Friday, 7 May 2004
|1207 - Embarrassed Arabs|
Tom Clancy posted the following today to the Usenet newsgroup alt.books.tom-clancy, where he is a regular reader and occasional contributor...
Humiliating helpless people is not the least bit admirable, and those guilty of this violation will be dealt with, probably with a degree of harshness for embarrassing their country.
But the hysteria in the news media is a little disproportionate. The Arab culture places a higher value on body-modesty than, say, Hustler magazine, but what it comes down to is that some Arab prisoners were embarrassed, and gratuitously so. To do that is contemptible, but it is not a major felony under American criminal- or even common-law.
This humiliation falls short, however, of being murdered, as several American civilian contractors were recently (remember?) then to have their bodies abused in ways that can only be called barbaric.
The selectivity of outrage over this tawdry incident shows a 'blame America first' mind-set that is not morally defensible. I personally have little love for the SecDef, but demanding his resignation for the action of some reserve enlisted personnel is, to put it mildly, absurd, and clearly motivated more by political motives than by any objections based on common morality, which is not to be found in abundance in the United States Congress in any case. The same people who are calling for Rumsfeld's head said that Clinton ought not to be impeached over a trivial sexual impropriety.
Politics pollutes everything it touches.
The soldiers who misbehaved will be court-martialed, and probably dishonorably discharged, with loss of rank and priviliges. Maybe even some brig time. That sort of slap on the wrist leaves broken bones, which is more than what those Iraqis suffered.
Everyone take a deep breath and think things through, okay?
I'm not sure I agree that it was mere embarrassment the Iraqis suffered, as the effects will be felt for a long time. Still, Tom's central point - that many of those complaining about the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners have forgotten about the much worse abuse of the American civilian contractors at the hands of Iraqi insurgents - is quite valid.
current mood: thoughtful
I've seen so many people say "but look at what they did to our people" since these abuses came to light, it's starting to make me ill.
It's a red herring of the first water; the two incidents have nothing to do with one another- and even if they did, do two wrongs make a right? Further, are we going to allow our morality to be dictated to us by terrorists that drag burnt bodies through the street? ("They did it, so we'll do it too" is not a good idea)
We're supposed to be the good guys. The ones who don't do this sort of thing. The US Does. Not. Do. This- that's for the bad guys to do. We're the White Hats, the liberators, the ones who free the oppressed and, even when the shit gets tough, keep going, with nobility and decency. We must not become what we hate.
No one has forgotten the abuse of the American civilian contractors; or at least I haven't. But I fail to see what the two incidents have to do with one another. Just because we didn't go as far in committing evil doesn't mean an evil wasn't done.
Thanks. You said it better than I could.
I also want to point out that the atrocity is actually *worse*, not *better* in light of the differeneces in body-modesty and culture. We KNOW that their culture puts a higher value on these things than ours does. Therefore these actions are *more* reprehensible, not less so.
Clancy has just (inadvertently?) blamed the victim here.
I'm not mad at Rumsfeld for what the soldiers did; I'm mad because he couldn't be bothered to read the report! That is neglecting his duty as SECDEF.
And hasn't anyone in the chain of command stopped to think about how much this will help al-Qaeda's recruiting efforts from here on out?
I think the problem, or at least the difference, between us abusing prisoners, and Iraqi insurgents attacking our contractors, is that we're the ones that invaded their country.
It certainly wasn't right for "them" to murder our contractors, but, in that case, it was us in their territory.
With the prisoners, we captured them, and we are required by the Geneva convention to treat them kindly. And, truth be told, they're probably not terrorists. I might be wrong, but aren't the majority of the people being held in those prisons former Iraqi soldiers? If so, then they were just doing their job. They were just doing what they had to do to feed their families.
And here we are, as Americans. We're supposed to be "liberating" them, and we're supposed to show them what's so great about American culture. We're supposed to be the "civilized" ones here. I'm not calling Iraqis uncivilized by any means, but we are a more developed country.
And what do they care about the 290-something million Americans that are "good" if they're getting abused and mistreated by the few that are bad. It's going to give them a bad impression of Americans. Certainly it's going to give them a bad impression of the American military.
I know that, for the most part, this isn't your meme that I'm attacking, but I don't see how people can take this lightly.
We're just as bad as they are, if not worse, because we have far more power. We have the power to defeat their army, we have the power to detain and hold them for months on end. We're required by international law to treat them with fairness, but they don't have any power to prevent us from abusing them.
Again, I in no way condone what happened in Fallujah, but perhaps it was all they could do to have any sort of power against what they viewed was wrong.
If we were the ones getting "liberated" by Iraq, and we didn't like Iraq, might somebody feel justified in firebombing a few of them? Especially if that was the only power we had? It's not right, but I think it's understandable.
There's no excuse for any American to be abusing Iraqi prisoners, no matter what any Iraqis have done to us. The most reprehensible act on their part wouldn't justify the least reprehensible act of abuse on our part, because we're the ones that need to take the stand.
Just like Cyclometh was saying. We can't stoop to their level. We need to do just the opposite. We need to show them what's right. Because otherwise we're no better than them.
Only a few contractors we murdered. Only a few prisoners were abused. But I think the fact that we were the ones that came into their country should make what we did far more wrong.
/rant off (whee, so many words that it doesn't even seem like it's worth reading)
Tom neglects to mention the growing number of prisoners found to have died at the hands of their US guards. While I am in no means suggesting this establishes some sort of parity- it is beginnig to look more and more like these abuses go beyond what Rumsfeld insists were isolated cases of people taking things just a little too far. A young soldier may be plausably unaware of what the Geneva Convention has to say about humiliating a prisoner, but death is another matter entirely.
As was said very eloquently above, there is the issue of people in America wanting their country to hold itself to a higher moral standard than other countries sometimes do.
I think his assertion that people "blame America first" is a little glib. We cricize our own leaders, not because we are unpatriotic, but because we live in a democracy where we have the ability to choose new leaders. I'm more disgusted by the beheading of Nick Berg than by the treatment of the Iraqis at Abu Graib, but I still have every intention of being as vocal as I possibly can about Americans responsible for the latter being held accountable.
I am more demonstrative in my outrage about the abuse committed by Americans because they represent me. I do not condone their behavior, so I have a moral obligation to speak out against it, lest I be complicit.
a ' war-nerd ' who should stick to writing pro-war drivel that helped get us into this situation in the first place.