South Park Republicans?

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That's Sploid's wicked, brilliant headline to an incredibly disturbing NY Times account of US soldiers tormenting an Afghan captive.

The soldiers kneed the [retarded Afghan] man repeatedly in the legs and, at one point, chained him with his arms straight up in the air, Specialist Callaway told investigators. They also nicknamed him "Timmy," after a disabled child in the animated television series "South Park." One of the guards who beat the prisoner also taught him to screech like the cartoon character, Specialist Callaway said.

Sploid page here.

Times account here.

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  1. Maybe we should pay soldiers about 60K to 70K to start. That way we would get a large population oif recruits and we could keep only the better ones.

  2. Yeah, yeah, we’re torturing innocent people to death over there, but remember: they hate us for our freedom.

  3. Andrew Sullivan points out that they also were flying a Confederate flag in their tent. Awesome, guys. Keep up the good work.

    And they won’t let me in the Army because I smoked too much pot. A big “fuck you” from me to Secretary Rumsfeld, President Bush, and every administration and Defense Secretary since the ban on people like me went into effect, whenever that was.

  4. How much is “too much”, Adam? If the draft gets reinstated, I need to make sure I’m over the limit.

  5. south park nation, unfortunately. or perhaps outback nation: no rules, just right!

    i don’t understand for the life of me how our soldiers are supposed to behave differently when their entire upbringing has been one long bout of narcissism and self-indulgence, thanks to the inwardly-focused antisociety that spawned them.

    if it feels good, do it!

  6. Excellent point, gaius. That’s why you never heard of people being tortured by those self-controlled, celibate priests of the Spanish Inquisition.

  7. No one expects that of the Spanish Inquisition!

  8. lol — there’s more than one way for torture to seem like a good idea. one is with institutional authority. another is because you wanted to. a third is with both.

  9. i have a hard time not reconciling this stuff with institutional authority. i know this is your thang, as it were, but…

  10. Gaius, of the three options you offered for why people tortured, I didn’t see “being raised in a “do it if it feels good” society.

  11. gaius-

    I really don’t mind your caveats: I fully agree with you that freedom can be abused. I fully agree with you that disregard for others can coarsen the institutions and traditions of civil society.

    But after reading one of your gloomy ruminations, I’m always left wondering what of it? I mean, you rail against freedom, but do you really want less freedom? I’m not aware of too many cases where forcible curtailments of freedom have made people act better.

    So I completely agree with you that freedom is no panacea, that personal responsibility matters as well. But I have to disagree when you imply that freedom itself is the problem, or that maybe freedom should be curtailed. It sounds nice in theory, but it never works in practice (probably because freedom is usually curtailed by politicians, who are the epitome of irresponsibility).

    I don’t know of any magic solution that will make people act more responsibly, but I don’t think railing against freedom is a constructive step toward that goal.

  12. do you really want less freedom?

    i think the problem, mr thoreau, is that carte blanche is more than sometimes abused — it inevitably leads to a culture of abuse. i have no trouble with freedom in its measure. that’s not what we have. we have lawlessness, a culture of people who feel their individual prerogative can and should override most any social consideration.

    people in a prior age of civility generally exercized their freedom within the strictures of law and tradition. people respected precedence because they understood that they themselves had not the faculty to consider all that had gone into setting it. only a few — artists — saw fit to go against every grain and oppose every tradition. their lives were made hard for it.

    we live in a society where we are all artists, effectively, where each of us arrogantly assumes that any precedent we don’t agree with is simply stupid. that’s not compatible with civility. or peace, i’m afraid, for very long.

    i think we’ll find that, ultimately, our lawlessness is our undoing. and i don’t have a magic solution for it either. but i do think it right to speak to the reality of it, rather than ignore it because it can’t be changed. if it enables any of us to understand better and deal with our dysfunctional society, that’s got to be enough — because i sincerely think a reversal will take hundreds of years to manifest itself.

  13. Jennifer, that article came from the NYT, part of the anti-American elite liberal mainstream media.

    It can’t possibly be true!

  14. Gaius, of the three options you offered for why people tortured, I didn’t see “being raised in a “do it if it feels good” society.

    actually, that’s because you wanted to.

    for the record, these idiots operated under the third option, imo.

  15. Gaius-
    One question about your theory: why is it that historically, the most heinous tortures were perpetrated by members of the most repressed societies? The Nazis, the Spanish Inquisition, the European witch hunts, the Soviet gulag–the people committing acts of torture here sure as hell weren’t raised in permissive, freedom-loving societies.

  16. “I fully agree with you that disregard for others can coarsen the institutions and traditions of civil society.”

    I think the emphasis is on the other side of that statement, but perhaps I’m mistaken.

    …Gaius, aren’t you more concerned that a disregard for the institutions and traditions of civil society are leading increasingly to a disregard of others?

  17. Ken-

    gaius probably was arguing the converse.

    See, I get a lot of gaius’s concerns, but I think he’s off-target when he blames freedom for everything that’s wrong in society.

  18. gaius,

    Do we really have lawlessness? It seems to me that we have a good deal of law and morals. People are still ostracized for being different as well. The people who would ruin lives with atrocites hare not a new phenomenon caused by our society.

    What is precedent but a blend of the solutions of ancestors made to confront the problems of the past with the personal dislikes of the powerful. If the reasons of the past don’t make sense, is it foolish to seem new ones? I don’t think that “because precedent dictates so” is a good answer to life’s questions.

  19. Gaius Marius,

    Occupying powers have done this sort of thing throughout history — why are we the exception? Could you really make the same claim about Dutch torture of prisoners in Indonesia or British treatment of the Boers in south africa? It seems to me the real reason this happened was a lack of training and a lack of oversight. Anyone given that much power over other human beings on such an intimate setting is likely to end of abusing that power regardless of cultural/societal upbringing

  20. Gaius- The problem with your reference to the strictures of law and society is that those strictures have a tendency to be opressive. Consider the South before the 60s: there, racisim was both the law and the will of society.

    Of course, such things wound’t happen under a government that took seriously the concept of individual rights. Also remember, that the word “society” is essentially meaningless. Substitute “the herd” and you’re talking about the same thing. Society, the community, the villiage, or whatever you call it, has no existence apart from the individuals that comprise it. It makes little sense, then, to predicate one’s politics on something that doesn’t exist.

  21. malk-

    Good point! Torture has happened in so many societies under so many circumstances that it’s dubious to pin this on too much freedom in the US.

  22. aren’t you more concerned that a disregard for the institutions and traditions of civil society are leading increasingly to a disregard of others?

    or, more precisely, that an outsized concern for the self — and what is the nth degree of freedom if not the ultimate appeal to populist selfishness? — is leading to both.

    why is it that historically, the most heinous tortures were perpetrated by members of the most repressed societies?

    ms jennifer, you make the assumption that a society obsessed with the self is not repressed a disequilibrium. au contraire! we are repressing all our neglected social responsibilities.

    would you not say, for example, that the wild extravagance of the 1920s was not resultant of the repression of the guilt and devastation of the first world war? i think the need to act out in an exaggerated carefree manner is precisely symptomatic of repression.

    this obsession with Freedom that has come since 9/11 is a symptom of the repression of what? 🙂 innocence lost, i’d say. a realization that people hate us for what we’ve been doing all this time, i’d say.

    but more than that. for the families we left to go get work in the city. for the spouse we divorced. for the children we want to see more of. for the church/temple/mosque we don’t attend. all because we can’t be inconvenienced by it, any of it.

    a more repressed society never there was, i think, ms jennifer.

  23. I wonder the amount of good intelligence that was obtained at Bagram? Probably next to nothing.

    How long before conservatives say this is just fratboy hazing gone wild?

    If memory serves, this basically backs of Sy Hersh’s claims he made in the follow-up story on Aby Grahib in the New Yorker, that this was widespread and known by the higher-ups. Probably only enlisted people will be punished severely…

  24. why are we the exception?

    what scares me, mr malk, is that few seem to want to try to be the exception.

  25. As a human rights supporter I have to wonder how many lives could have been saved and could still be saved if the media and human rights establishment were as diligent in reporting genocide in Rwanda, Yugoslavia and Sudan as they have been in reporting prisoner abuse by the US military. Any thoughts?

  26. Society, the community, the villiage, or whatever you call it, has no existence apart from the individuals that comprise it.

    this is wrong, mr 6, insofar that it assumes that a society can be nothing more than the mob will. it can — it’s called civilization. it’s extremely hard work to maintain, involves a great deal of respect for law and tradition (enough so that you think some oppression is a good thing) and can be facilitated by but not borne of government.

    the people must, on some level, consent to be led. this is ordinarily not a problem, excepting punishable outbursts. very few are born artists. but in this age — since the early 20th c — it has become exactly that: a big problem. civility has not held in the face of individualism because the mass of men, for the first time in a very long time in the west, decided that being led was bad — that each and any of us was just as smart as a thousand-year-old tradition or a wise law.

    the change didn’t come without its reasons — notably 1914-18 — but past examples of such a change in mindset have not ended well for all involved.

  27. that’s very funny. rwanda was dilligently reported; but no one gave a shit. i think that’s the weirdest thing liberals come up with in regards to that particular chapter of history.

    conservative-ish types don’t care if africans kill each other – but there’s ground to care if “the good guys” are caught on tape, as it were. hence why torture defenders give a shit now, but not then.

  28. I think of all those sociocons who fly into a blind white rage whenever some character on South Park says, “poopee.” Wonder how offended they are about the South Park-ian antics described above…

  29. In regards to Rwanda, there’s a not so subtle difference between what other people do to each other and what we do to other people.

    …If the press pays more attention to the latter than the former, it doesn’t bother me.

  30. Could it be we’re seeing young Americans turning into monsters, torturers because they have a lack of freedom? How free are a people dominated by repressive christianist ideology? Could that ideology have led them to dehumanize these prisoners, not a single one a card-carrying member of a warehouse church? The state isn’t the only oppressor.

  31. Gaius-Civilization is a description of how individuals act. I think we’re working from very different definitions of ‘individualism’ here. You seem to equate it with selfishness or incivility. I see it as the recognition that all rights are inherently individual ones. That is the point of my talk about community/society. Niether of those entities have rights, except insofar as the individuals within them do. The alternative is to place states and institutions above individuals. Historically, that idea has proven to be a poor one.

    Also, history is full of examples of societies acting like mobs. Humans moving in herds are, in fact, dangerous.

  32. Jennifer, that article came from the NYT, part of the anti-American elite liberal mainstream media.

    thoreau, you forgot “Northeast”.

    Does anyone else find it wrong that we have 21 year olds — kids, essentially — guarding (or torturing, as the case may be) these prisoners? If I were running things, I wouldn’t let these kids alone with any prisoner – I would insist on an experienced officer being present at all times.

  33. <mildly-offtopic>

    Jennifer,

    In order to completely demonstrate how geeky I can be, if you want to provide a link to a web page, use <a href=”http link to web page“>Text to display to readers</a>. Copying and pasting your link into both places and putting some carefully chosen spaces in the second (displayed text) will prevent the comment frames from getting messed up.

    If you already knew this, I apologize for assuming you didn’t.

    </mildly-offtopic>

  34. Gaius,

    You’ve got quite a theoretical construct assembled regarding tradition, society and the individual.

    I would say, based on my actual experience living, working and studying for many years in the Middle East and Asia, that you’ve got it completely backward. By your logic, the most advanced, civilized and free societies on the planet would be those that are actually the most stagnant and backward. The Islamists, in particular, would be a “light unto nations”.

  35. “As a human rights supporter I have to wonder how many lives could have been saved and could still be saved if the media and human rights establishment were as diligent in reporting genocide in Rwanda, Yugoslavia and Sudan as they have been in reporting prisoner abuse by the US military. Any thoughts?”
    Erm, this incident happened two years ago and we are just hearing about it now, whereas in the other cases we learned about them when they were happening.

  36. Rhywun- wrong? No, more like stupid.

    I’d be scared if the local police started using 21 yr olds to interrogate suspects.

    I think it’s more common to have experienced officers as detectives. In fact, just watch a show like The First 48. Even among cops, they’ll defer to someone they consider better if a hard suspect needs to be interrogated.

  37. The Republican faithful will defend anything “our boys” feel like doing to Arabs. The root of this exceptionalism is that Americans are inherently better beings – due to the fact that we were born over here and not over there. God made us superior! Principles, rights, justice or simple human compassion are completely irrelevant to these fucks.

  38. Hmmmm, What would Tipper Gore say about this matter?

  39. Gaius-
    This post-9-11 obsession with freedom is entirely because Bush and Co. chose the stupidest possible excuse for why 9-11 happened and why we’re so unpopular–they hate us for our freedom. Yes. Not because we prop up the government that repress them, not because of all the sleazy meddling we’ve done in countries less powerful than us, not because we’ve ever done anything which might possibly have harmed someone else–no, no, no, it’s all just envy because of our freedom.

  40. Well are U.S. soldiers acting like individuals/individualists when they torture?

    “Army of one” commercials notwithstanding, the armed forces are generally understood to be one of the least individualist institutions in modern U.S. society. The cultivate group cohesion (to put it nicely) rather than individuality of any form.

    Now if you also believe, as I do, that rather than a few bad apples, a policy of at least condoning if not promoting torture goes all the way to the top, how much can it realistically be attributed to excessive individuality? Is it not just as plausible to attribute it to group think and institutional dynamics?

    Granted it is a corrupt society that leads to us having the leaders we do in the first place. However, I’m not sure individuality is entirely to blame here.

  41. Here’s an idea, as radical as it may be–why don’t we quit mythologizing American troops as some kind of super-race of really great people, and just acknowledge that, at best, they reflect society in general–warts and all.

  42. CuddlyWill, about the warehouse megachurch the torturers went to, in this case, the problem wasn’t kids from Anaheim, but from Utah.

  43. Good point Henry,

    It’s sad to say but most of the guys I know who went into the military weren’t quite right upstairs to begin with.

    gaius,

    How much of the”lawlessness” that occurs today is a byproduct of there being many more people alive now mixed with ubiquitous media coverage? I would guess, not having the numbers handy(if they exist at all) that things are actually better now than 100 years ago.

  44. When exactly is the “prior age of civility” you are talking about, gaius?

  45. The “prior age of civility” – you know, that time of peace and enlightenment before Copernicus, Galileo, heck even Pasteur. How much better life was before such uncouth rebels challenged tradition and authority, and the masses just said “thank you, may I have another” for the wisdom they received.

  46. Gaius,

    Although I don’t agree with your definition of the problem, I do agree that there is something ugly that is rotting American culture from within. I can’t quite put my finger on it. The best I can do is call it an illogical sense of entitlement. Seems to be related to Thoreau’s comments about lack of personal responsibility.

    I don’t see it linked to personal freedom. I certainly don’t see personal freedom linked to torture.

  47. I don’t claim to understand everything that G. Marius talks about, but it seems to me that much of it is pretty benign.

    Locke thought that there were two great threats to civil society, government overstepping its bounds and a degradation of morals in the general populace. Libertarians tend to feel more comfortable with the government threat and not so comfortable with the concern of general moral degradation.

    If I understand Gaius correctly, and I’m not sure I do, he’s saying that the moral degradation threat is a double edged sword. Church and other cultural institutions aren’t what they were, and this has led us to be less considerate of both the unfortunate and those who choose unwisely. The other side of his argument, the side I didn’t see before, seems to be that at the same time, being less considerate of the unfortunate and those who choose unwisely is an important part of what’s making church and other cultural institutions less important.

    …I don’t have any problem with that argument per se. If Gaius were to propose an “earthly kingdom” government policy solution as the answer to the general degradation of morality, I would disagree with him on that point. However, I don’t recall seeing Gaius do that specifically.

    P.S. Anybody who posts the Sermon on the Mount on his blog and bemoans this loss of wisdom can’t be all bad.

  48. I think it is one of two things (both of which have already been mentioned).
    The first being the quality of troops that ya’ll are recruiting is equivalent to mindless, narcissistic street thugs. From where I sit in South Korea, having just come from the area near the massive Yank base here, I suspect that this is a solid 50% of the problem. Sending teenagers overseas to defend or liberate or steal nations that they have zero knowledge of is absurd and causes great harm to the image of America abroad (as if you needed help with this…).

    Or, the soldiers have just realized what the rest of the world laments: America can do whatever she pleases at any given time without consequence.

    Spiderman had something to say about this.

    To torture a retarded Afgan for shits and giggles is repugnant, in every way. Those who did it ought to be handed over to the Afgan authorities and dealt with.

    Enough.

  49. Your all wrong!

    Jennifer you are wrong. 9-11 didn’t happen because we support Arab governments. We don’t support the majority. We do support Israel, but the plight of the Palestinians was used as an after the fact justification.

    The biggest contention they had is that we are infidels, and we are the biggest strongest kids on the block, and we appeared after Somalia to be a paper tiger. Also we have infidels in the holy land, women who wont cover their beautiful blond hair, and men, who drink and enjoy themselves, and seem to present to the local population that they are not as blessed as they are told that they are.

    Gaius you are wrong.
    These crimes (if the ones cited really did happen, which given the source, I am not convinced. But could have happened given the truth on the ground)
    THESE CRIMES DIDN’T HAPPEN BECAUSE WE ARE TOO FREE, THEY HAPPENED BECAUSE WE ARE NOT FREE ENOUGH. Sorry for shouting.

    The reason Americans act like kids at 21 years old, is that despite the fact that they have the bodies of adults they are treated like kids untill they are 21. The do not learn that their actions have consequenses. If they can’t learn the small lessons how will they learn the big ones? I think if we have to list an age at which to make someone an adult it should be the age of 16. At 16 you can drink, you can drive, you are still in high school, and you still have your parents and teachers to guide and help you make decisions with your new found freedom. At 17 having had 1 year to experience freedom you can join the military, knowing the consequence of your action, and at 18 you can vote and make a bad decision for the rest of us.

    All you all who criticize conservatives;
    you are wrong
    I think that the over liberalization of the rules for the Armed Forces and the police are partially responsible for the disbelief in the rules. You have to give a terrorist a prayer mat and a Koran? Fuck that stupid rule, I’ll flush the Koran down the toilette! I am serving with a hot ass person of the opposite sex, but can’t have sex with them? Fuck that, well you get the point.

    If rules are absurd the good rules lose value by association.

    These atrocities arn’t a conservative thing. No conservative approves of this behavior. What is telling is that the newspaper gave that title to the article.

    That is just my take

  50. “No conservative approves of this behavior”

    sad to say you’re wrong on this one. many conservatives are perfectly willing to defend abu ghraib, et al, more or less sight unseen.

  51. The reason Americans act like kids at 21 years old, is that despite the fact that they have the bodies of adults they are treated like kids untill they are 21.

    Kwais:I think you can agree with me on this since you are in the Army. These guys get treated like kids well into their thirties. Breaking stupid rules related to Safety, EO, using tobacco in certain areas or many other things is an everyday thing in the Military. There are to many rules and regulations so the important ones are not respected as much as they should be.

    In addition to this problem I believe that torture was authorized from the highest levels.

    In this case I have some problems with article. People who do actual interrogations for the Army are pretty well trained and have to obatain a Top Secret security clearance. Its pretty hard to get one of those if you have smoked a lot of pot and were prone to violent behavior in the past you will not get one. The presence of a translator indicates that he was there to conduct an interrogation. I want to think that an MI unit would have to have at least an NCO in this slot but I can’t be certain of that.

    All that being said I am skeptical of this story perhaps the facts have been changed a bit maybe even a lot…. (Hard to believe the NYTs would do that).

  52. After reading the post it appears as though I may have contradicted myself. An MI soldier with a top secret clearance would not be prone to the rule breaking I described. But it could happen…

  53. kwais:

    I agree that treating teenagers like children for too long has socially damaging effects. Colleges treat the same age demographic like children in many ways as well (but there is less potential to do damage on a college campus).

    I don’t think the armed forces consists of models of maturity or widom or well thought out actions or any such thing (the age demographic as you’ve pointed out isn’t particularly mature and also some of the people who join the armed forces are merely people with few other options).

    However, I still think it’s mostly a problem of the fish rotting from the head down. If the adminstration and the armed forces were really interested in preventing this type of thing they could do a much better job of doing so.

    And that brings us to conservatives. If by conservative you mean Republicans then many approve of letting torture slide (it’s one of the few things Republicans can be said to have a laissez faire attitude toward: state sanctioned torture. The mind reels).

    If by conservative you have some other more principled definition in mind then you are right and right by definition.

  54. As the U.S. is a highly individualistic society that places a high premium on “individuality” (The country has strong forces of conformity but nonetheless on balance it probably is.) I sometimes cynically speculate on what it relies on to keep people “in line”.

    It relies on laws and morality on all that no doubt. But a cynical part of me often gets perverse pleasure in concluding that american society relies primarily on stupidity to keep people “in line”. No wonder stupidity is so cultivated ;).

  55. Adam writes: “And they won’t let me in the Army because I smoked too much pot. ”

    They probably wouldn’t let me in, due to my ADD, even though I managed to get through college and some graduate-level courses (before I decided that an MSCS would be a waste of time and money).

    In case the neocons decide to start a war with Iran, and there’s a draft, I might fall back on a small belly button hernia, which I’ve not had fixed due to being uninsured for 4 years.

    If there is a draft, I bet lots of people will just claim to be gay. They’ll likely still be drafted, but the military will look like rank hypocrites.

  56. “If they really hated us for our freedom, then the Netherlands would be dust.”
    –David Cross

  57. Jennifer, why do you hate America so much?

  58. Jennifer: The Netherlands are having a rather hard time of it with their Muslim immigrant population, who do, in fact, hate them for their freedom.

  59. stubby-

    I don’t claim to be an expert on the situation with immigrants in the Netherlands, but if the Muslim immigrants all hate the Dutch for their freedoms then why did they move to the Netherlands? Oh, no doubt there’s a few confused lunatics who moved there despite hating freedom, but I have to assume that the vast majority of them don’t mind freedom. I mean, they moved there and all.

  60. Y’all just don’t get it do you ?
    9/11 was an inside job.
    From top to bottom.
    From prologue to aftermath and cover-up.
    From military/industrial engineering to corporate-fascist media psy-op after the fact.
    9/11 was our own American Reichstag Fire.
    Our Patriot Act and Homeland Security Act (Heimland Securitat) are roughly same as the Nazi Enabling Acts of 1933 that effectively abolished the Weimar Republic

  61. Thoreau – I agree it’s counterintuitive at first. I think the main reason Muslims immigrate to the Netherlands, and to Europe in general, is to take advantage of a much better economy and much more generous welfare benefits. And to take advantage of freedoms they don’t enjoy in their own countries – but their desire for freedom is, I think, a little like “our” Puritan ancestors’ – that is, they aren’t about to extend others the same liberties and freedoms of conscience they insist on for themselves.

    There is a long post at Andrew Sullivan’s place, a letter from a friend of his now living in Norway who visits the Netherlands frequently (it’s been quoted frequently across the Web). He talks about anti-gay, anti-Jewish, anti-Dutch sentiments (and crime) from Muslims and the general Dutch response, or lack of it. It’s very interesting, but I don’t know how to do pinpoint hyperlinks and it’s too long to post. Go to http://www.andrewsullivan.com and look for “my friend bruce bawer”. This account is symptomatic of much of what’s going on in the Netherlands and Northern Europe in general – and this is not coming from the right-wing press, either.

    There is also a very interesting Dutch blog at
    http://www.peaktalk.com which frequently addresses Muslim immigration and integration issues.

  62. I think there’s something to the argument that some of that special kind of hate Muslim fundamentalists feel for us is a function of the realization that so many of us live long, wealthy and healthy lives in spite of the fact that our women live as they please with impunity and few of us give any thought to the Qu’ran.

    …In their universe, that shouldn’t be possible. To them, there’s nothing that happens that isn’t by God’s will. God wouldn’t have allowed Jesus to be crucified, for instance, because Jesus lived a righteous life.

    I suspect many radical Muslim fundamentalists found a safe haven in places like the Netherlands. They probably wouldn’t have been tolerated in places like Egypt. I suspect these extremists find fertile ground for recruits among young male immigrants, immigrants who do the kind of menial jobs illegal aliens tend to do here in U.S. …young men with little prospect of marriage.

    …and yet, these western women walk about, unveiled without father, husband or brother to watch them, all with impunity. …and the whole society disregards the Qu’ran completely!

    I was a kid in the ’70s, but I remember how socially disruptive it was when so many of the women who got married right out of high school in the ’50s decided to break out of the Donna Reed die cast, join the workforce and divorce their husbands if they got in the way. Think how much harder it must be for people who come from Muslim cultures much more conservative than ours was in the ’50s to adjust to a society, in many ways, much more liberal than America’s is today.

  63. Ken: bingo. And I think Dutch society is more liberal than American society in all ways, not many.

    And now adieu. I’ve been informed that the Mommy Alone Time meter has run out and I have to get back in the game.

  64. “Y’all just don’t get it do you ?
    9/11 was an inside job.”

    as much as i’d like to think so – since this would satisfy the need for sense data order all humans have – i think the alex jones continuum is a CIA plant.

    it makes perfect sense – it encourages a sense of government infallibility and hopelessness at the same time. if you work for the government you want people either believing you’re the solution of all problems – and barring that, the cause. people can sit in their homes, smoke piles of weed and think about how, at the very least, they’re not deluded like everyone else.

    and continue being ineffectual, of course.

  65. The talk of the Dutch problem with their Muslim immigrants is missing the point; immigrants who complain about the society in which they live are quite different from outside terrorists doing whatever they can to wreak havoc in a country thousands of miles away from them. If al-Qaeda (not immigrants in the countries themselves) were attacking Canada, Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand and other such Westernized countries, in addition to America, then I’d agree their motivation had to do with Westernization or women’s freedom or such intangibles. But no–of all the freewheeling Westernized countries filled with independent women showing their figures and faces in public, they attacked us.

  66. It occurred to me–“they hate us for our freedom” is an especially convenient rationalization for the government and others because it means we don’t have to be self-critical and wonder if we could have done anything differently.

    After all, if you hate me because of something I did, or because I’m close buddies with a guy who oppresses you and makes you wear a burka or face the death penalty, then I should certainly be expected to apologize and make amends if I can. But if you hate me because I’m just so all-around BETTER than you. . . well, that’s not MY fault; I’m just an innocent victim of jealousy. Not only do I NOT need to change, but if I do I’ll be caving in to evil, so continuing on my merry way through life is almost a stand against tyranny, isn’t it?

  67. But no–of all the freewheeling Westernized countries filled with independent women showing their figures and faces in public, they attacked us.

    Um, I think a few people in Spain might want to take issue with you on that point.

  68. Thoreau-
    Point taken. But of course, there’s no way of knowing what would have happened had Spain never sent troops to Iraq, which as I recall was the ostensible excuse.

  69. Jennifer-

    I was mostly just fact-checking for its own sake. I’m more likely to fact-check the people that I agree with because I don’t want somebody else to come along and start poking holes in easy points rather than addressing the substance of the argument.

    Conservatives certainly seem to think that Spain was attacked because of Iraq. They said that withdrawing Spanish troops from Iraq was a capitulation to the terrorists.

    So terrorists attack Spain for their foreign policy, but they attack us for our freedom.

    Right.

  70. We were talking about the Netherlands, which is why I mentioned the Netherlands specifically, but there’s no question that in terms of exporting “Western” culture, America was the top dog.

    I agree there were a number of other factors that put us at the top of the hit list including the fact that we were, temporarily, the world’s only super power, our support of Israel, our support of governments like the ones in Saudi Arabia and Egypt (especially the one in Egypt) and our military presence in Saudi Arabia.

    …None of that means that the perceived decadence of our culture wasn’t a contributing factor, especially with terrorist recruits.

    I take issue with the Bush administration’s suggestion that the terrorists hate us because of our freedom, but my objection is a reaction to the Bush administration’s policy prescriptions based, apparently, on that observation.

    …Considering the Patriot Act, among other things, it appears that the Bush administration thinks that if we don’t want to be attacked by terrorists anymore, we need to get rid of some excess freedom. …or maybe it’s that the administration appears to have made a value judgment, that safety from terrorism is more valuable than some of our traditional freedoms.

    …But just because the Bush administration perverted whatever kernel of truth there is in that statement, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t some truth there. I guess that’s all I’m tryin’ to say.

  71. “Y’all just don’t get it do you ?
    9/11 was an inside job.”

    Sometimes I like to think that Osama is a government agent, as was Lee Harvey Oswald. But that would suggest a level of government competence that I have not seen yet.

    Doesn’t mean it couldn’t be. I haven’t seen Area 51, I haven’t seen a lot of stuff. But I have seen the state dept, the CIA, the FBI, the DEA, and various secret groups. That you all have probably heard about too. I haven’t been overwhelmed by competence on a group level though.

    On a similar note, I’d like to think that the photos leaked of Saddam in his underwear were intentional. I would really really like to think that, because otherwise would suggest such an extreme level of incompetence on such an important issue. I would say chances are 60/40 for the extreme incompetence thing.

  72. Jennifer,
    One more thing about the “they hate us because we support the bad Arab governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia” argument.

    I could be misreading, or misunderstanding something here. But especially in the case of Saudi Arabia; I don’t think that they dislike us because we support the Saudi government. I think that they dislike the Saudi government, because we support it. So that wouldn’t answer the “why do they hate us question”.

    I’m not so sure about Egypt, have to get more from Mo on that one.

  73. Kwais-
    So if you think they do, in fact, hate us for our freedom, then do you think that all we need to do to deal with this situation is pound them with our military, but otherwise behave exactly as we have for the past fifty years our so, complete with a foreign policy filled with phrases like “[Name of dictator] may be a son of a bitch, but at least he’s OUR son of a bitch?” Nothing about us needs to change, since we’re just innocent victims of jealous minds?

  74. Jen,
    I think that there is a lot wrong with our foreign policy, now and in the past. I don’t think we should give billions to Israel or Egypt. I don’t think we should give billions to Africa, I think all the above is counter productive.

    But I don’t think that I can say that 9-11 happened because of what I disagree with in foreign policy.

    Our problems with Iran including many of their terrorist attacks on us, and a possible upcoming fight with them might be a consequence of a policy in Iran from before I was born.

    Perhaps something could have been done different in Afghanistan after the Soviets left, but that one is hard to call. Even looking back it is not easy to say what the right decision would have been.

    The only thing that seems in our recent foreign policy that seems to have encouraged the bad guys to attack is our apparent lack of will, and our defeatability.

    I think that what we are doing to defeat the terrorist overseas is on the right track. I think that Iraq and Afghanistan are on the right track. It is not a sure thing, Afghanistan has crushed giants before. But overall it appears that we are on the right track now.

    I still think we are doing things wrong with our foreign policy elseware. And I think a lot of the patriot/ homeland security stuff is on the wrong track. I don’t think a federal agency can stop terrorists from hijacking a plane, I think citizens who refuse to be hijacked can.

  75. Reply to flex@chex.mix:

    Thanks for your reply.

    Perhaps you are right about Alex Jones promoting (or pandering to) a daily world-view of hopelessness and defeat; helping to effectively undermine any hope of resistance or positive change.
    Although, at least formally and superficially, Jones claims that “WE” are “winning against the NewWorldOrder”.
    (NewWorldOrder now the preferred meme by these segments of American opinion)
    I am never quite sure who Jones means to describe by “WE”,
    Is it his little clique of friends over at the Remnant ?
    Does it include Marxists, libertarians, anarchists, social democrats, atheists, agnostics or non-conforming individuals in general ?
    Or do we all have to sign on with the Rapture folks, outlaw abortion, restore official prayer to a corrupt school system and place the Bible on an equivalence relation with the Constitution and Bill of Rights ?
    His real views are problematic at best.
    I dot get any certainty from Alex Jones that he really knows a means or method to meaningfully “win” against such absolute power. Perhaps these folks really hold an apocalyptic survivalist point-of-view.
    Which I would hardly describe as optimisitc.
    He usually wraps up his report by referencing items in the media that show that “WE” are breaking through and winning the battle against evil and corruption; but I don’t hear much conviction behind those assertions.

    My own views are much more prosaic and banal, and honestly pessimistic, than either Jones or the Christian patriot types at RBN and GCN.

    I follow the deep-politics (or para-politics) paradigm offered up by scholars like Peter Dale-Scott, Maj. John Newman or investigative journalists like Robert Parry, Daniel Hopsicker (madcowmorningnews), Al Martino and Frank Moralez (who specializes in corruption and subversion of law enforcement):
    That what we have is basically a stable structural interface between historic elites and the eternal organized crime syndicates that persist alongside those elites in every phase of history, in most (if not all) societies from Rome to the British Empire to the Soviet bloc – and (since at least Prohibition) in our own sad post-modern American time.

    Its all in those tiny leather-bound phone books
    (or now it would be cell-phone storage) that Howard Hunt and the Watergate burglars REALLY were after; that lower-class street-leve bagmen like Jack Ruby and Barry Seal carried in their hip pockets with the unlisted phone numbers of hoi-polloi bluebloods and aristocratic wealth, like The Murchisons or the Hunts or the Bushes. Or the office phone numbers of spit-and-polish officers like
    Ollie North and General Secord.

    Or the Brook-brother suited guys like the types at Citibank who spent decades laundering and investing the stolen national assets of Mexico or the Congo, for people like the Salinas brothers, Mobutu, Ferdie Marcos, or President Bongo of Gabon treasures stolen from their own nations and peoples to be carefully deposited and distributed among a wide family of private investment banks and select funds.

    After a while, it hardly mattered whether the money was from narcotics or stolen form privatization of PEMEX (Mexics version of crony capitalism in the 90s) – the folks at Citibank knew how to handle the assets of their customers prudently and professionally.
    Just follow the Money, up and down the chain and it becomes blindingly obvious how bankers, lawyers and gangsters run most of what matters in our economy and political life.
    Now they control a lion share of the entertainment media as well.

    If I had not stayed up late to watch those hearings on C-Span, I never could have forced myself to admit just how rotten and corrupt an industry could become – as had become international banking.
    Watching those executives and mid-level managers (re-read Hannah Arendt: Eichman in Jerusalem) testify to a panel of incredulous but speechless Senators, allowed me to experience the banality of evil in a way I hadn’t understood before. .
    Sorry if you didt stay up to watch or listen. You had to be there.

    But maybe you got to watch some of the higher profile cases like Enron and Arthur Anderson to see how a slice of this methodology operates in energy and oversight of investment markets.
    In those infitely banal video hours, we are back to Charles Ponzi again, on an intercontinental scale.
    Enron was involved in schemes that stretched from Houston to Gaza to India and back again to Washington and Wall Street.
    But it was the same-old usual collection of shell-games and pyramid schemes, guarded by corrupt gatekeeper auditors with any semblance of rules or regulation – and notion of the RULE OF LAW – (truth in labeling or informed consent) as a bad joke.
    Here history repeats itself – first time as tragedy, second time as farce.
    (I believe that is from the18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon – the story of similarly corrupt decadent imperial wannabe – whose penchant for launcihg disastrous wars ultimately destabilized him ).

    So one need not dramatize the situation, by dredging up the twisted parties at Bohemian Grove or weird initiation rituals of Skull and Bones, or ritual child abuse at the Presidio or Offit AFB, and nobody knows how many other marketplaces of coerced and bought human flesh for the depraved enjoyment of powerful and degenerate elites. I doubt we exceed Rome in our own phase of decadence.
    But no need to look at that stuff as colorful as it might be.

    We only need to look at the ledgers and files, and do a standard audit to see what has happened. It is as dry and banal as:
    Just follow the $$$$ .

    It then becomes easy to firebomb Reichstags, fly objects into buildings or implode skyscrapers.
    And blame whomever you like: Islamic relgious fanatics (carefully collected and networked over a decade in Afghanistan and the Balkans), crackpot racist militia types (Elohim City was practically a BATF annex), anti-abortion protesters, wacko tree-hugging anti-technology enviros … or just the latest serial killer (deployed from one or another government or university-run profiling program).
    Or blame it on the Christians of Rome, as Nero did given they were already regarded as deviant anyway.

    Protection rackets are one of the oldest games in the history of organized civilization.
    Only a truly submissive and terrorized population would succumb as ours has transparently obvious inside jobs like the JFK hit, the MLK hit , OKC bombing or 9/11.

    It’s at the interface between corporate power (eg. Lockheed or Halliburton or Bioport), national security bureaucrats and their bosses, the Pentagon and the Congress with the Al Capones, Meyer Lanskys, Charles Lucianos, Jackie Pressers, Jack Abramhoffs, Nathan Landaus and Dan Lassiters right on down to the street level patsies like Ruby and Oswald.

    THAT is the continuum (as you call it) that really interests me.
    The rest is just pyro-technics, manipulation of popular culture and media, total control over information and money-laundering to pay for it all.

    Whether Rome or America, it is as the poet in Ecclesiastes says, there is truly nothing new under the sun.

    The data that proves most satisfying comes from the whistle-blowers who break from the pack and let it all hang out.
    With respect to 9/11 it is thru the testimony of people like former State Dept. official Michael Springman (forced by the CIA to give easy visas to Saudi students), Sibel Edmonds (FBI translator now silence by a judges ruling), and Indra Singh (over at P-Tech): that the interface between illegal alien smuggling rings, drug smuggling, gun-runnning, money laundering, government corruption (especially of the intelligence agencies everywhere) and finally what we call in typical broad boogeyman style – terrorism –
    is complex, highly-organized, pervasive – sometims well-planned and excecuted; while at other times it may be implemented poorly.
    But people with such wealth and power and control over the media can afford to screw up now and again. Coverage of these scandals just numbs and desensitizes the media audience even more. That is how psy-ops works in media and popular culture.
    Saturate the public with brief passing glimpses at the tip of the iceberg, strategically placed between the endless drone of Scott Petersen, Michael Jackson and the runaway bride.

    It’s really nothing new in our own history.
    And wre nothing exceptional relative to nation-states, empires and civilizations generally.

    We really have a bunch of gangsters and sociopaths in significant positions of power in most institutions of our society at this time. Their media and politician flunkies are often either bought off (campaign money and gifts for pork), blackmailed (closet sexuality or actual criminal depravity), or manipulated through varioius means.
    If you doubt me on this, please check out the marvelous report at Capitol Hill Blue detailing how many of our Congresspeople and Senators are convicted felons, legally adjudicated as recovering alcoholics or drug addicts, charged with domestic violence or spousal abuse – self-admitted philanderers and plagiarists – but now fully recovered and reborn as true Christians.
    I’ll bet half are being blackmailed, and the other half bought.

    Is just hi-tech corruption with total manipulation of the electronic and print media matrices.
    Just a bunch of thugs with guns and money and a population dumbed-down and drugged enought to be easily conned.
    Or too passive to care.

    It is the Praetorian Guard auctioning off the Empire to Didius Juianus for a shitload of dinari (or cisterces or whatever).

    By the way, I want to thank you for your post it really made me stop and think.
    Any other useful insights you have would be quite welcome.
    Feel free to just shoot them my way.
    ll duck and cover, chase it down after it hits the ground and take some time to study it for my own.

    L.E.

  76. “…not only are we the lone superpower. But our culture is the one that is taking over.”

    I was careful to use the word “were” in regards to “only superpower”, but I think “are” is probably safe at the moment.

    …As India, Pakistan, China, Japan and North Korea become increasingly comfortable with nuclear weapons as a strategic deterrent, I would expect some likely candidate to start feeling comfortable throwing its weight around to ensure access to natural resources, etc. just as we have. …but that’s probably another thread.

    “I could be misreading, or misunderstanding something here. But especially in the case of Saudi Arabia; I don’t think that they dislike us because we support the Saudi government. I think that they dislike the Saudi government, because we support it.”

    I think we’re talking about two different groups in this discussion, terrorist leaders being one and eager recruits being the other.

    …Surely, Osama bin Laden, specifically, hated the United States because of its presence in Saudi Arabia. He saw American support for the kingdom as a primary obstacle to political control of the holy kingdom by jihadists like him. I suspect the Saudi Arabian government, for quite some time, may have seen our presence in Saudi Arabia that way too.

    In regards to Egypt, wasn’t the early kernel of Al Qaeda made up of remnants of Egyptian Islamic Jihad? Mubarak was (and is) brutal.

    …”Western” culture seems more of an eager terrorist recruit argument to me.

  77. The best I can do is call it an illogical sense of entitlement

    in other words, mr patrick, selfishness. that’s what rotting from within — a turn away for the world, the objective and the social, a turn toward the self.

    look at the frame of mr 6’s argument for individualism:

    I see it as the recognition that all rights are inherently individual ones. That is the point of my talk about community/society. Niether of those entities have rights, except insofar as the individuals within them do. The alternative is to place states and institutions above individuals. Historically, that idea has proven to be a poor one.

    there isn’t a single analysis of history that can yield that conclusion, as history is largely the story of societies and civilizations and their community accomplishments. and yet he frames — and many would frame — the story of all that has happened as one of heroes and villians acting in isolation.

    mind you, i’m not talking about the abdication of all individuality — people will and should act in their interests. but if there is to be civility it must happen within tradition and law, fundamentally social constructs. change will occur — but by law.

    the decrepit fact of our age is that we are, as individuals, rejecting law for will. it doesn’t take a genius to see it at work in the halls of power here; it’s only the entirely new widespread extent of the selfishness that’s shocking. but it’s also in the everyday person who will not peacefully accept inconvenient reality, which is an increasingly common thing in the last hundred years.

  78. The reason Americans act like kids at 21 years old, is that despite the fact that they have the bodies of adults they are treated like kids untill they are 21. The do not learn that their actions have consequenses.

    and what is that, mr kwais? what is it to be a child? to be irresponsible! — TO BE COMPLETELY FREE.

    i agree with you. american adults are treated as children well into their old age — where is the boomer generation now, 60? you can be a child until you’re 60, and it goes up every year. 🙂

    the point is that refusal of objective culpability, of social responsibility, is a problem of people seeking to be not just free but completely emancipated — from law, from faith, from family, from responsibility.

    far, far too much freedom to brook civility, i’m afraid. there’s a reason anarchists and randians are assholes that no one likes.

  79. Good point! There was a follow-up on this subject on leaveifyoucan.com yesterday – not sure if it’s still posted.

  80. Regarding the question of soldiers acting immaturely:

    “If you’re old enought to serve in the Army, you’re old enough to vote”

    This line, of course, was used in the sixties to justify lowering the voting age. Maybe, instead, we should have raised to age to serve…

  81. gaius,

    I understand your comments on “self” from an ecumenical standpoint, but from a psychological standpoint your conclusions are completely backwards.

    Most of what you are describing as selfish acts are not selfish at all, but merely an individual’s own self-directed action undertaken to please and solidify his standing within a group.

    You were off the track with your first post: i don’t understand for the life of me how our soldiers are supposed to behave differently when their entire upbringing has been one long bout of narcissism and self-indulgence, thanks to the inwardly-focused antisociety that spawned them.

    if it feels good, do it!

    It makes no sense to assume that people (in this case, soldiers) are joining a group for the chance to further their individuality! To even suggest that their individuality is what drives their “anti-social” behavior while their group abhors that behavior is somewhat delusional.

    Neither of us can with certainty explain what drove the torturous behavior, but we can be fairly certain that the individuals each felt that their group would defend, accept, and support their actions. There’s no reason to think that any of the soldiers torturing others did it knowing it was “anti-social”; if anything they did it because they thought it was “pro-social”.

    There’s hardly any better poster on such a topic as Jennifer. She’s mentioned time and again how her public school experience completely revolved around making sure the students furthered their “self-esteem”, yet the term “self” in that phrase is nothing but a lie – the total purpose is group-esteem. The “do your own thing” mantra isn’t there to boost an individual’s self-esteem so much as it’s there to promote group cohesion – praise as a tool of acceptance.

    I could go on and on, but I think that would only make my point even more confusing. But I think what you are describing as “self-obsessed” behavior has as its motivating force a strong desire for group acceptance within an authortarian structure and has almost nothing to do with individual freedom.

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