Lowering the Bar

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It's a point that a lot of folks have made, but Matthew Yglesias makes it especially well:

Why do I keep hearing people point out that what went on at Abu Ghraib under U.S. command wasn't as bad as what Saddam did? Not that it was as bad, but to even raise the comparison bespeaks a very telling insecurity. Gerhard Schroder doesn't respond to criticisms of his policies by replying: "Look at what Hitler did!" This is moral relativism of a very strange sort. Where have our standards gone off to? There are many, many, many people sitting in jail in the United States for conduct that doesn't even begin to approach Saddam Hussein levels of badness. And yet I don't see George W. Bush commuting peoples' death sentences to the words, "hey, it was just murder, not genocide."

When you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.

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  1. I’ve already heard several commentators point out that the two greatest sins in the neocon lexicon, “moral relativism” and “moral equivalence,” are exact opposites. So if they can’t get you with one, they’ll get you with the other.

  2. Gerhard Schroder doesn’t respond to criticisms of his policies by replying: “Look at what Hitler did!”

    No, his foreign minister engaged in criticism of our policies by saying, “Just like Hitler did!” Worth pointing out, if only for the entertainment value.

  3. There is near-uniformity in condemning what’s happened, but that doesn’t stop the anti-war kooks from trying to claim otherwise.

    Or are you trying to say after we admit something we’ve done is wrong (while our enemies do worse and celebrate) that, for some childish reason I can’t fathom, we’re not allowed to note that what we’re doing overall is right?

  4. The moral high ground is only useful if it is a tall, tall, mountain that is clearly visible. If it is merely a hill, or even a mountain surrounded by clouds, it is useless.

    The best argument to be made for America is that when our people do those things we punish them, and when Saddam’s people did those things he promoted them. That is a solid argument.

    But we lose any meaningful moral advantage if we say that torture is OK as long as we don’t do it as much as Saddam did, or to the same extent.

    I happen to think that our government does enjoy the moral high ground. But I think we jeopardize the perception of that moral high ground if we get into the game of saying “well, we’re not as bad as Saddam.”

    Or, as Jennifer has said, when we go from “America: Land of the free!” to “America: Hey, it could be worse.”

  5. Based on the 60 Minutes report, I originally thought this was just an isolated incident involving yahoos, and that no one was physically hurt. The Hersh article says this is much worse, and the responsibiilty for at least covering it up might go much higher. Not only that, we might have been employing private torturers. This is not good; it will require people at a high level to be at least fired, and not just Reserve members. It might also require a structural change regarding how we do business and under what circumstances we employee Wackenhut style companies.

  6. Apparently not all Iraqis agree that what the US is doing wasn’t as bad as what Saddam did:

    http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=535&ncid=535&e=8&u=/ap/20040502/ap_on_re_mi_ea/prisoner_abuse

    I note that one of the soldiers involved is a civilian prison guard. I’d be willing to bet that:

    a. He learned how to abuse prisoners in his civilian job.
    b. There will be no investigation of the prison where he worked.

  7. Some, somewhere, a political commentator will be discussing a future president and will have the opportunity to observe, “Sure, he’s stupid. But not as stupid as George Bush.”

  8. Private torturers? Why not just send them to Egypt or Syria like we used to. Let someone else dirty their hands.

  9. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the humiliating pictures of patriots and tyrants.

  10. All the conservative and “neocon” sites universally condemn the actions of these democrat prison guards and the failure in leadership of their lady general, a close friend of Hillary.

  11. That’s two comments so far from people who feel compelled to point out that most hawks are condemning the torturers. A salient point in many contexts, but not this one, since neither Yglesias nor I said otherwise.

  12. As for the pictures, big f*@#king deal. We made fun of rapists and torturers. I think it’s called prison justice (or not even that).

    I understand why we should not do this type of thing, since it makes us look bad. But just to judge the act on it’s own, was it really so bad?

    I think the real question, before we get all worked up, is who were those prisoners? Were they just citizens rounded up? Were they just plain iraqi soldiers, or former henchmen for saddam? Had they killed some of our soldiers?

    I think it really does matter.

    They are lucky to be alive anyway. We could have shot them, which is what we sent our soldiers to do. It’s war!

  13. Jesse Walker writes:

    That’s two comments so far from people who feel compelled to point out that most hawks are condemning the torturers.

    The actual point of the Wallis post is to spread his favored meme that the general was a close friend of Hillary Clinton and that all the soliders involved are Democrats. He’s been trolling a lot on that point around here.

  14. Lost in here somewhere is the fact that the military conducted an investigation of this matter back in January. It only hit the public airwaves when the photos were going to surface by other means. The U.S. government is complicit in the war crimes (Hersh’s piece pretty much implicates the CIA); the U.S. government is complicit in the coverup from January to present; and if anybody believes that these were the only atrocities committed in Iraq, they’re not reading the papers. We’ve been shooting innocent civilians at checkpoints; stealing from the population on the house-to-house searches; and who knows what else.

  15. fishfry
    It should be noted that the Pentagon removed the General in Charge and a group of subordinates before the release of these pitcures and out rage in the Arab world. What was done was indefensible, and Yes it should have been investigated earlier. The military has slow wheels when it comes to investigations like this because everyone who is imprisoned by an enemy clams some form of mistreatment. What went wrong was lack of oversight by the civilian portion of the pentigon. This kind of careful oversight is what usually gets rid of this kind of abuse . The military oversite was lacking as well but it has at least been partially address by the removal of the general in charge.

  16. Say. We treat Iraqis better than we treat Americans.

    Take Cocoran Prison in Calif. That was worse.

    The real scandal is not what was done to the Iraqis. The scandal is that it is done to Americans and when you say something about all you get is a yawn. “They are criminals for God’ssake. They had it coming.”

    I’ll believe the hoo ha about Iraq is real when a connection to what goes on in America is made. And something similar to what was done in Iraq happens. Heads roll and policy is changed.

    As often happens the military is more concientious about these matters than the US public.

  17. Interesting questions for some journalist type:

    1) How many people involved in this fiasco work as prison guards, supervisors, etc., in the United States as their civillian jobs?

    2) Does this sort of stuff go on over here too?

    3) If so, I guess we don’t hear about it much – why? Old news? No points to score?

  18. The coverup seems pretty reasonable to me. Making this information public is clearly going to hurt our operations in Iraq and encourage more terrorism. Ideally the military should prevent this sort of thing from happening. Failing that, I think they have good reason to try to cover it up.

  19. I don’t know, but I believe, Yes Sir, that anarchic justice would be more consistent and fair than government justice.

  20. Coverup?
    I suspect that this was reported along the same channels as any other military misconduct. It was covered up only to the extent that most American media won’t report anythig about Iraq until it is on Aljazeera.
    Yes, Indeed Alkali, I have been spreading the word. Demonstrate my error.

  21. What if I claim that Walter Wallis is a terrorist, but I don’t provide any evidence and instead demand that others demonstrate my error?

    Oh, wait, that would be unethical…

  22. The bass player in my band is a civil servant: He is an attorney employed by the Department of Justice. His bass case has a “Bush/Cheney ’04” sticker. He reads the Washington Times daily. He is an ardent Republican.

    Ergo, not all civil servants are Democrats. Ergo, Walter Wallis is still a terrorist.

  23. Walter Wallis said: “Yes, Indeed Alkali, I have been spreading the word. Demonstrate my error.”

    As others have said in response to your posts, Walter, maybe you should actually support your unsubstantiated claims instead of expecting others to disprove them. When I saw your post about democrat prison guards and close friends of Hillary (and a lady general, no less!) being behind this abuse, my first thought was that you were making some sort of attempt at parody. But if you’re serious, what do you base your claims on (specifically the one that all the guards are democrats)?

  24. Ooh, thoreau and Phil, this is fun. We all know that a lot of members of the armed forces are republican (recall the military absentee voting controversy of the 2000 election in Florida). My theory is that Walter Wallis is a terrorist who also likes to kick babies and bite the heads off puppy dogs while wearing elegant strapless evening gowns. Demonstrate my error, Walter!

  25. Well, they aren’t Republicans. Some of the prisoners were reportedly sodomized, and Republicans would never have any involvement with sodomy.

    OK, there was that time when I had a one-nighter with an older man by the name of Strom (he had a Southern accent) but after that (and my subsequent encounter with a beagle) I renounced sodomy. Ever since then I have been an ardent heterosexual (just ask my wife!).

    So clearly the guards can’t be Republicans.

  26. Ardent heterosexual? The man stares at gay porn in his spare time and every time he finishes having sex with me he shouts out “Hah! Proof that I’m straight!” He gets especially eager to “prove” his straightness after watching that “Queer Eye” show (which he always Tivo’s).

  27. Assuming all the assertions about me are true, even though only about half of them are, I can swear that I am not now in a position of political authority, prison guarding or generaling, and that not one of my critics has even tried to deny my assertions, mostly because they know I was correct and they don’t want to have to admit it. Attorneys and Bass playing musicians deny classification. Now if your buddy were a trombone player…
    Incidently, did any of you see that wedding dress modeled on E-Bay? I got outbid. Damn. It would have gone swell with my Gold Lame’ Stilleto Heeled combat boots. By the way, I have not been a Republican since I registered to vote for Shirley Temple against Pete McCommie in the primary.

  28. Methinks the Santorum familyh doth argue too much…

    I appreciate the “Rick Santorum is latently gay” humor as much as the next person, and the aggrieved wife was a nice touch, but it’s getting a little repetitive.

    And coming from me that’s saying something!

  29. Some people doth protest too much, methinks.

  30. Walter Wallis said: “not one of my critics has even tried to deny my assertions, mostly because they know I was correct and they don’t want to have to admit it.”

    Maybe it has more to do with the fact that your assertions are exceptionally difficult (if not impossible) to prove or disprove with the tools available to the average person. As such, we expect you to provide some evidence (even a single shred of evidence) that your assertions have some validity. You’ve shown no willingness or ability to do so, and so there’s no reason for us to accept them. Now I’m personally fairly confident that you’re full of shit; but if you’d like to provide some substantial evidence for the liberal tendencies and/or associations of the major players involved, I and I suspect others would be willing to concede that there’s some validity to your point.

    PS – I’m kind of getting a kick out of the postings from the honorable senator from Pennsylvania. But then I’ve got a thing for Mrs. Santorum….

  31. Concerning Walter’s postings, I believe it was Carl Sagan who said “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” That is why if someone, say, claims to have been molested by aliens, it is up to the presumptive abductee to prove that it is the truth, not skeptics to prove that it is a falsehood.

  32. rst: Right on, my friend. I’m still trying to figure out why I should care about this completely unsurprising event.

    Is the deep significance that we (Americans) want to believe we are morally superior? To acknowledge that Americans are excessively cruel sometimes, while wearing a uniform and upholding a sworn duty to our Constitutional Principles, validates the idiocy of the current administration? And supporters of the administration are thus compelled to defend it (and themselves) by first acknowledging ugly stuff is wrong, then noting that at least American cruelty is not official state policy?

    You’re all considering moral questions. Why not just skip a few steps and claim the American God is the best damn god ever? Or for the other side, proclaim that the American God is willing to kneel beside any other god as they share their power to maim the innocents?

  33. sigh…

    You know, when it was just the conservative posters who didn’t like my sarcasm I figured “well, some people have thin skin.” But for the sake of civility I tried to at least decrease the amount of sarcasm (although I freely admit to transgressing that rule).

    But now the best satirist on the forum is bashing my attempts at sarcasm. OK, OK, I get the point. If I’m going to do sarcasm I need to inject humor and stories, not just “Look at me! I can be over-the-top by calling for the immediate execution of anybody who even looks Middle-Eastern!”

    So this other poster has his Mr. and Mrs. Santorum. Maybe I’ll create my own characters if I can think of a way to do it without so much over-the-top mockery. Hmm, maybe Mr. and Mrs. Neocon? Mr. and Mrs. Purist Libertarian? Hmm…

    Or maybe I’ll just stick to non-satirical commentary. At least a few of the other posters seem to like it when I do that. Sometimes I even manage to have civil discussions with people I disagree with…

  34. “I note that one of the soldiers involved is a civilian prison guard. I’d be willing to bet that:

    a. He learned how to abuse prisoners in his civilian job.
    b. There will be no investigation of the prison where he worked.”

    Not only that, but he (assuming we are talking about the same guy) complaind about lack of guidlines. How many guidlines do you need to know that that sort of behavior isn’t OK?

  35. Thoreau-
    If you wish to be satirical, why not pretend to be George W. Bush? That way, even if you accidentally misspell words, use bad grammar, or just plain say something catastrophically stupid, folks will just think you’re “in character.”

    Personally, I’ve always liked your sarcasm.

  36. “Interesting questions for some journalist type:

    1) How many people involved in this fiasco work as prison guards, supervisors, etc., in the United States as their civillian jobs?

    2) Does this sort of stuff go on over here too?

    3) If so, I guess we don’t hear about it much – why? Old news? No points to score?”

    Everyone knows about prison rape. In fact, some seem to think it is part of the normal punishment inflicted in prison. I’ve heard at least one rape victim give a prepared speech at her rapist’s sentincing that included the threat that he’d recieve what he did to her in prison–only worse.

    I think the difference is that in domestic prisons, the guards find it easy to unleash the inmates on each other. In Iraq, my guess is the guards have to work harder, since “Bubba” isn’t a 250 lb inmate waiting for his smokes & his “bitch”.

  37. rst,

    Those who condone the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners oppose the very ideals that uphold the sanctity of individuals and their inalienable rights which led to the prohibition against cruel, and unusual punishment. They are being very anti-American.

    “Coercion and duress are part of interrogation, military or otherwise.”

    Coercion isn’t part of criminal interrogation. Suspects can’t be forced to speak.

    “and this relatively tame yet wildly publicized event”

    What?? How would you like to be treated like that rst? Do you consider all of the reports of abuse “relatively tame”

    This sick BS has got to stop!
    We should be so ashamed that we have to read things like this about how are tax dollars are used:

    “She (General Janis Karpinski) said she did not know what was going on in the 1A torture cellblock in the prison she ran because it was off limits to her troops.”

    http://www.antiwar.com/orig/rothschild.php?articleid=2463

    “Torture cellblock”! How high up did the authorization for such a monstrosity go?

  38. “An earlier H&R item was titled “Iraq’s My Lai?” Now there is at least one obvious difference from My Lai: It didn’t take years for the government to notice it and do something about it.”

    My Lai involved the murder and rape of civilians in a village, by front line troops.

    A better comparison to the current case would be our treatment of Nazi war criminals (we used torture to obtain confessions), as well as our treatment of North Korean and Chinese POWs during the Korean War.

  39. “We’ve been shooting innocent civilians at checkpoints; stealing from the population on the house-to-house searches; and who knows what else.”

    Do you have any good reason to believe that our troops have knowingly killed innocent civilians at check points?

    If you approach a check point, you have to expect the guards to do what they have to do to go home at the end of the day. That means acting hostile, approaching to fast, failing to stop, failing to follow orders, etc., can have fatal consequences.

  40. First of all, anyone who participated in the torture of Iraqi prisoners should be punished. End of story. Now with that out of the way…
    The reason people are saying “It’s not as bad as Saddam” is not to shine a better light on what some American troops have apparently been up to, but to point out that many of those around the world who are most vocally outraged by this story didn’t seem to give a damn when it was Saddam doing much worse things in these same prisons. In fact, they had 1001 reasons why the US should not depose Saddam. The unspoken accusation is that these same critics don’t really care about the torture allegations per se, they’re just excited to have something bad to say about the USA. But even a broken clock is right twice a day, and what seems to have happened here is inexcusable. The jovial atmosphere of routine humiliation is chilling to see coming from anyone, especially American soldiers. But of all the terrible prisons and torture chambers in the Middle East, THIS is the one Al Jazeera, the EU, the UN, etc are going to get outraged about? Run a story about the atrocities taking place in Syrian, Egyptian, Saudi, Iranian, or Pakistani prisons, and you’ll earn some credibility with me. But those don’t count do they, because they’re not American.

  41. You can’t have moral superiority without moral relativism.

  42. Jesse Walker wrote:

    That’s two comments so far from people who feel compelled to point out that most hawks are condemning the torturers. A salient point in many contexts, but not this one, since neither Yglesias nor I said otherwise.

    Actually since both Yglesias and Walker tried to mislead people into thinking that those who favored going into Iraq were excusing or trying to rationalize the crimes committed at Abu Ghraib, pointing out that the majority in fact were condemning those actions is perfectly salient.

  43. The Associated Press manages to produce an ex-prisoner, Dhia al-Shweiri, a supporter of renegade Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who claims the abuse he suffered at the hands of his American captors was worse than what Saddam’s henchmen meted out in the same prison. Here are the horrors to which America subjected him:

    During his stay at Abu Ghraib, he said [he] was asked to take off his clothes only once and for about 15 minutes.

    “I thought they wanted me to change into the red prison uniform, so I took off my clothes, down to my underwear. Then he asked me to take off my underwear. I started arguing with him, but in the end he made me take off my underwear,” al-Shweiri said.

    He said he and six other prisoners–all hooded–had to face the wall and bend over a little as they put their hands on the wall.

    “They made us stand in a way that I am ashamed to describe. They came to look at us as we stood there. They knew this would humiliate us,” he said, adding that he was not sodomized.

    During Saddam’s regime, in contrast, “he said he was given electric shocks, beaten and hung from the ceiling with his hands tied behind his back.” According to him, “that’s better than the humiliation of being stripped naked.”

  44. The matter at hand is not WHETHER they were condemning them, but HOW they were condemning them. In this case, condemning them in a manner that minimized the crime by phrasing the condemnation in a “yes, but…” argument.

  45. They are being very anti-American.

    Who is condoning the abuse? Slamming the inordinate lefty response as excessive is not condoning the abuse. Pointing out as at least one already aptly has that “We’re no better than Saddam” is as silly as “at least we’re better than Saddam” (though it was fun to watch you lefties get all foamy at that one) is not condoning the abuse.

    The American way is that we don’t tolerate this shit. I think most of us hope those involved get a long prison sentence that leaves them at least as socially debilitated as they likely left their victims. I have not seen one non-inflammatory post that says essentially, “these soldiers should get medals” or even “they should go free”.

    When those two white guys down south were arrested for dragging a black guy to death with their pickup truck, did you blame the whole country, Barton? Or did you have the presence of mind to blame the people who actually did it and then hope to god the prosecution was competent enough to put them in prison or the chair?

    I’ll grant you that allowing spooks to be unsupervised with soldiers is a significant oversight. Here is our unintended if entirely predictable consequence. I don’t think it speaks to some larger failure of our “ideals” as a whole, just foresight and process. Stupid people dominate the planet. For the most part, they make the rules. Be afraid.

    Coercion isn’t part of criminal interrogation. Suspects can’t be forced to speak.

    I take it you’ve never been arrested. Right or wrong, it happens, and nothing you or anyone else can do in the context of this sweet sweet liberty of ours will ever make it not happen. Maybe it shouldn’t, but that’s not the point. It does happen, and the best you can do is prosecute it.

    We should be so ashamed that we have to read things like this about how are tax dollars are used

    From a human standpoint I was ashamed of the group of Iraqi animals who hung burning civilians from the bridge. I blamed it on those animals, though, not the country of Iraq.

    Barton I get the feeling that the person convicted for a crime is the last one on the long list of people you’d blame for that crime. Just a hunch, though.

  46. ‘I have not seen one non-inflammatory post that says essentially, “these soldiers should get medals” or even “they should go free”.’

    Scroll to the bottom of the Iraq’s Mai Lai thread, below.

    Bring your Dramamine.

  47. When I read the posters who condone, to one degree or another, the abuse of prisoners; I curse Bin Laden for what he’s done to this country.

    Don’t those of you who excuse the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners know that when you do so, you are opposing the ideals of our republic?

  48. Wallis,

    Damn dude, I can’t believe you carried this stupid crap over to THIS thread, too.

  49. Thorley: You left out the parts where Yglesias confessed to the Lindbergh kidnapping and I said we should nuke Wyoming.

  50. Why do I keep hearing people point out that what went on at Abu Ghraib under U.S. command wasn’t as bad as what Saddam did?

    Because as soon as the Abu Ghraib situation came to light, the usual suspects immediately comparing the soldiers’ behavior to that of the Hussein regime.

    The fact that what happened at Abu Ghraib was many orders of magnitude less horrific than what happened in Iraq under Hussein is brought up, not to excuse the behavior of the U.S. soldiers and contractors, but to counter the claims of the ignoramuses who attempt to draw a parallel between the two.

  51. “we should nuke Wyoming”

    I’ve been saying that for years! Goddamn Yellowstone-having Dick Cheney-monkeys.

  52. rst,

    I’m certainly not blaming the “whole country” for this disgrace. I blame the government.

    “I don’t think it speaks to some larger failure of our “ideals” as a whole…”

    Neither do I, it speaks the government not living up to the ideals of our republic.

    I get the feeling that the person convicted for a crime is the last one on the long list of people you’d blame for that crime. Just a hunch, though

    That’s an odd conjecture for you to make rst, since I seem to be the one of us who is more outraged by this crime. Are you sort of transposing the victims and the perps a little bit here? Just a hunch.

    Assuming I think the verdict is correct and the crime in question is one of force or fraud, the person convicted is the first, and maybe only one who I blame.

  53. Dear Mousepad-
    Radio, radio. rah rah rah.
    Three dit, four dit twh dit dah.

  54. Jesse, in my defense, I haven’t read Instapundit in nigh unto a year now, as I find him tendentious.

  55. Dan makes a good point: When this story broke, I took a look at the relevant thread at one of the conservative blogs, Tacitus, and that’s exactly what happened — a bunch of comments to the effects of, “Well, thank god we liberated them so we could torture them,” “Good thing the rape rooms and torture chambers are gone,” ad nauseum. In that context, it’s perfectly reasonable to note that this event, even if it is more widespread than initially thought, is an exception rather than a rule; and that we punish our perpetrators rather than reward them.

    Perhaps one side would not have to resort to “At least we’re not as bad as Saddam” if the other hadn’t immediately resorted to “We’re no better than Saddam.”

  56. “There are many, many, many people sitting in jail in the United States for conduct that doesn’t even begin to approach Saddam Hussein levels of badness.”

    We have many, many genocidal murderers that oppressed, tortured and killed untold numbers of people in our jails for decades, getting all but a free pass by the authorities, under the guise of “punishment?” News to me. Is this really the sort of thing someone wants to say arguing for morals and standards?

  57. Looks like I caught Willy Wonka disease… ignore that. Glad to see that Yglesias hasn’t totally gone off the deep end.

  58. Yglesias doesn’t enumerate which of those cases involve people responding to the argument “we’re now as bad as Saddam Hussein” however…

  59. Dear AP,

    The allegations and photos of abuse and torture stand for themselves… The fact that a sexist Islamic extremist prefers Saddam’s physical torture to standing around naked and being humiliated is not “news,” it’s borderline propaganda.

  60. An earlier H&R item was titled “Iraq’s My Lai?” Now there is at least one obvious difference from My Lai: It didn’t take years for the government to notice it and do something about it. If someone raises an exaggerated comparison, others will reject it.

    Probably someone, somewhere, has suggested that the guilty parties should be treated with leniency because they “aren’t as bad as Saddam Hussein.” In a sufficiently large sample, every kind of nonsense will occur. But that’s not what I’ve been seeing.

  61. Courtland Milloy’s column in today’s WaPo is an excellent illustration of exactly the point Dan was making.

    . . . Today, U.S. forces in charge of the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad — Saddam Hussein’s old house of horrors — are being accused of behaving like his sadistic sons, Uday and Qusay. Is it that easy to become that which one condemns? Or has something been unleashed that was there all along?

    . . . To be fair, in the case of that widely publicized electric torture stand, U.S. forces might not have been using live wires. The hooded prisoner on the box might simply have been told that they were live. Then again, Saddam’s firing squads didn’t always use real bullets; just the sound of blanks being fired was sometimes enough to cause his hooded victims to have fatal heart attacks.

    Is it any wonder you have people reacting by saying, “We’re not as bad as Saddam?”

  62. “We`re not as bad as Sadam ?” Anybody remember Waco?

  63. I have naked pictures of Walter Wallis and Dave id performing oral/anal sex on each other. It’s not so bad after all. But they weren’t forced, they just thought it sounded like fun.

  64. Dave and Phil: I’ve seen a lot of the commentary that Yglesias refers to, and I’ve seen a lot of similar commentary every other time the US or an ally does something crappy. The context you’re describing is rarely there.

    Consider Instapundit’s first post about the prison scandal. He firmly condemns what happened. He also leaps immediately into pointing out that what Saddam did was worse. There’s no “Unlike what many commenters at Tacitus have said…” or “By the way, some people are claiming that this is as awful as what Saddam’s torturers did. Bad as it is, it’s not as bad as that.” It’s just something he feels it’s important to point out.

    Which wouldn’t even be notable if it were an isolated incident, except that there’s a lot of people who felt the need to make the same point, again without any sign that they’re responding to comments made elsewhere. That’s a phenomenon worth thinking about.

  65. Dave id is the anon poster who keeps using different names to stir up the pot. He keeps things interesting.

    Walter, on the other hand, means it.

  66. Is it any wonder you have people reacting by saying, “We’re not as bad as Saddam?”

    No, because we’re not. Seriously, this wasn’t that big of a deal folks. Yet another prisoner beating in a history that is as old as prisons. The only difference between our having done it and denying it’s our way of life, and another country having done it and then denying it’s their way of life, is that we let some pictures get out. Oh, the embarrassment…maybe we’re really the same state of hypocrisy as every other nation in the world.

    Big honkin’ surprise.

    They committed a crime. They’re going to be punished. I know this comes as a surprise to some of you free-thinkers but sometimes peeps break laws. If the soldierrs were looking at 6 months in Club Fed, I’d say you all have a point. But they’re not, so you don’t.

    “moral relativism” and “moral equivalence,” are exact opposites

    They’re not opposite, they’re exactly the same thing, except the latter has the erroneous presumption of an objective referent. They’re only “opposites” if you really hate and want to discredit a moral relativist.

  67. i.e., you will still always assess the morality of an action relativistically, regardless of whether you feel there to exist some objective referent.

  68. “moral relativism” and “moral equivalence,” are presumptuous charges. They presume a problem without explaining why. Of course, simply calling something “bad” is the same thing. But usually, when someone calls something “bad,” they feel an obligation to explain why. All too often charges of moral relativism or equivalance are levied as if they prove something on their own, which they don’t. Without explaining why either is bad in a particular instance, the charges are meaningless.

  69. You all are missing the important point. That point, is that we can use this incident to get the use of coercion and duress by military intelligence banned outright. This would be a wonderful result, coming out of a very bad situation.

  70. we can use this incident to get the use of coercion and duress by military intelligence banned outright.

    What are you smoking and where can I get some? Coercion and duress are part of interrogation, military or otherwise. Get used to it, because it’s not going anywhere, and this relatively tame yet wildly publicized event isn’t going to push that needle anywhere.

  71. Did you hear your lady general this morning?
    I rest my case.

  72. most of the pictures show these prisoners in what can, at worst, be described as humiliating or demeaning. unless there are other photos, not published, this is not exactly what i think of as “torture”. ‘scuze me while i duck

  73. err, that is to say, it’s not going anywhere, and this event isn’t even going to be a blip in the larger movement of trying to remake us all in the peacenik image. Intolerable cruelty is a part of human nature.

  74. you are opposing the ideals of our republic?

    Which ideal, that all white land-owning males are created equal by an invisible man in the sky? Nobody is saying these guys should walk, Barton.

  75. Walter-

    What did our dear lady general say this morning? And does any of it indicate whether her subordinates are also Democrats?

    And is there a link to any of this.

    BTW, you still haven’t refuted my claim that you are a terrorist.

  76. The final paragraph is interesting:

    http://www.techcentralstation.com/050304G.html

    “In the end, what the six soldiers sitting in the brig are accused of doing is reprehensible, and they will receive the justice they deserve. Not because they violated some barometer of international opinion, or drew the ire of a morally relativistic NGO, but because Americans are better than that, and the world knows it.”

    Thoreau,
    The proof, that he is not, is Classified, and therefore you may not see it. Just realise that it does exist. 🙂

  77. “lady general” snicker. Was she an aviatrix as well? Go crank up the Model T.

  78. I think thoreau is jealous that I’m better at satire than he is. There’s no humor in his parodies of conservative posters. It’s all a bunch of straw-men that he thinks make him look clever.

    Dude, it gets old.

  79. Of course you do. You’re a Democrat.

    Now, it’s time for me to prove my masculinity. I’m feeling guilty about that gay porn. To bed, woman!

  80. most of the pictures show these prisoners in what can, at worst, be described as humiliating or demeaning. unless there are other photos, not published, this is not exactly what i think of as “torture”.

    I think you may have missed some subsequent details.

  81. dave id,

    I’m worried less about the prisoners, than I am about the effect torture has on the torturers. You know, someday all those people who have learned to enjoy torturing and humiliating “the enemy” will be coming home. And who will “the enemy” be then?

  82. And it begins!

    http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/05/03/1083436542947.html

    “US abuse worse than Saddam’s, say inmates”

    Yeah, anyone who’s pro-war and mentions that the torture doled out by US MPs is less than that under Saddam is engaging in the worst kind of moral equivalence…

    And that’s completely true; and I agree with it. But it’s also completely true and utterly incomprehensible that some will actually make the argument that the anti-war side is not engaging, and in some cases, embracing the same type of ridiculous moral equivalence.

    Via Andrew Sullivan:

    Mr Shweiri said that while jailed by Saddam’s regime he was electrocuted, beaten and suspended from the ceiling with his hands tied behind his back. “But that’s better than the humiliation of being stripped naked,” he said. “Shoot me here,” he added, pointing between his eyes, “but don’t do this to us… They made us stand in a way that I am ashamed to describe. They came to look at us as we stood there. They knew this would humiliate us. We are men. It’s OK if they beat me. Beating don’t hurt us, it’s just a blow. But no one would want their manhood to be shattered. They wanted us to feel as though we were women, the way women feel, and this is the worst insult, to feel like a woman.”

  83. Thanks, Jesse. I say hang the bastards . . .

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