Patriot Games

Though my experience was far removed from the images of real torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, it was also, as one American friend put it, “conceptually related”, at distant ends of the same continuum and dictated by a disregard for the humanity of those deemed “in the wrong”. American bloggers and journalists would later see my experience as reflecting the current malaise in the country. Dennis Roddy wrote in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Our enemies are now more important to us than our friends … Much of the obsession with homeland security seems to turn on the idea of the world infecting the US.”

On a more practical level, this obsession, when practised with such extreme lack of intelligence (in both senses of the word), as in the case of my detention, must be misdirecting valuable money and manpower into fighting journalism rather than terrorism. Ordinary Americans, rather than the powers that be, are certainly able to make that distinction. According to an editor at the LA Times, there has been a “tremendous” response from readers to the reporting on my case, and I have received many emails expressing outrage and embarrassment. The novelist Jonathan Franzen wrote, “On behalf of the non-thuggish American majority, my sincere apologies.”

Read the rest

That extract is from Elena Lappin’s chilling account of being detained in LA for entering the country to cover a story without a journalist visa–a requirement that has been dormant since 1952.
    ‘The officer said, pointedly, “You are Russian, yet you claim to be British”, an accusation based on the fact that I was born in Moscow (though I never lived there). Your governor, went my mental reply, is Austrian, yet he claims to be American.’

Even as I post this, I worry that any immigration officer who searches on my name during my next interview will turn up stories like this and take against me. Paranoid, but not unreasonable. Elena Lappin doesn’t even live here, but I do, and I’m afraid of their power in a country where I have no right to legal representation. What is happening to us?

13 thoughts on “Patriot Games”

  1. Never forget. A wrong, small or large, is still a wrong. But the NYT has had 44 front page stories on Abu Ghraib, 1 on the UN Scam involving oil for food which deprived Iraqi children of more than $10 Billion badly needed for that purpose. Many died. Don’t you recall the lament about the nasty American embargo a few years ago?

    As many as 500,000, possibly more, may soon die in the Sudan. Approximately one million died in an African country from genocide a few years ago. Most Europeans and Americans can’t spell the country’s name correctly. More than 500,000 were tortued and died in Abu Ghraib, other of Saddam’s prisons, and casually in places that won’t turn up in the tapes at his trial. The mass graves discovered in Iraq were boring to look at, The torture he meted out according to witnesses was far more extreme than any Americans.

    Thus far we have two front page stories in the NYT (may have missed a third) about the mass graves found in Iraq. Taking photos of mass graves wears thin after a while. There will probably be many more when the trials come (assuming they do) because they’ll be the sort of hot button issues (read: sex and violence sells) that will prove popular in the infotainment we call “news” these days.

    Americans, the world’s rejects (religious outcasts, starving Irish, persecuted Jews, and in general the rejects of the world) do a lot of stupid things. It may be in our blood because we’re the world’s outcasts. But it’s also a big world where a lot of stupid things happen, things we’d never heard of not that many years ago before you and your friends involved in information technology made it all possible.

    I think some perspective is required. There was a flood in Bangladesh about five weeks ago. Happens all the time there. Only 400 drowned. That’s almost as many terrorists and non-terrorists which have been “tortured” by Americans. I didn’t see mention of the flood in Bangladesh in the NYT anywhere. But Ten Thousand Villages lost one of their ablest teachers in instructing third world counry citizens to be self sufficient, have a job, and afford the food and medicine their family needs. That’s a Mennonite sponsored organization that sponsors the sale of fair traded merchandise from the third world. Presumably some of the teacher’s students died in the flood as well. Word of that didn’t reach the Ten Thousand Villages offices in Ohio.

    It strikes me that her loss to the world was more grievous than the incident involving the person you reference. A wrong is always a wrong. What happened was wrong and stupid. But perspective helps in sorting out the ones which especially deserve our concern. It’s not a matter of living with blinders on. “Perspective” may perhaps have been pulled from the Oxford English Dictionary. I have an older version.

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  2. Jerry: You omit the small detail that if one protests actions done by _the government of the country where you live,_ one has a little more chance of affecting things, and a little more of what courts call “standing”, than if one protests actions of other governments or freaking _acts of nature._ But perhaps you don’t intend this argument seriously?

    Dervala: I don’t think immigration officers are enterprising enough to go looking for your blog. That’s not to say that you’re paranoid. Things have been pretty bad in that department for more than a few years – the harassment and arbitrary deportations began in the Clinton years, under the banner of the “War on Terror” version 0.6. It’s depressing to remember how most people ignored that, even when they didn’t yet have the excuse of being terrified by a horrible disaster.

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  3. I don’t see the relevance of citizenship as being all that important when it comes to protesting a wrong although the country of one’s citizenship may be more affected.

    The greater point is why not protest and be more concerned about the greater wrongs of the world than the essentially trivial and nuisance ones. Bureaucrats or simply ignorant officials, malicious or by chance, will always be with us. In today’s world it strikes me we have a greater need to address the fact that numerous atrocities against whole populations have become commonplace in Africa, aren’t that uncommon in Asia, and that there is a crying and desperate need for the construction of a basic flood control system in places like Bangladesh.

    A renewed Peace Corps in the United States (I went pretty much straight from college to the Peace Corps to serving on the ground in Vietnam, a somewhat different and uncommon change of professions for the time, but nothing like what I see in the greed of the present generation which has little trouble demonstraating against what they dislike, but spends most of their time making money so that they can have fashionable clothes to wear, the latest electronic devices to play music, and an adequate supply of condoms on hand. (Said with mild tongue in cheek. ;)) The old world nations have made little or no contributions of this kind, i.e., a Peace Corps. It’s inexpensive for governments to support such programs and surely the French, German, prosperous Scandinavian countries, or an Ireland could support such programs. Earthen dikes can be built by hand where needed under the supervision of a student with a basic engineering degree, a newly graduated R.N. can work directly with a local population quite effectively in explaining the need and means to prevent A.I.D.s, and the list is not a short one.

    Today’s youngest, educated generation, is the best and brightest the world has ever seen in terms of its education. But they’d rather pursue being able to afford a flat in NYC, have a personal computer and a DVD player, and continue the materialism which became so popular among the disillusioned youth of the 1980’s, in terms of American young adults. Europeans of the same generation strike me as little different, preferring the pleasures of a trendy singles bar and the possible opportunity to continue a sexual life with little or no limitations, another form of hedonism in itself, rather than devote a few years of their young lives to the benefit of others. We might not then need to worry about the tragedies of the Sudan, Somalia, all of West Africa, Bangladesh, India, and so many other areas of the world.

    Nothing I say should be taken seriously, nor perhaps entirely ignored. But my generation also read John Donne’s lines which included “no man is an island entire unto itself,” and there are valid and legitimate concerns for the small or larger individual tragedies which occur to others in our country of citizenship or elsewhere. They are not to be ignored. Numbers are not a way of qualifying wrongs, merely a simple seems of quantifying them so that those of us devoted to the calculation of beans we are earning and setting aside, beans we enjoy counting, can be drawn into some degree of concern for things more important than the hassles of today’s air travel, getting visas to the United States to work, and other matters.

    Besides, if we Americans are such a motley and despicable lot, why is the world drawn to that part of us which is of so little importance: style, money, good food and housing, etc.? Are these really the more important things in life that American culture and society as a whole should attract the envy and desire to live like us? A rural Aussie farmer is as happy as his American counterpart. A teacher dedicated to a life of teaching children in America is no more dedicated than a teacher in Iraq.

    My generation did not invent “yuppies” or other similar groups. They’ve always been with us. They’ve always been in a distinct minority. But it strikes me that the young and too-wealthy often understand little of the true meaning of life, basic things like family or concerns for the unfortunates of their own countries as well as elsewhere in the world.

    That was the true legacy of the 1950”s and 1960’s, those who returned from the horror of WWII and their offspring. They didn’t turn to a life of pure materialism and hedonistic pursuits. The brought closure to the long standing needs of the American civil rights movement, or at least made the future a possibility. Then came Vietnam and Watergate and too many gave up hope and the size of the enrollment in Harvard Business School increased while the size of enrollmennt in the humanities in land grant colleges in the U.S. decreased.

    Most people wouldn’t think of life without a TV set (or 2 or 5 or whatever in their home), but of what real benefit does it provide? News? Hardly. It does provide a distraction from the reading of books and trips with their families to discover their environment. We could do quite nicely without the so-called benefits of TV, as well as other modern devices, given the opportunity and minimal basic instruction and discipline when young.

    But this brightest and best generation I speak of thinks more towards having TVs, other means of knowing the latest fashions, and would no more leave home for an evening without an adequate supply of condoms, wearing a new thong, dressed as a modern and earthy male, or the other nonsense in which so many find to be the preferred and attractive life. Some go to the opposite extremes and picket abortion clinics or attend some beyond-Calvinist Protestant church which teaches more hate than love. And of course at the other extreme are the “liberal” wimpy churches which really teach little, if any, religion at all.

    (Aside from not watching television, I don’t practice either of these religious extremes for what strike me as obvious reasons, nor am involved in the continued religions of the world which have brought more inhumanity towards man than any other factor.)

    Consider the fact that men and women survived nicely and enjoyed full and complete sexual lives for thousands of years without shaving their public hair or watching a prOn DVD to get “warmed up” before sex.

    Hmm…think I’ll return to the world of grumpy old men and leave Dervala’s interesting, and well written, blog alone in the future. I really only enjoy ranting from time to time and have caused sufficient eye strain here.

    Cheers.

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  4. Jerry,

    I guess you see the incident I described as reflecting a lack of interest in, or wilful ignorance about bigger issues in the world. I don’t. I see these problems as being of a piece, and on a continuum. Treating friendly foreign journalists badly is symptomatic of a country that is becoming insular, scared and belligerent–attitudes which lead *directly* to the bigger problems you mention. That is why I felt outraged, not because one English journalist had an uncomfortable night, or because I personally have to jump through extra bureaucratic hoops now.

    Only Zimbabwe, Iran, Syria, and North Korea impose the visa restrictions on journalists that the US now does. That strikes me as significant–different than a natural disaster in Bangladesh, sure, but nonetheless, a significant change that says something about how the US now views the world. It both explains and predicts further behavior that leads to the bigger incidents you chide me for not mentioning.

    Perhaps I should have made that connection more explicit. But perspective is in the eye of the beholder. Just because I write about one minor area doesn’t mean I don’t know about, think about, care about, and donate money to issues like Darfur–but despite a few reader requests, I don’t want to write about it.

    I’m sorry you feel so disappointed in my generation. I don’t really recognize us in your description of rampant sex and materialism and little else, but there you go. I give eight hours a week to a cause I’m passionate about, and most of the other volunteers are younger than me, not older (even though the work might seem to call for older heads). Some of my friends are tech workers, sure, but others are human rights lawyers, AIDS nurses, teachers, activists, and entrepreneurs. There’s much more to their lives than buying toys.

    As for the Peace Corps, like many of the ideas came out of Camelot, I’m cynical about its value and glad that my own old country spends its development money differently (and spends *much* more of it per head than the US, incidently.) The results of the Peace Corps efforts I’ve seen first-hand have not been at all impressive, when they haven’t been downright negative. It strikes me as too often the worst kind of paternalistic meddling. _The Quiet American_, in all his bright-eyed idealism, still scares me much more than the Ugly American.

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  5. Eli,

    The bad news is that visa officers now sometimes Google your name during or before your scheduled immigration interview. And while the vast majority I’ve dealt with have been extremely nice, entry is almost entirely at their personal discretion. So it’s a genuine concern, unfortunately. No “Marg bar Amrika” slogans here.

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  6. Dervala: Your generation is the best and brightest the world has ever known. I believe that quite strongly. I think my comment is one of emphasis. The fact that you don’t try to attempt to solve one of the world’s great problems in each article is not my lament. I suppose it’s a reaction to an emphasis on my perception of problems which are not of that great importance. It’s purely subjective and is based on my perception of how you lean into the wind, which wind you choose to lean into, and how hard you try to lean into the chosen wind. Historically each generation has tended to be critical of those that follow, i.e., the newer generations take an interest in frivolous or merely different clothing styles, music, etc. which ignores the biggeer issues of what the capabilities and potentential for the younger generation(s) have. I see especially great potential in your generation and have thus perhaps become a picker of nits. And BTW I’ve the bad habit of having lost a great deal of confidence in the press, foreign and domestic. A “journalist” was once a professional with a distinctive and special meaning. I see today too many howling at unknown and unseen moons rather than focusing on the one obvious and apparent one. Most sadly of all I see too little character and integrity in their work and I speak as someone equated with several well known American journalists and photojournalists whose work strikes me as shallow and unfocused. Since my perception is that foreign journalists travelled down thsi road to be followed only more recently by American journalists I suppose I have a tendency to have little concern for any dilemmas they encounter, not expecting much in the way of results anyway. This nihilist approach approach, clearly not especially useful, is perhaps the result of my clouded perception of where I see emphasis being placed: too often smaller wrongs or rights are selected over the ones of greater import.

    Besides, I wouldn’t read your blog if I didn’t think it wasn’t both well written and had something of interest worth reading, would I now? ๐Ÿ˜‰ I once had a grad school class in which I was one of the two or three best students. The professor continually seemed to pick at my lesser nits, not to mention my greater foibles. This struck me as unfair. He told me “fairness” had nothing to do with how the world functioned and that his attention was better spent on the improvement in learning of his best students. I saw his point but still saw it as unfair and now perhaps find myself in a similar position. At least irony is not yet dead in this world. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  7. Jerry,

    In the UK there’s VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), a charity (not government-funded) which does much the same kind of work as the Peace Corps, and there are probably similar organisations in other European countries. As for Scandanavian countries, their governments spend a greater proportion of GDP on international development than the US or UK governments do.

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  8. Interesting comments all around, but I think I’ll play drop out and reduce the nuisance noise factor in Dervala’s blog threads in the future. My comment about “best and brightest generation” was a sincere one. I unfortunately don’t communicate well with it, perhaps for the obvious reason I’m not a member.

    I started with different tools, Placement of the starting line has become increasingly important I think. The accumulation of more knowledge, more technology, more of everything previously known and unknown…the pace has accelerated in so many ways. We read this all the time. I wonder if we understand it.

    Generations may perhaps now be separated by only a few years, not 20 or 30. What Aristotle had to say about “the younger generation” of his time may no longer apply. ๐Ÿ™‚

    One person’s actions, or shedding light on one problem, is obviously important. My modest role in the civil rights movement in the early 1960’s in the U.S., protesting the war in Vietnam (although I foolishly later enlisted), are only a few things I’m proud of.

    No matter how fast I peddle… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I envy you all. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Peace.

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  9. Jerry,
    I’m sad that you’re bowing out of the conversation, though I understand. This morning on the subway to work I read Studs Terkel’s great oral history of Chicago, “Division Street”, published in 1967. One chunk in particular made me think of this conversation right here. An Irish-American cop, discussing your generation–his sons–says:

    “My son, a twenty-two-year-old boy, who’s been going to college, I really don’t think I know him. I think he knows me better than I know him. That’s the one thing he really doesn’t like. I think he’d like it the other way around. The younger generation doesn’t think too highly of us. They think we made a mess of things, which we did. We seem to lead disorganized lives. Most of us dislike the work we were doing. Most of us are anxious to go someplace else, thinking we could leave our troubles behind. They love us, our sons and daughters. But at the same time, they don’t think we did things correctly. They’re critical of us. They discuss things far more intelligently than we do. They think for themselves.”

    Maybe it was ever thus.

    Anyway, I’ve really valued your comments and emails, especially where we’ve had slightly indignant exchanges that end with you giving me an insight into something unexpected–a description of an abandoned village in the midwest, or a Civil Rights passion where I expected reactionary politics, say. And I’ve liked very much your observations on reading (and how much we do or don’t absorb.) Thank you for teaching me.

    Peace.

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  10. Dervala: Thank you, but I truly believe you can learn more from your own generation that is of some use to you.

    Certainly many generations have access to Dostoyevsky, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Burns, or Studs Terkel…..but the way we think and what we know differ. There may be meaning in “Brothers Karamatzov” (sp – am suffering from brain fade at present) that is of a universal nature, but I’ve obviously been blind to many of the newer issues in the world.

    The civil rights movement of 1962 is not the same as the one of 2004 for the rights of gays and lesbians to have the right of civil union and/or marriage. Certainly “civil rights” are the issue in both cases, but your generation has known and had many friends that are heterosexual, gay, or lesbian. Mine did not. I cannot grasp all the issues although I’ve read half a dozen books (I especially recommend those by Andrew Sullivan).

    The 60’s generation was an anomoly of sorts anyway. I, for example, joined the ani-war protests when Dr. King took up the issue because of my respect for him. Yet I foolishly (reason really not known to me) wound up enlisting, was involved in a war I didn’t believe in and have blood on my hands. I have no idea why. It was a crazy time. In so many ways the world today is more complex and has more of its own crazy times.

    I support the war in Iraq but am appalled by some of what has occurred, but then I apply my “big picture” philosophy and decide that in the end the ending of Sadaam’s reign and the mass murdering, the new battlefield against terrorists…I sadly have to weigh in in favor of that war, but have the greatest respect for those who are concerned with some of the other issues and oppose it.

    Your mind is bright, young and quick. Your reading list is enormous, but so is mine. Mine, however, has much to do with unlearning things of the past. I’ve read much about the history of Jerusalem to rid myself of so many long held beliefs of someone who has studied European history and viewed the crusades as a “good thing.” Absurd. I’m not a Christian in the first place, yet I swallwed all the nonsense about Christian rule, having no understanding of Islam. So now I must catch up and have read a dozen or so books about Islam.

    Your generation was born with some of the ideas mine fostered: individual rights, civil rights, et al and you knew early on that there was no reason why there shouldn’t be a Palestinian state. I grew up watching movies and reading books about how great the creation of Israel was and the Arabs were always the “bad guys.”

    See the distortion in perspective I’ve suggested? My starting line was too far back. I must learn to give equal respect to all of the three great Western religions, while realizing the basis for their conflicts over the centuries. Northern Ireland’s problems baffled me for years until I finally read a few insightful books.

    YOU, your generation, did not start out with some of the blindeers I wore. It’s also entirely possible that my mind has grown lazy and my “big picture” approach in the original message, along with my support for the war in Iraq, are due to some mental laziness. Yet I read several dozen blogs each day, “liberal” and “convervative,” and have some understanding of the different views.

    But it’s all catch up. Certainly some of it is “new,” but the underpinnings are something your generation learned to begin with. You didn’t hear the word, “niggar,” in common usage, see the “whites only” signs over the drinking fountains. I may have overcome that, but you didn’t have to deal with it to the same extent. Perhaps we’re talking about a difference in an ever evolving environment. I was spit on, beaten, and had my car windows broken out in connection with one civil rights demonstration in the South. But they were really, at heart, “good people” in so many other ways. They were victims of their environment when it came to racial issues.

    Similarly, I think I’m blind to some of the issues you raise. They’re entirely new to me. My experience is limited or non-existent. I can read your blog and others and learn, but I seriously don’t believe I contribute anything but confusion and background noise because I don’t really understand the issues you raise.

    Not yet. I’m learning from you and others. But I can only peddle so fast, a rather simplistic metaphor I used earlier. I plan to continue to read your blog, but not comment. I read many, many blogs and manage to keep my thoughts at bay because the issues aren’t understood by me. Can I learn from contributing? Of course I can, to some extent.

    But I think I learn best and your friends and other readers will learn better (and enjoy!) your writing if I keep; out of the way.

    I envy the experiences you’ve had in your travels, your writing ability, you great wit and sense of humor….and so many things.

    But we are not of the same world. Learn from those you know best, from your own generation which doesn’t have the cluttered mind of mine. The 1960’s is presently a period of time that’s being romanticized and/or hated for what it was: hippies turned stock brokers, et al. That’s not really what it was. It was nothing “special,” it simply had a few things to deal with that are different. Can you imagine what it was like, with no other real information available, to stay up until 4 a.m. for weeks at a time to watch the Watergate hearings replayed on Public Television? My wife and I did that and were exhausted until Saturday came.

    We had no other valid information source. We subscribed to and read the Washington Post, but look at all the sources you have now for such issues. I wasn’t trained to use them properly. You grew up using them. I’ve had to struggle since 1989 with the net….

    I ramble. Sorry.

    I plan to lurk. I plan to not raise background noise in the future. I appreciate your kind words, but must disagree. You own the learning tree, your generation owns it now. Mine needs to watch and listen. The purported wisdom of the old and wise men/women has only existed in the minds of the elderly. There are things I think I can *help* teach my grandchildren, but my children, your generation, don’t need my participation. When asked I present my views. But I need to otherwise keep quiet.

    Quiet, along with not writing long posts like this, must be one of life’s virtues. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Peace.

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  11. Things have been pretty bad in that department for more than a few years – the harassment and arbitrary deportations began in the Clinton years, under the banner of the ย“War on Terrorย” version 0.6.–jim

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  12. Revisiting Abu Ghraib…why is the aberrant behavior of a “few,” if that be a number such as 20 or 30 or 99 be a reflection of more than the aberrant behavior of a “few?” The female who seems to be at the heart of some of the more abhorent scenes, if I understand the recent news, wasn’t even assigned to the area where the acts occurred. She took special delight, apparently, whether agreeing with higher ups or not, in going out of her way to participate, apparently out of some own distorted twist of her own personality.

    Kerry returned from Vietnam and the time he was there My Lai either occurred or was reported. That was the approximate same time I was there, a naval officer acting in liason primarily with Marine Corps personnel to call in air strikes from off shore carriers to bomb (more often napalm) the natives who resented our prescence and had attacked one of our units, or who were presumed to have taken up occupancy in a particular area.

    Our actins seemed in accordance with those of any act of war, not especially unknown, nor with any special malice. The intent was to destroy the “enemy” and/or prevent the “enemy” from destroying us. I resented Kerry’s testimony before the Senate committee at the time because I felt and accusation had been made that we were all murderers like those who perpetrated My Lai. Yet I felt no such guilt. I would be tortured for many years by thoughts of napalm landing on peaceful villages who were not harboring “the enemy,” the agony of their dying, the visual images not uncommon duirng the war of women and children whod been severely scarred by napalm (in many ways a more horrid torture than having a limb blown off by a bomb), but I didnt feel like a Lt. Calley or his superiors. I didn’t perceive that we were all “killers” of that sort in the least.

    I didn’t at the time, nor in later years, really have any special dislike for Kerry. Those of us who returned from that war all bore many scars, as dd our fathers who fought the “just” war in Europe and the Pacific during WWII. At the time I was a fan of Jane Fonda and had meant he futurer husband Tom Hayden, sitting around on the floor in a circle in a church where the 2nd annual meeting of the S.D.S. occurred, where debate of the White Paper he’d written in connection with the 1st meeting was a primary topic of discussion.

    (I also always liked Jane as an address, although thought her not as beautiful as Natalie Wood.)

    Those of us who returned had all kinds of ideas of the right or wrong, more often the ambiguity of that war. And I had friends on both “sides,” i.e., those who considered themselves heroes as well as those who marched in demonstrations. Kerry’s opinions of the war were not that common if only for the reason there were so many nuances and variations (and confusion) that most of us had friends of all persuations, except for perhaps those who transferred their hatred resultant from their experiences to those who’d also been there.

    I’ve obviously no choice but to support and vote for Kerry in the coming election, although I was a Dean supporter (and remain so) if only because he was able to attract so many out of the netherland of disinterest to more active roles. I disagreed with his views on the war in Iraq, which I do support, but especially agree with some of his view on healthcare and other important issues. I see no need to take a lithmus test on all issues and never have. And I remain convinced that he, or my second choice, the vice presidential nominee selected by Kerry, would be more suitable choices.

    But we then get into a discussion of a more political nature which, in my mind, has always been more of image and pure luck than reason, and therefore not especiallly one that interests me. Given some of the reports of the press which have managed to categorize Dean as some sort of nut, and characterize the former vice president, Gore, as a complete fool, I largely remain at a loss in arriving at such conclusions, given the distortions (primarily through embelishment) of the press with its penchant for infotainment and not the news. I suspect Kerry will be a competetent president, although not outstanding, and hopefully not one like the failure Jimmy Carter was, a man of infinitely greater intellect and moral courage, IMHO, but nevertheless a failed president.

    Returning to the subject of Abu Ghraib, I find too much conjecture on the part of those who have little or no understanding of the military, its inate or built-in levels of stupidity. Its designed for the conduct of war and the emphasis required for that, as we brag about our professional military, do not lie within the same constraints of a construction company which much follow the rules of OSHA. Conduct of the war, as reported by “embedded journnalists” in the book, “embedded: The Media at War in Iraq, an oral history,” is largely a collection of the individual oral histories given by largely “liberal Eastern media” although many small papers, even Arab journalists, are included in the history.

    Their opinion of the conduct of the war in Iraq, in the actual war leading to the taking of Baghdad, struck me as being one in which they were impressed with the caution of troops, primarily American and Brits, to avoid the taking of innocent human life.
    Already mentioned in this thread is the tragic way in which hundreds, more likely thousands, of civilians were killed during the Korean war, and not in one insane incident like My Lai, nor over a period of weeks in a prison, but largely (best guess since most of the details have been lost in time), through sheer persistent stupidity, with a mixture of a few other elements of the darker side of our supposed “humanity.”

    Abu Ghraib is an aberration. Any zeal on the part of higher ups, especially at the command level, let alone the Pentagon, may well be due to misplaced zeal in a desire to protect troops (and also innocent civilians), but the perpetetrators, at whatever level, including the young woman not coming before court marshal, who seems to have delighted in engaging in public sex in front of inmates, makes me wonder why the whole system should be criticized. And I believe that it is. I’ve said I see a need to root out such evil. But to dwell on it and come to characterize the war as merely yet another day of torturing a few prisoners with dogs, tauting them and forcing them to commit sexual acts, or the daily report on the two or five or whatever Marines blown up as they drive down the roads of Iraq by crudely devised explosive devices, is not an actual characterization of the war.

    The war may be a sick, wrong, unjust thing. Its motivations are clearly open to question, but its removal of the man who stands in #3 position behind Uncle Joe and der Fuherer (although a good distance behind both in a pure number game) clearly will be revealed in this upcoming trial, post election, where the extent of the torture of the Iraqi people will become known, unless our press has become bored with the whole business of Iraq by then.

    What happened in Korea never made the headlines because it went unknown. In the west we’ve only come to know of the horors of Lenningrad and Stalingrad perpetrated by the Nazis, and even Stalin on his own people, well after the war’s end. My Lai was an aberration. Kerry was there, but so was I. And that doesnt mean either of us is “wrong.” There wer very few “rights” or “wrongs” in the period of Vietnam. Thats true to some extent in every war. Vietnma was an aberration, taken in the whole, and so is Abu Ghraib, on a more specific basis OMI.

    (I have decided to renig, obviously, about my comments made not to participate here. The company is too good. The writing is too good by the blogger. And whether I have anything meaningful to say or not I really dont care. I would prefer it otherwise, but feel more comfortable in making such remarks so that they be judged and emanined by a “best and brighter” generation than my own, whose competence in such things, including those of John Kerry, Richard Nixon, and a few others of differing opinions and/or psychosis, are different from the ones of today. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

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