Means Examined in Light of Ends; Found Wanting

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If this report in The Washington Post is accurate, we should all be disturbed:

Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th
Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the
intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the
wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note:
"If you want your family released, turn yourself in." Such tactics
are justified, he said, because, "It's an intelligence operation
with detainees, and these people have info." They would have been
released in due course, he added later.

The tactic worked. On Friday, Hogg said, the lieutenant general appeared at the front gate of the U.S. base and surrendered.

The incantation "moral equivalence" is a verbal antidepressant, something to help people calm their nerves and shut down their brains when confronted with tales of Americans being beastly. So in the interest of having a conversation that does not immediately devolve into a kabuki-style performance of our favorite clich?s, let's grant upfront that Saddam Hussein has done worse things than kidnapping a man's family. He might have kidnapped them, for example, and then chopped off their ears. Or, I dunno, fed them to fire ants. He's a nasty customer, that Saddam Hussein.

Here's my question: Do you really want to argue that the only moral standard Americans should meet while they're in Iraq is not to be as bad as Saddam?

[Via Jim Henley.]

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  1. Here’s my question: Do you really want to argue that the only moral standard Americans should meet while they’re in Iraq is not to be as bad as Saddam?

    Jesse-

    make me understand how this isn’t extreme spin on your part. I read the link, didn’t see anything like this.

    Mudflap

  2. US troops ‘manhandle’ reporter

    A JAPANESE reporter was manhandled and briefly detained by US troops in Baghdad after filming their weekend raid on a house in search for ousted president Saddam Hussein, Japanese press reports said.

    Kazutaka Sato, 47, was held in an arm-lock, thrown to the ground and kicked by several US soldiers Sunday when he was filming the bodies of Iraqis being removed from a car which was shot up in the raid, the reports said.

    Sato suffered slight injuries to his face and hands, the Kyodo news agency and the newspaper Asahi reported from Baghdad. He had his hands tied and was detained for about one hour.

    When members of the Western media approached, Sato was released and his camera, which had been confiscated, was handed back to him, the Asahi said.

    From here: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,6826505%255E1702,00.html

  3. That’s a pretty good syllogism Jesse. Interesting conclusion, tho.

    Supporters of Bush in Iraq = supporters of Castro in Cuba.

    Hence (Bush – supporters) = (Castro – supporters)
    or
    Bush = Castro

    Or another way of putting it, Dan Burton = Charley Rangel.

    Nice.

  4. Jesse –

    I’m sympathetic to your argument, but you’re wrong when you say:

    If you’re holding people against their will and telling someone that he has to give you something if he wants them released, they are hostages, even if you’re bluffing and even if he really ought to give you what you’re asking for anyway.

    If the detentions of the Iraqi general’s family members were legitimate and legal, this is not kidnapping even if our forces trick the general into thinking that it is.

    It’s like the old trick cops use – tell a bunch of deadbeat dads they’ve just one a new Jeep, and tell them to come to the local Jeep dealership to pick it up. Fifty deadbeats show up, and they’re all arrested. Is this fraud, or law enforcement? It’s law enforcement. The arrests were legal, so the trickery is moot. Period.

    If the detentions had no independent legitimacy, however, then you’d have a point.

  5. There is a credible body of evidence that suggests morality is learned. There is another body of evidence that suggests the Baathist culture has not studied it much. While those who advocate Mother Teresa grade morality in this situation may be technically correct, they should not plan on being overly effective. Col. Hogg may not have described the best possible course of action, but given his circumstances it was probably reasonable, maybe even clever.

    Chances are pretty good no one posting here is in much danger of getting shot in the back of the head today. The same cannot be said for those whose actions are being questioned.

  6. See what crime you’re charged with.

    Interesting example. Now make the reader a cop, make the coworker’s wife the wife of a material witness, and the 20 bucks the crimes you want the witness to testify to. Change the bathroom to a interogation room downtown. Now run your scenario. Do you still get charged with a crime?

  7. Junyo –

    Good point. The truth is that law enforcement and military personnel use mindgames and trickery ALL THE TIME. It’s one of the most important tools in an interrogator’s toolbox. It is, literally, everwhere. So the only question is whether the detentions were legal.

  8. All this is a lot of squawking about nothing of any consequence.

    The only dynamic that counts in a war is us vs them.

    Doing whatever it takes to make sure it’s us that wins instead of them is exactly what you do.

    We firebombed German and Japanese cities in WW2 and nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We sealed Japanese soldiers up in the caves they were hiding in on some of those pacific islands and left them there.

    And there wasn’t a damn thing wrong with any of it.

    US vs Them – it’s all that counts.

  9. Gilbert –

    This is parody, right? Funny, ha ha.

  10. “Now make the reader a cop, make the coworker’s wife the wife of a material witness, and the 20 bucks the crimes you want the witness to testify to. Change the bathroom to a interogation room downtown. Now run your scenario. Do you still get charged with a crime?”

    Nothing like people breaking the laws they’re supposed to be upholding.

  11. There is a credible body of evidence that suggests morality is learned.

    All the more reason to be setting a good example, no?

    Now make the reader a cop, make the coworker’s wife the wife of a material witness, and the 20 bucks the crimes you want the witness to testify to. Change the bathroom to a interogation room downtown. Now run your scenario. Do you still get charged with a crime?

    I should run that one by my brother the prosecutor. But I would think that if you tell the witness that his wife won’t be released unless he testifies, his testimony would be coerced and the case could be thrown out of court.

    That’s not an exact parallel, anyway, because he could always refuse to testify once he finds out his wife was in the interrogation room and that he’d been had; the Iraq and bathroom scenarios are a bit more irreversible. A closer parallel in this case would be using those means to get a suspect to confess. And in that case, I’m sure you’ll agree that the confession was tainted and that the authorities engaged in misconduct.

  12. The Iraqi situation did not entail confession, though. The guy just had to present himself.

  13. It worked so well because it was the exact sort of thing the Iraqi general would have done were the situation reversed. He must have had all sorts of things running through his head thinking about what Saddam’s folks would have done.

  14. To anonymous @ 13:58:
    Care to tell me exactly what laws are being broken in that scenerio?

  15. Mudflap,

    At the risk of speaking for Jesse, I believe the passage of his that you quote was not in reference to the article that he linked to but rather was an aniticipatory rebuttal to reactions he expected to get here in the Comments. E.g., “How can you complain about little mistakes our military might make when if we weren’t there Saddam would still be doing much worse things to Iraqis…”

    Pat Cameltoe,

    Your point about deception being normal for cops and its relevance to the circumstance in question is well taken here. Still I wonder, would cops in this country really be able to carry their right to lie during investigations to the point of faking the holding of family hostage? Of course, it might not work in this country since most folks here would probably know that the cops couldn’t get away with a genuine hostage holding. Which maybe also means that considering the context, perhaps Jesse is right that if you present yourself as holding hostages, then you are…?

  16. Well, we shouldn’t base our notions of morality on theirs.

    But for the record – for perspective – let’s recap what’s been in the papers the last few days:

    * Uday feeding romantic rivals to lions (literally)

    * Qusay feeding people who made comments against Saddam into woodchippers feet first (literally)

    * Pubescent girls raped by Uday, then shot or doused in acid

    * Members of the Iraqi football team draged through gravel, then dipped in sewage so their wounds would fester

    * Countless mass summary executions

    * Mass beheadings

    * According to Amnesty International, at least 300,000 outright murders

    No rule of law, not even the pretence of the rule of law. Just raw and limitless subjugation of an entire nation by a sick and sadistic family of brutes.

    THAT’s why I supported this war.

  17. The Iraqi situation did not entail confession, though. The guy just had to present himself.

    That’s true. I guess we should adjust the example accordingly, so it involves a suspect on the lam.

  18. Dostoevsky –

    In this country cops routinely tell husbands that wives have already confessed, tell wives that husbands will go to the pokey unless THEY confess, etc. It’s routine. Our troops did not tell the general we were going to drag his wife and kids through gravel, so it’s a comparable situation based on the limited information available to us.

  19. At the risk of speaking for Jesse, I believe the passage of his that you quote was not in reference to the article that he linked to but rather was an aniticipatory rebuttal to reactions he expected to get here in the Comments.

    You have interpreted me correctly.

    Now if the rest of you will excuse me, I’ve now spent a cumulative hour replying to comments on this thread, at the expense of other work that needs to be done. I’ll check in again later today and reply to any fair-minded arguments like the ones Junyo and Pat have been putting forward, but I’ve got to go now.

  20. @1:58

    Okay, fine. I’ll do that. But you try the following:

    Turn the cop into a chimpanzee. Turn the interrogation room into a cage. Turn the window into an eight year-old girl. Turn the suspect into a bag of peanuts for feeding monkeys, held by the eight year-old girl. Do you still get charged with a warcrime?

  21. Jesse,

    You really didn’t refute my point when you cherry picked the first sentence of my post. I feel like I’ve been Dowdified.

    As far as what you were trying to get at: We have to learn to count before we can learn calculus.

  22. “Gilbert –

    This is parody, right? Funny, ha ha.”

    Not in the least. It’s exactly how it is – and should be.

    Us vs them. It’s all that counts.

  23. Uh, I wasn’t trying to refute your point, Jerrod. I was riffing off something you said to make a new point.

    As for whether you’ve been “Dowdified”: I thought that word referred to taking a statement out of context to distort its meaning. Since I did not attempt to summarize, refute, or otherwise represent your meaning, I can’t see how I could have distorted it.

  24. Ahhh… kind of like “sampling”. Now I get it.

    I take Dowdification to mean hacking the inconvenient parts out to make a new, preferably contrary, point. Close enough. Glad to see it’s sticking to the Lexicon. I wonder how “Santorum” is doing?

    By the way, congratulations on getting in an hour of work between posts.

  25. “THAT’s why I supported this war.”

    Pat, it must be exciting to see that the Bush administration has come around to your point of view!

    Jarrod, should I inefficiently reprint every word you write just to comment on parts of it? Or does morality only matter when its “effective”? Does effectivness therefore prove morality?

    Just trying to understand your double standards, that’s all.

  26. Jesse

    My first inclination was that I didn’t want the military engaging in that kind of behavior…then I realized…hey I’m sitting in an air conditioned room without any risk of personal death…and the soldiers are in Iraq trying to protect me and my kids from nutball’s that would kill me in a second if they could…Hmmm…Maybe I just let them figure out how they need to behave to keep from having the nutballs find a way to kill them and keep my uninformed opinions to my self.

    To other more moral posters:
    If you feel strongly that the military shouldn’t engage in those kinds of deceptive tactics, I commend you and I recommend that you empty your bank account and head on over to Iraq and take matters into your own hands.

    Say ‘Hi’ to the General and his family before they kill you for the high crime of not being a Baathist…and when the shoot you, take it like the morally pure person you are. You wouldn’t want the Washington Post reporter to think you are one of those ugly Americans now would you?

  27. re: “US troops ‘manhandle’ reporter”

    Sounds just like what our brave INS agents did to at least one American newsman during the Elian Gonzalez raid. I guess heavily armed government agents just don’t like potential crits people recording what they’re doing.

  28. Pat Cameltoe writes: “Our troops did not tell the general we were going to drag his wife and kids through gravel, so it’s a comparable situation based on the limited information available to us.”

    It’s not about the deception. It’s an implied threat.

    Even if the wife and kids aren’t killed, aren’t injured, but are merely packed off, safe and sound, to a remote prison in Siberia, it’s a threat. And they’re hostages. And that’s against the law. It’s not remotely the same as police saying untrue things about family members who *may not even be in custody*. And soldiers sure as fuck aren’t the same as policemen.

    And yes, I used the word Siberia on purpose. Reason seems to be attracting a surprising number of closet Stalinists to this comment thread.

    I shouldn’t be surprised. To a Stalinist, anything’s acceptable as a weapon against enemies of the Revolution.

  29. Mark Harden writes: “I would ask a question in return: Do you really believe that the US military would, in fact, harm the hostages if the general did not turn himself in?”

    Packing them off to Gulaganamo, forever, wouldn’t be physical harm of the sort you’re thinking of, but it would still be harm, their fate would be unknown, they’d never be seen again, and they’d still be hostages.

    Do you, honestly, think they would release them if the general did not turn himself in? It wouldn’t be any time soon, that’s for sure. It’d have to be at least several days, maybe several weeks.

    The note left didn’t specify a time limit, so there’s no reason to expect the guy to respond within a particular amount of time. If the note had said “by tomorrow night”, the family could be let go afterward if there was no response.

    Since there was no time limit on the note, it wouldn’t make much sense to take them hostage, then release them a few hours later.

  30. “Here’s my question: Do you really want to argue that the only moral standard Americans should meet while they’re in Iraq is not to be as bad as Saddam?”

    Why would anyone have to argue that? The arrest of a family in a war zone for a few days is not so bad by any reasonable standard. Certainly not “beastly.” As Col. Hogg pointed out, the wife could reasonably have been expected to have information about the whereabouts of her husband and therfore subject to arrest by any civil standard. It was not the wife and child who were terrorized (beyond a few days arrest) it was the Iraqi officer.

    Talk about moral relativism: threatening note vs. war. Hmmmm…. that’s a poser.

  31. Jesse,
    I agree with “anon#1 @12:28″‘s reading of the passage. I also believe that the reporter had the same inclination you had (labeling it as hostage taking), and insinuated it in the report. I do not believe it is a clear case of hostage taking from the reading. I do believe that you jumped a bit too soon, even if “accurate” the report is still far from convincing, let alone “disturbing”.
    I also believe that the “these people have info” statement can gives a bit more insight. Perhaps I am reading too much, but if it is an intelligence operation, the family would clearly be a valid detainees — they have information not only about the husband, but also his work. If the general was detained, he would have all of the relevant information, thus the family would not be needed. Thus, the note would be true, no matter the intentions. I do believe that this is a case of a sly Colonel making the most of his target’s fears.

  32. Gee, I wonder what some Iraqi colonel’s daughter’s boyfriend is cooking up right now. . .

  33. Sean writes: ” I do not believe it is a clear case of hostage taking from the reading.”

    What’s unclear about “If you want your family released, turn yourself in”?

    The family is being held. They will be released when a demand is met. That’s a hostage.

    For someone to be a hostage doesn’t require threats of violence. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a hostage is only the kind you see on TV shows and movies.

    From the Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary, hostage is defined as “a person seized or held as security for the fulfillment of a condition”.

    That said, had the wife and daughter tried to leave, they certainly would have been held at gunpoint, and probably roughed up, too.

  34. General’s daughter, rather.

  35. War sucks. I’m sick to death of hearing people who supported this war whine about “I didn’t want them to kill all those civilians” or “I didn’t want them to be mean to generals’ families.” It’s fucking war. This is exactly what you were calling for, America, when you supported this war, and a lot worse.

  36. It’s a rarity, but I’m in agreement 100% with joe on this one. War does suck. As my grandfather once told me, “I can recall arriving on that Normandy beach under heavy enemy fire, watching my good friends die before my eyes. I had never in my life wished so hard that there was a God in heaven. And, I was never more certain that there wasn’t…”

  37. I might remark, tongue in cheek, that this is another example of the Trot-neocon connection, since Trotsky also held families hostage to get Tsarist officers to serve in the Red Army.

    Seriously, though, it’s interesting that those people use both “moral equivalence” and “moral relativism” as swear words. The two terms are exact opposites. Moral relativism, or historicism, is the denial of any single, objective standard by which all sides can be measured–regardless of which side you support.

    People who argue that the mass immolation of civilians in August 1945 was necessary “to send a message to the Japanese regime,” but condemn Osama for murdering civilians to send a political message, are moral relativists. Any president who says, “I don’t apologize for America; I don’t care what the facts are,” is a moral relativist.

  38. Is the moral standard in the Bush Whitehouse set by the former Clinton Whitehouse? For all the bashing Clinton has endured from the GOP, it is quite stunning how all actions performed by the current administration is supported by “what Clinton did” and “where was your criticism when Clinton did….”

    Bush has maintained that America will stay on the moral high road. Just how high the moral high road is remains to be seen.

  39. There you go. It sucks. Therefore, all critical thinking about the conduct of war should go out the window? That’s bullshit.
    These are men making rational decisions to kiddnap women and children as a matter of policy. This is exactly the kind of conduct we should hear about loud and often so that those armchair warriors who were so quick to go to war actually remember what goes on and hopefully think about how awful it really is before cheering the next invasion on.

  40. I’m sick to death of hearing people who supported this war whine about “I didn’t want them to kill all those civilians” or “I didn’t want them to be mean to generals’ families.”

    I was against the war, so I’m not sure why you’re bringing this up here.

    Nor am I sure why you’d want to tell the people who are just now coming around to your point of view that you don’t want them on your side.

  41. Joe and Brad. You are right about war sucking.

    Joe, you are wrong about us supporters of the war “whining” about the killing of civilians or heavy handed tatics with the Iraqis. It is possible to support the war but not support the methods that some may want to use in fighting it.

    Purposely targeting civilians is always wrong. Whether the war is wrong or right is immaterial.
    Targeting civilians is wrong, and it is not “whining” to demand that our military conduct itself in an honorly fashion.

  42. I love listening to people who have never had to make a tough decision or spend a moment in any kind of personal danger criticize those who do it for a living (and to protect the lives of their men). Was the general’s wife “kidnapped”, or rather was she “detained” while being served hot coffee as her “kidnapped” daughter was brutally being fed milk and cookies. I hated this war, but hearing such moronic objections to its conduct makes me appreciate why Bush doesn’t care about pissing people off.

  43. I think we’ve found your moral relativist, Kevin.

  44. I hated this war, but hearing such moronic objections to its conduct makes me appreciate why Bush doesn’t care about pissing people off.

    Here’s what that “moronic” Geneva Convention has to say about the taking of hostages: it “[is] and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever, whether committed by civilian or by military agents.”

  45. No, you’re right this time, Jesse. Hostage-taking is beneath us. We can and should aim higher than that.

  46. Who said anything about kidnapping and taking hostages? These people were quite likely to have information about the whereabouts of the suspect. They were brought in for questioning, and the commander rather creatively took advantage of the situation to leave a note. If you think this is a kidnapping, then you probably think every arrest is a kidnapping and every interrogation is false imprisonment.

    Get a grip. No one was hurt and no one’s “rights” were violated. Save your ammo for real atrocities.

  47. A warrior does not take hostages.

  48. Not aimed at you, Jesse. Sorry ’bout the collateral damage. But I have no problem chastising war supporters who think that removing one officer or developing a new bomb will make war clean.

    jim, it’s fucking WAR. If this woman does not burn to death or have to bury one or more of her children, she is luckier than thousands upon thousands of people who have been affected by this action.

  49. Kevin –

    Your comment above is a perfect example of true moral equivalence, a perfectly fine term that has gotten a bad reputation as a substitute for thoughtful argument.

    It is not moral equivalence to compare Japanese internment to American internment, for example.

    It DEFINITELY IS specious “moral equivalence” to state that American internment of Japanese Americans is equivalent to summary executions committed by the Japanese.

    Despite your best efforts, you illustrated the point perfectly.

  50. Nice how the anti-warriors take one incident and use it to smear our fighting men and women. Was the family violent coerced while being picked up? The article doesn’t say. But already the Jesse Walkers of the world have extropolated this and are quoting the Genenva convention.

    There is a possiblity that they were not taken “hostage” as much as they were simply asked to go the local HQ. Maybe they were lied to or bribed (‘show up and get $10,000’) . But there is no evidence they were forced. The note could just have been a clever bluff.

    And when the hell did our military become “neocon”? Do you really believe that this tactical level action was created by the Vast Neocon Conspiracy?

  51. If it wasn’t hostage-taking, why’d they leave a ransom note??? Hmm.

  52. >>If it wasn’t hostage-taking, why’d they leave a ransom note?

    perhaps it was a bluff, to set a trap.

  53. Do you really want to argue that the only moral standard Americans should meet while they’re in Iraq is not to be as bad as Saddam?

    I would take a pragmatic approach. Given that al-Jazeera and like-thinking fringe leftists are already slandering the actions of the US military, with unfounded assertions much worse than hostage taking, the military may as well put that sort of policy into effect, to shorten the “resistance” and enable Iraq to get on with its civil renaissance. Better for all concerned, in the long run.

    I would ask a question in return: Do you really believe that the US military would, in fact, harm the hostages if the general did not turn himself in?

  54. No, I don’t think our fighting men and women would hurt them. But as far as I know, the Geneva Convention does not carve out an exception for hostage-takers who promise to be nice.

    Hey, maybe it was just a set-up. Maybe it was a routine detention for questioning and they wanted the Bad Guy to THINK it was a hostage situation. I have no problem with that, but it looks bad and causes PR problems, as evidenced by this discussion.

    On the other hand, I too am somewhat disturbed by the general culture of nitpicking of the military that goes on around here. War is hell, and mistakes will be made. That doesn’t mean we’re bad. We can discuss these mistakes and expect the government to acknowledge and correct them without demonizing anybody.

  55. “Sgt. Bullshitspotter” wrote:

    And when the hell did our military become “neocon”? Do you really believe that this tactical level action was created by the Vast Neocon Conspiracy?

    Aside from one comment explicitly labeled “tongue in cheek,” you’re the first person to use the word “neocon” here. Speaking of bullshit.

    As for the rest: Hey, I said “If this report…is accurate” for a reason. The story might not have happened as it’s laid out here; and if new details emerge, I’ll post them. But you have to do a lot of tendentious contorting to make your interpretation fit the Post report, which clearly describes a kidnapping.

    As for your response to Pat: The story already says that the note was a bluff — that the family would have been released in the due course of time. That doesn’t change what happened. According to the Post, the military detained two people, not because they were enemy combatants or because they were implicated in any crimes, but for the purpose of extracting a concession from a family member. That’s a textbook case of hostage-taking, and it’s prohibited by the Geneva Convention as well as by any reasonable moral code.

  56. I would ask a question in return: Do you really believe that the US military would, in fact, harm the hostages if the general did not turn himself in?

    No, I don’t. I suppose there’s the possibility that one soldier might be sadist and would do something nasty. But I don’t think the captors would do it as a matter of policy.

  57. Kevin, for a guy who disavows the public uses of morality, you sure are quick on the draw when it comes to using it judge the actions of the military.

    Agreed though. It’s much better to let Baathist henchmen run free, than to risk the violation of anyone’s rights, anywhere, ever.

    By the way, the Baathists are continuing the attacks by offering a carrot and stick to young Iraqi men. $5,000 if they agree to roll a grenade up to a U.S. checkpoint, and the Baathists won’t kill their family as an added bonus.

    Morally equivalent? Only if threatening to kill some innocent schmuck’s family if they refuse to carry on guerilla war, is the same as detaining the family of a known war criminal to get him to come surrender.

  58. I’m actually not bothered too much by this one. Not just because “It could have been a lot worse.” Say we had captured that general without ever visiting his family or so much as mentioning their names. Now we say “Tell us where Saddam is.” He says “I’m not saying a word until you take my family into protective custody. Otherwise militia groups might kill them.”

    So in all likelihood that family was going to wind up in US custody one way or another, and for their own safety.

    (Insert the usual caveats that the general’s family should be treated humanely and the interrogators should question the general, not his family.)

  59. “Agreed though. It’s much better to let Baathist henchmen run free, than to risk the violation of anyone’s rights, anywhere, ever.”

    Please return the straw man to the full upright ant locked position, and turn off the lights, when you’re through with him.

  60. maybe they could have made jesse happy and stormed his place in the middle of the night, possibly shooting his family by accident. that is probably permissable under geneva btw.

    how do you know that they were detained with the express purpose of hostages? maybe they were just taken “downtown” for questioning. the note could just have been a last minute idea.

    it doesn’t say the wife was arrested, just detained. if the local mob or a tribal leader had stopped by to pick her up, maybe they would have let her go. maybe they were minutes away from releasing her anyway.

    instead you condemn a whole lot of probably decent people over two paragraphs. not surprising, give where your sentiments lie…

  61. I think you’ll find that moral equivalence is relative! 🙂

  62. I completely disagree that the Post report clearly describes a kidnapping, unless every time anyone is “picked up” by the authorities for any reason they are kidnapped. Kidnapping is not defined by the leaving of a note, it is defined by the unlawful detention of someone.

    Show me that it was illegal for the Americans to bring in his family for questioning, protective detention, whatever, and you can start to make a case. What we have in the Post doesn’t make the case at all.

  63. Guys, this isn’t one of those “uncritical inferences” tests where you’re penalized every time you read something into a story that isn’t explicitly stated. It’s a news report. If any of your alternative interpretations of the article’s language were true, the reporter would be guilty of severe sins of omission, to the point where any fair-minded reader would accuse him of distorting the news.

    Now, maybe he did distort the news, or get his facts wrong. But I’m presuming, until new facts emerge, that he did not.

    So here’s the behavior pattern displayed by several people on this thread:

    1. Automatically search for any interpretation that does not challenge your preconceived prejudices.

    2. In the course of advancing that interpretation, do not pause to say that, if it’s the original interpretation that’s correct, something disturbing really is going on here.

    3. Insinuate nasty things about anyone who subscribes to the original interpretation.

    If this pattern sounds familiar, it’s because it’s exactly parallel to the behavior of those die-hard Castroites who have stuck up for Fidel during the recent Cuban crackdown. Or the hardcore conspiracy theorists who think George Bush planned 9/11. Anyone can do it, really. Read a new meaning into the record; pretend the much more likely reading isn’t there; make wild accusations against anyone who disagrees with you. Simple as pie.

  64. jesse, the story is unclear about a number of facts and we are critiqueing how you interpret these unclear facts to condemn the actions of the US military:

    “Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence.”

    is he referring to the note or detaining the family for questioning? unclear

    “On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general.”

    for what reason? was it questioning or to hold as hostages? were their intetions to REALLY hold them as hostages or to simply question them (which they planned to do anyway) and bluff the iraqi general that they were holding them as hostages (which means there were not hostages)?

    “Such tactics are justified”

    which tactics? leaving the note or detaining the family?

    “The tactic worked. On Friday, Hogg said, the lieutenant general appeared at the front gate of the U.S. base and surrendered.”

    this “tactic” clearly means the note. but above “tactics” isn’t clearly one or the other.

    so is there enough facts here to condemn the US military for kidnapping? well some of us disagree, and we don’t appriciate being called ad hominem
    “conspiracy theorists” for pointing that out.

  65. Detaining someone with force is an arrest, semantics aside.

  66. Not to be nitpicky, but a “hostage” is either:
    a : a person held by one party in a conflict as a pledge that promises will be kept or terms met by the other party
    or
    b : a person taken by force to secure the taker’s demands

    I’m not sure how Geneva defines a hostage, but by the dictionary definition of the word, if Col. Hogg never intended to hold the Iraqi officer’s family until he showed up, if he was only bluffing and had a timeframe by which they would’ve been released regardless, then it wasn’t hostage taking. Further, assuming that his note is being quoted verbatim, I think he carefully worded it to imply threat without actually making one. The note didn’t say “…if you ever want to see your family again,” which would have been an almost explicit threat of permanent harm, it was merely “If you want your family released…” which, as threats go, is fairly open-ended and obtuse. That said, it feels more legally clever than morally correct.

  67. some of us disagree, and we don’t appriciate being called ad hominem “conspiracy theorists” for pointing that out.

    I’m glad that the commenter who was just making ugly insinuations about where my “sentiments lie” is now opposed to ad hominem attacks. If he would read my words with the same care he gives to the Post, he will notice that I did not call him a conspiracy theorist; I compared him to one.

    He might also notice that I’ve already granted that the note was, according to the Post piece, a bluff — the colonel claims that they would have been released in due course. That doesn’t matter. If you’re holding people against their will and telling someone that he has to give you something if he wants them released, they are hostages, even if you’re bluffing and even if he really ought to give you what you’re asking for anyway. If you don’t believe me, try this:

    1. Invite a coworker’s wife over for tea.

    2. Lock her in the bathroom.

    3. Call your coworker and tell him that if he wants to see her released, he has to pay you back the $20 he owes you.

    4. Let the woman go.

    5. See what crime you’re charged with.

  68. It’s amazing. On an intellectual level, I understand Jesse’s argument just above, but reading the original blurb, it causes me no anger or consternation. I have a picture in my head of these two women just sitting in an office somewhere, waiting for the guy to show up.

  69. Son of Mogh

  70. JDM,

    I wonder how much longer Iraq will be a war zone making such behavior acceptable? Hey, come to think of it, we’re at war too! Guess everything’s allowed….

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