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It's good that you're upset

11 May 2004 by Jason Fried

The world is rightfully disgusted by the treatment of some Iraqi prisoners, but the fact that the world is outraged is a good sign that America is still held to a higher standard. The Arab street remained mostly quiet when Saddam tortured for three decades or when American soldiers were dragged through the streets and hung to dangle in public a few weeks back. And how many leaders in the Arab world will be outraged that one of their own ruthlessly beheaded an American contractor after forcing him to name his parents and his siblings (and don’t forget about Daniel Pearl who had to admit he was a Jew before his head was cut off)? The world barely gave notice to the Taliban’s systematic and despicable treatment of women in Afghanistan or the destruction of ancient works of irreplaceable art and culture. The world was barely interested in stopping the carnage in Bosnia until over a half-million were killed (and then the UN still didn’t want to get involved). The world is still barely affected by the genocide taking place right now in Africa. But, when the US humiliates some Iraqi prisoners, people are outraged and are calling for resignations at the highest levels of our government. And that’s a good sign for America. We’re held up to a higher standard and it’s something we should be proud of. Not the vile treatment, of course, but the world’s response. We’re in trouble when people stop caring about how we act as a nation.

103 comments so far (Post a Comment)

11 May 2004 | Jon Gales said...

Amen. And the fact that when something like this happens there isn't a coverup--there are press releases. There is an investigation and trials. Not sums of money. The system is working.

(For what it's worth, I can't help but think it's more than a tad funny that the same people who gleefully drag Americans around the streets are outraged at our behavoir. While it's great that we're held at a higher standard, how do they not notice this double standard?)

11 May 2004 | Don Schenck said...

THANK YOU, Jason, for the clarity and intelligence. Amen and amen.

11 May 2004 | Don Juan said...

And isn't it funny the same Americans who said they come to free people from torture do torture people?
Talk about double standarts.
Yes, Africa.
Yes, North Korea.
No oil in there?

11 May 2004 | Jon Gales said...

Don: There have been 150,000+ troops over there. 7 or so are in trouble. You're going to find 7 bad seeds in any group that large. I don't think you can argue that you are worse off in an Iraqi prison now than you were before. Especially now.

And it's not like we've *ever* sent troops to Africa... That'd be as crazy as Germany, France and Russia having back door oil contracts with Saddam... Oh wait.

11 May 2004 | Jonny Roader said...

I agree with you JF, but part of the reason why people hold up the US to such high standards is because you constantly remind us how much better than the rest of the world you are.

The whole 'war on terror' has been cast as a fight between good and evil by your leading politicians, for example. The Iraq war was specifically meant to implant democracy among the savages of the Middle East. It was sold to the world, among other now transparently fatuous claims, as a route for the Iraqis to escape a torturing, abusive, power-crazed regime.

If the US wants to act like moral guardians, in toher words, it must behave impeccably.

Cut down on the 'leaders of the free world' rhetoric (especially when facing parts of the world where such claims are seen as hollow due to recent historical experience) and the condemnation may be blunted somewhat next time.

11 May 2004 | matthew said...

let's all pat ourselves on the back for being american! this is exactly the arrogance that gets us in trouble.

11 May 2004 | Don Schenck said...

No no, let's all loathe ourselves and perform pennance for being a successful, driven and moral nation. After all, if we are prospering, we MUST be doing SOMETHING wrong.

11 May 2004 | Scott said...

I'm not so sure it has anything whatsoever to do with a "higher standard." Many in the world don't like the US. And they will use anything they can to fuel that fire. This is an example that is easily twisted to make the US look very, very bad, regardless of truth.

The most appalling part to me is that since our own new sources keep making such a big deal of it all day every day, why wouldn't the rest of the world blow it out of proportion? I'm in no way saying ignore it, but if we're saying to our enemies "don't worry, it's just a few bad seeds, it's not the US as a whole," then why would the entire US seemingly only want to talk about that?

It's not a higher standard. It's a higher level of propaganda being used against a super-power in order to be heard.

11 May 2004 | Jason Wall said...

Exactly.

11 May 2004 | Don Schenck said...

When President Bush was still Candidate Bush, I seem to recall him being a strong proponent of a nation's "self determination".

Whatever happened to that?

11 May 2004 | Jonny Roader said...

"No no, let's all loathe ourselves and perform pennance for being a successful, driven and moral nation. After all, if we are prospering, we MUST be doing SOMETHING wrong."

That's such a black and white view, Don. And while I think you'll find little disagreement that the US is successful and driven, you will find many, many people who see the US as far from 'moral'. Not all of them are knee-jerk anti-Americans, you know? Many of them live in dirt-poor countries that have maybe tasted the US whip a little too much.

11 May 2004 | Charbel said...

in response to the 7 bad seeds...This is the army, there should not be one bad seed, because it jeopardizes the whole mission, the country, and the safety of people living here. It makes every other respectable service man and woman lose their integrity...So I don't buy the argument that out of 120,000 troops, there will always be bad seeds...I blame the responsiblity on the leaders and the higher up people, for not training these men and women in the right manners.

This should not happen, not in the US army, otherwise, why are we fooling ourselves saying we're better than everyone else...First it was the WMDs, now it's this...the whole world has no more reason to believe anything we say anymore...do they?

11 May 2004 | Don Schenck said...

Jonny -- EXCELLENT point. My son did some research about Coke and Pepsi bottled water plants in India, where they drained the water table dry, forcing the local residents to walk six miles to get fresh drinking water.

All so you SUV-driving women can tote your fashionable bottled water around.

And we wonder why much of the world hates the United States. Sheesh.

11 May 2004 | Don Schenck said...

Problem is, Americans are too far removed from the rest of the world. Most people I know would be horrified to learn that Coca-Cola was depriving Indians of their water just so Americans can have their bottled water. But way too many Americans don't know about it.

And when they do learn about it, arrogant radicals like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity (now HE is arrogant) and Michael Moore react in such a way as to either sweep the issue under the rug (Limbaugh, Hannity) or are too zealous (Moore, et al) and it pushes people away.

*sigh* If only people actually loved their neighbors as themselves.

11 May 2004 | lisa said...

... just a little clarification...
they didn't drag and hang soldiers.
they were american civilian contractors.

11 May 2004 | RS said...

Most people I know would be horrified to learn that Coca-Cola was depriving Indians of their water just so Americans can have their bottled water.

Most people aren't even interested in how Coca-Cola (high fructose corn syrup + water) affects their *own* lives and health.

11 May 2004 | Chris Pederick said...

"And the fact that when something like this happens there isn't a coverup"

Ummm...except that this only came to light when the photos were leaked to the press. And that there are reports from both the Red Cross and Amnesty International claiming that abuse was reported to both the American and British governments previously and those reports were ignored.

See today's BBC article about British troops shooting "harmless Iraqis" including an eight year old girl.

While I agree that it's easy to get carried away, we should hold ourselves to the highest standards as we were the ones who invaded this country to "free" the population. And I don't think anyone will argue that these are the highest standards...

11 May 2004 | Jonny Roader said...

Coke may be an American company (the quintessential American company I guess) but it's not just Americans who drink the stuff. Indeed, I hear it's pretty popular in India too.

You're dead right though, Don. Shit-stirrers of all colours generate more ignorance than they destroy. And if I was an American who loved his country I would be worried that they are slowly but surely helping to erode your most precious global asset: the twentieth-century idea of an 'America' that symbolised freedom and the good life. It's not just 'liberal', 'American-hating' propaganda to see that symbolism being replaced by images of unjust, unbalanced power.

11 May 2004 | Howard Bean said...

Why are we in Iraq in the first place? This is a farce... it's a total embarassment that our nation is so paranoid that we attack one of the weakest nations in the world all the while claiming some moralistic high ground. We are a nation of insecure racists... we don't give a shit about these people... we'll attack anyone who's mostly defenseless and stands as a model against American hegemony... ask around... America is the #1 threat to world peace not some camel riding dictator of a third world nation (duh!)... there aren't WMD in Iraq... but boy... we've got plenty...

Denial is a very powerful thing...

11 May 2004 | Pedro Martinez said...

Altought there are many crimes (corporate crimes for example) commmited by the USA on other countries to whom nobody complains because nobody knows about it, because it doesn't appear on the news or in regular TV.

Im glad that americans don't want iraki soldiers being misstreated, I would be more glad if the USA would have used some other resourse to solve a problem instead of going to war.

11 May 2004 | p8 said...

John gales: And the fact that when something like this happens there isn't a coverup--there are press releases.
Only after someone leaked it to the press. Rummy wanted a cover-up and they still don't want to release all the pictures and videos (which are said to be even worse).

John gales: There is an investigation and trials. Not sums of money.
yeah, right


JF: But when the US humiliates some Iraqi prisoners...
Is humiliating an euphemism for torture and killing?

John Gales: You're going to find 7 bad seeds in any group that large.
Scott: .. it's just a few bad seeds, it's not the US as a whole

According to Amnesty it's more than that:
"Amnesty International said that it has documented a pattern of abuse by US agents against detainees, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, stretching back over the past two years.
... The allegations included beatings, electric shocks, sleep deprivation, hooding, and prolonged forced standing and kneeling. It received no response nor any indication from the administration or the CPA that an investigation took place.
"

11 May 2004 | Al Abut said...

"Let's all pat ourselves on the back for being american! this is exactly the arrogance that gets us in trouble."

Exactly! Jason's probably unintentional American superiority and dismissive attitude towards the abuses hit such a nerve with me that I ended up ripping off a huge rant on my own blog because it got too big to post here. I was also probably fueled by the disturbing sight that, at the time, there were only 4-5 "me too" comments with nary a word to the contrary.

Acting as both a disclaimer and a teasing tidbit, I'll repost here this quote about how I usually agree with Jason's politics:

I'll reiterate that I usually agree with most everything you publish here that has to do with politics, it's usually well-informed and reasoned very carefully, but in this case, you are way wrong. Perhaps this essay " Why They Hate Us" might help along with realizing where some of both the torturing of Arabs and the hate that it fuels comes from.

11 May 2004 | Rob said...

The Arab world loves this type of negative press about the United States. Anything that hurts the US image in the eyes of the Arab world is a good thing. Keep in mind that most of the world, including Arab nations do not agree with US Foreign Policy (invading Iraq).

For starters we support Isreal. This drives most of the Arabs crazy, especially the Palestinians. Anything that can be seen as a black eye to the US is a moral victory. The irony is, that while most Arabs do not agree with US Foreign Policy, they do support the ideals of Western culture, like technology and education. Arabs, who are wealthy enough send their children to the United States to be educated in our universities.

The other problem is that the Arab world resents Western Civilization(pre-dates any of the current events) and the foreign armies that invaded their land. While the West has prospered, many in the Middle East have not. And this is something that they resent.

This is why you will not see an Arab nation condem the actions of their own people. Or condem the beheading of the US contractor. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

11 May 2004 | p8 said...

Lisa: ... just a little clarification...
they didn't drag and hang soldiers.
they were american civilian contractors.

No, they where armed mercenaries.
Other hired mercenaries include former death squads members for the regimes of Apartheid South Africa, Pinochet's Chile, and Milosevich's Serbia.
Including people like Gouws who confessed to: "killing 15 blacks and firebombing the homes of between 40 and 60 anti-apartheid activists"

So the US is basically paying foreign (ex-?)terrorist in Iraq.

11 May 2004 | Jonny Roader said...

"The irony is, that while most Arabs do not agree with US Foreign Policy, they do support the ideals of Western culture, like technology and education. "

While I think it's true that Islamic culture in particular has neglected its rich background in education and science in favour of doctrine, I hardly think it fair to proclaim 'technology and education' as Western ideals!

11 May 2004 | stp said...

Regarding the "7 bad seeds" argument -- it is tempting to think that's all it was, but so far most signs point to a much larger problem than that. Of course it will take time to sort it all out, but it sounds like this sort of treatment in the prisons was business as usual, day in and day out. That sort of policy is not put in place by a Private from West Virginia.... it comes from the higher ups. You can't solve this problem by court martialing a handful of low-ranking foot soldiers. We have to find out who made the rules that the "bad seeds" were following. I think "the world" has every right to be upset with America over this one. And in my opinion, any American who isn't upset about it too just has their head in the sand.

But I can't say I understand what Coca-Cola has to do with it....

11 May 2004 | Chris said...

I agree with what Jason wrote. Every word. I think it's funny that those of you "rest of the world" folks, in bashing the US for having a "self-important and superior" attitude, are yourselves exhibiting a self-important and superior mindset.

But I also agree that we're not necessarily superior.

Which is why we should have left Iraq alone to suffer under their stone age dictatorship. If they want better, let them take up arms themselves and change it for themselves.

If they're not willing to do that, we shouldn't do it for them.

And we shouldn't do it for anyone else who isn't willing to do it for themselves.

11 May 2004 | ek said...

The world is rightfully disgusted by the treatment of some Iraqi prisoners, but the fact that the world is outraged is a good sign that America is still held to a higher standard.

When I read this I couldn't help but be reminded of part of Chris Rock's stand-up routine from a few years ago, the bit where talked about black men who want props for sticking around to help take care of their kids. I believe he said something to the effect of: "What do you want, a cookie?!?! You're supposed to take care of your kids you ig'nant bastard!"

I really don't think we should be proud of the fact that the world at large is outraged that members of our military acted outside the bounds of accepted norms of human decency (and if you think these acts were solely the responsibility of the six or seven identified so far, you're either really, really stupid, or really, really gullible).

If we're going to start to measure our behaviour against that of dictators and despots then we really are in trouble. There's nothing here to be proud of, just a big, steaming pile of shit that we, as a nation, are going to have to have the courage to face and address (and putting a few privates and specialists in jail is addressing it).

And as for the statement "how many leaders in the Arab world will be outraged that one of their own ruthlessly beheaded an American contractor", what does that mean? Ignoring the fact that we don't yet know the reactions of these leaders, how exactly are these crazed lunatics "one of their own"? Are all people of Arab descent somehow culpable for the acts of these ultra-radical murderers? Remember that, unlike the members of our military, these terrorists are not representatives of a nation, but rather idealogues acting on their own deranged beliefs.

I mean, did all white people have a special responsibility to express outrage at the acts of Tim McVeigh? I certainly don't think so. My feeling is that any outrage that's expressed should stem from our basic humanity, not because we happen to be of the same race as the perpetrator of a heinous act.

...when the US humiliates some Iraqi prisoners, people are outraged and are calling for resignations at the highest levels of our government. And that’s a good sign for America. We’re held up to a higher standard and it’s something we should be proud of.

I know I've covered this ground already, but, what do you want, a cookie? And at least to me, allowing dogs to attack a naked prisoner goes beyond humiliation. Also don't forget that there are still something like a dozen potential homicide investigations ongoing. This is not the time to be slapping ourselves on the back for a job well done and has nothing to do with self loathing.

We f*cked up big time and those accountable, even if they were not active participants (meaning those who could have and should have stopped this or prevented it from happening altogether) need to be brought to justice in an open, and public manner.

11 May 2004 | Al Abut said...

Which is why we should have left Iraq alone to suffer under their stone age dictatorship. If they want better, let them take up arms themselves and change it for themselves.

If they're not willing to do that, we shouldn't do it for them.

Glad the French didn't think that way when they helped us overthrow the British. Or helped the North defeat the slaveowners in the Civil War. And glad the European allies didn't think that way when helping us defeat Japan after they bombed Pearl Harbor. And on and on and on...

11 May 2004 | ek said...

Oops, meant to write that "putting a few privates and specialists in jail is NOT addressing it".

That's what I get for not previewing!

11 May 2004 | Al Abut said...

Whoops, "If they're not willing..." should have been italicized as part of the quote.

And Rob's comment entry - wtf? The Arab world loves this type of negative press about the United States - it does? You sound like an authority on the Arab world. In fact, the Arab world would absolutely love for this kind of crap to not happen in the first place, and by crap, I mean an unprovoked attack and occupation of a country while touting a higher morale ground, one which turns out not to be practiced. The prison guards tossed aside the prisoners' Geneva Convention rights as easily as our presidunce did when tossing aside the objections of the United Nations and the rest of the international community to invading Iraq. Thinking you know better than everyone else and fostering an "us vs them" mentality starts at the top.

The rest of his entry was just too racist and xenophobic to even bother responding to; it's only worth being pointed out as such.

11 May 2004 | Chris said...

Al

Let me be frank. I don't personally care what the Arab world thinks about any of it. I also don't believe in torture, no matter who's doing it.

But that's what happens in war. It's not right, but it's reality. It's not right that people should be killed by drunk drivers, either, but it happens.

As for the French, they primarily helped us with training and supplies, and a little manpower on the sea. I'm all for training and equipping these folks to do what they need to do. But they're the ones who must do it for themselves.

As for WW2, Europe needed us far more than we needed them. That's another case where we had to do their job for them.

And as for the War Between the States, Lincoln was to the South what Saddam was to the people of Iraq, so that argument doesn't fly with me.

11 May 2004 | Al Abut said...

"I don't personally care what the Arab world thinks about any of it. I also don't believe in torture, no matter who's doing it. But that's what happens in war. It's not right, but it's reality."

So being pro-torture means anti-Geneva Convention, okay, everyone get that? Despite the popular notion, there are rules of engagement in war, ones that the military is proud of upholding and the reason why the brass under fire right now are just as pissed as the public at large.

11 May 2004 | p8 said...

Former hostage Terry Waite on dutch tv (in english but subtitled):
"When it happens on such a massive scale by a nation - by a nation, not just by a gang of terrorists - but by a nation that claims to stand by democratic principles than that is something that to my mind entirely disgraceful."

12 May 2004 | Jameson said...

Very aptly stated, Jason. It's important for America to be held accountable for its actions in the world community.

I wonder, though, if it's a matter of America being held to a higher standard because it's America, or because it went into (invaded) Iraq with the stated goal (among a few, shifting goals) of eradicating such ruthless human rights violations. Saddam was bad, too, but he never wore the white hat. Maybe some of the reaction is to the perceived hypocrisy of a nation that denounces such treatment, goes to war over it, and then gets caught doing it.

Thinking you know better than everyone else and fostering an "us vs them" mentality starts at the top.

Also an excellent point.

12 May 2004 | Clark MacLeod said...

I can see your point JF and though I don't agree, what bothers me the most is that I get the impression you are belittling the actions of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. But yes I would expect more from a professional military and from a country that constantly preaches democratic ideals. As well, this wasn't just the actions of a few bad seeds but systemic of misguided and inept leadership. So yes there should be a leadership review and as a result people should lose their jobs and tried in a open (vs. whatever is going on in Guantanamo) court of law.

12 May 2004 | pixelkitty said...

My particular disgust with American Politics (I wont say Americans, as I dont feel every American citizen has a say in the way their spokespeople and armed forces behave) is the "holier than thou" attitiude.

America comes across as the know it all, arrogant big brother, who in fact knows very little and is only ahead because they have money and a good lawyer.

You can't go around telling everyone you are better than they are when you so obviously are just human like everyone else.

When you see and hear so much abuse of basic human rights being perpetrated by a country perporting to be the saviour of the world, it becomes increasingly difficult to respect anything that country says.

America has a history of bullying the rest of the world to do what it wants, while flaunting it's power and breaking all the rules.

Want to invade a country cos the guy you put in power has gone crazy and wont do what you tell him? Tell a few white lies and stretch the truth, and when you can't get UN support, do it anyway cos you know, you have the money and the power.

Want to gloss over the fact that you are in breach of the Geneva Convention and all basic human and legal rights at Camp X-Ray? Do it, cos you have the money and the power.

Please note when I say "America" I mean the politicians and powers that be - not the general populace.

Glass houses - throwing stones and pots calling kettles black - that is what America means to a lot of the world today.

I say all this as a non-American. And I'm not proud of my own country's role in these things either.

12 May 2004 | JF said...

We f*cked up big time and those accountable, even if they were not active participants (meaning those who could have and should have stopped this or prevented it from happening altogether) need to be brought to justice in an open, and public manner.

We sure did and everyone who was involved needs to be brought to justice -- from the bottom to the top. I never took a position otherwise. My post wasn't about the act, it was about the response.

12 May 2004 | Paperhead said...

Hmmm...funny that we should be discussing ruthless dictators and coca-cola in the same thread.

12 May 2004 | ek said...

My post wasn't about the act, it was about the response.

And what exactly about the response are we supposed to be proud of again?

That a big chunk of the world thinks we're a bunch of shitheads who talk out of our asses?

That the Islamic extremists who've been decrying our immorality and preaching that we're on a "crusade" to destroy them finally have the documentary proof they've been waiting for? (I think it was right for the photos to be released, it's the acts themselves that never should have happened)

That over three months after General Taguba's report was published and after 60 Minutes II aired the photos, our Secretary of Defense still had not read the executive summary, let alone the full report?

That, failure after failure culminating in his absolutely inept handling of this scandal, President Bush still insists on saying that Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a "superb" job?

That, already, the Administration is stonewalling and idiotic Senators are belittling these atrocious acts.

You said we're held to a higher standard, but compared to who? Saddam Hussein? Kim Jong-il? If we're supposed to be proud of that, well, that's pretty depressing.

This is a wonderful country and we, as a people, are capable of wonderful things. This is not one of them and to try to spin it into some sort of a positive does no good for anyone except perhaps Rumsfeld & Co. and right wing talk show hosts.

12 May 2004 | 7/4 said...

>that America is still held to a higher standard

I call that the most basic human standard. higher would imply a moral authority america doesn't have.

12 May 2004 | dmr said...

It's hard give a shit about stories like this lately because it all seems like a distraction from core problems that are a bit closer to home. I don't mean that in a crass way; I have concern for the people involved and am deeply sorry to see of such terrible and obtuse abuses of power in the military.

There's a very long list of issues that affect the rest of the us in the middle and lower classes that are far more fucking important than a handful of people anywhere; that's for those on both the giving and receiving end of the torture. It all feels like subterfuge, and most of the news is just another tv show selling ads, it's no different then Friends or TRL; and that's why Coke isn't so tangential in all of this.

It's not that I don't want to be bothered with the discourse, or the international perspective, or issues that are much larger than I am. But I want to be bothered by things of serious importance to the long term of this country and world. There's a heirarchy here and we're ignoring the rotting structural problems of the building and instead we're talking about what color the goddamn tile should be in the 15th floor bathroom. I'd like to see thoughtful discourse on the two most important issues in this nation: education and health care. Terrorists??? There are millions of stupid muthers now getting four year degrees that aren't prepared for a damn thing except for a fresh start at debt and a cycle of mass production and consumption; and they are scared into watching the news and watching for terrorists.

Why? I don't even know anymore. It's just all so pointless to even write about. Why are we all wasting time talking about this when we could or should be doing something about it. Don't write it on a web site, make a wheat paste poster about it and ADVERTISE! Go outside and talk to people, run for office, quit your job and start a company. I don't have answers to any of my concerns, but I really can't even rationalize the discourse anymore. On the one hand it's important, but on the other hand is it really?

I don't know what to say anymore about political and social issues because thinking about it isn't *doing* a fucking thing.

12 May 2004 | JF said...

And what exactly about the response are we supposed to be proud of again?

We should be proud that people care enough to get pissed about the US doing something wrong. Plenty of leaders and countries are doing things horribly wrong all the time, yet no one really gives a shit. When the US does something wrong people care and they care because we're relatively transparent and still held to a higher standard of behavior. In my opinion that's a big fundamental positive.

In other words, if you expect shit from someone, and they give you shit, well then it's just business as usual. But, when you expect more from someone, and they let you down, well then it's a big dissapointment. We dissapointed big time and the fact that people care enough to point it out is a positive.

That was my point.

I never said I was proud of what was done. I never said people shouldn't pay for what was done. I never said anyone at the bottom should be a scapegoat for the leaders at the top. I just said that the negative response is the result of high expectations.

12 May 2004 | ek said...

I guess my core point is "high expectations" as compared to whom?

Maybe you haven't noticed because it doesn't involve the U.S., but neither Tony Blair nor his Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, are getting a free ride over allegations of abuses/killings of Iraqi civilians by British soldiers (and that even though the purported abuse photos published by the Daily Mirror were almost certainly staged).

Do you somehow think that if French or German or Japanese or Italian soldiers were the ones implicated in a scandal along these lines that the global community wouldn't be up in arms over it and that the defence ministers of each of those countries wouldn't be under pressure to resign? If you do, then you're just simply wrong.

Yes, people do expect more of our government and institutions than, say, those of Rwanda, Syria, Colombia, and pretty much every other third world nation, but — to touch back on a previous comment — is that really something we should expect a cookie over?

I guess ultimately it's a matter of opinion and worldview, but, for me at least — as someone who loves what this country stands for and aspires to — I see nothing to be proud of in these events or in the concomitant response.

12 May 2004 | Jonny Roader said...

Rock solid arguments there, ek.

12 May 2004 | Jay said...

I agree with some previous comments that point out that the US is not really held to a higher standard on the torture issue. We are really just being held to the same standard to which any other industrialized democracy would be held.

Which is why we should have left Iraq alone to suffer under their stone age dictatorship. If they want better, let them take up arms themselves and change it for themselves.

In spirit I agree with this comment: as attractive as speeding up the democratic process sounds, in practice it does not work. I kind of disagree with the tone of this comment, however. It's not quite a matter of "wanting better". It's really easy for people living in democracies to look down upon people who live in dictatorships. We Americans really talk up our freedom, but how many of us would stand up to an oppressive governement if it meant, for instance, that we would have to watch our wife and kids tortured to death?

12 May 2004 | Hugo said...

"You can't judge a people by the government of their land."

I won't be the first to say this. Lots of the people where I live (Australia) are *not* keen on our involvement in the so called war on terror (Australian military units are members of the so-called co-alition of the willing, and our units are in Afganistan and Iraq). However our government, with a man called John Howard at it's helm, is dead keen on it, for whatever reason.

Events such as those depicted in photographs that we have all seen are the direct consequence of Western government's involvement in the war on terror. How anyone is suprised by these photos is beyond me. Shocked? Totally. Surprised? Not really.

12 May 2004 | jtm said...

I don't think it is wholly inappropriate to bring in this link on the Stanford Prison Experiment.

It seems like the results of the experiment and the behaviour seen by the American troops is somewhat similar.

12 May 2004 | Patrick Keenan said...

Thanks all of you defending the american government. Thats great!

I can no longer come to this site because the title of this article sickness me to the point of vomitting. Which is good because it limits my reading list of sites for a couple weeks.

I can't believe people would defend such an incident by claiming it is a fact of life or that we are still better than the arabs. Comparing yourself to leaders appointed by your own government to commit attrocities is a great way to distract the public. I thought on a pretty popular site people would be a bit more insightful and would look into the real issues.

I guess the only issues worth researching are floating css boxes, or dropshadow effects.

Good luck in your life of ignorance, I hope the future isn't too much of a shock to you.

12 May 2004 | Jonny Roader said...

"It seems like the results of the experiment and the behaviour seen by the American troops is somewhat similar."

As I pointed out elsewhere, why was torture simply 'evil' when Hussein was using it but something with a rational explanation in this instance?

And it's not as if the Stanford experiment is the last word in the psychology of this situation anyway:

"In order to explain events in Iraq, one might go further and conclude that the torturers were victims of circumstances, that they lost their moral compass in the group and did things they would normally abhor. Indeed, using Zimbardo's findings as evidence, this is precisely what some people do conclude. But this is bad psychology and it is bad ethics. " [ Why not everyone is a torturer]

12 May 2004 | Bryan said...

I see what JF is saying and I think I agree. He's not supporting the act, or the government's response, or making excuses for any of it. He's just saying that the fact that the world cares about our actions is a good sign for the US. Governments like the Taliban had been murdering and maiming and destroying lives for *years* yet it became so routine that the world became numb to it. The world stopped caring because Taliban torture became routine. But, when the US is caught up in such a scandal, people care. People are outraged. People are calling for resignations. Did you ever hear for a call for resignation in Saddam's cabinet? Or in the Taliban? No, you didn't because 1. people knew it wasn't possible, and 2. people knew the Taliban wouldn't listen, and 3. people knew they had no chance to influence the Taliban in any way. This simple distinction is "good" for the US. I think that was JFs point.

12 May 2004 | Jonny Roader said...

"Which is why we should have left Iraq alone to suffer under their stone age dictatorship. If they want better, let them take up arms themselves and change it for themselves."

You mean like they did after the first Gulf war in 1991? The time when George Bush Snr. encouraged the Iraqi people to take 'matters into their own hands', offering US aid to do so, only to withdraw that support and leave Hussein clear to crush the insurgency with a ruthlessness exceptional even by his standards?

The same Saddam Hussein, of course, that the US govt. supported and strengthened back when Iran was the bad guy. Should they have fought against him then, back when he was shaking Rumsfeld's hand?

12 May 2004 | Charbel said...

well, what I don't understand is this...we go to fight a war based on reason X (WMD). reason X has been disproven so far. Then we change our mission statement to reason Y (Free Iraqis). The pictures disproved reason Y. Not only that, we are holding prisoners without due justice, and torturing them. What happened to the right to bear arms and defend one's property..isn't that what the Iraqis are doing? And just because an Iraqi is armed doesn't mean he/she supports the Saddam regime...and just b/c an Iraqi is armed, doesnt' give us the right to torture or take them in. Otherwise, we have milions of americans here that need to be taken in.

If we're such a freedom loving nation, why don't we go free all the other nations under opression, the biggest of which is Saudi Arabia. If we want to disarm the world from WMD, why don't we go and fight North Korea. Or b/c N. Korea isn't weak enough for us to fight.. Bascially, the presdient and his staff has been misleading the american public, and it's really sickening that we live too comfortable a life here to even care what goes on in Iraq...we care more to impeach a president that gets a blow job in the oval office then a president that is killing thousands and lying to all of us...

12 May 2004 | Jonny Roader said...

"The world stopped caring because Taliban torture became routine. But, when the US is caught up in such a scandal, people care."

Because you are the most prominent and powerful nation on earth, and rather prone to moral grandstanding about the superiority of American 'freedom' and 'democracy'. Hell, it's not even grandstanding: 'regime change' is grandstanding made flesh.

12 May 2004 | Chris said...

This would be damn funny if it weren't so sad.

It's bad enough that we catch hell for doing what nobody else has the guts to do...like enforce UN resolutions. The rest of the world is real good at talking/making resolutions ad infinitum, ad nauseum, but pretty lousy about backing them up. No point in making rules that aren't going to be enforced.

But we also catch hell for admitting our mistakes and suggesting that we SHOULD hold ourselves to a higher standard.

12 May 2004 | but that's just me said...

This is just incredibly sad. We're arguing over something that is so simple to understand. Evil is evil, no matter who is doing it and no matter what country they represent. It's evil to humiliate Iraqi prisoners, it's evil to cut off the heads of innocent civilians who were trying to help establish a country's democracy, it's evil to spew hatred about any group of people, whether it's directed toward Muslims or Americans, and it's evil to be hypocritical in our outrage and arguments.

The people to blame here are those directly involved: the soldiers who humilated and those who ordered them to do it, the Al Queda members who cut off the heads of Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl, those who use incidents like these to encourage hatred of large groups of people when those people had nothing to do with the incidents in the first place, and those who are outraged at some acts of evil but are apathetic toward others.

Jason is correct in his argument that America (and I would add all civilized western countries) is held to a higher standard. It doesn't really matter why that is, does it? It's just a fact that the world expects more out of America than out of some rogue group of third world terrorists. And, yes, I would say that's a good thing. Except that it appears that the standard our country is being held to is perfection, and that is not a good thing. Because our government, our military and our population are made up of human beings and human beings are by nature imperfect.

I don't think Jason is at all saying whether or not America should be in Iraq or that America is some kind of superior country that should be solving the world's problems. I think he's simply noticing the obvious lack of outrage from other countries (and our own) concerning the evil behavior of Al Queda, while the U.S. is under fire (rightfully so) for the evil behavior of SOME of our military. And my point is that ALL of us should be outraged by ALL acts of evil, no matter who is doing it. Protesting some acts of evil while ignoring other acts of evil is downright hypocritical. Not that I'm surprised that Americans are practicing hypocrisy. After all, that's the basis of an entire politicial party in our country. But I digress.

Jason, I hope that I have not misinterpreted your words. Forgive me if I have. I think your argument is a valid one.

12 May 2004 | but that's just me said...

Wow, Chris. Really, REALLY good point.

12 May 2004 | Bryan said...

It's bad enough that we catch hell for doing what nobody else has the guts to do...like enforce UN resolutions.

And... When we *follow* UN resolutions/mandates such as not marching to Bag to "finish the job" and take out Hussein in 1991 (or backing up the insurgency against Hussein), we get shit on as well.

12 May 2004 | Jonny Roader said...

"And... When we *follow* UN resolutions/mandates such as not marching to Bag to "finish the job" and take out Hussein in 1991 (or backing up the insurgency against Hussein), we get shit on as well."

I think consistency is the key though. Like every other country in the world the US cherry-picks which international standards and resolutions it wants to abide by and flouts the rest as and when it chooses. 'Democratise' Iraq? Hell yeah! Saudi Arabia? Oooh, no. Free markets for all? Of course! Including American farmers and steel workers? We'll get back to ya...

America gets picked up on these things because it is the most prominent, powerful country out there. The same thing used to happen to us Brits and will be happening to the Chinese in due time. If you don't like that kind of heat, get out of the 'world domination' kitchen.

12 May 2004 | but that's just me said...

Oh, and before anyone can say that I'm being a hypocrite myself...

I was only saying that SOME Americans are practicing hypocrisy, not all of us. And I was referring to the leaders of that particular hypoctrical political party and not citizens who consider themselves members....although some of them are pretty hypocritical, too, mainly because they seem to not think for themselves.

I should've made that clear in my original post, but I didn't because I am imperfect.

12 May 2004 | Chris said...

Every government chooses its battles. Most of them hate us because they would rather pull a Spain, grab their ankles and take an Al Qaeda up the exit hatch rather than run the risk of actually making a *gasp* decision, backing it up, and dealing with the heat. And they're mad that we typically don't.

But they still want our aid checks, our jobs, and the benefits of our economy.

12 May 2004 | Rob said...

Al Abut

"The rest of his entry was just too racist and xenophobic to even bother responding to; it's only worth being pointed out as such."

How is the rest of my post racist and xenophobic? I never said or implied that the events that took place in the prison are ok.

At the same time you never hear about other Arab nations like Syria or Saudi Arabia condemn the actions of islamic extrememists. In Iraq they committed genocide against the Kurds and tortured their own people. What about Al Queda? What about Hamas having suicide bombers blow themselves up and killing innocent people. It was Saudi Arabia that had a telethon to support the families of suicide bombers.

If you really think that I'm racist that's your opinion, but I'm not. I'm actually an Arab American. And if you need further insight into the Arab world watch an excellent documentary called "Searching for the roots of 9/11" Don't forget that there were plenty of people in the Middle East who were parading in the streets when 9/11 happened.

12 May 2004 | Jonny Roader said...

"Every government chooses its battles. Most of them hate us because they would rather pull a Spain, grab their ankles and take an Al Qaeda up the exit hatch rather than run the risk of actually making a *gasp* decision, backing it up, and dealing with the heat. And they're mad that we typically don't. "

So a nation is only 'making a decision' if it follows the US wherever it chooses? The Spanish government were merely dodging the issue in following the express wishes of over 90% of their electorate?

Yet prosecuting a war largely from the air against a weak foe is a mark of moral and martial courage? (And for the record I supported the Iraq war - it's just that I can see the other side of the argument too.)

And remember that Spain - over which Al Qaeda makes a direct territorial claim - is a much easier target to hit than the US. If their people believe their security is best served by not following the US in its glorious mission, who the fuck are you to tell them otherwise? Hundreds of people died in the Madrid bombing. Fears that starting wars in the Middle East is playing right into Al Qaeda's hands - strenghtening terrorism, not defeating it - are not necessarily unfounded, cowardly, liberal, European nonsense!

12 May 2004 | ch said...

In response to dmr's statement:

It's just all so pointless to even write about. Why are we all wasting time talking about this when we could or should be doing something about it. Don't write it on a web site, make a wheat paste poster about it and ADVERTISE! Go outside and talk to people, run for office, quit your job and start a company.

I came across an artist that did that in his own way...

http://www.truckerrocks.com/chosen/

12 May 2004 | Chris said...

That's like telling a rape victim to lie back and don't make him made, and he might let you live. That's one way to do it.

Better to shoot the bastard's nuts off, though.

This isn't really about cowardice or courage so much as poor leadership. Namely, the difference between leading your country off a cliff, or not.

Spain has just made a decision that's not unlike the decision the French made during WWII, or that the Jews in Germany made prior to that. And we know how that worked out, and who (as usual) came and paid the price.

As Rocky (no, the other one) often observed in his comic falsetto:

"That trick never works."

12 May 2004 | Terry said...

"It's bad enough that we catch hell for doing what nobody else has the guts to do...like enforce UN resolutions. The rest of the world is real good at talking/making resolutions ad infinitum, ad nauseum, but pretty lousy about backing them up."

If that was the reason for invading Iraq then surely Israel would of been ground into dust by now ... that is if those who run the US government weren't such hypocrites. That's the main reason why America is hated so much in the world. Not because it is so mighty, but because it chooses to use that might in such a hypocritic manner. If war is your business, try and do it with some style next time! How 'bout North Korea and China, now there's some dangerous and respectable targets.

12 May 2004 | Jonny Roader said...

"Spain has just made a decision that's not unlike the decision the French made during WWII, or that the Jews in Germany made prior to that. And we know how that worked out, and who (as usual) came and paid the price."

The decision the Spanish government is nothing like the decision the French made. And it's pretty easy for America to mock the decisions of the French back then when it wasn't them facing a mighty military machine on their doorstep, just twenty years after a pointless war fought with huge bloodshed on French soil. Indeed, I wonder if you'd be quite so gung-ho about prosecuting a war on your own doorstep. Especially these days, when your own president refuses to attend funerals of war dead because of political squeamishness.

None of that is to belittle the immense sacrifice that America made in WW2, but it's not like you were the only country that made sacrifices.

12 May 2004 | One of several Steves said...

And if I was an American who loved his country I would be worried that they are slowly but surely helping to erode your most precious global asset: the twentieth-century idea of an 'America' that symbolised freedom and the good life.

That describes my view almost perfectly. I still believe in this country's mythology, and believe the story and ideal of the whole experiment that is America to be the best alternative that humanity's offered up so far. And, by and large, it works. When it doesn't work is when those very principles of freedom, liberty, self-determination, etc. are betrayed. And they're getting betrayed left and right lately, and not just in terms of foreign policy.

12 May 2004 | Frederick Polk said...

Here is a comment by my department manager regarding Jason's view:


I think it is also important in this day and age that we understand that not everything we see and hear in the news is accurate or true. We know, on average, about 5% of what is really going on. I'm certainly not condoning violence on the part of our troops, but I do know that military tend to stick together. Makes me wonder if pictures were digitally engineered and spliced together. I find it extremely hard to believe that a fellow military person would document such incriminating evidence. They tend to live by a "protect your own" code. But, in the end, who really knows what is happening. What is most frightening to me, though, is the way that so many Americans just take in everything that the media says as though it's the God's honest truth. THAT is what I think we really need to examine. Feel free to pass this on. Just my two cents. But, I think it's an important discussion that needs to be had across the board in our country.

Just one of many points of view in the office...

12 May 2004 | One of several Steves said...

JF, that news (Hezbollah's condemnation) does surprise me.

EK, something's terribly wrong. We're agreeing way too much lately. I'm with you; I don't think it's worth patting ourselves on the back that more is expected of us. This is our baseline, and the fact that we've dipped far below it is maddening, saddening, any number of other -ings. It's not a good thing that we can't even hit the baseline.

JF, I guess there is a modicum of encouragement that this country's actions of the last few decades (let's face it, little of what's going on in the current administration is all that different from the way the US has conducted itself in the world for at least 50 years; this administration is just more blunt about it) hasn't eroded expectations to the point that this sort of thing gets a shoulder-shrug. There would be plenty of reason to expect the US to speak differently than it acts, but that there's still some expectation that at least in some areas our rhetoric still matches our actions.

And it distresses the hell out of me that we can't even meet that expectation anymore.

12 May 2004 | Paperhead said...

A cogent argument from The Economist.

13 May 2004 | Human said...

Hi, I was born in the US and I lived there half of my life. I am as much American as most Americans. The US is a country full of skeletons and they will never be forgoten as much as many want. It was a country that was born in blood and it continues this great tradition. You want to do something about it - Leave (love it or leave it analogy). I did just that and I dont regret it one bit. You want hurt the US then leave. I really feel sorry for most Americans - they are like a parent who has a rapist as a child.

13 May 2004 | $ said...

When $ leaves the US then that really hurts it. Fight them were they truly feel pain.

13 May 2004 | p8 said...

Juan Cole: The Mideastization of the US, or:
Rumsfeld Must Resign

".....Democracy is about more than elections. Most Middle Eastern countries already have elections. Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, all of them hold regular elections. They have parliaments, parties, campaigns. Two things make them nevertheless not democracies. The first is that their presidents manipulate the elections so that there is never any doubt that they will win the election and that their party will dominate parliament (even if space is made for minority parties to win a few seats). Second, their regimes have no accountability to the public. No one in Hosni Mubarak's government has ever had to resign because he performed his duties poorly. He might have to resign because he fell out with the president. But if he is buddy buddy with the head of state, then he can do no wrong.

You really wonder whether the Bush plan to Americanize the Middle East isn't being turned on its head. We now have an unaccountable government not elected in accordance with the will of the majority of Americans, which victimizes critics like Joe Wilson and engages in torture. Bush and Co. are emulating the worst aspects of the military governments of Egypt and Yemen. They have no credibility to push the latter toward democracy...."

13 May 2004 | Almustafa said...

http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/4FFA61A3-9C33-4597-A8D9-8079E91F2784.htm

14 May 2004 | p8 said...

Great, Almustafa. Another cover-up? :(
I don't know what to think if this is true. This whole mess keeps getting more disgusting everyday.

This is what I found out so far:
- Al zarqawi is reported to have been killed months ago;
- The terrorists seem to be taller, stockier and fatter than most Islamist terrorists are;
- The family firm of beheaded American Nick Berg, was named by a conservative website in a list of 'enemies' of the Iraq occupation;
- On April 5, nearly two weeks after Berg disappeared in Iraq, the family sued in federal court and named Rumsfeld as responsible for their son's disappearance.
- Berg Executioner wore gold ring - forbidden by Islam;
- US denies holding Berg, E-mail from consul confirms Berg was in U.S. military hands;
- The Guatanamo Bay type US issue prison suit os suspicious;
- According to CNN the voices don't match al-Zarqawi;
- The terrorists signed Al Zarqawi's name to the video, though they wore hoods and masks. Why?
- If the body was found on Monday (May 10th), or previously "over the weekend" (prior), how could the execution and video be taped on May 11th, as is reported?
- Similarities between Nick Berg and Charles Horman?(Chile 1973)
- The convenient timing. It was reported to Congress precisely as the Pentagon, Rumsfeld, etc., were being grilled, and Senators were investigating the horrific prisoner abuse, and who was behind it!

14 May 2004 | p8 said...

Things keep getting even more confusing: Hamas Among Those To Condemn Berg's Execution

"Two Islamic militant groups, Hezbollah and "Hamas, issued strongly worded denunciations. Both Hezbollah and Hamas, deemed terrorist organizations by the U.S. government, said the beheading was appalling and un-Islamic."

14 May 2004 | p8 said...

At Daily Kos there is a lenghty well written piece about the suspicious circumstances that's worth a read.

14 May 2004 | Deity said...

Please don't do politics.
I'd rather not know what cretins you all really are.

14 May 2004 | Aetheist said...

My, but you're snooty for something that doesn't exist.

14 May 2004 | p8 said...

The million dollar question: Who's responsible for dumping Nick Berg, an unarmed American Jew, wearing an orange jumpsuit in the middle of hostile Arab territory?
Was he in US custody or not?

14 May 2004 | p8 said...

Is it the same chair?
"Look at this pic that was released today of the latest prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. Notice the white chair in the lower left corner.
Now - look at the chair Nicholas Berg is sitting in!"

14 May 2004 | hybrid vigour said...

I suspect that this is a widely held rationalisation, so lets parse the logic in this message and see what, if anything, it means:

"The world is rightfully disgusted by the treatment of some Iraqi prisoners, but the fact that the world is outraged is a good sign that America is still held to a higher standard."

* The world does not hold america to a higher standard - numerous surveys have shown that the world's opinion of america is at an all time low and has been at least since bush took office.

“The Arab street…”
*apparently arabs don’t have public opinion – jut a mob-like “street” – the fact is that Arabic public opinion is a lot more sophisticated than (say) american public opinion ie they are very sceptical of what they see in the media, whatever it is – Americans, in contrast, literally believe everything they see on TV.

“….remained mostly quiet when Saddam tortured for three decades…”

* that would be the 70s, 80s and 90s – during the 70s and 80s saddam was operating with the wholehearted support of america.

“…or when American soldiers were dragged through the streets and hung to dangle in public a few weeks back.“

* in fact many arabs cheered – what do you expect – look at it from their point of view – these people invade their country, kill their people, bomb their city, steal their oil, imprison and torture them - how woudl you react?

“And how many leaders in the Arab world will be outraged that one of their own ruthlessly beheaded an American contractor after forcing him to name his parents and his siblings (and don’t forget about Daniel Pearl who had to admit he was a Jew before his head was cut off)?”

*read the papers – there are 22 arabic states – leaders of each condemned the killing, with the sole exception of Syria. - ie 95%.

“The world barely gave notice to the taliban’s systematic and despicable treatment of women in Afghanistan or the destruction of ancient works of irreplaceable art and culture. The world was barely interested in stopping the carnage in Bosnia until over a half-million were killed (and then the UN still didn’t want to get involved). The world is still barely affected by the genocide taking place right now in Africa."

*it is america which barely gave notice to the taliban, that avoided stopping the carnage in bosnia and Africa – American intervention in afganistan has been worse than useless, in africa non-existant, though granted, bill clinton’s man did a good job in bosnia, not with bombs, but with diplomacy.

“But, when the US humiliates some Iraqi prisoners, people are outraged and are calling for resignations at the highest levels of our government.”

*people in america are calling for resignation – outside America (for your information) everybody assumes that resignations will make no difference – the current administration has adopted such an extreme position on so many issues that people have given up…

“And that’s a good sign for america. We’re held up to a higher standard and it’s something we should be proud of. Not the vile treatment, of course, but the world’s response. We’re in trouble when people stop caring about how we act as a nation.”

this whole comment is rubbish – there is no higher standard to be proud of – you have been in trouble since george wanker bush was "elected" president – the world is frankly terrified about how America is acting as a nation right now.

14 May 2004 | jean zaque said...

amen to hybrid vigour.

14 May 2004 | Sean Scott said...

America is a country to this day that people love to hate and hate to love. You want to wear American Jeans but hate American "Attitude". You love American Movies, but hate American Values.

However some criticism is deserved, there seems to be a certain arrogance, yet it is an arrogance that comes not only with a dear price (as past events have shown) but with great responsibility. Let remember Bosnia and who led the Nato forces to stop ethnic cleansing... It wasn't europe but America.

As much as people hate the U.S. they still need the U.S. and thus lies the dilema. The U.S. is seen as both a land of opportunity and moral rigidtude...

America is a great nation, and will continue to be in the forseeable future, however like any other nation it makes mistakes (see germany during the early to mid 20th century, France during the colonialist 19th century).

I tend to be wary of those of are extremist either in favor or against America. Todays world seems frought with them. And as any good politician knows, creating a common threat (America the evil empire) is much easier than confronting internal demons and issues. But i know my fellow citizens of the world are smarter than that. They will look past current difficulties, past referrences to American as ignorant and try to understand this nation, their nation and make an effort to make this world a safer place.

As someone famous once said it is far far easier to destroy and hate, than it is to build and love.

14 May 2004 | Jonny Roader said...

"But i know my fellow citizens of the world are smarter than that. They will look past current difficulties, past referrences to American as ignorant and try to understand this nation, their nation and make an effort to make this world a safer place."

They will as long as America makes the same attempt to understand the rest of the world. There's scant trust in that concept at the moment, and rightfully so for a whole lot of people from Iraq to Colombia.

15 May 2004 | Sean Scott said...

Well to be blunt about it the average American has never really tried to understand the rest of the world. This is not based on any arrogance but based on the reason why most Americans immigrated to the US in the first place. They wanted to get away from their place of origin, from the strife, the corruption and the violence, and wanted to start anew.

I can see how as a non-American this can be source of malaise. Why do the French for exqample need to know about the Germans, the English the Belgiums and the Danish, well sinmply because of proximity. Why must they know about America, well for commerce purposes.

However the real culprit for the recent flare up in *hate* has been the US foreign policy. However i do find it surprising that folks can seperaqte us government from the us people.

In the end i think the causes of this rift are much greater than simply trust or foreign policy. The world is rapidly changing at an ever increasing pace. We are becoming more and more dependent upon each other, and actions do cause ripples we can all vividly feel.

The Us for some time used to be this arrogant younger sibbling whose product we enjoyed policies we benefited from, but whose nose stayed out of our affairs. That is changing, and it is called globalization.

Welcome to a brave new world

15 May 2004 | p8 said...

Things get even stranger: 9/11 suspect got Berg's email password
Was Berg a spy?

Berg also worked on a tower at Abu Ghraib.
Perhaps Nick saw too much when he was at the prison repairing the tower. And/or maybe that work required close collaboration with the military intelligence onsite so that he learned too much.

17 May 2004 | nick said...

We’re held up to a higher standard and it’s something we should be proud of.

With respect, much of the sheen has been chipped away from the reputation of the US over past decades. So to talk of 'the world' in such general terms is misleading. Do you think that citizens of many countries in Latin America or SE Asia associate the US with 'higher standards', or with their support of murderous rebel groups, military coups and other amusing foreign adventures since WW2?

18 May 2004 | Andy said...

Funny how it was only the west that was shocked about these abuses. The Arab world weren't that shocked because they didn't expect anything less.

I also find it interesting that the majority of the coverage revolved around how the world would perceive these images and the danger it would put US troops under. Very few people actually seemed to be worried about the abused prisoners.

20 May 2004 | vaughn said...

The depressing thing is that if we don't do something about this, the terrorists and other activist groups will continue to use beheading as a key bargaining tool.

21 May 2004 | kevin travers said...

Jason!
I read this and it is the first time that anyone has been able to put some sense into my confused mind over this issue. I shook my head and said aloud to myself "finally, someone reminded me about what is important".
And then I look up and see your name!!! What an amazing coincidence. Hope all is well with you ... please get in touch.
Kevin Travers (from highfive and quokka, remember?)

great post.

22 May 2004 | Matt said...

I just came across this site. First off, I just want people to understand one thing. I am in the military and this is absolutely horrid. I hope people do not judge all of the US military on the acts of these monsters. That is what they are. To me, they are no different than the terrorists that beheaded that guy. Because regardless of whether or not they were ordered to or not, which i am pretty sure they probably were, they have the duty not to follow orders that are immoral or unethical. And the whole defense about not being properly trained on the geneva conventions is a bunch of bull, they went through basic training and i know for me, the geneva conventions and the law of armed conflict rules took over a day to cover. So they knew better. The one thing though about the government covering this up and only doing a press release about it only after the pictures were going to be published. I hate to tell the person who wrote that but back in january, 3 months before we saw the pictures, there was a press conference about it. It took 3 months after that for the pictures to get out, but it was out in the open that there was mistreatment of prisoners back in january. I think nobody paid much attention to it then because there was no visual references to it, just words and statements, and in today's technological world they don't hold the same wieght as pictures. But for those who think America is evil and wrong, you have that right. But remember that if America does what alot of people want it to do, which is to take all our money and spend it on ourselves and not on the rest of the world. Its amazing we have all the problems in our own country that we ignore while we are sending billions of dollars out to countries who do nothing but stab us in the back, Saudi Arabia and France come to mind.
America is held to a higher standard than the rest of the world, and whether it is fair or not is not even worth debating because that is reality. So whether we spend all our money to help other countries out or told the rest of the world to screw off and stopped giving out money to all these countries or what, we are going to be blamed regardless.
I kinda got sidetracked abit, but the one thing i want you all to remember is that the one thing that makes America great is the fact that those responsible will be brought to justice and that is something you won't see in alot of other countries. The people will see the mistakes and hopefully we will all learn from them so that they will not be repeated. Unfortunantly man is not good at learning from past examples, so in all reality it will likely happen again And another thing before i go, someone said something about the military looking after its own, well here is something the press isn't spending alot of time on, there was a member of that unit who did report it. He did his duty and he did do it. But unfortunantly the good and honest deeds in this world are always overshadowed by the evil ones. But those who commit evil will one day face thier judgement. The world needs to come together and put aside our petty differences, but that is asking for too much i think.

24 May 2004 | Jose said...

The US has a big problem with education and how the citizens are formed. What's happening in Iraq is just a consequence of that (just like Columbine and so on...). The soldiers torturing Iraquis are probably good soldiers but lousy human beings -- to believe there's only seven doing that in Iraq is preposterous. And let's not forget Guantanamo and Afghanistan. But, in the end of the day, I can also believe that the war does bad things to good people...
But, Mr. Bush and his cowboys are another matter. The absurd repetition of lies, the minimun common denominator in all the speeches, the constant hypocrisy, that dreadful character Rumsfeld... How can the average American believe this "war on terror" marketing? You feel safer because you're bombing a country "far far away"? What they're doing is multiplying by 10.000 (or more) the number of terrorists out there and turning this World in a place very difficult to live to a large number of people, including Americans and allies.
After this scandal (yes, by western standards), not a single resignation!
After 9/11, America had an amazing opportunity (despite painful) to do some good, if not for the World at least for the relations with other countries and to gather the American people (and the World) around a common objective. What happened instead? Mr. Bush, a president without a mission, start to believe he's a God's chosen to combat "evil", the World is divided, the American people is divided, terrorism is stronger everyday (not only individuals, but organizations and terrorist countries) and America is hated around the World like never before (and I mean also in allied civilized countries). This has to be a case study for the worst crisis management and public relations disaster of all time. The American Dream is now the American Nightmare.
Chris -- speaking of hypocrisy, why don't you go to Israel enforce some UN resolutions for a change? I mean, the ones that were allowed to pass with the abstention of the USA (not the vote) -- like the last one. Since when the US cares about the UN or international treaties?
Sean Scott -- You love American Movies, but hate American values? The problem is that American values are in an all time low unless you consider McDonals and Coca-Cola american value$. And regarding the movies, give me a break -- The Attack of the Clones? Even Mr. Bush is a better Darth Vader!
Matt -- Do you really believe that "America is held to a higher standard than the rest of the world"? You really have no cure, arrogance is a contagious disease. What is that "higher standard" exactly? To lie about the weapons of mass destruction? To lie about the connections between Sadam and the terrorists? To lie about the objectives of this war? To kill yourselves by the dozens every-month in your own country? To put guns in the hands of children? To just eat junk food? To drink more Coke than water? To drive a SUV? To rise an American flag in the backyard? To print "proudly made in America" in every piece of junk you produce? To list "Made in the USA" as a feature? America is a country of contrasts with good and bad things happening all the time, just like the others (at least in the West). And do you really believe the responsibles will be brought to justice? You mean *just* the guys in the photographs? Congratulations you are a true believer, Mr. Bush needs you!
You're the kind of guy that sooner or later will have a surprise coming from China or so. And I don't need to be Nostradamus or a "analyst" to guarantee it will not be a fortune cookie.

25 May 2004 | Kimberley said...

Well said, Jose. You just managed to vomit up a veritable treasure trove of problems that America is facing. I'm very, very impressed with your superior grasp of the obvious. Truly, you are of a superior intellect. But tell me this, buddy, ol' pal o' mine. In your oh so witty and wise summation of everything wrong with America and everyone who has posted here, you failed to tell us what you would do differently. And since I'm assuming you have all the answers, as you so clearly believe you do, I'm now awaiting those answers. Since you clearly have it all figured out and believe yourself to be wise enough to lead a nation toward the path of righteousness, I'm sure you won't mind sharing with us-- a nation of mindless, arrogant, junkfood eating, prisoner-abusing, bad-movie watching, Coca-Cola drinking, President Bush electing, horrible film-producing, ignorant sad sacks what the answer to all our problems is. Go ahead. I'm waiting.

No? You don't have the answer? Imagine that! See, everyone is so quick to shoot off at the mouth about what our problems are, but no one seems to have a quick solution. Everyone has an opinion but no one seems to have anything of any real value to contribute when the time comes. When it's time to put your money where your mouth is, you're just a bunch of pixels on a computer screen doling out your judgment of a nation in turmoil. We're all nations in turmoil. There is no Utopia. There is no such place as a perfect place to live, a perfect leader, a perfect citizen. We're all flawed to the core. So put up, or shut up. Instead of sitting here ranting and raving about why we're so wrong and he's wrong and she's wrong and it's just not right, get off your ever-lovin', apathetic, judgmental, complacent fanny and be the change you wish to see in the world. Volunteer. Speak out. Organize. Protest. DO something. Otherwise you're not a part of the solution, you're just one more part of a growing problem. Need a place to start? Contact me. I'll line you up with any number of organizations that would gladly accept you as a volunteer. Go ahead. I'll hold my breath and wait for you to contact me. Mmm hmm. Should be hearing from you annnnny minute now.

26 May 2004 | Spoilt Victorian Child said...

Funny how it was only the west that was shocked about these abuses. The Arab world weren't that shocked because they didn't expect anything less.

I don't know where you're getting this.

I also find it interesting that the majority of the coverage revolved around how the world would perceive these images and the danger it would put US troops under. Very few people actually seemed to be worried about the abused prisoners.

Or this.

It's also worth noting that it doesn't matter how well-versed the soldiers were in the terms of the Geneva Convention, because the Geneva Convention only dictates conduct toward civilians and POWs. The detainees, by and large, were classified as unlawful combatants.

Some other points:

--America and the rest of the "first-world" are indeed held to a higher standard than the rest of the world. I'm not particularly certain that this is something to be proud of, but it seems pretty ludicrous to claim otherwise.

--What we do have to be proud of is that we hold ourselves to a higher standard. It's pretty difficult to ignore the contrast between the Palestinian reaction to 9-11 and the American reaction to the Abu Ghraib scandal. Yes, this is also true for the rest of the "first world."

--I don't understand the people who argue that we were wrong for both supporting Saddam throughout the 70s and 80s and for ousting him last year.

--Saudi Arabia is not more repressive than was Iraq under Saddam. Indeed, North Korea is also significantly more repressive.

--The invasion of Iraq was not unprovoked—it was conducted in response to Saddam's umpteenth violation of UN sanctions.

--The war was never predicated solely on Saddam's possession of WMDs. Regardless of Bush's rhetoric, many of the war's supporters (myself included) supported it from the start for humanitarian reasons. Furthermore, regardless of whether Saddam actually possessed WMDs (I doubt that he did, but it's not inconceivable that he simply destroyed what he had), he was still refusing to cooperate with inspections teams. In light of the increasing number of countries with WMD programs, I do not understand how the international community could have afforded to let him slide for that.

--The fact that the U.S. has not invaded Korea (uh, recently) does not mean that the U.S. has been ignoring Korea. However, the policy that we have adopted displays a degree of ineptitude that I had not thought possible.

--In '91, the U.S. obeyed U.N. regulations by not trying to oust Saddam. In 2003, the U.S. did not violate U.N. regulations by trying to oust Saddam. So, with respect to the U.N., there isn't really any inconsistency. (I believe that we should have acted differently in the first war, however.) Regardless, I certainly won't defend the farming subsidies and steel tariffs, which are patently ridiculous.

--It would be difficult for me to envision an administration worse than W. Bush's.

That's all for now.

26 May 2004 | but that's just me said...

Kimberley...well done. I don't know why people believe it's okay to insult the entire population of America as Jose did. If an American says one negative thing about any other country, we're arrogant and racist.

Of course there are those here who aren't always proud of everything our government does, but why should that make us ashamed to be Americans? And if America is such a terrible place to live, why do people go through living hell, risking their lives -- and sometimes even losing their lives -- to cross our borders and live here (usually illegally)?

Everyone who insults us proves that we're held to a higher standard. We are not perfect. We never will be. Those who think we should be or can be are what I call Utopians. I personally love my life here and don't believe I could be this content in any other country, especially as a single mother. I'm extremely blessed and I'm proud to say that I live in America, as other people who live content lives should be proud of where they live. Why can't you Utopians just let us be happy with who we are?

26 May 2004 | One of several Steves said...

It's also worth noting that it doesn't matter how well-versed the soldiers were in the terms of the Geneva Convention, because the Geneva Convention only dictates conduct toward civilians and POWs. The detainees, by and large, were classified as unlawful combatants.

Only the Guantanamo detainees are classified as such. The US military does classify those taken prisioner in Iraq as POWs and has the formal stance that the Geneva Conventions (there are multiple) apply. They've adpoted some processes that even military lawyers thought were in violation of the conventions, but the US has never argued that they don't apply in Iraq. Just in Afghanistan/Gunatanamo.

27 May 2004 | Jose said...

Kimberly:
Thank you for your kind words, but vomit seems to be your department.
The problem for me with this talks is when things start to get more complicated, my english fails... Anyway:
You're right though, I don't have the answers. But who I'm I to have the answers? The problem it's not me, I'm not the president of the mighty US of A. The problem is Mr. Bush and all the genius around him without the answers -- worst, they don't have a clue (more or less like you -- where are *your* answers?).
As I said, I believe the US is a country of contrasts. I exaggerated a little in the things I find bad, to make a point not to insult (but it's true) -- and I'm sincere when I now say I could find good things in equal or greater number, but this post is about Iraq and Abu Ghraib, not about how great life is in America.
And let me complete one sentence -- is preposterous to believe there's only seven soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners and only at Abu Ghraib. It's equally preposterous to believe all the american soldiers abuse the prisoners.
I made generic observations and I believe they're of equal value of other posts here, but after one post you seem to know me better than my mother. I don't need a place to start, I started thinking for myself a long time ago and I'm already a member of all the organizations I want. Besides I don't live in the US -- there's life outside US you know? And several organizations too. Anyway, I don't believe in wearing protest t-shirts more than you believe in a bunch of pixels.
Some of the answers you ask are already there: Spend more with education and less with weapons; start collecting the millions of weapons spread for the civil population; get rid of this administration; do better movies...
But the essential for me:
The invasion of Iraq was wrong, created a dangerous precedent, we still don't know what the objectives are (or were) and nobody knows how will it end...
...and it all started with a bunch of lies. I can't forget the pathetic "presentation" of all the proof americans needed in the UN by Colin Powell...
...but now it's nothing more than a complete disaster.
Terrorism is getting stronger under this Bush administration and since I believe *everything* is possible after 9/11, I find myself happier not thinking about it.
This administration don't give a s*** for the UN, international treaties (from ecology to war crimes) and don't give a s*** for the world. President Bush thinks Central America is Kansas and is happy that way.
After the Abu Ghraib scandal not a single resignation and now the marketing again: they will demolish the prison (and probably send the rubble to under the carpet). This is how Bush solve the problems, with dynamite. This administration has no integrity.
The american people is divided, despite the great patriotism of everyone...
...some times blind patriotism, arrogance and egoism.
It's true: America is now seen by the world under a less favorable light than before 9/11. How can this be?

27 May 2004 | Spoilt Victorian Child said...

Only the Guantanamo detainees are classified as such. The US military does classify those taken prisioner in Iraq as POWs and has the formal stance that the Geneva Conventions (there are multiple) apply. They've adpoted some processes that even military lawyers thought were in violation of the conventions, but the US has never argued that they don't apply in Iraq. Just in Afghanistan/Gunatanamo.

Fair enough. I was under the impression that, in order to be considered a soldier, one needed to wear insignia identifiable at a distance. But I could very well be wrong (or they could be making an exception in this case).

27 May 2004 | but that's just me said...

It's true: America is now seen by the world under a less favorable light than before 9/11. How can this be?

My guess is at least partly because of people like you spreading such hatred of our country.

27 May 2004 | One of several Steves said...

Fair enough. I was under the impression that, in order to be considered a soldier, one needed to wear insignia identifiable at a distance. But I could very well be wrong (or they could be making an exception in this case).

The 1977 convention changed that requirement.

28 May 2004 | Jose said...

but that's just me said...
My guess is at least partly because of people like you spreading such hatred of our country.
Not true! I don't hate your country, I dislike some things (your president is at the top of my list, what can I do?). I know several of your fellow citizens much more critic of America than myself or foreigners in general (and I mean, civilized ones).
But, since I'm in the mood of read all this SvN thing (it happens when I'm flooded with work), let me tell you this: It really impressed me one of your posts somewhere when you said you would like to move to Chigago, but you will not because of your kids. For me that's what counts nowadays. I know so many people that would do exactly the opposite!
Who cares about Bush and Saddam? I like you.

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