Friday, December 31, 2004

For FastEddie_Felson: a belated response

For those of you who aren't coming over to my humble blog from Gaijin Biker, a short synopsis of the debate I have been in with FastEddie. We got into a discussion (click on the Gaijin Biker link above) about whether or not the concept of torture can be applied to the conduct of U.S. armed forces and secuity personnel in Iraq, specifically Abu Ghraib. Among his arguments were the following points:

"Looking from the perspective of you and I who love our country, we should be unhappy when the principles of moral correctness that the U.S. stands for is disregarded. The psychological damage done to the Iraqi people, and what is trying to be accomplished in Iraq seems to have been high. I think it would have been much better if those pictures never came out, but what was happening stopped and those responsible punished.

Do you allow for bending of your morals for what ever cause you support? I can not and that was the point of my last posted comment. I can not excuse what happened to those prisoners by saying it was "overblown" and these things happen during wartime.

I hate the murder of innocents, such as the beheadings the insurgents have used to incite fear. Because the insurgents are dirty and evil we are allowed to lower our ideals too?

The torture of the prisoners was not beheadings, but it was not what I believe the U.S. stands for, it was evil.

I am not naive to believe that atrocities do not happen during war. War is defined by atrocities, hence my distaste. I can’t defend insurgents killing innocent people; I can’t defend torture of Iraqis or Afghanistanis, innocent or prisoners of war by American guards."

Good points all. I'm also guilty of not having checked my comments for the previous posting here at Langtry, so I feel honor-bound to feature, if you will, my response in its' own blog entry. I'll start with a tidbit of my response to FastEddie's note:

"Fast Eddie: To be perfectly frank with you, I do not understand the fetishization of Abu Ghraib, and I will not classify what took place there as torture. Humiliation, without a doubt: but torture? Only in a post-modern world where words no longer have any meaning would making state-sponsored rapists and murderers "feel like women" (a quote from one of those "tortured" as to what was the most horrifying aspect of having been an inmate at Abu Ghraib) qualify as torture. Let me also say that I believe you are sincere.

I know it disturbs you that we can't fight a war as the moral people we hold ourselves up to be: my response to you is to be realistic about the morals of those whom we are up against.

As I said before, I'll own that I possess a double-standard when it comes to the broad-based definition of torure that FastEddie advocates. My definition is more precise in that I don't include huimiliation as a constituent component of the concept of torture. Torture is having metal files pushed under your fingernails. Torture is having your arms tied together behind your back and being hung by same from a hook in the cieling, as was done to Sen. John McCain during his years as a P.O.W. in Viet Nam. Torture is having to witness your wife or daughter being raped, because you didn't respond to questions quickly enough. Torture is having your body crammed inside a crudely constructed (yet terribly effective ) "Iron Maiden" for the offense of having missed a goal in a soccer/football game. Torture is being paraded into a room in a large warehouse for the express purpose of seeing one of your friends fed, slowly, into an industrial shredding machine.

The last two atrocities I noted above were, in fact, committed by Sadam Hussein's son Uday, and members of the Fedayeen Sadam, in that order. The inmates being held at Abu Ghraib were, by and large, members of the Fedayeen Sadam, nefarious men who terrorized anyone who didn't have the priviledge of being among Sadam's Sunni minority, and who held all of the power in the government and society we (the U.S.) recently abolished. These were not poor saps who were forced at gunpoint to march with Saddam's militias and serve as frontline canon fodder. The inmates at Abu Ghraib were sadists, rapists, child molesters, grifters, "knee-cappers", and murderers. I'll gladly admit to a double-standard when it comes to acts of humiliation such creatures are be subjected to upon apprehension.

I say humiliation, FastEddie, because I do not yet know of any credible reports of soddomy, dog attack, electrocution, murder, and other incidents of terror having been committed by U.S. forces at Abu Ghraib. You may be more up-to-date than me: as of this moment it still appears to be at the "He Said/She Said" phase, and I am more apt to believe our guys than Saddam's. More time needs to be allowed for an objective, and comprehensive, investigation of the allegations. Until I have more credible information, I'm sticking to my guns (I know, bad choice of words, lol).

Is this to say I support the likes of Lyndie England and her co-horts? Absolutely not. Those asshats, in an ideal world, would have been recognized as head cases and underachievers and discharged from the military before being shipped out to Iraq. As it stands, we needed the manpower, and their true natures would not be known until the publication of the pictures those mental midgets managed to take of themselves, let alone distribute to family and friends. I hope they spend many years in prison, as they have tainted the achievements of their more dedictated compatriots.

Getting back to the issue of whether or not the case of Abu Ghraib is synonymous with torture, I just can't equate humiliation with what I understand to be the true nature and scope of the act. In the New York Times article that broke the this story, what I remember most from the article was the admission, by many of the detainees quoted, that the worst aspect of what they endured at Abu Ghraib was not having wires attached to their scrotums, or being forced to pose for naked cheerleader-style pictures. It was being (for the first time in their lives) in an inferior postition of power and having no control over their situation. It was, as one inmate put it, "being made to feel like a woman." In other words, they felt psychic pain over being powerless, and having no recognized rights or privileges. That's not torture. That's justice.

I'm not making this point to be a smartass, although it first blush it might appear that way. I appreciate the fact, FastEddie, that you want the U.S. held to a higher standard, one that we, as a nation, profess to hold. As I said before, I believe that making a determination about whether or not what we currently know to have occurred at Abu Ghraib constitutes torture, we have to look closely at those making the accusations. In doing so, we may find that our concept of morality becomes more fluid, more Machiavellian, especially when the concept of morality is being defined by those whom are wholely unfamiliar with the concept.

These men are not, in my opinion, credible witnesses. In the twisted world they live in, being humiliated is the worst kind of offense, and therefore their braying is likely to be loud and lasting. They are experts at playing to the vast wellspring of inferiority the Arab world feels when they are compared to their Western counterparts, and adept at using our moral standards against us. They hate women, they believe Jews are at the root of a conspiracy to rob them of their rightful place in the world, and they are quite adept at using the superior morality of Western nations to undermine us. They are not like the enemies we have faced in the past. Therefore, we cannot presume that they hold the same values we do, or that they define torture in the same way we do. You can be sure, however, that they will exploit our moral "failings" in the court of public opinion, whether or not they believe in the veracity of their assertions. This is realpolitik and it's most cynical manifestation, and we cannot afford to back down in its' face.

It has been shown, long before September 11th, that radical Islamic extremists do not value life, and that they abhor achievement, especially the sort gained through sustained effort. They would rather their children grow up to wage jihad than study medicine, or law, or education. They are a culture whose well has been poisoned for decades; not at the hands of despotic Western powers, but rather their own so-called "Leaders", who would rather wage terror for their own personal gain than work towards peace and prosperity. Radical Islam is a different enemy, and our standards must change in acknowledgement of this fact. I wish we could be more moral in fighting this enemy, but adherence to such standards may hurt us more than if we adapt, and use the standards our enemies against them. This may involve doing some things that feel foreign, and quite possibly immoral: however, they must be done.

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