, of course.

#147 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2005, 02:32 AM:

I'm not sure what that was intended to exclude: the Khmer Rouge?

All of Asia, I'd guess. Several centuries' worth of battles with high body counts. I'm no historian, but I seem to recall reading of pitched battles in (then) China and Japan that left astonishing numbers of bodies on the field.

#148 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2005, 08:09 AM:

One motivation for making it more difficult to remove the head of the executive branch may have been the Founders' experiences of British political factions prior to and during the American Revolution, which had a large effect on why there was a rebellion in the first place. They may have felt slightly more stability (given the extremely fractious and contentious nature of the American body politic even then--the Continental Congresses were limited in effectiveness not merely by the weakness of the Articles of Confederation but also by the immense number of things the delegates found to fight about) was desirable. Given that of the three impeachment attempts we have had, two were plainly motivated by party politics (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton), and only one by actual criminal conduct (Richard Nixon, who resigned before the proceedings could proceed, because it was a fair cop), I can see why they felt this needed to be difficult rather than easy.
Not all parliamentary systems have produced such stable governments as the UK's has--consider Italy since 1945.

#149 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2005, 06:54 PM:

candle: are even more motivated to get rid of an unpopular party leader who might cause people to vote against *you*.

Problems with this:
* The party panjandrums don't see Shrub in this light; the fact that they were able to grab 2004 by a solid margin supports their belief that they can make their false view of the opponent the center of debate.
* The party has become extraordinarily disciplined (sometimes by sheer savagery against doubters, cf Arlen Specter having to make a pledge to reactionaries in order to keep his position), making it hard for anyone who disagrees with the above view to get any traction.

fidelio: Italy is a more continuing example, but not the only one in the decades after World War II; cf "The French think you can start the day on chicory and a croissant, which probably accounts for their unstable politics." (Heinlein, Glory Road). (IMO, Clinton and Johnson are hardly comparable; Clinton was such a trumped-up case that even the abovementioned discipline couldn't get all the Republicans to vote against him, where Johnson was saved by one vote out of 2/3.)

#150 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2005, 09:08 PM:

Length warning!
From AP via Earthlink (couldn't find it elsewhere, or I'd post the link instead)

Judge Upholds Lawsuit by Two Muslim Men
September 29, 2005 9:03 AM EDT
NEW YORK - A federal judge has rejected former Attorney General John Ashcroft's attempt to block a lawsuit by claiming that the threat of terrorism exempts the government from following peacetime regulations.

The decision allows a lawsuit by two Muslim men who were detained after the Sept. 11 attacks to go forward against Ashcroft and other high-ranking federal officials. The two, who were later deported, are seeking to hold the officials responsible for their confinement and alleged abuse at a federal jail in Brooklyn where Arab and Muslim men were held after the terror attacks.

U.S. District Judge John Gleeson's ruling Wednesday also opens the door for depositions of Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller and other officials, who will be questioned under oath about their personal knowledge of detention policies if they are unable to successfully appeal the decision.

"I think we have a strong chance of prevailing in terms of discovery going forward," said Haeyoung Yoon, a lawyer for Egyptian immigrant Ehab Elmaghraby and Pakistani immigrant Javaid Iqbal, who filed the lawsuit last year.

The two argued that the government violated their right to appeal their solitary confinement in a special unit of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

Justice Department lawyers wrote on Ashcroft's behalf that the FBI needed detainees isolated from the outside world as the bureau frantically tried to find al-Qaida cells in the United States in the months after Sept. 11, making the appeals process and its limits on solitary confinement an unnecessary burden.

"Regulations written in peacetime cannot circumscribe the government's discretion at a time of national emergency from foreign threats," they wrote.

Gleeson singled out that argument for particularly harsh criticism Wednesday in a 70-page decision upholding most of the charges in the lawsuit.

"This proposition, which suggests that, as a matter of law, constitutional and statutory rights must be suspended during times of crisis, is supported neither by statute nor the Constitution," he wrote.

Elmaghraby and Iqbal were deported to their home countries after serving time for charges unrelated to terrorism - Elmaghraby for a counterfeiting charge and Iqbal for fraud.

Yoon said Wednesday that Gleeson's ruling confirmed the validity of the charges in the lawsuit.

"We do allege in the complaint that people at the highest levels of government were involved," she said.

A Justice Department spokesman, Charles Miller, said the government was still reviewing the decision and had not decided what action to take.

A 2003 Justice Department report found "significant problems" with the treatment of post-Sept. 11 detainees at the Metropolitan Detention Center, including physical abuse and mistreatment.

#151 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2005, 09:39 PM:

Radio reception is spotty where I live.

This evening as I was tooling around town the only station I could get that wasn't in French was a right-wing whackatoon who was frothing so much that you could almost hear the spittle hitting the microphone.

It turned out this was a guy named Michael Savage. My first thought was, "Who writes his material? Josef Goebbels?" Then ... he actually said, on the air, "The only thing the untermenschen understand is martial force, applied as fast and hard as you can."

Yes, he really did use the word "untermenschen."

All the while he was screaming about the ACLU and how they should be arrested under the Sedition Act, I was thinking, "Doesn't this guy realize that the ACLU supports the rights of Nazis to speak? That it's thanks to them that he's on the air at all?"

He seemed particularly upset that more photos of the Abu Ghraib scandal were ordered released. Why? Why does he favor coverup of a crime? Ah, it's because the release of those addtional photos would inflame America's enemies and make them hate us.

Hot news flash for you, Mike, they already hate us. Who are those photos being kept secret from? They're being kept secret from the American people, that's who. No one else. The rest of the world already knows. Don't you want to know what's being done in your name, Mike?

By now it should be clear this abuse is a widespread pattern. That's a sign that the chain of command is broken. Doesn't this Savage character want the chain of command to be fixed? A broken military doesn't make us safer. On the contrary, it makes all of our lives more precarious.

It's the people who fire honest and intelligent officers -- officers like General Shinseki who will tell their bosses the unpleasant truth -- who are putting America in danger.

#152 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2005, 09:57 PM:

"The only thing the untermenschen understand is martial force, applied as fast and hard as you can."

So what kind of martial force should be used on Savage? Nuking somehow seems a bit excessive.

#153 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2005, 10:08 PM:

Wikipedia, as one might expect, has a lot more on "Savage" --- including a mention of his ethnic background, which is about what you'd expect from knowing his real name, Michael Weiner...

#154 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2005, 10:39 PM:

Y'know, you only need to change a few nouns to make Joe Goebbels' New Year's 1939 address sound like the Republican National Committee's talking points.

#155 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2005, 01:31 AM:

Dave: I know about the alae, wherein most of the missles and the cavalry lived.

I discount them some because (apart from routing fleeing foes, which the Gallic Wars don't say is what happend) they aren't really useful in a massacre.

Personally, I think it's possible, but I also think Caesar exaggerated.

Clark: No, they hadn't suffered loss from action, but they had been afield for some time, so there would have been losses to generic attrition.

As well one of Caesar's strengths was his keen grasp of logistics, so I find it likely he'd have had detachments (vexilla, I've forgoten which declension they belong to) along his lines of communication, as well as some in reserve.

As I said, it's possible (and the populations of the past were denser than we tend to think, France, for example didn't regain the population it had before the Black Death until just before WW1), but I find it hard to credit, mostly because before modern methods of food storage feeding a host that large was a huge problem.


#156 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2005, 05:43 AM:

" Don't you want to know what's being done in your name, Mike?"
no way, what if it turns out not as arousing as he's been fantasizing?

#157 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2005, 11:34 AM:

Y'all remember the website that was trading access to porn for pictures of dead Iraqis, alluded to in this thread here and here?

Well, there's more to this story. Alberto Gonzales has decided, since the War on Terror is doing so well, that it's time to start a War on Porn. He's formed a new FBI task force to start prosecuting web sites.

And by a weird coincidence, what was one of the three websites targeted?, another targeted site, offered free porn to U.S. soldiers in exchange for photos of dead Iraqis--until its operator was arrested by local authorities and charged with over 300 counts of obscenity. (Though local authorities are responsible for that investigation, the NCSF believes it was inspired by the new federal emphasis on obscenity prosecutions.)

Local authorities, right. Local authorities in Florida.

It doesn't pay to embarrass the Bush Brothers. Not with porn -- with reminders that people are getting killed in Iraq, and that combat deaths aren't pretty.

#158 ::: OtterB sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2014, 03:30 PM:

spam, blah

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