Deathtrap

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The L.A. Times has a grim front-pager today about the human and political fallout from U.S. forces (and private contractors) shooting unlucky Iraqi civilians. Excerpt:

Heavily armed private security contractors, who number in the tens of thousands, also are authorized by the U.S. government to use deadly force to protect themselves.

One contractor who works for the U.S. government and saw a colleague killed in a suicide bombing said it was better to shoot an innocent person than to risk being killed.

"I'd rather be tried by 12 than carried by six," said the contractor, who insisted that he not be identified by name because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The U.S. military says it investigates all shootings by American personnel that result in death. But U.S. Brig. Gen. Don Alston, spokesman for the multinational force in Iraq, said he was unaware of any soldier disciplined for shooting a civilian at a checkpoint or in traffic. Findings are seldom made public.

Whole thing here. A journalist friend of mine who was embedded with the Marines for a long time described to me a few weeks ago how soldiers were given orders to use deadly force against any humans digging trenches on the side of the road at night. This went on for weeks, until they kept noticing that the targets of their fire were usually, in fact, farmers.

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  1. But don’t take this to mean Iraqis have any legitimate reasons to hate us Defenders and Bringers of Freedom.

  2. You can’t really blame the guys. I mean, you’re in a country where you don’t speak their language, and the folks that are the bad guys look very similar to guys who might be civilians.

    It’s just a fucked up situation all the way around.

    Why did we go over there again?

  3. You can’t really blame the guys. I mean, you’re in a country where you don’t speak their language, and the folks that are the bad guys look very similar to guys who might be civilians.

    True, but if you’re in a situation where even the presumptive good guys act indistinguishably from the bad guys, then you’re fucked and utterly without hope.

    Somehow I doubt the families of the Iraqi dead are comforting themselves by saying, “Well, at least it was the US that murdered my husband–Saddam would have been much worse.”

  4. The real question is whether any of those dead farmers were Brazilians in heavy jackets.

  5. If the Democrats had just an ounce of sense, they would be able to criticize the Iraq War without clouding their arguments with invective against Bush, Republicans, America, the West, and so on. When Howard Dean goes on one of his rants, his substantive critiques get lost and overshadowed. Think back to the anti-war protests before the war started. While the protestors may have had apoint about not rushing into the war, it got lost by all those idiots and self-haters who carried signs, chanted, and made speeches about how the war was an imperialistic one, driven by evil neo-con super geniuses, that Bush was Hitler, and so on. In other words, the Democrats, as usual, proved that they are not serious about national defense. If they could manage to criticize the Iraq War without resorting to emotionalism and personal attacks, then they might start to get respected. Until then, welcome to permanent minority status, jackasses.

  6. Jennifer – I agree, and that was my point:

    Why did we go over there again?

  7. Lowdog–
    To get rid of the WMDs that could destroy the US. And since Iraq is now free of WMDs that can destroy the US, our Mission has been Accomplished and we should all go home.

  8. Thoreau,
    I saw a disturbing comment on the UK Guardian web site in response to an article about that shooting – something to the effect of

    “I agree with the police 100% in thier actions. In this day and age, what is someone doing wearing a heavy jacket on a warm day? Things will get even tougher during the winter, when more people are wearing these suspicious jackets.”

  9. Randolph-
    That’s even more terrifying that the folks who compare Abu Ghraib to a frat house. I’ll bet it won’t take too long before the number of Englishmen killed by terrorists is far surpassed by the number of Englishmen killed by anti-terrorism squads.

  10. ?I want to meet interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture, and kill them.”

  11. oh, as I continue to read the comments, the hits keep coming:

    A situation like this demands firm and decisive action. It sends a message to all who are on the fringe to keep clear and for those real terrorists that there is no mercy. Inevitably, there will be mistakes but in a war this is the result of a fanatic minority trying to impose their will on all others.
    Peter Nurse, (English), France

    It is a disgrace that people are criticising the police. They are dealing with a national emergency and preventing the loss of further lives. If anyone carrying a bag on the Tube is running from the police and ignores their orders to stop then they ought to be shot. The lives of hundreds of innocent civilians must be paramount.
    Simon, Cardiff, Wales

    While this is nothing short of a tragic, I really feel for the police concerned as well. They had to make a decision in seconds, they had no way of knowing whether he was carrying a bomb or not and he could have detonated it without warning.
    Aaron, Cardiff, UK

    It’s sad when an innocent man dies but even sadder when 52 innocent people die. I think the police acted in the right manner and in tough situations the right outcome is uncertain. Jean Charles de Menezes was Brazilian but when you live in a foreign country you need to understand the way things are done. If you are challenged by an armed man in the UK the odds are it is the police. In the circumstances, the police have to shoot to stop. We are defending a way of life.
    Richard, Las Vegas

    Instead of criticising those whose job it is to protect the public, we should be looking at ourselves and ask why we are not willing to do all we can to make their job easier. Unless we, the public, give them our full support, why should they bother? Innocent people will die, but I would rather a wrong decision was taken for the right reasons instead of the terrorists getting away with committing more atrocities.
    Phil, Henley-on-Thames, UK

    I was in London on the occasions of both bombings and I feel much more comfortable knowing there is a shoot-to-kill policy. I feel sorry for the relatives of de Menezes, but to be honest, if he had a totally clear conscience, why was he running from armed police? If I were challenged by a policeman with a gun, I would drop to the floor and freeze!
    Chris Johnson, Gibraltar

    And my personal favorite:

    I think that shoot-to-kill is absolutely justified when dealing with suicide bombers. Commuters who obey police commands will not be at risk.
    Beth, London

    Where do the people that think like this actually exist? Do they all have live in soft padded rooms with a catheter and feeding tube? Good god, I never realized just how slavshly dependent the UK is on its police force.

  12. So where the heck are the “USA can do no wrong” posters, anyway? I want to hear their explanation of why this really is no big deal, and any Iraqi who hates the US occupation really hates freedom and un-burka’d women.

  13. Seems to me that the “carried by six” argument loses its moral force when you sign on to server as a highly paid “security contractor” during the invasion and occupation of someone else’s country.

  14. Actually, Joe, it goes beyond that. “Judged by twelve not carried by six” sounds good when you’re talking about somebody who defied restrictive gun laws to shoot a burglar who was threatening his family; when used to explain why you killed an innocent person it’s just bullshit, regardless of whose country you’re in.

  15. From the Times article: “One contractor who works for the U.S. government and saw a colleague killed in a suicide bombing said it was better to shoot an innocent person than to risk being killed.”

    Unfortunately, this is the mentality I hear all too often in this country, especially from Rightwing Radio Chairborne Rangers and Chickenshit Chickenhawks who were never in Iraq. It’s sickening.

    When I came back my relatives, co-workers, and friends were so shocked that I actually felt sorry for and compassionate toward the innocent Iraqi people. Guess it’s a lot easier when you haven’t emptied your skull of brains, so that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News can shit in it.

    Hell, I saw many colleagues killed and injured (most of whom were young enough to be my sons or daughters). Guess what? This dumb ass contractor, like me as a serviceman, chose, rightly or wrongly, to be over there. So now the entire population of innocent, non-combatitive Iraqis have to die because of one paper tiger’s inability to deal with the reality that he placed himself in?

    If we, as the so-called Great Beacon of Freedom and Democracy, aren’t interested in making a distinction (and I readily grant, it’s a mighty difficult task when you haven’t bothered to learn the languages or cultures of the people you’ve invaded) between innocents and combatants in a country that we invaded, how are we any different than the terrorists we seek to defeat?

    I keep a picture that we took of some poor Iraqi kids scrounging for potable water on my Windows PC desktop at work, just to make sure I remember who the real victims are, and never become an inhumane piece of shit-on-a-shoe like the above cited stupid ass overpaid contractor, and all those morons cited in Carter’s post …

  16. it was better to shoot an innocent person than to risk being killed

    Because MY life counts for so much more than yours, even though I CHOSE to put myself in the danger zone whereas you had it thrust upon you.

  17. I was wondering how the police knew Menezes wasn’t holding a dead-man’s switch…in which case executing him on the subway would have actually lead to an explosion. Have the British happened to disclose the shooter’s ID yet?

  18. Not when it’s you who’s to be guest of honor at the funeral.

    Our moral force comes from the barrel of a gun, just as all power does.

    Yeehaw!

  19. Whoops. BAI beat me to the punch and did a much better job.

  20. Shannon Love’s truly patriotic press wouldn’t tell us such things. 🙂

    If you are challenged by an armed man in the UK the odds are it is the police.

    That’s not true at all. The odds they are criminals.

  21. “That’s not true at all. The odds they are criminals.”

    I don’t see how this statement contradicts the previous one? Especially given the Menezes shooting?

  22. well it’s not really a moral argument.

    anyway it’s true that workers there need to be able to protect themselves. iraq’s obviously a dangerous place, and the army’s not going to be able to keep everyone safe. but if these people would really rather be “tried by twelve than carried by six”, and they shoot someone, then well, let them be tried by twelve.

  23. I hear an echo.
    Is it the choir being preached to, or is it preaching to itself? Either way, I have a feeling that the sarcasm and attempts at wit will not alter high-level policy decisions in the least.
    The “blogosphere” is a billion people yacking and nobody actually doing anything.

  24. The article also points out that we’re killing the very Iraqis–like doctors and professors–whom we’d NEED to rebuild the country anyway. By the time we do pull out, there won’t be anybody left.

    I shudder to think of what will happen on that inevitable day when America loses her position at the top of the world totem pole, and all the vile chickens we’ve set loose on the world come home to roost. A LOT of people are going to have a LOT of reasons to kick us the second we go down.

  25. Naysayer–
    So what do you think we ought to do? I voted against the cretin in the White House, but that didn’t help.

  26. naysayer, welcome.

  27. By the way, my question to Naysayer was sincere. I’m not a killer except in immediate self-defense, and I’m not willing to go to jail unless it will directly change things (pointless sacrifice has always struck me as. . . well. . . pointless), so with murder and martyrdom out of the question, what can my non-wealthy non-celebrity self do to change what’s going on over there?

  28. jennifer, you obviously owe it to the world to become famous.

  29. blah blah blah blah blah
    tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree
    go Bush
    .

  30. naysayer, god bless ya. it’s been in the back of my mind, but now that you’ve put it into words, i feel vindicated from thinking before i post.

    ramshackledammalamadingdong.
    USA USA USA.
    and AC/DC baby. All the way.

  31. “The ‘blogosphere’ is a billion people yacking and nobody actually doing anything.”

    Which, I guess make you Nobody No. 1,000,000,001.

    Actually, I helped build schools and utilities for people in Iraq. And yourself?

    Don’t assume that you know the life story of everyone who posts on a board, just because you’ve read two or three sentences out of that person’s whole lifetime of thought and experience.

    (Deborah Harry voice)
    “Blog-ging … is … free … “

  32. I’ll work on becoming famous as soon as I get home, Zach. But assuming I fail, then the question remains–if you’re not a famous person who has the Ear of America, and you’re not wealthy enough to pour money into a campaign, then what the HELL are you supposed to do to change things? Vote? Fat lot of good THAT did.

  33. It takes a certain amount of joe-like stamina to show up and talk against the echoes of all y’all who have already convicted the unnamed contractor of murder.

    Security contractors are even more self-selected for bloodlust and righteousness than ordinary police. They’re tough to defend. Yet, I suspect that out of tens of thousands, the Times picked quotes to make them look categorically as horrible as possible. Most people are still human, and despite how they front off to the press, will carry forever the kind of doubt and guilt I think of when I imagine BAI’s desktop picture bloody and dead.

    Y’all also plunge right into the mistakes Swede identifies when you focus on your own narrow singular definition of why Iraq was an ill-founded expedition. You’re apparently looking for people to argue with so you can keep telling yourselves how right you’ve been the whole time.

    Expand you minds and look for a larger understanding of all the people and players involved. We can spend hundreds of posts speculating about the “mind of a terrorist”, but nobody puts any real thought into knowing more about the mind of a soldier or the mind of a contractor. There are as many stories as there are people, but y’all are so pissed off that you’ll never hear them.

  34. I wonder whether there’s a significant difference in mistaken shootings of civilians by those who have been carefully trained and practiced in the use of firearms versus those who are not accustomed to using them. My first thought upon hearing about the Menezes shooting was to ask whether the officer who shot him was one of the only 7 percent of British police officers who are authorized to carry guns on a regular basis (and was therefore presumably more experienced in making decisions about when it is appropriate to use deadly force), or whether he was an officer who had been recently issued a firearm after the transit bombings and therefore may have been more apt to panic and misuse the weapon.

    Maybe this is an unwarranted assumption, but my guess is that U.S. Marines who have to undergo rigorous firearms training are probably better at deciding when their use is appropriate, and that many of the contractors who are routinely issued weapons without spending 3 months at Parris Island may be more skittish and therefore trigger-happy.

  35. So Dynamist, in all sincerity, what would YOU say to the family members of the Iraqis shot by Americans? Soomehow I doubt “we’re trying to give y’all freedom” is going to make them feel better. Nor will “it was an innocent mistake,” and DAMNED sure not “better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.”

  36. this is more or less what i’m saying dynamist. the answer obviously isn’t to disable americans in iraq from defending themselves, nor is it to give them free reign to shoot whoever they feel like. the best solution is simply, again, to hold them to their word and try them in court. not perfect, but best.

  37. Born Again Iconoclast- which battalion?

  38. Expand you minds and look for a larger understanding of all the people and players involved. We can spend hundreds of posts speculating about the “mind of a terrorist”, but nobody puts any real thought into knowing more about the mind of a soldier or the mind of a contractor. There are as many stories as there are people, but y’all are so pissed off that you’ll never hear them.

    Hey, I know. Let’s have some open, public trials of the soldiers who shot the Iraqi police guy and his pictures. We can begin to understand them on direct exam, get a fuller picture on cross, spice that up with a bit of re-direct and thentake her home with a bit of re-cross. Bake for a couple days and add verdict.

    If we allow all these new trials on US / UK tv then we can all get the voters into the mind of the soldier, for better or . . . well, actually *its all good* info for the voter! Sounds like a plan, D.

  39. “and his pictures” should be: –and his hitchhikers–

  40. Right on, Zach.

    The Rules of Engagement work, as given out to troops in theatre, if you use them. Ditto for the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)

    All the more reason why the idiots at Abu Grahib and the “carried by six” creeps have no excuse, in a desperate place like Iraq. The overwhelming number of troops who use the ROE come home safe and sound (including yours truly)

    As for contractors, they aren’t all like the creep I cited. I recall one civilian working for the Army that stayed in our berthing space that was very squared away, cool-headed and professional. And all contractors aren’t the former SEAL/Ranger security types. A lot of them are just average Americans, that look just like Walmart workers … except their better paid (ha ha). The ones you usually don’t see in News interviews because they’re working in messes or doing sanitation, etc.

    And admittedly, some of the troops don’t like them because of the pay differential, but being a libertarian, my response to envious troops would be “tough shit, you chose your career, they chose theirs. Get over it.”

    As a side note, Dynamist, the kids on my Windows desktop are smiling, not “bloody and dead”. I don’t think the corporation I work for would appreciate it if I used one of those “ogrish.com” type photos and grabbed co-workers saying “Hey, Bob, will ya get a load of that severed leg lying on the street!”

  41. Jennifer: I don’t know, but I will think about it. The trouble is, it is not my war. I argue as I do not because I think the invasion was the best idea, but because it is the idea we’re stuck with until somebody comes up with a better one.

    The echo-chamber bitching doesn’t seem to respect what little I know of people like kwais and BAI. People sign on to do a tough job, take pride in their commitment and accomplishments, and still a remain human enough to feel sadness over the pointless aspects of war. Perhaps the question of what to tell the families of dead innocents is better posed to those two, and the others who have been face-to-face with the grieving?

    (the “judged by twelve” idiom probably doesn’t translate into the language of people who have had no trial by jury system; I couldn’t tell them that even if I wanted to)

  42. I dont understand why vigilantes…err…sercurity contractors or any private contractors get any better protection than ordinary Iraqis. Can someone explain the logic to me here. Contractors are not accountable to anyone in Iraq for any criminal actions, they are given the right to use pre-emptive deadly force, and they make gobs and gobs of money to boot. Why do they have such an elite status? Maybe if they were treated the same way all Iraqi civilians are treated, there would be less American contractors, and maybe more Iraqi civlians given the chance to rebuild their own damn country (at a lower hourly rate as well)

    (On a side not, if I was a soldier Id resent private contractors quite a bit, and wouldn’t lift a finger to help/assist/protect them if they were in need.)

  43. Maybe this is an unwarranted assumption, but my guess is that U.S. Marines who have to undergo rigorous firearms training are probably better at deciding when their use is appropriate, and that many of the contractors who are routinely issued weapons without spending 3 months at Parris Island may be more skittish and therefore trigger-happy.

    Having seen both sides of military firearms training, as student and instructor, I can tell you that there wasn’t any emphasis on anything but hitting a person-sized silhouette and cleaning the firearm afterward. And the basic training course included only a week or so of that.

    There are some recent indications of a change of attitude.

  44. BAI: Yes, I understood that your picture was of a happy kid. I was riffing to make my point. I bet there are places where the ogrish pics would be preferred to the happy ones…antiwar.com HQ perhaps…?

    Dave: I’m in favor of the trials that zach advocates. The trouble will be that there is no balancing “trial” (award ceremony, perhaps) for the multitudes who quietly do a tough job bringing BAI his food and tools in a combat zone. If we look only at the courtrooms, every society is hideous.

  45. Dave: I’m in favor of the trials that zach advocates. The trouble will be that there is no balancing “trial” (award ceremony, perhaps) for the multitudes who quietly do a tough job bringing BAI his food and tools in a combat zone. If we look only at the courtrooms, every society is hideous.

    Okay, so we don’t let soldiers plead out in close, or equivocal, cases. That way some sympathetic defendants will go thru the public process of a trial, too, along with the real egregious offenders. That way, the public will get a better education with respect to this important subject matter.

    The acquittals will teach us as much as the convictions, maybe more.

  46. the purpose of a trial isn’t really to educate the public about anything. if you try to make it that you’re naturally going to pervert the legal system. there are other ways of educating the public.

  47. Veering slightly off topic, I noticed that a Manhattan double-decker bus was terrorized by policed because the dumbass bus driver saw five guys that “raised her suspicions.” Their offense was wearing backpacks and having full pockets.

    Police handcuffed the five men, and searched about 60 passengers before determining there was no threat. The five men were then freed.

    Welcome to Uncle Joe’s Amerika, where merely looking guilty gets your ass stomped.

  48. So these people that will be judged by 12, there will be the chance that they are sentenced to the death penalty right? If I was walking around South Central and shot someone with my 9 because I felt unsafe after I put myself in an unsafe place, I might get the chair. It’s not just going to be a slap on the wrist 10 year prison term, right?

  49. KMW-
    I did a news search on your story, and discovered that bus and ferry passengers will routinely have their bags searched, as well as New Jersey train commuters. So much for freedom.

  50. Mo, at this point, apparently, they’re not even being “judged by 12” at all. one step at a time.

  51. To get rid of the WMDs that could destroy the US

    ironic, isn’t it, that was really can effetively destroy the united states is repeatedly venturing into these militarist adventures.

  52. Gaius–
    America has already been destroyed. Yes, we still own the piece of land between Canada, Mexico and the two biggest oceans, but what made it “AMERICA” is gone. The freedom to be left alone so long as you’re not hurting anybody? Gone. The knowledge that your country, while imperfect, is nonetheless further along the road to goodness than any other country? Gone. A beacon to freedom? Don’t make me fucking laugh.

  53. People sign on to do a tough job, take pride in their commitment and accomplishments, and still a remain human enough to feel sadness over the pointless aspects of war.

    that’s certainly the optimist’s view, mr dynamist. but i think a realist has to admit that we’ve sent tens of thousands of heavily armed young men and tens of thousands more lawless mercenaries into carbomb-paranoia central. many of them were miscreants before they ever got near iraq. many of them are just as surely shooting anything that moves, with horrible and irreversible repercussions.

  54. Ten years, Mo? You’re livin’ in fantasyland, boy. Today the New York Times reported that an American MP who killed the Iraqi MP he patrolled with was sentenced for 45 months. He explained that he shot the Iraqi because the Iraqi threatened him. And then he shot himself so that people would believe that the Iraqi threatened him. And he also lied to the military, but those charges were dropped.

  55. If we, as the so-called Great Beacon of Freedom and Democracy, aren’t interested in making a distinction (and I readily grant, it’s a mighty difficult task when you haven’t bothered to learn the languages or cultures of the people you’ve invaded) between innocents and combatants in a country that we invaded, how are we any different than the terrorists we seek to defeat?

    excellent question, mr bai. good luck to you in your work. i wish you weren’t being asked to do it.

  56. I agree with my justly famous (at least here and in the classics so not really famous at all) fellow citizen. The contractors are simply mercenaries.

    Because we are unwilling to actually mobilize, we are trying to borrow enough money to pay enough mercenaries so that “mission accomplished” will actually mean something. It’ll never work.

    I thought we didn’t like Hessians …

  57. i tend to agree, ms jennifer. we live in an time of democracy, which is most often in the history of civilizations only the prologue of the age of dictatorship. the parliamentary principles of compromise and moderation articulated in the constitution have no place in a devolving plebiscitarian nightmare, where lawless mobs demand their nationalist icons be elevated beyond questioning or doubt.

  58. You could make the same complaint about fascism, gaius. Your laying the blame on democracy overlooks the fact that we didn’t VOTE too go over there, we didn;t VOTE to have above-the-law mercenaries do a lot of the dirty work, and we’re not being asked to VOTE on when this crap will end.

  59. And yet, Jennifer, for all USA’s lost glory, we still have more immigrants than we know what to do with. I do not object to gaius labeling me an optimist, be I ask he acknowledge that at least sometimes reality works out positively/happily.

    In answer to what makes USA different from terrorists, look to Just War Theory. I don’t support it, but it is a good argument, that at least we’re blowing people up with the permission of our whole society, through a process of representative consent. But maybe Aquinas is too modern for consideration… 🙂

  60. that at least we’re blowing people up with the permission of our whole society

    I must have been super-stoned the day we voted on whether or not to go into Iraq, because I don’t remember that AT ALL.

    Considering how many innocents we’re killing, and how desperately we’re covering up the Abu Ghraib atrocities, I’d say the difference between us and the terrorists is that WE wear UNIFORMS when we kill innocent people. And we don’t fly airplanes into buildings–we have missiles to do that for us.

  61. I don’t think there was never a time that all people could do as they pleased in the US, except for very limited times and places. How many lynchings took place during the 19th century because peopel were differenat than their neighbors? What about prohibition? What about folks who were ridden out of town on a rail because they offended the society’s mores? How were the Mormon’s treated, and all they wanted was to follow a religion?

    I do agree with Mr. Marius who states our expanded democracy is the first step towards dictatorship. Why exactly was the 17th amendment pushed through the congress? |

  62. Ira-
    I agree we’ve always had vile things in our history, but at least we were making progress, and increasing the number of people given full rights. Now we’re just going backwards.

  63. If we were the same as the terrorists we really could finsh the whole “arab problem” in about 5 hours. Indescriminant slaughter to get your political point across as opposed to targeted slaughter is the difference between the arab fundies and the US.

  64. Indescriminant slaughter to get your political point across as opposed to targeted slaughter is the difference between the arab fundies and the US.

    So the wholesale murder of innocent Iraqis that is the point of this thread–would that be “indiscriminate” or “targeted” slaughter?

  65. What did we tell the families of the hundreds of thousands of innocent people we killed in Germany and Japan? Not much. And that’s what we should say to the Iraqis. They have the power to help stop the violence, and many of them are. Eventually, it will cease. That’s just the way things go in this madcap world of ours.

  66. So the wholesale murder of innocent Iraqis that is the point of this thread–would that be “indiscriminate” or “targeted” slaughter?

    i would say, badly targeted slaughter.

  67. Jennifer, I’m confused. I thought it was the jihadis engaged in wholesale slaughter of Iraqi civilians. You know, the car bombs, that kind of thing.

    What we have against out guys is a few reports of mistaken self-defense shootings, a conviction or two for same, and a whole bucket of uncorroborated assumptions.

    Between the two, I don’t think there is any doubt which side is engaged in wholesale, indiscriminate slaughter. And to accuse the US military of such, not to mention the various contractors, is so ungrounded in any confirmable reality as to be slanderous.

    But we must be the bad guys, right? We just have to be, what with Chimpler McBushiburton in charge and all.

  68. Rac-
    The difference is, we were officially at war with Germany and Japan, whereas the reason we’re in Iraq (after the WMD reason fell through) is to liberate them.

    Also, Japan attacked us first, and Germany declared war on us first. Invading Japan and Germany was done in self-defense. Invading Iraq was done for. . . .Christ, I don’t even know why.

  69. It’s not just a FEW reports, RC, this is our POLICY. How many more Iraqi souls do we have to liberate from out of their bodies before we at least stop lying to ourselves that we’re there for the Iraqis’ own good?

    And no, having Bush and Cheney at the helm doesn’t automatically make us bad guys, but filling the country with mercenary, murdering contractors who are above the law sure as hell does.

  70. Your laying the blame on democracy overlooks the fact that we didn’t VOTE too go over there, we didn;t VOTE to have above-the-law mercenaries do a lot of the dirty work, and we’re not being asked to VOTE on when this crap will end.

    if we had had to vote on going over there, ms jennifer, we would have. moreover, we’d have nuked the chinese in 1951 and nuked the viet cong in 1968 and nuked iraq in 1991. don’t pretend against evidence that the mob is a force for wisdom, insight and moderation. we both know better.

  71. Jennifer: I would prefer a disbanding of legislatures in favor of direct democracy (details to be argued separately). Since we have legislatures, the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed almost unanimously. I know I was stoned that day, in part to put the stupidity out of my mind. Nevertheless, we did vote to kill children, through delegating that decision to our Senators.

  72. Jennifer, I must admit that I’m not quite as pessimistic about the entire US as you are. Mostly because I live in a state that leaves me alone for the most part. NY and other nanny states are just continuing their fine tradition of treating their citizens as subjects. These same nanny states are the ones that have been passing draconian laws for years.

    I don’t take mass transit and I stay out of big cities. And I take personal responsibility for my own safety and protection. I don’t hear of any unreasonable searches happening in shall-issue CCW states. Coincidence? I think not. (Not because the cops fear the people, but because the gov’t has established a level of trust with the people.)

  73. What is “shall issue CCW?”

  74. Jennifer,

    Shall Issue Permits to Carry Concealed Weapons.

    As opposed to allowing the police discretion as to who gets a concealed carry permit.

  75. It’s a license to carry a concealed weapon. Thirty-eight states, if I remember correctly, are required to grant you one if you pass the required criteria. The others either don’t at all, or you have to bribe the officials. New York, Connecticut, Maryland and California are among the 12. And yet, they’re the biggest pro-search states.

  76. “Police discretion” is code for a few Bens under the table.

    The vetting process is plenty rigorous in shall issue states; you just have to pass the checks.

  77. And Joe, it’s a license, not a permit.

  78. Ah. The reason they don’t want us to have guns in Connecticut is because they’re afraid we’d shoot the bastards who ED our homes for the public good because we’re not paying as much property tax as the city would like to have.

    I’m sure that soon we, too, will have to have our bags searched if we want to ride the train into New York. Next time I go to the city I think I’ll fill my purse with embarrassing feminine hygiene items, purely for the cops’ benefit.

  79. I wonder how much longer we’ll be in Iraq, anyway? And how many more innocents we’ll kill in the name of bringing them freedom?

    And I wonder what will happen when contractors who have enjoyed carte blanche to kill anybody they claim looks threatening return to the streets of the US.

  80. And I wonder what will happen when contractors who have enjoyed carte blanche to kill anybody they claim looks threatening return to the streets of the US.

    probably they’ll act just like anyone else. they don’t have carte blanche here and they know it, because we enforce our laws. that’s why we need to be doing that in iraq as well.

  81. I recommend “used” feminine items. Invite the fuzz to dig right in. And tell them you’re carrying it to discourage the “ragheads” from getting near you.

  82. If it’s “understandable” (or whatever) that Americans in Iraq would rather shoot innocent people rather than run the risk of getting killed themselves, is it also understandable that Iraqis would rather shoot every American they see rather than run the risk of their getting shot? Or does the understanding only run in one direction?

    I think this has something to do with the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

  83. Aren’t we in Iraq for national self interest? I’m not sure how that is being acheived, but anyone who buys the stuff politicains say at face value really doesn’t undertsand US history.

    Same thing with the idea that the US says it will never attack first or use nukes first in a conflict. One of the points of the cold war was that the hordes of crazy commies on the borders of western europe could never be stopped by troops, only by nukes that the US stated it would use first.

    Don’t they teach that stuff in schools these days? As Sandy Cheeks sez, ya mess with the bull ya get the horns!

  84. Care to name your anonymous journalist friend, Matt, or are we just to believe this person because, they were allegedly there and heard some third-person accounts of how some Marines may or may not have shot up some farmers?

    I’ll read Micheal Yon, who is there, and puts his name on his own stories, to show the incredibly difficult job American soldiers are doing over there, and the care they take not to kill or shoot civilians, over your anonymous journalist friend, thanks all the same.

    http://michaelyon.blogspot.com/

  85. This is a crazy idea that probably would not work, but what about a referendum on continuing American presence? Find out whether Iraqis still want us there. If they choose to take their chances with insurgents, maybe its not our duty to stop them. The situation appears problematic and although I don’t know the extent to which the popularity of the US has declined, this might be a good way to find out. Stop going where we’re not wanted, eh?

  86. Hee hee hee. That actually IS my plan, Dynamist, but I chose not to say so here because of the “yuck” factor. I never thought about using the excuse of anti-Muslim bait, though; I was going to talk about how you can’t flush ’em and so I need to find a garbage can. But I like your idea much better.

    To make it really convincing, I need to get a flag T-shirt that says “Try burning THIS flag, asshole!”

  87. Jennifer,
    We all hang on your every word, initials and tampon string, but had you realized that ED, in addition to eminent domain, could mean erectile dysfunction?
    We want your thoughts to keep coming over loud and clear.
    We’re all in this together. We’re pullin’ for ya.
    (all denizens of Possum Lodge join me in passin’ that along)

  88. “Aren’t we in Iraq for national self interest?”

    Crochity Duffer,
    “We’re” in Iraq for Dubya’s interest.
    Rove probably said something to the effect: Kick Saddam’s ass to secure your base. Do a little “nation-building” to lure some soccer moms.
    Dubya is too stupid to know how lucky he his Rove is on his way out.

  89. Wow. What a scrum! It’s like watching someone throw chum to the piranhas.

    Let’s just ignore the fact that in Iraq, just like anywhere else, there are people you would prefer didn’t exist. Crooked cops, shoot first as later types, you name it. It’s probably a bit worse in Iraq because Iraq is so cruddy these days (and was long before we got there).

    But that reality doesn’t invalidate all of the positive things being done by the military and everyone else for that matter, in Iraq.

    Frankly, I think that this is a perfect example of the media picking the dumbest guy, the most obvious strawman, and inviting you all to take a swing at the strawman pinata.

    Reality is that most people serve honorably. Incidents of people who don’t make a big splash as they are (usually!) justly prosecuted and convicted.

    But there’s not much to bash when you look at this rationally. Of course, it’s not as easy to devour a real argument as it is to rip into the easily chewed chum of a juicy strawman pinata…

    No matter what, there are people who will assume the worst and be disappointed when they are proven wrong. Maybe I’m an optimistic fool, but my experience has taught me that most of the pessimists here are plain wrong about the US, about Iraq and about every other foreign policy issue.

    I’m in agreement with the most Liberal/libertarian folks here on domestic issues, for the most part, but when it comes to foreign policy, it looks like some folks are conditioned to expect the worst and rabidly attack it whether it’s an isolated incident or not.

    The whole “the US is doomed/has turned into an imperialist nightmare abroad and a tyranny at home” crowd have crossed the line that demarcates sensible concerns and tromped heavily on into the realm of absolute fantasy. Feh. It’s just sad.

  90. Ruthless-

    Even the screwed-up legislators in Connecticut couldn’t erectile dysfunction a house; I almosy wouldn’t MIND giving up parts of the Constitution to view THAT spectacle.

    Or at least figure out how it’s done.

    And if everybody filled their bags with gross but legal stuff, I’d bet this bag-checking garbage would end before long.

    Maybe I should’ve saved those moldy bread slices I threw away. . . .

  91. rob,
    Hope you’ll come to one of the stops on Jane Fonda’s bus tour.
    Hope to see ya!
    I never thanked her properly for Barbarella.

  92. Jennifer,
    Point (hee hee) taken.
    Erectile function could demolish a house, but dysfunction couldn’t. Granted.
    Mona
    Mona
    Mona
    Mona

  93. Hey, Ruthless, did the seminar with Waki Paki happen yet? Is there a transcript or maybe he’s got a website that you could point me to?

    Thanks!

    ps– Eminent Dysfunction is a frequent result of living in the Erectile Domain.

  94. I think that this is a perfect example of the media picking the dumbest guy, the most obvious strawman, and inviting you all to take a swing at the strawman pinata.

    ah, it’s the american media’s fault. i knew it. 🙂

    mr rob, our big problem is that, however often its happened — and you need to come to grips with the reality that its probably happening a lot more often than we hear about — it’s often enough to have turned us, in the mind of many an average iraqi, into The Enemy.

    just as in vietnam, where we didn’t recklessly murder every innocent but did murder enough to ensure that the insurgency against our presence would never end, we are responsible for enough of this kind of lawlessness and brutality to guarantee an unending supply of resistance. you can claim that there are some noble goals somewhere that justify all these horrifying means, but its very hard indeed for me to see a single altruistic end in this evil, evil mess.

  95. War sucks.

    Mistakes WILL be made. People will die.

    Who is to blame? Ex-Baathists (real live Stalinists), Saudis, Syrians, Palestinians (Zaquari), etc. to whom a democratic (can we hope republican?) Iraq is a threat.

    Are the people of South Vietnam better off since we gave up on them?

    BTW it is not wise to run from Brit police ON to public transport after 7/7. Darwin Award. Did i mention war sucks? It is tears all around. You never know if it is worth it until decades later. I mean, what did we really get in return for liberating France? A vote against liberating Iraq. And what did the French get for supporting Saddam? Discount oil.

  96. gm,

    You ought to read your history again. SVN was not defeated by an insurgency. Tet broke the back of the insurgency (as Giap admits). By 1972 the insurgency was for the most part over. It never got a strong hold in the South. Those folks knew what the stakes were (a hundred thousand murdered post war [nice fellers those Communists], another hundred thousand lost at sea).

    What defeated the South was DIVISIONS from the north. When the South asked for assistance our wise Democrat Congress of the time wisely refused.

    And so Osama learned his lesson. One need not win on the battle field. One need only win American public opinion.

    I think it is very wise for the Libs to side with the American left. It will keep both of them out of power for another 50 years.

    ===========

    Kerry lost the election on national security grounds. Had there been no war on I would have voted for that pompous fool Kerry just to get divided government. The safest kind.

  97. do you really imagine, mr simon, that the south vietnamese loved and admired us at the end?

    i would advise you to try to take the full complexity of south vietnam into account. the viet cong continued to be active as varying levels of intensity throughout the war, and played a part in the reunification of 1975-6. you can say with technical correctness that it was northern legions that applied the deathblow to american action — but the viet cong did previously everything to put the united states in a position to lose. it was responsible for congressional reticence; it was responsible for american military demoralization; it was responsible for fuelling the american domestic antiwar movement. it won the war for the north.

    and that is where osama might have started to draw lessons is less from history than experience — although a great deal of history is on his side, i suspect he learned far more about western weaknesses from afghanistan, taking the soviets as a model western army.

  98. “mr rob, our big problem is that, however often its happened — and you need to come to grips with the reality that its probably happening a lot more often than we hear about — it’s often enough to have turned us, in the mind of many an average iraqi, into The Enemy.” – gaius marius

    Really? You really believe this happens all the time but goes mostly unreported? I think you need to “come to grips with the reality “that what gets reported is based on newsworthiness as defined thus: timeliness, impact, prominence, proximity, conflict, the unusual, and currency. Says so right in the Journalism 101 textbook. The reason good news isn’t reported is its not unusual, there’s no impact and no conflict. So I would guess that the reason we see these “bad news” stories is because they DO fulfill those criteria. Or to put it simply, soldiers and contractors acting wrongly is news. Soldiers and contractors acting nobly often goes unnoticed.

    “you can say with technical correctness that it was northern legions that applied the deathblow to american action” – gaius marius

    Stick to expounding on ancient history, mr. marius. Your grasp of more recent history, the role of the media in it, and the practice of modern journalism is clearly deficient.

    The guerilla war in Vietnam was a spectacular failure by any objective standard. The fact that they were able to drain the will to fight of the US is a spectacular tribute to the power of the US media to start and stop wars through its coverage.

    As for “do you really imagine, mr simon, that the south vietnamese loved and admired us at the end?”

    Yes. I think many of them did, and a fair number came here – like my neighbors. But those we abandoned? Those we gave up on and stopped defending? Yeah, I think they’ve got righteous reason for being pissed off at guys like you who successfully argued that we should abandon them to the NVA.

    I also think that the average Iraqi would have every right to be pissed if you successfully argue to have us stop defending them in the current conflict.

  99. You really believe this happens all the time but goes mostly unreported?

    that is infinitely more realistic that believing that these incidents either are manifuctured or are amplified in some antiamerican media conspiracy which has the capacity to report on every incident that occurs on the ground in iraq.

    to the contrary, the media at home has intense reasons not to report these incidents even in the cases where they can. this white house has made no bones about the fact that they will deny access to press which they find to be “malicious”. i submit that is the reason much of the press pool has been somewhat docile in picking up things like the downing street memos, the plame affair — and still have essentially not reported at all on the aipac spy scandal.

    The reason good news isn’t reported is its not unusual, there’s no impact and no conflict.

    i agree — but that doesn’t mean that these incidents are not severely underreported.

    The guerilla war in Vietnam was a spectacular failure by any objective standard.

    ah, i see. you aren’t part of the reality-based community. this explains much.

  100. “that is infinitely more realistic that believing that these incidents either are manifuctured or are amplified in some antiamerican media conspiracy which has the capacity to report on every incident that occurs on the ground in iraq.” – gaius marius

    I’m the first guy to scoff at conspiracy theory. But I’m very familiar with how journalism and the media actually functions. Plenty of inconsequential things get overplayed (Michael Jackson, Lacie Peterson, fill-in-the-blank-here anyone?).

    You don’t have to posit an anti-American media conspiracy to realize that good news is rarely reported news. It just doesn’t fit the mold of the news as defined in Journalism 101 and the rest of the curriculum.

    Noting that makes me the reality-based person here, who understands how the institution actually works. That makes you the uninformed, non-expert here.

    “i agree — but that doesn’t mean that these incidents are not severely underreported.”

    It doesn’t show that they’re under-reported either. And I’ve given you a very reasonable explanation of why they are more likely over-reported.

    “ah, i see. you aren’t part of the reality-based community. this explains much.”

    Ah. I see. You’re of the contrarian school that believes defeat is actually victory and victory defeat. Name one military victory achieved by the Viet Cong against the United States. In fact, name a military victory against the United States during the Vietnam War by the North Vietnamese Army.

    Next you’ll be claiming that you beat up Mike Tyson because he left town before you had the chance to punch him out. I guess that means gaius 1, Tyson 0?

    If by “reality-based community” you mean people who try to make the study of ancient history into a crystal ball for predicting the end of the world as we know it, then no, I’m not a member.

    If you mean people who have applied their degrees in history, literature and communications to their military experience don’t think in realistic terms, then I’m afraid you might want to “re-evaluate the potential negative ramifications brought on by personal paradigms regarding the essence of reality.” (Or something like that…)

  101. “the press pool has been somewhat docile in picking up things like the downing street memos, the plame affair — and still have essentially not reported at all on the aipac spy scandal.” – gaius marius

    What media outlets are you reading and watching? I’ve had plenty of news on the first two, tho admittedly the AIPAC scandal isn’t huge on my radar, either. (Maybe for similar reasons to why it took so long to start talking about the UN Oil For Food Program?) But then again, we do tend to give lots of nations who spy on us a free pass… I’m still not seeing how this adds up to under-reporting or claims that media is being “docile” in the face of White House pressure.

    Yeah, cause that’s worked so well in getting the press to back off for the current administration… The last time there was this much scrutiny of the White House was Watergate. You can claim a big flap for the Clinton White House, but the coverage was unrelated to actual policy and sadly, more focused on black dresses…

  102. Rob,

    You said, “Name one military victory achieved by the Viet Cong against the United States. In fact, name a military victory against the United States during the Vietnam War by the North Vietnamese Army.”

    I can name one: The Vietnam War! Unless you’re arguing that we WON the war…

  103. Steve: The VC and NVA lost every battle against USA, then USA withdrew. It was the ARVN that was defeated and lost control of the south in 74-75. Let’s get the hairs properly combed before we split them.

  104. Steve – What Dynamist said. It’s kind of like claiming that you won a fight with Mike Tyson because he left town before you got the chance to kick his tail.

    The war we lost was with ourselves, not an opposing military force. Vietnam was an “A-ha!” moment because many of the concepts of information warfare and Fourth Generation Warfare, based on the foundations of guerrilla warfare first came to light duting the after-action analysis of that war.

    We realized that we could win every time on the battlefield, the only thing that kept us from achieving our goals was that we lost the info war here at home. There are plenty of folks who, wittingly or unwittingly, contribute to an effort that benefits the enemy in this arena.

    Walter Cronkite springs to mind, with his “America has lost the war in Vietnam” report. I can’t think of a less factual report other than “Dewey Defeats Truman.”

  105. In fact, name a military victory against the United States during the Vietnam War by the North Vietnamese Army.

    therefore, mr rob, we won the vietnam war?
    is that what you’ve convinced yourself of?

  106. or is it just that, if only we had instituted a spartan military dictatorship and cleared out all this nonsense about dissenting views, human rights, pluralism and the rule of law, we would definitely have won?

    what a sad state you’re in.

  107. gaius – No, what’s sad is watching you try to attribute views to me that I don’t hold.

    We did indeed fail to defend the S. Vietnamese – though we never lost a battle. Instead, we abandoned the South Vietnamese to the attacks and communist purges of the Soviet- and Chinese-backed North’s tyrannical dictatorship.

    But you don’t see me trying to claim that your view is that this was a GOOD thing. You’re not arguing that are you? That would truly be a sad state to be in.

    Obviously, I believe that if the compelling counter-arguments had been made THEN as to why we should have stayed rather than now, perhaps the S. Vietnamese would have remained free and many more of them would actually have lived full lives.

    If Congress had allowed the use of US air power, S. Vietnam probably would not have been beaten. We wouldn’t have to feel the guilt of abandoning the S. Vietnamese to reeducation camps, purges, the boat people refugees, etc.

    The staggering cost in human lives to the N. Vietnamese is estimated by Rummel, whose numbers near the fantastic:

    http://www.mega.nu:8080/ampp/rummel/sod.chap6.htm

    A fair number of those people died because we abandoned them to the NVA.

    I know I feel a twinge of remorse for those we abandoned to their fates when I think that we could have stopped this and that it was even in our national interest to do so.

    Don’t you? If you don’t, then that IS a sad state you’re in.

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