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May 14, 2004 11:16 am

Twizzle Twazzle Twozzle Twome

Time for this one to come home.

Or so went the line in an old cartoon where a turtle got sent into the past by a kindly wizard in order to experience the lessons of history.

It's certainly how I'm feeling at this point. Stop the ride, I want to get off. Since that's not an option, I suppose we have to buck up and think about what Gandalf (paraphrasing Lenin) tells us: that we have to decide what to do with the time that is given us.

I'm on record here as regarding historical analogies as something to be made carefully, and there is no more potent and misused an analogy than the rise of fascism in Europe in the late 1920s and early 1930s. That it comes up so repeatedly is a sign both of the extent to which fascism has come to be simplistically synonymous with evil, and therefore the rhetorical equivalent of a carpet bombing deployed against an opposing argument: call it fascist, and you're done. As Godwin notes, so too is the conversation at that point. But it also comes up often because the orthodox (and I think accurate) understanding of fascism and the Holocaust see them as clear and present dangers embedded as potentialities within modern societies, much as authoritarian statism is the permanent danger of bureaucratic government.

So while most analogies to fascism and Nazism in the present conjuncture remain, or ought to remain, out of bounds--Ted Rall's comparison of US troops to the Wehrmacht was fantastically stupid, for comparison--there does strike me as being one valid analogy that focuses or clarifies an existing question about the present.

Ever since the rise of Nazism, historians and commentators have second-guessed what Germans might have done to stop it before the fatal seizure of power. There are as many opinions on this as there are historians. There is a school, mostly recently represented by Ian Kershaw, that argues that the fight against Nazism was lost within party politics, that other political parties underestimated Hitler, or selfishly thought to use him to secure their own interests. There are those who blame parties in the center and the center-left for not going into the streets and joining the physical fight against the Nazis. There are those who blame sectarianism within the left. There are those who blame the Marxists for antagonizing and frightening the German mainstream and driving them to Nazism. There are those who blame the German people as a whole and see Nazism as the authentic expression of their will. There are those who blame particular classes or social groups. There are those who blame no one, and see Nazism's rise as structurally inevitable.

I raise the analogy because it does seem comparable to me to one narrow aspect of the present crisis. I am not saying the current government of the US, much as I profoundly loathe this Administration, is an apt analogy to the Nazi Party. More, I'd say it's like a late-Weimar regime, the gathering thunderclouds of a possible storm. I wouldn't have said that two months ago. Why do I say it now?

Not because of the prison abuses, not exactly. More because of two related developments in the wake of those abuses: first, the degree to which one important faction of the American right has unabashedly revealed its total contempt for anything approaching universal liberal democratic values, or any sense that the United States must actually earn its status as moral exemplar rather than have that status conferred on it as a cultural and racial inevitability, a national destiny. In the aftermath of Abu Gharaib, the intellectual and ethical collapse of one segment of the right has been total. It's been a litmus test to see who jumps which way. Andrew Sullivan, to his credit, has jumped back from madness and begun to ask the questions that need asking and say the things that need saying. But much of the populist right like Rush Limbaugh, as well as commentators like Victor Davis Hanson and politicians like James Inhofe, have dived in and happily wallowed in pure and unrestrained moral excrement.

The far more disturbing thing for me is that this isn't just the chattering classes, that there is a segment of the American public for whom there appear to be no conditions or events that would falsify their belief that the war in Iraq is necessary, just and winnable. More, judging not just from press reports but things I've overheard myself in conversations, there are people who believe that the conduct in Abu Gharaib was justified and if anything not extreme enough, and that the war has to be prosecuted with more intensity and force in every respect. There is the ordinary American man in today's New York Times who says,"Wipe them all out". There are those who many of us have overheard saying,"Well, if it comes to that, we have nukes".

There's nothing you can really say to this kind of fairly unapologetic exterminationism. Either it's basically insane and therefore completely barred to reason--how did"wipe them all out" become the aim of a war undertaken for humanitarian reasons?--or it is supra-rational and reveals that the war has been always at its core a New Crusade against Islam, a deliberately and intentionally exterminationist or brutalist program.

The reason this raises the specter of 1930 and the question of what Germans ought to have done against Nazism for me is that I now have a new appreciation for how hard it might have been to know what to do then, because I don't really know what to do now. What does one do when one becomes aware that a significant plurality of one's fellow citizens seems to believe that it's right to torture people and pursue an exterminationist or brutalist strategy of conquest? I honestly have no idea.

Against leaders or parties or even bloggers, I think I have some idea of what to do. Against millions of other Americans with whom I might share many things in common--people I go to the mall with, play computer games against, watch films in theatres alongside, walk the streets next to, root for baseball teams with--I feel powerless. Fight them in the streets? What good would that do? Write blog entries? Do they read them, and are they persuadable by anything I might say? No. March on Washington? They don't live inside the Beltway.

I know there are things that we can do and ought to do. I'm very proud of Lindsay Graham and John McCain, for example. It's just that I find it so enervating to know that there are so many who lack basic human decency or a basic commitment to what I would regard as the essential American virtues.

I emerged from 9/11 with a renewed faith and pride in American society, with a sense of my belonging to America and treasuring its achievements and possibilities. I still believe in America, love America, but I increasingly wonder if I am believing in a once and future thing, that in the kingdom of the present, the America I love is lost.

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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Accepting for sake of discussion, Derek Catsam's "three-pronged measure of when one does act in what we can call a human rights war", the problem with this war is that the "means" required included a viable strategy for nation-building after the toppling of the Baath regime. As Niall Ferguson has pointed out, the long term historical record strongly suggests that this was inevitably going to be a multi-decade process (i.e. even with the effective leadership we have so sorely lacked).

The recent historical record very clearly shows that the Bush Administration has never had either a viable strategy for the occupation and power transfer or the competence to implement it. This was a very predictable deficiency, given their arrogance and lack of experience and it was sheer wishful thinking to believe their deceptive pretenses to the contrary.

Ultimately I agree with general conclusion implied by Tim Burke: great numbers of Americans allowed the incompetent liars in Washington to assume unprecedented authority to wreak their blunderous havoc on American foreign policy. Their domestic policy is nothing to brag about either, but their damage in that arena will be more easily repaired.

I don't have any snap solutions to this general problem -it is hard to think of a example from the recent past that better illustrates the old adage about an ounce of prevention, but it wouldn't hurt if Bush-loyalist ostriches could be encouraged to finally begin waking up from their mass denial.

Kenneth T. Tellis - 5/29/2004

There you have it. Now at least you know for sure that the US has a population, 12% of which are sadists.

Name Removed at Poster's Request - 5/24/2004

According to a recent poll, 12% of Americans think the torture at Abu Ghraid was justified:

mark safranski - 5/23/2004

Oops ! Thanks Josh.

Name Removed at Poster's Request - 5/23/2004

"The link is dead."

No it isn't. You have to copy the whole link into your browser, otherwise it's liable to only take what's before the first comma.,13743,1219887,00.html

Name Removed at Poster's Request - 5/23/2004

"The link is dead."

No it isn't. You have to copy the whole link into your browser, otherwise it's liable to only take what's before the first comma.,13743,1219887,00.html

William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 5/21/2004

There's another way to put that: Problems in the US are systemic--spawling suburbia, collapsed urban cores, the greatest inequality of wealth and income in the West, a "financialized" economy dependent on godawful levels of private and public debt, excessive resource consumption, a "commercialized" electoral system, inadequate health care and education, a parochial population immersed in a mostly secularized culture of peasant millenialism always renewing that moment of salvation with everyday low prices (administered by a corporate hierarchs) and taking its wrath out on the strange, the different, the far away. Just to get elected, a Democrat--and there's no guarantee whatsoever one would or could address all those things--would have to be little different from Bush.

mark safranski - 5/21/2004


The link is dead.

As for Guantanamo let me be very brief on my position - holding al Qaida captives as illegal combatants is basically correct in terms of international law *so long as the intention is to bring them before a lawfully constituted tribunal for war crimes*. Holding them indefinitely is not a legal option but historical precedent gives the Bush administration a reasonable time period to start the tribunals ( years actually)

If you are referring to torture of such suspects that would be illegal and generally immoral in my view ( though in terms of morality you might have to weigh Khalid Sheik Mohammed's rights against the prospect of a sarin, anthrax or radiological bomb exploding in a New York High School or at the World Series)

I don't think torture is very reliable either - suspects say anything to stop the pain

William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 5/21/2004

Precisely my concerns.

And to think that there is no physical risk deterring opposition (I think electoral and other less immediately perceivable risks are a factor)is not only to miss the point--one of them the "spatial" character of the regime (it projects its violence outward and on the domestic margins, which is to say inner cities)and its rhetorical violence and wilingness to say anything to discredit its opponents. In a National review screed during the run-up to the war, Mike Ledeen--using Machiavelli as his inspiration--wrote not to worry about what the world thinks, all that counts is winning. On the other hand, safely in power for another four years, I wouldn't put anything past the likes of those guys. An untramelled DeLay is one scary sombitch of an idea (though any Texan worth his salt would know how to handle him, and I'm stunned at the gutless wonders who let'im get away with anything; same for Rove, whose genius is overrated).

Clifton Earl Edmondson - 5/20/2004

This might be as good a place as any to jump in with observations that have little direct bearing on the debate underway here. I'd like to recall some things I said and felt during the run-up to the ill-conceived and ill-advised war last spring. On several occasions I told acquaintances that although I knew that this (the U.S.) is not Nazi Germany, nevertheless, feeling helpless and despairing in the face of Bush's relentless determination to have his war before really hot weather hit, I thought that I had some inkling of what Germans who loathed Hitler and the Nazis must have felt in the face of unethical and ruinous policies. Lamentably, I'm not sure that people such as Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, and Rush Limbaugh--to say nothing about the religious Right--are guarantors of pluralistic democracy, at home or abroad. I worry greatly about what four more years of a Bush administration will do to this country and to its standing in the world.

Anne Zook - 5/20/2004

If a non-academic can step into the discussion a bit late, I might suggest that a Bush Administration loss in November isn't likely to stop the neocons if they're really set on remaking this country.

They managed to keep it together through 4 years of Bush I's tepid enthusiasm for their goals and 8 years of Clinton. In fact, they managed to make themselves quite a nuisance during the Clinton years. I think it's a mistake to assume that one, or even more than one, defeat at the polls will kill whatever long-range plans they have.

I do, in fact, think they'd like to remake our democracy into a new mold that better suits them. And if they're defeated this November, I believe they'll keep up the PR war (if I hear one more liberal apologize for being intelligent...) until they convince the public to put them back in power.

A thorough and decisive defeat that returns not only the White House but Congress to the control of Democrat or moderate Republican hands is about the only thing that can slow them down in the long run. And we'll need the first four years to undo what the current Bush Administration has done, so figure 12 years. 12 years when the liberals and moderates in this country continue to speak up and to take action is a minimum to enact the kind of change that will keep the neocons out of power.

It won't happen of course. Once a democrat is back in the White House, the majority of citizens will sit back and sigh in relief, satisfied that they've done all they need to to safeguard the country.

And then the next thing you know, we'll be fighting this same battle over again.

Name Removed at Poster's Request - 5/20/2004

And how about elsewhere?,13743,1219887,00.html

mark safranski - 5/19/2004

Agreed. American policy slid into immorality as well as illegality at Abu Ghraib

William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 5/19/2004

I must confess I share Tim Burke's anxieties and left the country after giving up hope. But I see a crisis that goes deeper than simply the insanity of Bush and his neocons, have a deep distrust of the integrity of the electoral system after the 2000 debacle. In my view--and I lived through the 60s, remembering them well--I suspect, can't demonstrate informally of course--that the divisions in US society are deeper than then, perhaps as profound as those that grew in the 1850s. I also see a profound irony there, since I agree with others, notably Michael Lind, that Bush represents the successful nationalization of a very old southern agenda. But despite my despair, I am itching for my absentee ballot. About the best I can otherwise do is warn Europeans I know, as if they needed any warning, and put in the subject line of my e-mails to the States: "I don't brake for Republicans!", wistfully daydreaming one would try to cross the Autobahn at night like the possums and armadillos of my youth.

David Lion Salmanson - 5/19/2004

I appreciate your point of view. But what may undermine the argument even further is that according to some reports, many of the prisoners where there by mistake. To me, that pushes the scale more towards Tim's end of the spectrum where the prevailing attitude is becoming "any Iraqi is a guilty Iraqi."

E. Simon - 5/18/2004

Not trying to defend hyperbole per se, just felt like taking a stab at a challenge that seemed a bit broader than your response indicates. I apologize - I honestly didn't realize you were being rhetorical.

Richard Henry Morgan - 5/18/2004

This captures so much of my thoght, I thought I'd just link to it:

Richard Henry Morgan - 5/18/2004

It seems to me that what we have here is new directives from the top for a certain class of prisoners, followed later by abuse of some prisoners by some at a low level of the totem pole.

Sy has a problem. How does he connect these two? I know. The guards are mentally incapable of dreaming this up -- that does the trick. They certainly aren't the type of people that Sy associates with, or would associate with, or would even run into at the New Yorker or NY Times (we can know the latter simply based on the race distributions at these institutions versus that of the Army). Yep, they must be stupid. Ergo, somebody did their thinking for them. It must have come down from the top. Yeah, that's the ticket.

So Sy connects the dots by an invocation of the causal principle. He doesn't actually have evidence that this is the case, but he has A, followed by B, and the guards couldn't have dreamed up B on their own ...

Needless to say, I have trouble with this type of lazy journalism and casual thinking, where assertion relaces evidence. But here's another example of what I mean, culled from a writer with his own agenda, who similarly posits a causal relationship where the evidence is insufficient.

In "The Second Amendment in Law and History", edited by Carl Bogus, Bogus asserts (p. 7), in succeeding paragraphs:

First, Bogus mentions that 1991 and 1992 Halbrook took money from the NRA. Then he mentions that in 1992 the NRA supported Academics for the Second Amendment. Then ...
"In 1994 the NRA launched an annual "Stand Up for the Second Amendment" essay contest, offering a first prize of $25,000."

"The NRA effort would turn out to be a great success. At least fifty-eight law review articles endorsing the individual rights view would be published during the 1990s (as opposed to twenty-nine favoring the collective rights position)."

Now I would submit that that posits a causal relationship. But let's look at Spitzer's data from the same book. One discovers that the individualist interpretation was already dominant in the law reviews over the course of the 1980s, before the NRA involvement. And you'll never guess who published articles in the 1990s from a collective rights position, and took money from anti-gun groups (and which goes unremarked by Bogus). Yep, you guessed it. Dennis Henigan and our very own Carl Bogus. Seems pecuniary gain only serves to undermine intellectual integrity when the individualist position is supported. And among those who took an individualist position in the 1990s were two professors, Amar and Van Alstyne, who hold chairs at Yale and Duke respectively. Is Bogus seriously suggesting they were bought?

What I'm getting at is the promiscuous invocation of the causal principle on one hand, and the selectivity of its invocation on the other. These are the hallmarks of an ideologue -- one who connects the dots via ideology, where the evidence is not sufficient on its own, and where competing ways of connecting the dots are ignored.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/18/2004

John, It's true that once the American invasion took place, there's a certain logic that says that you simply have to stay there and try to see the thing through, somehow. It does suggest, however, that the mission was ill-conceived from the outset and should not have occurred under these circumstances. But having passed a point of little return, how in the presence of this level of violence it is imagineable that a more democratic regime which can sustain itself against domestic threats and external pressures, is simply beyond me.

Richard Henry Morgan - 5/18/2004

I wasn't specifically referring to Hersh with my pool deck crack. There certainly is a departure from POW treatment in regards to combatants who have sought to excuse themselves from the demands of the Geneva Convention -- that is, who have refused to wear distinguishing articles of apparel that mark them off as soldiers (and which lend protection to those who don't wear such apparel). The purpose of such a distinction is precisely to encourage combatants to distinguish themselves from non-combatants so that non-combatants won't be targeted.

So you have that phenomenon at one end. At the other end you have the phenomenon of prison guard abuse. What to do with the gap between the two? Hersh and others have an answer. Bridge it by speculation passed off as fact -- the new journalism. All connecting of the dots is reaching when there is more than one way to connect the dots. It is even more the case when the connecting of the dots, a la Hersh, is based on ignorance of military training, procedures, and experience. Moreover, even one of the soldiers being court-martialed has gone on the record saying that they would have been "slammed" had their officers known what they were doing. How does that comport with Hersh's account? It doesn't.

This also holds true of his reporting on the Taguba issue. From next to nothing, he posits an Army cover-up. That is sexy. It gets Hersh back into the news. Unfortunately he doesn't have the least grasp of the AR's, and how particular types of reports, by law, imply the right of reply by individuals implicated, including a time period for such, as well as a right to have that reply reviewed by command. When it comes to the military, Hersh couldn't find his ass in the dark with both hands.

John E. Moser - 5/18/2004

With the exception of the ghastly crimes of Abu Ghraib, which part of the policy has been shown to be a failure? Which part of the policy suggests that we are on the way to becoming "what the radical Islamists say we already are"? Abu Ghraib was horrible--there's no doubt about that. But surely it means something that it was stopped by whistleblowers within the U.S. military, revealed in U.S. media outlets, and apologized for by the president and the secretary of defense. Can you imagine anything like that happening in any Middle Eastern country, with the possible exception of Israel?

How do you know that we are losing the war in Iraq, Ralph? That Jihadists and Ba'athists are willing to blow themselves up to prevent a pro-American regime from forming in Iraq should come as news to no one. And one does not necessarily have to buy the notion of a liberal media to understand that terrorist attacks are more likely to appear on news broadcasts than the opening of schools or the restoration of electrical power.

I admit that I am still hesitant to claim that we are winning in Iraq. The best that can be said is that the reports we have coming back are mixed. However, as an historian I object on principle to making quick judgments based on extremely limited information. Aside from coming clean on Abu Ghraib, and seeing to it that it does not happen again, I am not yet convinced that a new strategy is necessary.

I am curious, though--I'd like to hear from Ralph and others what they think our approach should be. That is, assuming it's not to cut and run; I've heard that one before. I would extend this request to Senator Kerry as well; I've still yet to hear his solution, aside from the unrealistic expectation that he can somehow get the United Nations involved.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/18/2004

But, John, can't we be fairly certain that if we are willing, "in order to avoid defeat," continue to do what we have been doing, we might win every battle and still lose both the war and ourselves because we will have alienated opinion everywhere except in our own minds and lost them because we will have become what the radical Islamists say we already are?

John E. Moser - 5/18/2004

"But then she came to the point. Not only had she ‘known’ the Iraq war would fail but she considered it essential that it did so because this would ensure that the ‘evil’ George W. Bush would no longer be running her country. Her editors back on the East Coast were giggling, she said, over what a disaster Iraq had turned out to be. ‘Lots of us talk about how awful it would be if this worked out.’"

Perfect. And given sentiments like these, is it any wonder that some on the Right start talking about wiping out Iraqis? As I've suggested elsewhere, the two attitudes are mirror-images of one another.

Richard Henry Morgan - 5/18/2004

Try this one on for size. It's from instapundit, ultimately from the Spectator (from the pen of the Daily Telelgraph's Toby Harnden):

The other day, while taking a break by the Al-Hamra Hotel pool, fringed with the usual cast of tattooed defence contractors, I was accosted by an American magazine journalist of serious accomplishment and impeccable liberal credentials.

She had been disturbed by my argument that Iraqis were better off than they had been under Saddam and I was now — there was no choice about this — going to have to justify my bizarre and dangerous views. I’ll spare you most of the details because you know the script — no WMD, no ‘imminent threat’ (though the point was to deal with Saddam before such a threat could emerge), a diversion from the hunt for bin Laden, enraging the Arab world. Etcetera.

But then she came to the point. Not only had she ‘known’ the Iraq war would fail but she considered it essential that it did so because this would ensure that the ‘evil’ George W. Bush would no longer be running her country. Her editors back on the East Coast were giggling, she said, over what a disaster Iraq had turned out to be. ‘Lots of us talk about how awful it would be if this worked out.’ Startled by her candour, I asked whether thousands more dead Iraqis would be a good thing.

She nodded and mumbled something about Bush needing to go. By this logic, I ventured, another September 11 on, say, September 11 would be perfect for pushing up John Kerry’s poll numbers. ‘Well, that’s different — that would be Americans,’ she said, haltingly. ‘I guess I’m a bit of an isolationist.’ That’s one way of putting it.

The moral degeneracy of these sentiments didn’t really hit me until later when I dined at the home of Abu Salah, a father of six who took over as the Daily Telegraph’s chief driver in Baghdad when his predecessor was killed a year ago.

I was watching Sy Hersh last night, who is still making a meal of My Lai all these years later, stare guilelessly and profoundly into the camera and tell the audience that guards could not have dreamed up the special torture of stripping Iraqi prisoners naked -- that it had to come from above.

Hello. Strip searching of prisoners prior to interrogation is SOP. It is always done by guards, because an interrogator can't have that done and still establish rapport. Not only is it SOP, but it has been done by female guards against US soldiers in field training exercises for the last 30 years. Every time I hear a journalist try to draw conclusions from a small set of facts, without any experience in the area or broader knowledge, the journalist almost invariably makes a stark raving ass of himself. And this is passed off as news. What ever happened to reporting facts, as opposed to drawing conclusions from facts? I guess that is just too old-fashioned in post-Watergate times.

The journalist who sexed-up his report on WMD (and claimed the MoD had sexed up their own) defended his going beyond the facts, and said that he got it right "most of the time". Well, he's now out of work, as is the head of the BBC. Piers Morgan is now gone, too. It's too bad Howell Raines had to go, inasmuch as he was just carrying out Pinch's policies. Major media is corrupt to the core. Pinch said he was surprised to find out that people no longer complained when the Times got it wrong. The Times is infamous for the most grudging corrections section in major media. And so it goes. I'd have to say that as a group, I've never encountered a more corrupt, intellectually lazy, and intellectually dishonest collection of people than media.

Timothy James Burke - 5/18/2004

Actually I would trust reportage, broadly conceptualized, over polling. I regard polling as a badly misleading source of data in virtually all cases, particularly when it's being used to document something as nebulous as "an attitude" or "a belief", an artifact of consciousness that I think can never be resolved down to a single state. People demonstrably believe many contradictory things at once at all times; a poll falsely resolves one of those out.

I agree there is a logical fallacy in assuming that ordinary prison guards could not by themselves come up with the scenarios in the pictures. In fact, I may work up an essay on this point--there's something much more complex going on there that makes it possible to imagine those scenarios to be a spontaneous performance from the guards themselves. Nevertheless, I think there is at least credible reason to suppose that people very high in the chain of command endorsed the creation of a "free zone" in which torture and abuse were understood to be going on, and at least a reasonable possibility that specific scenarios were suggested by superiors in military intelligence.

Even if one takes an aggressively skeptical attitude towards Seymour Hersh's latest piece in The New Yorker, I'd first say that it is something rather different than reporting on a war zone from the comfort of the hotel pool. It's really about the internal architecture of the US government, and how policy is made. Let's say we discard Hersh's direct claims of Rumsfeld's involvement, "Copper Green" and the like. We still have a good deal of evidence, much of it from the public transcript, from Rumsfeld's own statements in public, that highly coercive, even abusive, techniques of interrogation were permitted in Guantanamo and Iraq. We have the dogged insistence of the US government that Guantanamo lie outside the Geneva Convention. There is a pattern here, and I don't think it's reaching to connect those dots. In fact, I think it's an empirical commandment to do so. At some point, skepticism can congeal into a kind of solipsism.

Richard Henry Morgan - 5/18/2004

I had never heard of Ray Reynolds, nor seen his e-mail. Nor am I impressed by the refutations of much of its content. What is Raed's refutation that more people have clean drinking water? A sarcastic comment: "oh yeah, i used to drink with my cow from the river." Stunning intellectual content there. His refutation that schools have been renovated? That it involves a scandal with Bechtel. That's a refutation? As for his comments that schools were not used by Iraq to store weapons, I saw film of precisely that. He never saw a single water project -- in a country the size of California. I guess that settles it, then. I take it all back. I've also been refuted by an activist from Britain who has taken time off from the Biotic Baking Brigade, the Anarchist Library, and the Spartacus Bookstore to give the world the lowdown on Iraq.

I guess this is what passes for serious discussion these days.

Name Removed at Poster's Request - 5/18/2004

Many of the Iraq facts you mentioned sound much like the Ray Reynolds email that's been passed around so much lately.

Here is Snopes' take on it:

Here is Raed Jarrar taking issue with much of the email's content (Raed was Salam Pax's co-blogger on the Where is Raed blog in Iraq):

And here is some disputation of the email's facts by Wildfirejo, a British activist who has spent time in Iraq (go to the May 4th entry):

If your facts don't come from the Ray Reynolds email it's all the same, since Reynolds' is taking his lead from recent Pentagon communications. They touch on the same things.

John E. Moser - 5/18/2004

Obviously, each side in this has its own facts that it can produce in favor of the thesis that things in Iraq are going well, or going disastrously. I think the best that we can say at this point is that it's too early to tell. As I put it in my last HNN editorial, if one tried to predict the outcome of World War II based on the events of the first six months after Pearl Harbor the predictions would hardly have been rosy.

Also, I wonder if any of those engaged in this discussion have considered that the "exterminationist" rhetoric being used by some on the Right is merely the flip side of the "all is lost" rhetoric that has become all too common among the American Left. Both are borne of the premature notion that the situation is desperate; the difference lies in what one is willing to do in order to avoid defeat.

Richard Henry Morgan - 5/18/2004

I don't think it abounds in Iraq, but is found in particular areas. And yes, Fox is an opposite but unequal force in major media. Fox looks at what major media says, and it simply gathers all those facts that don't accord with the standard litany -- that is their marketing niche.

What I find most amusing is the behaviour of journalists, and their pretensions to expert knowledge. I rememebr the "all is lost" meme that dominated Iraq coverage 10 days into the invasion. Three weeks into Afghanistan, the same meme raised its head. Edward Said,in the London Review of Books, writing from the comfort of NY and without any concrete knowledge of the situation there nor any militaty experience, wrote that it was a folly to think the Taliban would collapse and run. Three days later, as if on cue, they did just that.

Journalists are, for the most part, intellectually lazy and dishonest herd animals. In my time in Humint, I conducted interrogations in the high double figures. Last night I saw a senior editor of Newsweek state categorically that MP's couldn't conceive, on their own, to put dead wires on a prisoner. I have to laugh. If the army was as incompetent as major media, with as much pretension to expertise as major media, we would have lost our freedom to the Bahamas a long time ago.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/18/2004

Richard, Two points:
a) I assume that you make no claim that things are going "swimmingly" after Abu Ghraib when terrorism abounds in Iraq six weeks before our promised hand-off of power; and
b) I assume that you make no assumption that Fox News is any less tainted than any other mainstream media.

Jonathan Dresner - 5/17/2004

There is a difference between destroying a state and eradicating an idea or a movement. That's not splitting hairs, that's the reality of the difference between the Bush Administration approach to the problems of international terrorism and Islamic radicalism and an actually rational, practical approach to the problems.

Jonathan Dresner - 5/17/2004

Falun Gong is an international movement with tens of thousands of members in China and thousands outside of China. The remaining Branch Davidians are divided between the ones with lawyers suing the government and the ones who are trying to turn the Waco compound into a shrine....

Jonestown and Heaven's Gate were small groups that self-destructed. Nobody tried to supress them.

Other groups have disappeared: the Shakers, for example, whose non-reproductive strategy was a dead end as society changed around them.

And centuries of repression against Jews have produced a worldwide distribution, with a vigorous self-replicating tradition and high achievement. Say what you like about the Nazis, but they failed. Even within their own territories, thousands, tens of thousands escaped on their own or with help.

I'm sorry, but Mr. Jones' hyperbole is indefensible. How hard is that to understand?

E. Simon - 5/17/2004

Can't remember what the Branch Davidians are up to these days either, unless I just inadvertently stumbled upon the answer you had originally sought... ;-)

Richard Henry Morgan - 5/17/2004

Actually, I'm not sure you're for evenhanded skepticism -- at least if your prior posts are any indication, as they seem to buy the line of major media hook, line, and sinker. And I openly admitted that any claim to going "swimmingly" was on an equal par of casual empiricism as major media negative reports. The reports of going swimmingly are, of course, scattered, as they don't carry the endorsement of major media. I would remind all and sundry that just 10 days into the campaign, major media had jumped on a bandwagon, fueled by ex-military types pontificating on what they don't know, that all was lost. Or was that little bit of fantasy something I merely invented?

As for infrastructure improvements most urgently being needed in the Sunni triangle, I would say that that area had received largesse from Hussein -- the needs are greatest (from a humanitarian standpoint, rather than from a political standpoint) in the formerly neglected areas. Your points about disaggregation are well-put. Your confidence in reportage over polling I take to be jejeune.

I just had the dubious pleasure of watching a senior editor from Newsweek declare that putting a guy on a stand, with dead wires attached to him, is beyond the imagination of prison guards alone. Not possibly, but categorically. I wonder what great source of experience gives weight to that ex cathedra pronouncement? Similarly, on this website, in the section devoted to historians and the prison abuse, a professor-in-training offers that 1800 pictures means it could not have been the guards alone -- we are spared any reasoning on the matter, and perhaps for that we should be thankful. Apparently, assertion is enough. Similarly, this authority offers that only the publication of the photos led to court-martials -- again, the power of assertion. I think it's a pity he hasn't chosen to be a journalist -- he certainly qualifies already. But then reportage is more reliable than polling.

I enjoy your posts, almost without exception. I just don't have faith that we can make very good judgments about what the facts are from this distance, given such polluted streams of information. I may turn out wrong on many details, even on the overall thrust, but I suspect that would be an accident, because my experience tells me that the great mass of reportage isn't worth a tinker's damn.

E. Simon - 5/17/2004

Jonestown and Heaven's Gate come to mind...

All joking aside, I don't think it's absurd to think that actions of the Chinese government could stop Falun Gong from going far. Also, did the Jews living within the Third Reich not constitute a religious persuasion? I think "movement" as such had already been well stultified through a combination of not actively seeking converts as well as the oppressive stance by the Church which had for so long dominated the State's relationship to its people on that continent. Perhaps Islam is different due to issues relating to global scale, historical presence and its longstanding philosophical relationship to matters of state. Outside of those specific examples I don't think it's a common phenomenon - especially with regards to indigenous movements, but don't discount the possibility, not withstanding Mr. Jones' likely stretch.

Timothy James Burke - 5/17/2004

I'm curious about the degree to which you evince severe empirical skepticism about one vector of information and are then remarkably trusting about information coming from other directions--as well as selective. There are also polls showing that 4/5 of Iraqis profoundly distrust the United States, for example--but polling is at best a complicated art when pollsters have easy access to surveyed populations and state the options clearly. In this context, I'd be vastly more skeptical of any poll showing anything, on basic grounds of methodology, than on reportage.

On infrastructural grounds, it's also hard to know what to make of the kinds of scattered reports you regard as "going swimmingly". From the relative state of deprivation prewar, very small improvements would show as improvements in the data, but not necessarily make much of a difference to the communities they service. Moreover, national aggregates of such data hardly tell us what we need to know given that the situation is acknowledged by everyone to be highly regional and disaggregated. If there are improvements in national infrastructure in the Kurdish north but not in the Sunni Triangle, then arguably the improvements are happening in a place that they don't urgently need to happen.

I agree that the obvious lack of enthusiasm for Sadr in the south is important--but again, this is where your selectivity is showing through. Because where's the coverage of that coming from? The US media. Why grasp one thing and not another if you regard that information source as thoroughly contaminated?

I'm all for skepticism. But I would insist that you apply even-handedly.

mark safranski - 5/17/2004

"There's nothing you can really say to this kind of fairly unapologetic exterminationism. Either it's basically insane and therefore completely barred to reason--how did "wipe them all out" become the aim of a war undertaken for humanitarian reasons?--or it is supra-rational and reveals that the war has been always at its core a New Crusade against Islam, a deliberately and intentionally exterminationist or brutalist program. "

Except that frustrated outbursts of this kind in the faculty lounge - of the " nuking them back into the stone age " variety - are not really meant as serious proposals and comments in this extreme vein occur most likely in any society at war in any time. Nazi Germany's Wannsee Conference - now that's an example of chilling seriousness of intent. The differences are noteworthy on a number of contextual levels.

War is brutal even without actions that are considered " excesses " like Abi Ghraib or the ghoulish murder of Nick Berg. The problem the United States faces is that our opponent - al Qaida and it's larger interrelated Islamist network - obeys no rules of war, not even those found in the Quran. Sadly, in comparison with the Nazi record vis-a vis American civilians and soldiers, the Islamists are worse. The hard core Islamists are apparently wihout either restraints or limits and as such they forfeit protections given to combatants who have followed the rules. To do otherwise is to reward and encourage more Danny Pearl-Nick Berg snuff films and 9-11 attacks and render Geneva a toothless dead letter.

That being said, to *extend* the near anything goes mentality reserved for " high value " al Qaida war criminals to legitimate Iraqi prisoners of war( or for civil crimes under occupational rule) is both illegal and wrong. It tarnishes the reputation of the United States and undermines our moral reasons for fighting the war in the first place.

It is possible to see Abu Ghaib as a crime to be punished without deciding that incident invalidates the need to fight the war itself. It is also possible to fight a complex war where discrimination between foes based upon their conduct under arms is a reasonable way to govern our reactions. " One-size-fits-all" and a "single event as a paradigm" are poor policy tools to conduct any government enterprise, much less a war.

Richard Henry Morgan - 5/17/2004

"Going swimmingly" means a a whole host of things. Polls of Iraqis (not well publicized by our major media) show that a strong majority see things as improved since before we went in. The number of children in schools is up from pre-war levels. The access to fresh, clean drinking water is up from pre-war levels. Access to electricity is up from pre-war levels. The oil is flowing with enhanced capital plant, and the revenues are filling Iraq's coffers. Law enforcement throughout the great majority of Iraq is in place, improving, and winning the respect of the Iraqis. An Iraqi Special Forces team just a few days back assaulted an entrenched position -- the insurgents had to destroy a large cache of weapons and ammo which exploded for hours. Iraqi Special Forces raided a mosque, and seized hundreds of assault weapons and rocket launchers. Last week, 1,000 women took to the streets in Najaf to protest al Sadr and his thugs. And last week, Sistani and the other mullahs finally came out against al Sadr.

There are definitely problem areas. It may take years, if ever for these to get fixed -- and there is no need that we do the fixing. The Iraqi armed forces are coming along. I'd be surprised if we're still there after Christmas. I'd also be surprised if Iraq comes anytime soon to greatly resemble a modern western democracy. There's a long road ahead. I just don't see the disjunction you offered: that Abu Ghraib was no big deal, or there is an urgent crisis in the original conception of the war (unless one takes that original conception to include a fully-flowered western democracy within 24 months).

I'm not sure, too, that the very existence of the Tet offensive contradicted the claims of progress. The Tet offensive was a military disaster, wiping out the NLF -- but then, I suspect that that was a sacrifice the North was willing to make. Think how much easier it would be to rule without a troublesome NLF which perhaps refused to take direction from even their own Northern leadership. I think the main problem was that the American public concluded that the fact that the NLF could mount such an offensive was evidence that it could sustain such an offensive, which would definitely have contradicted representations as to the status of things. In any case, I'm not sure, given the fact that we had taken on the strategic defensive, that the disaster that Tet represented to the NLF, also represented a disaster for the North -- there was every indication that they were willing to fight indefinitely, much to the contrary of LBJ's assumptions.

I know one thing: we'll never get a grip on the real state of affairs from major media reporters who confine themselves to standup reporting on firefights from the comfort of the Hilton pool deck.

Grant W Jones - 5/17/2004

Well, I don't share your low opinion of the American people. Your lists of problems (some of which I don't agree are problems), these are new things? You seem to adopt a false either/or dichotomy. Either the U.S. practices a "perfect" form of democracy (as you define it), or we are on the road to hell.

Even Zoroastrianism survives as a minor sect. That doesn't change my point. And it doesn't deter the Islamists in sub-Sahara Africa.

I don't get your point. Since Nazism and State Shinto were not "eradicated," what? WWII was a waste of our blood and treasure? "Thriving in Dojo around the world," I've spent a lot of time in Dojos, I never noticed that.

You do allude to one valid point, the only way to defeat bad ideas, in the long term, is with good ideas. But, that is a long term project, that would not have done any good for these men, subjects of a video the lamestream media doesn't want Americans to see:

"Pitiful news analysis," indeed! But, the big boys' monopoly is dead. Americans have never had more access to such a wealth of information and opinion. That's a good thing. Worry less, the kids are OK.

Ben H. Severance - 5/17/2004


There is certainly cause for alarm. And I do applaud the vibrant voice of protest that exists on HNN and elsewhere. I believe, however, that travesties such as Abu Ghraib, the book disclosures by O'Neill, Clarke, and Woodward, and the Iraqi insurgency are all taking their toll on the nation's willingness to give Bush and his cohorts the benefit of the doubt and press ahead in spite of the costs. The result, I believe, will be a Kerry victory in November (a close one to be sure, but a democratic victory nonetheless).

Personally, I've oscillated between conditional support for the war on terror (including Iraq) and outright disgust with the whole Bush Doctrine, and I currently believe that the U.S. must continue the task of nation-building in Iraq, but under new leadership. As an army veteran, the indefensible conduct at Abu Ghraib has undercut my erstwhile belief that at the very least, America was fighting the war justly (even if the war itself may be unjust). And I do agree with you that there is a disturbingly sizeable portion of the electorate that has no problem dismissing the torture and forgiving Rumsfeld for his dangerous Machiavellianism. But as Grant Jones pointed out, your comparison with Weimar is overdrawn. I say this not as a personal attack, for I have wrestled with appropriate historical parallels myself (e.g., Reconstruction after the Civil War, Mexican-American War, Phillipine Insurrection, Wilhemine Germany. etc...), but only to re-emphasize my overall opinion that the majority of Americans will not be fooled any longer by the recklessness of the Bush Adminstration. But we'll have to await the people's verdict (or perhaps the supreme court's) later this year.

John E. Moser - 5/17/2004

Certainly the mood predates the murder of Berg--it goes back to September 11, 2001. During World War II surveys showed that a substantial minority of Americans believed that the Japanese should be exterminated in retaliation for Pearl Harbor, and that attack was far less horrific than the spectacle of airliners being crashed into the World Trade Center. While this hardly provides justification for nuking the Middle East, it at least helps make it comprehensible. Instead of asking why frustrated people are talking along these lines, we might just as well ponder why more of us aren't.

This leads me to the ultimate reason why I find offensive the comparisons between the United States in 2004 and Germany in the 1930s. The "Jewish conspiracy" that Hitler and the Nazis raved about was a product of their paranoid imaginations. The Islamicist conspiracy against the United States is undeniably real, although reasonable people can disagree about how extensive it may be and what might be the best way to fight it.

Interestingly, in 1943 the journalist John T. Flynn wrote a book entitled _As We Go Marching_, which argued that even as America was fighting the Axis it was slipping toward fascism at home. The book was immediately attacked by liberals who claimed that he had missed the essence of fascism, which was neither deficit spending nor militarism, but rather domestic repression. They reminded Mr. Flynn that if the country were really on the road to fascism he would not be allowed to publish his warning. This is something worth remembering today.

John E. Moser - 5/17/2004

Certainly the mood predates the murder of Berg--it goes back to September 11, 2001. During World War II surveys showed that a substantial minority of Americans believed that the Japanese should be exterminated in retaliation for Pearl Harbor, and that attack was far less horrific than the spectacle of airliners being crashed into the World Trade Center. While this hardly provides justification for nuking the Middle East, it at least helps make it comprehensible. Instead of asking why frustrated people are talking along these lines, we might just as well ponder why more of us aren't.

This leads me to the ultimate reason why I find offensive the comparisons between the United States in 2004 and Germany in the 1930s. The "Jewish conspiracy" that Hitler and the Nazis raved about was a product of their paranoid imaginations. The Islamicist conspiracy against the United States is undeniably real, although reasonable people can disagree about how extensive it may be and what might be the best way to fight it.

Interestingly, in 1943 the journalist John T. Flynn wrote a book entitled _As We Go Marching_, which argued that even as America was fighting the Axis it was slipping toward fascism at home. The book was immediately attacked by liberals who claimed that he had missed the essence of fascism, which was neither deficit spending nor militarism, but rather domestic repression. They reminded Mr. Flynn that if the country were really on the road to fascism he would not be allowed to publish his warning. This is something worth remembering today.

Timothy James Burke - 5/17/2004

It's the paradoxical problem of media and the public sphere. If things are going well on the ground in Iraq, but no one outside of Iraq knows it--either in the US *or* in the Arab world, then are things really going well? It's the same problem with evaluting the Tet Offensive: those who insist that we actually "won" forget that the very existence of an offensive contradicted confident representations of the progress of the war by those prosecuting it. It's not like there's an objective touchstone for victory or defeat in any military conflict--but less so in this case than any other, if your perception of the war involved some kind of nation-building or state-building in Iraq. Those are goals which have a perceptual component hard-wired into them: they can't be achieved through body counts and offensives. If your perception of the war doesn't involve those things, what does it involve? What is "going swimmingly"?

Timothy James Burke - 5/17/2004

You may be right to deflate my hyperbole, Ben. Certainly it's not something I indulge in much these days, not this kind. Fundamentally, I suppose it is that I expected too much from that segment of the right whose amorality has flatly shocked me in the wake of Abu Ghraib, and feel for the first time in a long time the faint, sick fear that American decency, which I take to be a bedrock value, actually rests on jello. So I'm feeling unusually gloomy. And as I've said elsewhere in this comments thread, I'm worried--when people tell me to laugh off what strike me as unambiguously barbaric commentaries, to see them only as loonies and outliers, I can't help but think of other societies that have spiralled into madness where the exact same counsel was given by the reasonable voices who assumed that they the holding center until one morning they awoke and it was not so.

Ben H. Severance - 5/17/2004

The many comments on this article have been interesting and thought-provoking, but in one sense it all has the appearance of a great academic tirade. Democracy is an illusion; the cancer of despotism is growing; a subconcious exterminationist mindset has gained a plurality among seemingly decent Americans. If this is really the case, then I hope the many HNN bloggers who have suggested these developments have purchased a private arsenal with which to combat this impending tyranny. Is the Bush Adminstration worse that George III or the Republican Party of 1860? I ask because Americans launched revolts against those "tyrants." Should we not be prepared to do the same now?

If democracy is in jeopardy and the Bush camp is a pack of fanatical neo-cons, then the November election should be another sham with voter fraud and perhaps veiled forms of intimidation. Ideologues do not willingly give up power. So, go the polls with your guns!

But I am only joking, for as we'll all see, the election will be fair, Bush will lose, and the authoritarian phantom will vanish. In this sense, Bush is more like Kaiser Wilhelm II, a childish imperialist who cravenly fled the country after losing a war he should not have fought.

But if I'm wrong, then will the university intelletuals lead the revolution? Or will they pen a few more criticisms before being riddled by a firing squad?

Oscar Chamberlain - 5/17/2004

Johm, you and Michael have made some good points about not overstating anecedotes of jackboots mentality. I hope you are right.

But I keep feeling something out there ominous in more and more of the public mood. It's not a willingness to have dictatorship, but it is a frustrated anger, long antedating the guastly execuation of Berg, that could be played in sinister ways.

I don't pretend that feelings are the same as facts. I hope I am wrong. But it is shaping the way I look at some of these anecdotes, these events.

Ben H. Severance - 5/17/2004

Mr. Luker,

I think to key word in Kotsko's comment is "miraculous." For Bonhoeffer (and presumably Kotsko), conversion does not come at the hands of a cabal of proselytizing re-educators using torture, but through the actions of the Holy Spirit. If it is God's will, the "Fool" eventually experiences an epiphany that makes him realize the futility of his self-will. The violence Kotsko refers to comes from the "Fool" himself, who both hurts those who are trying to help him and endures inner pain as he wages a senseless and useless rearguard action against God. The casualty that lies mutilated in the dust is the Fool's pride. In relating this theology to the present situation, we have to decide whether the Bush Administration is the "Fool" and then see how it reacts to both the People's criticism and the electoral power to compell change.

John E. Moser - 5/17/2004

I've found this discussion fascinating, but wonder if anyone has considered that most (although probably not all) of the talk about "nuking" the Middle East has been merely a means of blowing off steam. The video of Nick Berg, and frustration over the general course of the war, has led to a great deal of perfectly justifiable anger toward our enemies. I am not sure that there has been any modern war in which a certain amount of "exterminationist" talk has not emerged--it was surely the case in the United States during World War II.

In other words, I agree with those who say that it's far too early to be listening for the sounds of jackboots goose-stepping down Main Street.

William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 5/17/2004

I do, Jon, and thanks, Ralph. Getting up in the very early morning here--where the latitude makes the sun shoot up like a Roman candle at the equinox--maybe got me going.

But still, reflecting on what I banged out while walking the dog--who bless her heart has more sense and integrity than our (or your) elites--I decided it made me feel good.

I suggest that one of the greatest handicaps faced over yonder is a parochialism that on occasion staggers me. It's willful, systemic, enshrined in cheap consumerism, and a smug preoccupation with self-interest. Item, though: Everything going on in Iraq was anticipated by critics outside government and analysts inside it. What's been leaked to Seymour Hersh (much probably from disgruntled military brass)was not immune to common sense, either; it is stunning to me that outfits like CNN had the story and didn't run with it, but then, with anchors like that fangless Wolf, what can you expect? I heard him take umbrage when Hersh referred to the "Bush regime." Guys, it is not anything else but--corrupt, openly contemptuous of others...Jeez, we spend millions of taxpayer dollars to poke and pry into Bill Clinton's cigar holder and the mess in Mesopotamia in my book--involving corrupt business dealings, mass death, what probably constutute war crimes endorsed by black ops Rambos, civilians who wouldn't risk their own lives even for a stock option--including overrated right-wing intellectuals--folks like Rumsfeld and Cheney (the pampered and mediocre beneficiaries of Beltway connection and corporate mutual stink-finger) running government into the ground so its prospects are like those of Argentina's while they are insulated from consequences...I'll take Clinton's priapism any day! Bush oughtta be impeached, tossed out with his cronies, and shipped to the Hague.

At least Milosovic was an old-style kinda despot. History doesn't need that kind anymore, too crude, to absorbed--wittingly or not--in the consequences of the reaction to modernity. No, no! Now you guys have an authroitarian regime thoroughly adapted to it. No Arizona Gulag necessary.

Where's the backbone? I read the non-peer-reviewed neocons--"warrior politics," or on Machiavelli and think, this is nuts, where's the criticism that junk deserves. A classicist like VDH can wax nostalgic for the Roman empire's peace and prosperity, and some idiot NPR host doesn't say, "Wait a minute, Professor Hansen, wasn't that empire based on looting and slavery?" (He can also quote Cleon the demagogue of Athens approvingly--any yup actually read Thucydides?); a Mike Ledeen can crank out "Machiavellian" junk for subliterate but pretntious Nat'lRev. readers, saying things like don't worry what anybody thinks, all that counts is winning, and nobody jumps on that amoral idiocy from a right-wing bridge player who awhile back was out there wife and all endorsing Victorian values (for the plebes and Those Who Do Not Know, I guess) and says that's outrageous (and, by the way, bad Machiavelli, on and on).

Just what're intelligent Americans reading and thinking about? Do they read or only blog incestuously instead of engaging in rebuilding a real "public sphere?" Do they sit there and righteously nod, Well, a bunch of yokels having fun when they see photos of interrogation techniques--did they bring them thar hoods and wars from the hollers of West Virginia or is our current trailer park population reading old declassified manuals from Viet Nam they bought online with with Left Behind novels? Just because their grand-daddies' rapturous expression were photographed at lynchings desn't mean they can't take a hint from Pentagon cut-outs. Are they actually more literate than your elites?

I mean, if you don't speak up--what're you all afraid of?--you share in the blame, guys.

There is an essay out there--I think it's still available online, forget offhand its chicken colonel author--Powell gave it some kind of award, "The Military Coup of 2012." Brass goes after a liberal prexy--always that odd, Banana Republic cliche hanging on. I read it oh, a year or so ago? An award for that speculation from Colin? My own view is that Bush has a pretty hoppping mad military on his hands (would you salute that bespectacled creature, Rumsfeld? I wouldn't), but that's not in the cards.

But where I think the danger lies is in the mentality expresed by Ledeen. It is that of the current win-at-any-cost mentality of corporate and electoral management, even poured down on the poor masses in things like Survivor. A scathingly expressed contempt for those of us who just don't get it. I would be watching for anything those unspeakable corporate guys do to stay in power this fall. Gore chickened out and let'em take the White House by legal chicanery and fraud last go-round. If they pull that off, a kind of soft coup, it might not be a coup in the old-style putsch sense of the word (I view Bush v. Gore as a bureaucratized version, sort of boardroom massacre). As long as folks can shop 'til they drop, watch NBA and NFL games, and indulge in patriotic sentimentality thinking Jesus loves them while brown people with a funny religion branded as fanatical die, and they don't have our malls and so must deserve it because of 9/11, authoritarianism transcends the "public" and nobody cares?

Or does it? Does authoritarianism somehow detach itself from the society at large by contrivance that mirrors consumption? In ways that make Leni Riefenstahl look like a school girl with a Kodak--though obviously drawn from her? That mightn't remain the case...and over here, there's variations on this you all ought to think about: "They came for the socialists, but I wasn't a socialist...they came for the Jews, but I wasn't a Jew; now they're coming for me, and there's no one to help me." Ever sat in on a right-wing bull session among the privileged? The contempt for the different, the less fortunate, the "losers," the smugness is, well, you can cut it with a knife. Ever sat in on a right-wing bull session in the sticks? Less articulate, but (pun intended here) ditto. You think the mentality of the Ordunungspolizei ain't out there? The first thing that occurred to me when I saw the photos, well, two thoughts occurred to me: 1.) that poor devil in the hood with electrodes, those rednecks couldn't in their wildest dreams come up with that, and 2.) Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men. You have mediocrities on high letting it flow to alienated mediocrities below. That is how evil gets done in the world.

Maybe it's because I now live in an older, wiser Europe that remembers such things, doesn't hide'em. Still is shocked by the now-jaded question, How could such a civilized country....? But....

Do something.

Jonathan Dresner - 5/17/2004

Some of us agree, but haven't given up yet. Wish us luck.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/17/2004

Wow! Leckie, I'm glad you haven't lost either vinegar or voice yet.

Jonathan Dresner - 5/17/2004

Mr. Jones,

I don't immediately grant that US democracy is on firmer ground. 50% participation rates (in a good year), vacuous advertising, money influence, questionable vote integrity, revolving door lobbyists, elections that turn on election day shuttle operations, 99% incumbent reelection, pitiful news analysis, lower taxes and higher demands.... It's not the same set of problems faced by Germany in 1933, but it's not exactly healthy, either. Yes, it's a long-established democratic system, but it is not clear whether the system in its current incarnation (as it has changed several times in response to legal and media and social trends) is indeed deep-rooted.

Regarding your faith in our obliterative capacity, none of the movements you cite were, in fact, eradicated. (and don't you think there are bunkers in Islamic countries? They lived through the Cold War, too) Even the Nazi faith lives on, in our cities and backwaters and prisons, and on our internet. Bushido is thriving in Dojo around the world, and the end of State Shinto did not mean the end of Japanese who view the Emperor as a living god. Tibetan Buddhism has never been more popular, since the great Mongol evangelization. The only way to destroy Islam, even radical Islam, would be to conquer the world and destroy most of it. Even if we wanted to, with all our hearts, we couldn't do it. We could destabilize states, reeducate people in Maoist detail, censor and propogandize and kill to our hearts content. We can't finish the job, and it would destroy us.

The good news? They can't beat us, either. Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, China and the EU could turn against us, and centuries from now, Constitutionalists would still meet in small cells, or in grand halls, or on Election Days.

The bad news? We could beat ourselves. By not living up to our ideals and not participating in our own futures.

William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 5/17/2004

Thank you. The US public is reacting against the failure of an adventure that was touted as a cakewalk.

Let me suggest--briefly as possible--that not only is Professor Burke onto something, but also that the curent situation is simply beyond categories of political and cultural analysis that are largely derived from the 19th and early 20th centuries. In other words, our language to assess what's going on and determine what action to take is exhausted.

Add to that a carry-over effect. I live in Germany, I know people who lived through the Nazi regime and some who supported it. And I am struck by how all of them had no real grasp of what was happening around them, how the range of ideas they recall was narrowly circumscribed on one hand ("Why did you support Hitler?" "Because he promised jobs.")and wrapped in larger, shibboleth-like notions of history and nation. Here I think careful use of analogy is appropriate.

Now, I happen to be an American distressed enough by what I think the Bush regime represents to have left. But from here, looking at just the Iraqi catastrophe, what I see is something generated by parochialism, a deracinated evangelicalism and exceptionalism, and a media whose effects we we can perceive pretty well. At the top, though, what distinguishes the US right now is what might be called "corporate culture" and in a way, this has led to war, well, Enronized? And beneath it a genuinely parochial and authoritarian populaism, well-financed from above that--here profesor Burke is right--is vehemently opposed to liberal values. It has cultivated morally outrageous rhetoric. My last conversation in the States about Iraq was with a well-to-do, quite upper class bond trader in downtown St. Louis, MO, who angrily shouted at me that we should "nuke Baghdad."

Yet "recycled hillbillys" (quoted from Sy Hersh's latest) don't use interrogation methods that are out of the old Vietnam CIA cutout toolkit; they may revel in them and monkey in the lens out of this strangely alienated sense of home dirty movies, be your own Survivor or whatever--and that is indeed an extension of corporatized consumption.

Is it "Nazism?" No. 20th century fascism redux--it has some elements of that, flavored with homegrown irrationalism. But we can learn from the analogy, exploring differences and similaritiies. But it was my wife who suggested the best way to view the Bush regime--not the mendacity of the right-wing intellectuals--when she exclaimed, exasperated: "It's American business management." Short-term, run by PR its own promoters believe, and contemptuous of anything but the illusion of righteous gain.

Is that dangerous? You bet. Is it a threat to liberty? You bet. Is it crazy? Sure. How do you fight it? When nearly an entire generation of university-based "progressives" have embraced ideas derived from 19th century reaction? When a media establishment is so acculturated in the values of the system, which is to say, yuppified? When political discourse has become commercialized and the key to electoral success is cultivating the margins with hype? When the likes of Karl Rove seek to create a US version of the Mexican PRI? When violence is exported to the margins or aborad, insulating dispersed suburbanites from reality? When a privileged ignoramus can become president by dejure not the vote?

To me, the system itself is rotten. We need also to redefine what we mean by "totalitariansm." Instead of troops and armored personnel cariers on every street corner, we have a franchise. The built environment, well, has come to reflect a privatized despotism.

Yup. I's an unhappy camper. To fight what's happening, well, takes guts. Exasperated I saw no sign of them anywhere, I voted with my feet.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/16/2004

Grant, Just 2 points:
1) hey, it's a blog post. It isn't a dissertation or a book, such as the ones you've been citing, or even a journal article. If I understand Burke correctly, it's meant to be suggestive rather than conclusive or definitive. You want full documentation? Don't expect to find it in most blog posts.
2) a more useful avenue for you to travel would be to hold Burke up to his own standards. He has a very thoughtful post at Cliopatria on the use of analogies in historical debate,">"One Of These Things Is Just Like The Other". Why not read what he wrote there and see if he failed to measure up to his own standards? I'm afraid you're determined to fault him in any case, but it would be useful for you to know the circumstances and conditions under which he believes that an analogy can effectively contribute to historical discussion.

Grant W Jones - 5/16/2004

I'm replying to you here because I am starting to get lost in the jumble above.

Prof. Luker, you can narrow the range of Burke's analogy to the point where you acheive nuclear fission, that will not change the fact that Burke did not offer one bit of documentary evidence for his claim. Yet another difference is that Weimar was considered illegitimate by most of the German left and right. Most German's in the middle didn't care, just so long as they had a strong government to mother them.

I trust we can agree that American democracy is on far firmer ground, with much deeper roots. So, yet again, I ask what historical grounds does Burke have for his bizarre analogy? Needless to mention to historians, America has weathered far greater dangers to our form of government than the Bush administration.

As to Victor Davis Hanson, when Burke characterizes someone as having "total comtempt for...liberal democratic values," he should provide some evidence. Otherwise, this is ad hominem rant. I have read most of Hanson's work, which go back twenty years. Based on that Burke's attack on Hanson is unwarrented, and "over the line." I did quote from Burke's piece. You do not agree with my interpretations, fine. Burke doesn't bother to reference any article by Hanson or to quote him in order to even make an attempt at an argument.

Prof. Dresner, have no doubt that at this moment there is an Ohio Class SLBM boat cruising the Indian Ocean. It contains 24 Trident Missiles with 240 MIRVs. The U.S. possesses nineteen such vessels, still laughing? That the U.S.A will never deploy its nuclear weapons, unless in retaliation for a WMD attack on America, is not in doubt. I wish I could say as much for N.Korea, Iran (when/if they acquire them) and Pakistan (if the nutters get in power).

If you want to include them as religions movements: Nazism and Bushido, not too long ago. Of course, attempting to exterminated different religions is just what is going on now in Sudan (Member U.N. Human Rights Commission). Or for that matter how about Tibet or E. Timar? Ethnic/religious cleansing is all the rage in many parts of the world, did I mention Nigeria? And it well take, just like in Afghanistan, more than good intentions to stop it. Why Bush has been so quiet on this issue, I don't know.

Jonathan Dresner - 5/16/2004

Mr. Jones wrote: "Fact: if the U.S. wanted to "exterminate" Islam. Islam would be gone in twenty minutes."

That's the funniest thing I've read in a while. Disturbing, but so clearly wrong as to make you wonder where Mr. Jones gets his ideas about our power.

Question, Mr. Jones: name the last religious movement exterminated by deliberate hostile action?

I am pleased, however, to see that Democrats are not the same as Communists, a distinction Mr. Jones has failed to make in other venues.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/16/2004

Grant, You refuse to acknowledge the very narrow range that Burke set for his post. I'll try not to caricature Hanson, though that is increasingly difficult; you try not to caricature Burke.

Grant W Jones - 5/16/2004

Actually Ralph: U.S. Army troops did far worse to German/Nazis POWs than what occurred at Abu Garbage. My point is that doesn't in any way make them Nazis or even fascists.

I just re-read Burke's post, and stand by my judgment of it. "Its a late Weimar regime." He has got to be kidding? Who is going to play the part of von Papen? Where is the huge Fascist party waiting to take over? The Greens? Where are the huge paramilitary party armies battling in the streets? Where are the 40% unemployed? Are the Democrats going to play the part of the Communist party in order to panic the rest of us into a non-existant fascist party?

Victor Davis Hanson has contempt for all liberal values, along with a significant "faction" of the "right?" This is slander and hysteria. You might actually read Hanson's works yourself.

The war is "intentially exterminationist." Evidence? Who needs evidence? Not Burke. Fact: if the U.S. wanted to "exterminate" Islam. Islam would be gone in twenty minutes. This hysteria is just as stupid as claiming that Israel wants to "exterminate" the Palestinians. And let's all ignore the philosophy of religious hegemony that animates the Islamists.

"Against millions of other Americans..." more hysteria. Oh, I forgot, this is 1930 Germany and we are just one step away from a Nazi dictatorship.

"People I go to the mall with..." Tell Burke not to forget to check under his bed. I repeat, this statement demonstrates alienation from mainstream America.

"Fight them in the streets[!]..." no comment necessary.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/16/2004

Grant: First, read; _then_, comment. Burke's post didn't say what you claim it did. No point in just looking at a subject and rushing to comment before you've read the post you're supposed to be commenting on.
You think of the sadistic orgies at Abu Ghraib as "field justice" and "jail house justice"? I appreciate the fact that you weren't one of the guards where I was jailed.

Grant W Jones - 5/16/2004

Oh goody, more unnamed sources. That's so convincing. Sorry for the bad link. Just Google, and I'm sure you'll find plenty.

Grant W Jones - 5/16/2004

No, Ralph. Just admit that Tim's analogy is stupid so we can move on. The Repulican Party is not the Stahlhelm and the Democrats are not the German Communist Party or even the Social Democrats. And the American people are not German authority worshippers. The U.S. survived far greater internal threats to our freedom, Wilson and FDR come to mind.

The German students were intelligent, but they were also saturated with a collectivist ethic, that happily, is largly absent in the U.S.

"This state of mind, which subordinates the interests of the ego to the conservation of the community, is really the first premise for every truly human culture...It is thus necessary that the individual should finally come to realize that his own ego is of no importance in comparison with the existence of his nation; that the position of the individual ego is conditioned solely by the interests of the nation as a whole...that above this the unity of a nation's spirit and will are worth far more than the freedom of the spirit and will of an individual." Adolf Hitler: 7 Oct 1933. _The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, 1922-39_ ed. N.H. Baynes.
In all seriousness, where do you find this attitude in America today?

"How is it possible..." just as easily as it was in 1945. But don't think for a minute that our soldiers at that time didn't dispense some "field justice" (and "jailhouse justice") to captured Nazis. That didn't make them Nazis.

Tim Burke is indulging in rank hysteria. The rest of you should know better.

Michael Meo - 5/16/2004

Assuming with Professor Burke the analogy of the Abughraib episode as a litmus test for commitment to humane values, I'd like to point out that Bush's approval rating ahs dropped like a stone in a pond over the last week.

So a large segment of hitherto supporters of the present Administration are "passing" the test, it would appear.

Richard Henry Morgan - 5/16/2004

"It's strictly a matter of asserting that Abu Ghraib is a litmus test. Either you jump one way or you don't after that point. Either you say, "My original concept of this war is in crisis, and the crisis is urgent" or you say, "No big deal"."

This strikes me as an example of the fallacy of false choice. The matter of Abu Ghraib is morally important, and even counterproductive to our goals, but I'm not sure it entails that my original concept of the war is in crisis, and an urgent crisis at that.

I fear that our conception of the state of progress in Iraq is conditioned by the casual empiricism of our media sources. Certainly, the overwhelming view of major media is that things are going south there. Yet, from my reading of blogs, things are going swimmingly well in most of Iraq, but for pockets of local resistance. I admit that blogs are equally a source of casual empiricism, they just don't have the reach of major media.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/16/2004

Let me surprise you, Grant. What you cite strikes me as fairly clear evidence that reasonably intelligent human beings can be lemmings. I am not so sure that persons who voted NS in the German universities might reasonably have anticipated all the horror that lay ahead of them. Rather, they might wrongly but reasonably have voted as they did as the only likely alternative to the horror that lay to the east of them. Tim Burke's analogy is quite narrowly drawn. It draws a parallel only to the uncertainty which conscientious Americans now face: how is it possible to occupy Saddam Hussein's torture chambers without ourselves becoming the torturers? He is rightly horrified that some of us seem to believe that our transmogrification is an acceptable reality.

Name Removed at Poster's Request - 5/16/2004

"I agree it's worth thinking about how "the other side" sees things, but in this case, I'm sorry, "the other side" makes very little sense to me. The only way to justify the Iraq war as part of a struggle against terrorism is the construction of a stable, liberal state that serves as a reliable partner for the United States; killing the entire population of Fallujah will hardly accomplish this, unless this is the first round in a war to exterminate all Muslims everywhere. Which, I submit, is a position that can make no sense no matter how hard you try to see it.

"There is a frontier past which attempts to understand the logic of others make no sense--you cross into it rather simply when your opponent is simply and unambiguously wrong. Factually wrong, logically wrong, ethically wrong. That's actually a rare event, I think--truth is usually distributed, and usually both sides in an argument have some legitimate point. Not this time. People like John Derbyshire are simply making no sense whatsoever any longer, any more than the 'man on the street' who says 'wipe them all out' has anything resembling a thoughtful position based on anything real."

I have to agree with you, Tim, that this is indeed a grassroots position that many Americans hold. I was mildly shocked (though prepared for it by having grown up during the Vietnam War) by a comment by a Marine Lieutenant during the April shootup of Fallujah that the only left to do was to completely eliminate that city. He wasn't advocating the nuking of Iraq, but it was a step in that direction.

The irrational exterminationist position isn't a majority one by any means, but I see it as one faction within the irrationalist "support the Iraq War no matter what" position. The larger "support no matter what" crowd shares the belief that this war is justified no matter what facts or logic anyone can bring up to the contrary. They really don't care that the evidences shows no Iraqi WDM or connections to Al Qaeda; they either hang onto any bogus claim or dubious logical leap that maintains these things are true, or they don't feel that WDMs or Al Qaeda connections are at all necessary as justifications for this war.

What it comes down to, unfortunately, is that many or most of the war supporters like America to be kicking some other country's butt militarily. This is an ugly trait that I've seen in many Americans since the end of the Vietnam War, starting with the Mayaguez incident on forward through the capture of U.S. Embassy personnel by the Iranian students (remember the Nuke Iran bumperstickers?) through the Grenada and Panama invasions to now? One activist during the early 1980s talked to a bunch of U.S. soldiers about Central America, found out the soldiers didn't know the difference between Nicaraguan and Salvadorans, didn't care, and just wanted to kick the bad guys' butts, whoever anyone said they were.

For many Americans, their solution to people they see as problematic is to harm them in some way and get rid of them, either by evicting them, excommunicating them, firing them, expelling them from school, incarcerating them, giving them the death penalty or militarily attacking them. They see whole groups of people as morally bad and see any kind of positive action toward them to alter their behavior as appeasement, submitting blackmail or aiding and abetting.

And for many Americans, our foreign military exploits are like the actions of the home town sports team, to whose fortunes the individual fan's self-esteem is tightly bound.

I can't see the logic in their thinking either, Tim. The people you wrote about, and the larger group that I am writing about, seem like a willfully ignorant, willfully immature political bloc that is ripe for manipulation by those to whom they have made themselves susceptible.

Name Removed at Poster's Request - 5/16/2004

Pretty good, I'd say: here's a link to Seymour Hersch's most recent New Yorker piece about Abu Ghraid, discussing Rumsfeld's authorization of a secret Pentagon intelligence program for treating prisoners brutally in the Iraq prison system so they'd more readily give out information during interrogation:

If the New Yorker site no longer shows the Hersch article at that URL, this site may still have it:

Ralph E. Luker - 5/15/2004

Yep. I looked over there. I find FreeRepublic to be just about as bad. On ConservativeNet, a private listserv, there are even tenured historians with doctorates and books who aren't much beyond the "nuke the towelheads" frame of mind. I have put it a little more colorfully to ConservativeNet's editor in protest of its circulation of ignorant, destructive promotion of Armageddon.

Name Removed at Poster's Request - 5/15/2004

Wow, slumming is right! That Geeks with Guns site is Limbaughite dittohead conservative creep heaven! I didn't realize that till the main guy posted that Nuke Iraq item.

The funny thing is that something called Geeks for Guns was started by a big guy on the Linux scene, Eric S. Raymond:
If you look over the web, you'll see mentions of esr putting together Geeks with Guns shooting events, pretty much libertarianish Linuxoid things. But it looks like some of the most angry and ignorant type of modern conservative has taken over the geekswithguns domain name. A search on that site does not bring up anything about Eric S. Raymond, and ers' site has no reference to Geeks for Guns, even on its firearms page, so it looks like a creep takeover occurred between 2000 and 2004, and Raymond walked away from anything with that name.

The only reason I posted that item was to demonstrate what Tim was talking about, grassroots American "nuke Iraq" sentiment. I don't I'll be bothering with that site very much in the future.

Timothy James Burke - 5/15/2004

I really don't see all war supporters as John Derbyshire, Derek.

It's strictly a matter of asserting that Abu Ghraib is a litmus test. Either you jump one way or you don't after that point. Either you say, "My original concept of this war is in crisis, and the crisis is urgent" or you say, "No big deal". For those who say no big deal--and Goldberg IS one of them--I don't see anything left besides an implicitly exterminationist concept of the war, a New Crusade. For those who say, "This is a very serious crisis", fine--we have a valid discussion to have. But at that point, I'm going to suggest to you that the crisis is not a contingent result of a few bad judgements, but a structurally predictable consequence of the contradiction between occupation and liberation. We can have that discussion. But it's predicated on saying, "There is no excuse for Abu Ghraib, and anybody who makes excuses is the enemy of us all." If not, you're on the wrong side of the firing line between freedom and oppression.

Derek Charles Catsam - 5/15/2004

Tim --
My comments were aimed at your comments, not at the original post. my comments were especially aimed at your response to Tom Bruscino's post. I then made the case for war because you asked for it. The discussion had veered from where it began with your post.
I do not find the analogy with Nazism especially instructive. Or instructive at all. Whatever we think of Derbyshire and Limbaugh and others, they are not Nazis, they are not making a case to eliminate the Jews, they advocate no final solution. You are trying to tie two things together that have no link -- an ardent case for war here and now, even a wrongheaded one, still is not akin to what Nazi Germany was doing throughout the 1930s. Germany in the 1930s was not a liberal democracy. Nazi Germany did not have our Constitution. Rush Limbaugh is a journalist, at least loosely, operating under the First Amendment. He compared the soldier's acts with frat hazing. Loathsome, sure, but let's have some modicum of historical perspective here in an election year where we will get to express our views at the polls. So no, this is not a similar moment. It is not akin to Berlin in 1937. It is not close. I'm curious to see who your Nazis are in this scenario. Then again, maybe I'm not. I don't need you sizing me up for my brownshirt.
I certainly do not lump Goldberg in with Limbaugh or Derbyshire either. That is simply unfair, knee jerk, and reductionary. Jonah Goldberg is respected by writers, thinkers, scholars, and observers on the left and right. And that is my biggest problem with much of what you have written here -- you see all war supporters as John Derbyshire. Right wing critics see all war opponents as Michael Moore. The rest of us reject this warped caricature from both sides, we realize that the current climate is a complex one, and we recoil from facile analogies with Nazi Germany because the agenda is more important for those who proffer it than the legitimacy of the argument. I cannot stand Rush Limbaugh, but to compare him with those who advocated the Final Solution? Sorry. Doesn't work. Nice try.

Timothy James Burke - 5/15/2004

Derek, please read my original piece again.

It's really not about the entirety of the case for the war. I've talked about that more at my own weblog.

It's about a different phenomenon, and it's that phenomenon that sparked me to raise the analogy of Germany before the Nazi takeover. I'm centrally concerned in this piece with a very particular "other side"--the Derbyshires, Limbaughs and so on. They're by no means the entirety of the "other side" for the war. Though you might want to note that in recent days, even Andrew Sullivan is really questioning the war in terms of how it has turned out; Tom Friedman, more signally, has basically repudiated it.

I'm concerned by that faction which is openly sanctioning Abu Ghraib and toying with a more exterminationist conception of the war. To say, as Grant does, that this faction is not the Administration or not the prudential supporters of the war is true enough. Or at least it's true for the prudential supporters--I'm not entirely clear whether it's true for some of the Administration.

I'm concerned, and use the analogy to Germany, because many Germans notoriously did not take the Nazis very seriously before they took power, and even after they took power, did not think it likely that they would do some of the really horrible things they had imagined. More sensible heads would win out, it was thought.

So I'm asking: is this a similar moment? You're so certain that Derbyshire, Goldberg, Limbaugh and others are outliers, nuts, people of no consequence. Why are you so certain? The mere existence of a more reasonable view of things does not mean that the more reasonable view is predominant. Indeed, from the facts at Abu Ghraib itself, it's clear that the more idealistic conception of the war was not especially powerful among many of those who have prosecuted that war on the ground.

Derek Charles Catsam - 5/15/2004

Tim --
Thanks for clarifying and challenging. I've always respected your work, which is why I was, to say the least, shocked by your post, which I did not think portrayed your usual thoughtfulness. I expect kneejerk from me, but not from you!

I will address the case for war against Saddam. I don't buy the "lots of tyrants in the world" argument. that there are always tyrants does not mean we do not respond when we can. I have previously laid out a three-pronged measure of when one does act in what we can call a human rights war (precisely the sort of foreign policy that the realpolitic crowd, now in many cases the neocons, used to scoff at by the way -- in a sense, liberalism won that debate, even if many liberals are now running from their victory). The three prongs are will, means, and opportunity. We met these in Iraq.

We had the will -- if you argue that we did not, then you have to explain the overwhelming congressional support for Bush action. Now I realize that the approval was predicated on WMDs (that everyone thought he had -- it was Saddam's burden both by UN dictate and as the loser of a war, to let us inspect. Once he dissembled, he subjected himself to action. Indeed, in many ways it is not whether he had WMDs but rather that he did not allow full access to Iraq. That was not something that he had the right to dictate terms on.) And keep this in mind -- I was a liberal supporter of war who nonetheless never argued that war was necessary, certainly not that it was necessary when it happend and above all that it was not necessary to alienate allies, (though ask yourself if we can take seriously the claims of the french, germans, and Russians knowing their loathsome blood trade with Saddam) but rather that it could be justified. And had Congress known then what they know now, they may well have decided differently. Nonetheless, we had the will a year ago. Whether Congress should be giving blank checks is another question.

Means. We certainly had the means to attack. And by means I do not simply refer to our coffers. I also refer to the ability to act -- North Korea would be an impossibility. The North Korean army would be having lunch in Seoul on noon of the day we engaged in any action, and we currently do not have the means to engage them in a war. Not now anyway. The biggest problem is that we have not expended our means fully -- the administration has so pigheadedly stuck to their clearly flawed plan that they have been unwilling to follow the advice of many of their own military commanders.

Opportunity. We had the chance. Saddam's malfeasance was actionable. He was in material breach of international law and the terms of the cease fire. And, oh yeah, he did try to have an American President assassinated. That is an act of war in and of itself.

Again, I am not certain the argument that we do not attack all dictators so we should not attack any is feasible, good, or just. We allied with Stalin to eradicate Hitler's evil. Saddam was arguable the worst butcher in the world against whom we had the ability to act. He had been involved in an array of terror activities -- a war on terror does not just mean a war on Al Quaida. When mass graves are uncovered in the hundreds of thousands, I assert that there is a responsibility to act. I have said it before, here and elsewhere, but not acting militarily in Rwanda is one of the more shameful events in recent American foreign policy history. But I suppose that one could have argued that there were other murderers amok, so why intervene in that one? We do what we can, knowing that we cannot do it all. After all, many of us donate time or money to charities even if we cannot eradicate all of the evils that those charities represent. there was a solid, liberal, human rights driven case for action against Saddam. That we bungled it almost all along the way does not mean that the idea itself was flawed. I do think we can eventually have a democracy in Iraq, and I'm willing to compare our respective historical literacies. i would argue that it is deterministic to argue that it is impossible for such a thing to happen. I may not have a lot of faith in the Bush administration, which so derided nation building, being able to carry this out very well, but that does not mean that the millions of Iraqis who yearn for freedom and democracy are somehow incapable of it. Patronizing the man on the Iraqi street does not somehow eliminate that man's desires.
Finally, I have a hard time believing that beyond the red meat crowd you can't find a good case for deposing Saddam out there. I assume you're familiar with Andrew Sullivan? The entire staff at the New Republic? I don't always agree with TNR and Sullivan sometimes drives me batty, but to dismiss them as serious thinkers with some credentials on this issue who have made a strong case, even if you disagree with that case, is not to see what one wants not to see, not what is actually there.


Timothy James Burke - 5/15/2004

Derek, I should clarify here. I have consistently respected the case for the Iraq War as made by many people, and if you'll backtrack on my own blog, you'll see that. More, I have not just "imagined" that there is a war on terror, but wholeheartedly agreed that there is one and ought to be one.

It's simply in the case of that general war, that I think that military power is a small subset of the general strategy that has to be employed to make advances in that war. This is not a heresy about war: many are won with economic power, with diplomacy, with moral suasion, by making it less desirable to fight than to make peace.

And it is the case that I have consistently viewed the Iraq war as a distraction from that larger effort. This view I think has been amply vindicated by the progress of the Iraq War.

Let us go back to the case for war. There was a national-security, realpolitik case that viewed Hussein's regime as uniquely dangerous due to its possession or imminent possession of WMD and the demostrated will to use them. I'd hope that anybody fair-minded would concede that there is very little left of that justification.

So what is the rest of the case? The rest of the case is that Hussein was a repugnant tyrant whose defeat is an unmitigated good. So it is. But as I have observed many times, there are many such tyrants in the world today. Why are we not invading their nations as well, right this moment? I'm not even sure Hussein won the repugnancy sweepstakes circa 2001. The argument that we must everywhere invade states whose peoples are tormented by their rulers has to be subjected to a cost/benefit analysis to be anything other than hot air. On that grounds, I say that it's very hard to argue that taking Hussein out is a sufficient reason for the costs of the war so far--and if this was the sole reason, there is no reason to remain in Iraq today. If you believe it was worth the cost that we and the Iraqi people continue to pay, and yet you also believe that there is a legitimate cost/benefit question, then I ask you this: what is the price that would be too high to bear for the removal of Saddam Hussein? Say it now so we know when you will reach your own pain threshold.

Finally, there is the Wolfowitz argument that the war was worth it to establish a liberal democratic state that was an ally of the United States. If this had been a reasonable projected outcome of the war, I would agree. For various reasons, I felt strongly before it started that this was unreasonable--I think it's historically illiterate to view this as a likely outcome. There is a fundamental contradiction in this vision that is very difficult to overcome. The particular conduct of the Bush Administration before and during the war has dramatically exacerbated that contradiction.

Now you might disagree. But then the onus is on you: explain to me how on earth we get from here to there now. Explain how a liberal democratic state which is the ally of the United States and the foe of terror comes into being in Iraq.

On the question of "not understanding the other side", what I mean is two things. First, I don't understand Derbyshire, Limbaugh, Goldberg. I don't understand the man in the street who says "wipe them out". I don't understand Lileks when he toys with the use of nuclear weapons. I thought that was rather clear in my post. I'm saying that I don't understand when some of my fellow citizens, my fellow Americans, take these views. Do you understand them? You're saying that they're not you, or anyone 'respectable', that we don't need to think about them or worry about them. Ok. Then I suppose understanding their reasoning is a moot issue. But it worries me. It worries me that some of my fellow Americans are thinking things that I think no sane person should think.

If there is a prudential, reasonable, rational case left for the war, one that is neither the Derbyshire-Lileks red-meat exterminationist-and-torture position, what is it? Who holds it? Point me to it. Articulate it. Tell me how it's going to happen. Sketch it out for me. Distinguish it from the people who just don't want to hear about Abu Ghraib or worse yet, want more Abu Ghraib.

Grant W Jones - 5/15/2004

Again, please cite your source that "kill them all" is now official U.S. policy.

Your contention that the U.S.A is, in any way, analogous to 1930 Weimar Germany is too ludicrous to merit serious reply. It just demonstrates how out of touch you, and those that agree with you, are with mainstream America.

But I'll play. In 1930-31, Nazi vote totals in the Univerities "rose at the University of Munich from 18.4 to 33.3 per cent, at Jena from 30.0 to 66.6, at Erlangen from 51.0 to 76.0 and at Breslau from 25.4 to 70.9." German students "were largely National Socialist in sympathy; perhaps half of them were Nazis..." Peter Gay, _Weimar Culture_ So, America's P.C. universities, that attempt to inculcate a leftist/socialist world view, are breeding fascists? See, I can also manufacture absurd historical analogies.

Derek Charles Catsam - 5/15/2004

Due to a formatting error, my last post is a bit odd looking. I wanted to intersperse my paragraphs with the full text of Tim's. However, only his first paragraph appears. Something I did caused his next two paragraphs to disappear and my text to appear in italics. No idea how this happened, but you should be able to follow the argument anyway, I hope.

Derek Charles Catsam - 5/15/2004

I want to respond to Tim Burke's post, as much of what he says is, to say the least, somewhat perplexing and even vexing.

"I am willing to imagine the struggle against terrorism a war, though I think it's a very different kind of war from what we conventionally imagine war to be. But I disagree radically that the war in Iraq is an effective or useful way to fight that war--in fact, I think it's a "front", if you will, which is actually losing the larger conflict."

Well, I am glad you are willing to "imagine" the "struggle" against terrorism to be a war. Because it is a war, no imagination needed. I am not certain for whom you think it is a "front." Many liberals made their own case for war, certainly there was no front involved. Further, I think it might be premature to ascertain whether or not we are winning or losing the larger conflict. Saddam is gone, there is a possibility of some sort of democracy emerging down the road, and oh yeah, did I mention, Saddam is gone.

"I agree it's worth thinking about how "the other side" sees things, but in this case, I'm sorry, "the other side" makes very little sense to me. The only way to justify the Iraq war as part of a struggle against terrorism is the construction of a stable, liberal state that serves as a reliable partner for the United States; killing the entire population of Fallujah will hardly accomplish this, unless this is the first round in a war to exterminate all Muslims everywhere. Which, I submit, is a position that can make no sense no matter how hard you try to see it."

I too am sorry that "the other side" makes very little sense to you, because like it or not, there have been many supporters of the war, ranging in ideological spectrum from hawkish liberals to the whole range of the right, ho have made strong, coherent cases. It is one thing to see another argument and disagree with it. It is another thing entirely to aver that the other side makes very little sense. As to whether "the only way" to consider the war against Iraq as part of the war on terror is to establish a stable, liberal, pro-American state, I have two divergent responses: The first is that I would submit that a stable, liberal, pro-American state is a good thing. The second is that while the ties between Saddam and 9-11 are admittedly shaky, the ties between Saddam and terrorism are pretty ironclad. Using chemical weapons on the kurds? I'd say that qualifies. Torture of his own prisoners that makes the perpetrators of our horrible Abu Ghraib atrocities look like pikers? Consistent material support for Palestinian terrorist bombers? 9-11 was perhaps the most horrible of the terrorist attacks, but it is not the sole example. Further, I am not certain many people are arguing about the wholescale extermination of Fallujah. I am further certain that it does not have to logically follow that the next step is the wholesale slaughter of all Muslims. This seems to me a form of reductio ad absurdum.

Beyond your utter disregard for and condescension toward the opinions of "the man on the street," and beyond your positing the absurd John Derbyshire as representative of those who support this war, I find it interesting how you simply dismiss those who disagree with you -- factually wrong, logically wrong, ethically wrong? I'm afraid I do not accept your establishing yourself as the final arbiter of all things factual, logical, or ethical. Tom Bruscino (Disclosure: Tom is one of my best friends. He is VERY smart. He deserves to be taken seriously on the facts, on the logic, and on the ethics.) and I do not often agree on politics, defense, international relations, or his woeful taste in sports teams. We do not even agree on Iraq. But he makes an important, reasoned, smart, and serious case in his post, one that deserves better than to be lumped in with Derbyshire or your straw man on the street. He represents a voice from the "other side" that cannot be dismissed as easily as you have tried to do through your unwillingness or inability to allow the other side to "make sense to (you)."

Adam Kotsko - 5/15/2004

I don't know -- the link is broken.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/15/2004

Josh, I see that you've been slumming over at Geeks with Guns again.

Grant W Jones - 5/15/2004

How does this story fit into the "torture as policy" meme?

Grant W Jones - 5/15/2004

Well said. I wasn't aware that Limbaugh, Lileks or Inhofe spoke for the administration or the military.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/15/2004

Mr. Bruscino, I share the skepticism of my colleague, Tim Burke. The illogic of fighting a guerilla war in Iran as part of a "war on terror" has become quite clear. No WMDs, no connection to 9/11, no provocation, no cause. We embody in it all the stereotypes Ossama bin Laden and al Qaida hold against us.

Timothy James Burke - 5/15/2004

I am willing to imagine the struggle against terrorism a war, though I think it's a very different kind of war from what we conventionally imagine war to be. But I disagree radically that the war in Iraq is an effective or useful way to fight that war--in fact, I think it's a "front", if you will, which is actually losing the larger conflict.

I agree it's worth thinking about how "the other side" sees things, but in this case, I'm sorry, "the other side" makes very little sense to me. The only way to justify the Iraq war as part of a struggle against terrorism is the construction of a stable, liberal state that serves as a reliable partner for the United States; killing the entire population of Fallujah will hardly accomplish this, unless this is the first round in a war to exterminate all Muslims everywhere. Which, I submit, is a position that can make no sense no matter how hard you try to see it.

There is a frontier past which attempts to understand the logic of others make no sense--you cross into it rather simply when your opponent is simply and unambiguously wrong. Factually wrong, logically wrong, ethically wrong. That's actually a rare event, I think--truth is usually distributed, and usually both sides in an argument have some legitimate point. Not this time. People like John Derbyshire are simply making no sense whatsoever any longer, any more than the 'man on the street' who says 'wipe them all out' has anything resembling a thoughtful position based on anything real.

Thomas Bruscino - 5/15/2004

I know I am jumping in here a little late, but this is a fascinating discussion, if for no other reason than that it illustrates the large divide over the war in the United States. In fact, I hesitate to use the word "war" because it is clear that a large number of Americans do not think the term is correct in defining the current conflict. I would hazard a guess that most of the folks at Cliopatria and most of the folks who have commented on Professor Burke's post are uncomfortable with calling this current conflict a war--especially if calling it a war means accepting all of the terrible baggage that comes along with fighting wars.

Let me be clear, I'm not dismissing that view. Very serious people are looking at terrorism and coming to the conclusion that force should only be a minor aspect of the way the United States deals with terrorism aimed at its people. I would imagine that they would favor a more internationalist solution involving public diplomacy and economic coercion and aid. What military aspects there are to this strategy, if any, would be very small and precise, aimed only at targets who verifiably had something to do with the Sept. 11 attacks. In the interest of upholding the ideals the United States stands for, such attacks would limit to the greatest degree possible any so-called collateral damage. This position is perfectly reasonable, and from the perspective of those who hold it, President Bush and his administration have done nothing in the interest of such a strategy.

On the other side are what Mr. Kotsko and Professor Burke have called at least a "sizable plurality" of the country that believes that the issue of terrorism aimed at the United States must indeed, after Sept. 11, be dealt with as a war. As such, they are more willing to accept some of the terrible baggage that comes with fighting wars. They see the abuses at Abu Ghraib as idiotic, amateurish, and pointless--and, as far as I know, Messrs. Goldberg, Lileks, and, yes, even that blowhard Limbaugh, all think the perpetrators should be punished in open courts martial for those idiotic pointless acts--but they do think that "stress and duress" in interrogations that does not stretch to excess (but sometimes unfortunately must) might make the difference in preventing the loss of further American life in the war.

Furthermore, this group of Americans saw and see reports on TV and have read and continue to read in newspapers about the hatred in the so-called Arab street for the United States. They saw it even immediately after Sept. 11, and they continue to see it today. Such open and seemingly widespread displays of hatred make them wonder if the radical Islamic fundamentalism that breeds terrorists is perhaps much more widespread among the various populations of the Middle East than even the president is willing to admit. That the larger population in cities like Fallujah and Najaf, for example, are not actively fighting along with or even actively supporting the terrorists is less relevant to them than the idea that enough are to make those places a threat to Americans and the U.S. war on terror. That being the case, and although they do not like it, they are more willing to advocate the utter destruction of cities like Fallujah and Najaf (even with the loss of civilian life), if that sends the message that the United States will not tolerate the ongoing support (even tacit) of terrorists among broader populations.

As most of the readers and contributors to Cliopatria already know, to the folks in the first group, the ideas of the folks in the second group are horrifying and terrible and violate everything the United States stands for and believes in. But this lack of understanding works both ways. The folks in the second group honestly believe that the United States tried before Sept. 11 the strategies espoused by the first group. Many even believe that by doing less than fighting a more total war, the United States is still using those strategies.

In their perspective, a much more bloody war would also be a much shorter war. To them, a much shorter war would greatly decrease the likelihood of another major attack on the United States, this time maybe with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. To them, such an attack would mean the United States would have to respond with massive, far more devastating attacks on much larger populations whence the terrorists came. Continuing on with the pre-Sept. 11 strategy of limited war--which, believe it or not, much of the second group thinks the United States is doing--ensures that another attack on the U.S. will happen. So they see the ideas of the first group as horrifying and terrible and far too beholden (and there are degrees) to ideals that mean nothing when those who hold them are dead.

Neither view is so simple or ignorant or superior as either group would have it. It is up to us to try to understand both sides before we declare that one side or the other is trying to either allow the United States to be destroyed or leading the country down the path of Nazi Germany.

Name Removed at Poster's Request - 5/15/2004

Here's an example (which also claims Limbaugh as a "Nuke Iraq" advocate):

Timothy James Burke - 5/14/2004

John Derbyshire's recent column has been widely linked to by bloggers; it excuses and even endorses the prison abuses. James Lileks had a column earlier this week in which (as I read it) he seriously considers whether the use of nuclear weapons might be a good thing in the war. He rejects it, but only after appearing to take the proposition--and an accompanying rhetoric of total war against Islam--rather seriously. Jonah Goldberg appears to object more to the release of the pictures than to the facts they document. And so on. There are a great many voices on the right dismissing the abuse as unimportant, uninteresting and even justified or explicable.

I agree with Richard Henry Morgan that we have to take the "man in the street" quote that I cited with a big grain of salt. I take it as significant not because it's in the NY Times, but because I'm sorry to say that I've heard some similar sentiments in everyday conversation away from the college's rarified environment. I will be very happy to discover that such sentiments are unusual or aberrant, but I fear that they may not be--though I think they are far from a majority view.

On the subject of high officials and military leaders. Derek mentions Senator Inhofe's comments. We also have Secretary Rumsfeld saying quite clearly that he doesn't regard enforced nudity, sleep deprivation or other similar steps as abusive or illegitimate. The abuses have been known to him since January, and yet it took an episode of 60 Minutes to create a commitment to do something about them. There are consistent reports than in senior meetings when Powell and his staff raised the prisoner abuse issue after January, they were laughed off by other Administration officials.

And then there's the abuse itself. Grant, I wonder, do you really believe it's just a few soldiers that did this? That would be a kind of naivete that would be a sad fact all on its own.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/14/2004

Richard, Limbaugh compared the pictures and video at Abu Ghraib to a fraternity prank. He's been widely reported as having said that. I suspect that you aren't the only one among us who doesn't listen to him, but I'm told that he does have a wide audience, er, on the right.

Name Removed at Poster's Request - 5/14/2004

I've heard this type of stuff before from supporters of this war.

Richard Henry Morgan - 5/14/2004

I might join you in outrage over Limbaugh if I knew what in the hell he said. Apparently, I'm one of the few here who doesn't listen to him, or at least hasn't heard his comment reported.

Name Removed at Poster's Request - 5/14/2004

Uhm, hasn't Rumsfeld justified the use of "stress and duress" tactics in interrogating people?

Derek Charles Catsam - 5/14/2004

Mr. Jones --
My colleagues have eviscerated you with far more grace than I would have bothered and certainly more than you warrant. However, I am curious where you stand on the loathsome comments of Senator Inhofe? And I am curious where the right's outrage is over Limbaugh's comments since many right wing commentators spent a good deal of time wringing their hands over Ted Rall's despicable malfeasance.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/14/2004

Mr. Jones, You'll notice in the news that prison authorities have recently drastically revised the posted rules for interrogation at Abu Ghraib. That's been done long after officials high in the American chain of command knew of offenses committed by American guards there and _only after_ their public disclosure in the United States. As for the Sudan, I haven't noticed much official concern expressed by the United States for offenses against human rights committed there. Does that mean that the United States is abetting those offenses?

Ralph E. Luker - 5/14/2004

Mr. Jones, There is a difference between "hitting a nerve" and rather consistently distorting the words of someone with whom you appear to disagree.

Richard Henry Morgan - 5/14/2004

'how did "wipe them all out" become the aim of a war undertaken for humanitarian reasons?'

This seems to have, as a basis, the comment of a NY Times "man in the street" comment, and little more. Given the Times' usual selectivity when it comes to "man in the street" opinions, and the dubious connection between that opinion, and general opinion, and then to war aims, I think this could have been expressed a little more carefully.

Adam Kotsko - 5/14/2004


God, read a newspaper! These are techniques that people were trained to do and that were also used in Afghanistan! It didn't just happen "by accident." It wasn't a few bad apples. Sure, George Bush probably didn't sit down and write out the policy, but the fact that the military used such "interrogation techniques" under his watch as commander-in-chief means that he is ultimately responsible for it. It's not some kind of conspiracy to bring Bush down -- it's reporting the facts. Facts are neither liberal nor conservative.

Grant W Jones - 5/14/2004

Who in the hell is "excusing torture?" Cite some references to the responsible government officials doing so. What the left is trying to do is transparent: turn an isolated incident into an indictment of the military, this administration and the people, whom you consider to be ignorant sheep.

P.S. Save your outrage for the ongoing Genocide in Sudan. Which the UN is not only ignoring but also abetting.

Grant W Jones - 5/14/2004

Lyndy English does not represent the American military, Government, people or this particular war. The quilty are being prosecuted. American soldiers committed worse crimes during WWII, for which many were executed. But nobody was calling for FDR's resignation. This media orgy of self-flagellation is the moral sewer you are seeking out.

Timothy James Burke - 5/14/2004

I pretty much agree with Adam--but I'm profoundly troubled by the fact that the people who excuse torture seem to represent at least a sizeable plurality of Americans. I don't know how to understand that.

Grant W Jones - 5/14/2004

Hit a nerve, did I? Maybe you "should" send me off to the reeducation camp with Limbaugh.

Adam Kotsko - 5/14/2004

I feel alienated from the country, not because of some abstract "victimhood" or lack thereof, but because of actual, concrete policies pursued by the present administration that I believe to have been destructive for nearly everyone involved. I feel alienated from those among my countrymen who whole-heartedly support such failed policies, because I simply cannot understand how they could support them, except out of willful blindness -- and they would say the same thing about me.

There are a whole lot more people in this country other than Republicans. I feel pretty much in sync with a lot of people -- in fact, I feel completely in sync with the majority of people who voted against Bush in 2000 and will almost certainly also vote against Bush in 2004. I feel in sync with African Americans, who are consistently the most intelligent voting block in this nation. I feel in sync with the many white liberals, and with the mainstream and liberal church leaders who have denounced our policy of endless war, and with the blue-collar workers and teachers who are opposed to Bush. I feel in sync with those who have dedicated their lives to learning and have come to the conclusion that Bush is a terrible president. I'm not alienated from those people at all. I am, however, alienated from people who seem to think that torture is ever appropriate or justifiable and who have apparently decided that Bush = America -- I'm pretty well completely alienated from those people at that point, and it's not just because America "stopped being a victim." It's because I think those people are stupid, in the most morally loaded sense of the word. Thankfully, those people are a minority in America. The majority of Americans don't embrace and defend stupidity.

Jonathan Dresner - 5/14/2004

I am concerned about the moral state of our leadership and our citizenry, but I'm not convinced that we ever were as good as we looked nor are we as bad as we look now.

Call me vague.... OK, stop already.

Seriously, though, I'm very proud that the spike in hate crimes after the 2001 attacks wasn't higher than it was. I'm thrilled that our veangeful obliteration of al-Qaeda/Taliban power in Afghanistan (if not the Taliban or al Qaeda) had the salutary effect of creating an opportunity for democracy and rights to grow (an opportunity which we may or may not have squandered, we'll see). I think the fact that the military feels the need to punish anyone for Abu Ghraib, when they've been happily doing nothing about Guantanamo, is a very good sign. I think the fact that we haven't entirely forgotten about Guantanamo is a very good sign.

I could go on. There's silver linings and there's clouds, and we have to keep binding up the wounds. OK, no more metaphors until the grading's done.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/14/2004

Mr. Jones, While you are re-reading Tim Burke's post for greater clarity, you might also want to read Scott McLemee's recent response to your attack some time ago on him at: Scott was late in getting back to you, but you do manage to leave these turds lying around here and there. Not all of them get scooped up on time.

Oscar Chamberlain - 5/14/2004


We moved in with senseless optimism and now have a failed policy punctuated with horror. In the midst of all of this there are a lot of soldiers and some civilians who have tried and had some success sin helping Iraqis to build something decent. This has been acomplished despite being seriously undermanned and poorly led from Washington.

But I see only two ways to give the good they have done a chance to survive: either by radically increasing manpower or by partitioning and crossing our fingers that it does not lead to chaos.

But maybe that's not the point either. If you think that torture is the only alternative to being a victim then you have slipped the tracks. If you meant something else, try saying it.

Timothy James Burke - 5/14/2004

Grant, is that it? Victim or torturer? Killer or killed? No in between?

I love my country when it is free. That's what it's about for me. When America is not just more free than anywhere else, but a beacon for freedom everywhere, then I love it deeply and well. When it--or when some of it--turns its back on freedom, when we forget that we all came here to make a better life and assume we are better just because we are destined to be so, when we decide that freedom is less important than revenge, yes, it is harder to love.

Jonathan Dresner - 5/14/2004

Mr. Jones,

You are out of line. Moreover, you are so clearly wrong as to suggest that you either can't read properly or don't care.

Grant W Jones - 5/14/2004

You loved America right after 9/11 because she was a victim. When Americans decided not to be victims, you returned to your usual antipathy and feelings of alienation towards the country and its people.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/14/2004

The implication of this is: that a cabal of underground Kotskoites should abduct Rush Limbaugh and subject him to an intense re-education process (not to say, torture), in hopes of his re-socialization as the prophet of love and peace in our time?

David Lion Salmanson - 5/14/2004

In my classroom, I used my smartboard to look at pictures of Jews in pre-Holocaust Germany. The pictures were of things like to Hasidim with their side curls tied together, a man having his side curls burned off with a lighter, a man being kicked by laughing officers. In each picture, the Nazis had that same weird smile that the American prison guards did. I put up the images side by side: no doubt about it, the same sick smile that says: I am humiliating you because you are less than human, I know it and now you know it. But in the German pictures there are bystanders that are walking by, that are not smiling, but they are not participating. I imagine their inner torment and revulsion. But they did nothing. I don't know what to do, but we cannot do nothing. Court-martials are a start, but there needs to be a wholesale culture and strategy change in the way this war is being conducted. Not only does Rumsfeld need to resign for allowing this, so does Ashcroft, who enabled it by providing legal justifications for such treatment. And obviously a change in leadership come November would help too. America is supposed to be a shining beacon of hope unto the world not an advertisement for the pitfalls of Western Civilization.

Adam Kotsko - 5/14/2004

But in the introduction to Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison, he includes a discussion of the fool -- an unpersuadable person, more dangerous than a simply evil person. My head rang with parallels to the populist right in America, and this torture thing has made that all the more clear. For Bonhoeffer, the only cure for the fool is conversion -- which is always miraculous and in some sense violent in B's theology.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/14/2004

Tim, Thanks very much for this. As so often, you articulate much better than I might have my own despair about our current situation. After 9/11, I despaired of passing on to my children a more peaceful and more just world than the one I inherited. After the invasion of Iraq, I despair of hope that even a change of regime in the United States will do much to change the course of things.