The War On Civilization

Army documents:Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.

The story of Mr. Dilawar's brutal death at the Bagram Collection Point - and that of another detainee, Habibullah, who died there six days earlier in December 2002 - emerge from a nearly 2,000-page confidential file of the Army's criminal investigation into the case, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

Downing Street Memo:The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss [the timing of the war] with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.FOIA's obtained by the ACLU:
  • One investigation into abuses at Rifles Base in Ramadi, Iraq details an incident in July 2003 in which an Army captain took an Iraqi welder into the desert, told him to dig his own grave, verbally threatened to kill him and had other soldiers stage a shooting of the man.

    In a separate incident uncovered in the Rifles Base investigation, the driver and passenger of an Iraqi fire truck were detained for failing to turn off the truck's headlights. Multiple soldiers reported that a captain kicked the detainees, threatened to kill them, and held a pistol to the head of one of the detainees, even though the detainees did not offer resistance of any kind. The detainees were released later that evening.

  • An Army document dated December 30, 2003 stating that three Army personnel received administrative punishments -- rather than criminal sanctions -- for abuse of Iraqi detainees. A Master Sergeant was found guilty of knocking an Iraqi detainee to the ground, repeatedly kicking him in the groin, abdomen and head, and encouraging her subordinates to do the same. A Staff Sergeant was found guilty of holding a detainee's legs apart while other soldiers kicked him in the groin, abdomen and head. A third soldier was found guilty of violently twisting a detainee's previously injured arm and causing him to scream in pain.
  • A July 15, 2004 information paper on an incident involving two Iraqi men detained in Samarra. The men were driven to a bridge, where a platoon leader instructed three soldiers to push the detainees into the river. One of the Iraqi men could not swim and drowned. The other survived and reported the incident to different U.S. soldiers. The body was recovered by the family 12 days later and buried. One soldier indicated to investigators that the chain of command had instructed the soldiers not to cooperate with the investigation and to deny that they pushed the men into the river.
  • A May 3, 2004 information paper describing the deaths of two Afghan detainees at Bagram, Afghanistan. One man died from an embolism that the medical examiner "attributed to blows that he received combined with immobility due to restraint." The other died from aggravation or a coronary artery condition "brought on by complications that arose from blows that he received from the stress from being restrained in a standing position." None of the soldiers had been formally charged as of the writing of this report.
The current right-wing frame on the Newsweek story is that the Muslim world is understandably and deserved disrespected by the West because they repeatedly and violently over-react to reports such as the ones I listed above. Take, for example, Jeff Jacoby:
It was front-page news this week when Newsweek retracted a report claiming that a US interrogator in Guantanamo had flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet. Everywhere it was noted that Newsweek's story had sparked widespread Muslim rioting, in which at least 17 people were killed. But there was no mention of deadly protests triggered in recent years by comparable acts of desecration against other religions.

No one recalled, for example, that American Catholics lashed out in violent rampages in 1989, after photographer Andres Serrano's ''Piss Christ" -- a photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine -- was included in an exhibition subsidized by the National Endowment for the Arts. Or that they rioted in 1992 when singer Sinead O'Connor, appearing on ''Saturday Night Live," ripped up a photograph of Pope John Paul II.

There was no reminder that Jewish communities erupted in lethal violence in 2000, after Arabs demolished Joseph's Tomb, torching the ancient shrine and murdering a young rabbi who tried to save a Torah. And nobody noted that Buddhists went on a killing spree in 2001 in response to the destruction of two priceless, 1,500-year-old statues of Buddha by the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

Of course, there was a good reason all these bloody protests went unremembered in the coverage of the Newsweek affair: They never occurred.

Christians, Jews, and Buddhists don't lash out in homicidal rage when their religion is insulted. They don't call for holy war and riot in the streets. It would be unthinkable for a mainstream priest, rabbi, or lama to demand that a blasphemer be slain. But when Reuters reported what Mohammad Hanif, the imam of a Muslim seminary in Pakistan, said about the alleged Koran-flushers -- ''They should be hung. They should be killed in public so that no one can dare to insult Islam and its sacred symbols" -- was any reader surprised?

The Muslim riots should have been met by outrage and condemnation. From every part of the civilized world should have come denunciations of those who would react to the supposed destruction of a book with brutal threats and the slaughter of 17 innocent people.

The clear implication of this line of thinking is that `the muslim world" is not civilized. On right wing blogs and radio shows across the country, the line of thinking expressed by Jacoby is repeatedly couched in terms of "these people"--why do these people act this way? This is the triumph of identity politics, when individuals are able to grant themselves moral superiority over others simply because of their cultural identification.

I view the ethics behind the situation a little differently. What is the difference between individuals who commit acts of violence, and individuals who support governments who engage in far grater acts of violence? That is not an easy question to answer, and it poses a difficult moral dilemma for all Americans, even those such as myself who vocally opposed the war in Iraq and the approval of torture policies such as those constructed by the Bush administration and Alberto Gonzales. Demonstrating our own complicity with uncivilized acts makes it a lot more difficult to only condemn "these people," but even to understand "these people" as different from "our people." A day should come when all acts of unjustified violence, whether they are committed by mobs of official governments, are condemned by the civilized world, but that day is not today.

Tags: Culture (all tags)



"Christians, Jews, and Buddhists don't lash out in homicidal rage when their religion is insulted. They don't call for holy war and riot in the streets. It would be unthinkable for a mainstream priest, rabbi, or lama to demand that a blasphemer be slain."

He sure seems to have a point. Decrying "identity politics" doesn't make that point invalid.

by GaryHobson 2005-05-20 08:47AM | 0 recs
Like I said
The difference between supporting government that do far worse things (invade countries on trumped up evidence that result in tens of thousands of deaths and utilizing torture during such invasions) and for individuals to participate in smaller scale acts of violence is somewhat less lcear than the identity lines he draws.
by Chris Bowers 2005-05-20 09:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Like I said
"..invade countries on trumped up evidence that result in tens of thousands of deaths and utilizing torture during such invasions..."

But...but...Saddam had RAPE ROOMS!!!!! And WMD! And he was at the controls of the plane that went down in PA!

Honest to God, I am so ashamed of my country, I want to dig myself a nice, deep hole and hide in it for the next 50 years or so. Some days, I almost wish I could rip off this tinfoil hat and let the conform-o-rays turn me into a Bush-worshipping zombie like a couple people I know.

by GaryHobson 2005-05-20 10:34AM | 0 recs
What do you think of the French Revolution?
Was it worth it?

How would you answer in the following years:


I hope I made my point, but if not, the French Revolution was a bloody, but necessary and ultimately beneficial affair (we think today). But would we think that while watching decapitations in the public squares? Would we think that in 1804 when Napoleon crowned himself Emperor? Would we think that in 1914 when Prussians launched WWI? How would we feel in 1919 with a continent in taters, or in 1941 with Hitler and Fascism completely ascendent? Probably not.

Iraq is the same way. The entire world is coming closer together except for the Arabs. They need to be brought, forcibly if necessary (and it is), into global democracy. September 11th was like lansing a boil; in the short run there has been pain, disease, and uglyness oozing out of the Middle East, but those who reflexively sieze upon every negative headline are spitting in the wind.

In the long run we and especially they will benefit from the pain of today. That formula: "pain today, gain tomorrow" is the beating heart of Progressiveism when it comes to education, taxes, technological investment, and the environment. Yet in foriegn policy self-proclaimed Progressives refuse to see this. I guess they are maudlin for the 60s, and would give anything to relive the "Summer of Love". It ain't gonna happen.

Ultimately, can your vision of the good world be achieved while Arabs embrace fundamentalist Islam? For me the answer is a world-rattling "NO!"  

by Paul Goodman 2005-05-21 06:47AM | 0 recs
Christians and Jews don't lash out in rage?
I guess you don't count the Iraq War that was retaliation for 9/11. I guess it doesn't matter that Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11.

So if a Christian nation lashes out in blind rage against a country that had nothing at all to do with the source of the rage, that doesn't count.

I guess you also don't count the Palestinian children that are killed by Israeli soldiers for throwing rocks at Israeli tanks. I guess Israelis don't lash out in rage at Palestinians when they send tanks into Palestinian neighborhoods to level Palestinian homes.

You entirely miss the point of Chris's diary. What difference is there between Saddam Hussein gassing innocent Kurds in northern Iraq and the U.S. bombing innocent women and children during the Iraq War? Are you saying that it's OK to butcher innocent women and children if you drop bombs on them?

Is killing hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis morally superior to a few Islamic whackos butchering Daniel Pearle?

I guess your point is that as long as the butchers wear a military uniform, the slaughter of innocents is morally justified.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-05-20 11:26AM | 0 recs
I'm replacing the batteries in my snark detector
There. That's much better.
by Gary Boatwright 2005-05-20 11:28AM | 0 recs
Re: But...
"Christians, Jews, and Buddhists don't lash out in homicidal rage when their religion is insulted."

Weren't there riots and demonstrations against "The Last Temptation of Christ" and other movies? OK, they didn't go so far as "homicidal," but they weren't fun to be around.

"It would be unthinkable for a mainstream priest, rabbi, or lama to demand that a blasphemer be slain."

Ever hear of the Inquisition? Witch burnings? Hunting down of "heretics?" Maybe the Catholic Church doesn't execute people any more, but in the Middle Ages it sure used to. For example, the Malleus Maleficarum, the official manual of the Inquisition (c. 1486), contains a section titled "On the Burning of Heretics."

Protestants sre not off the hook. Calvin executed Servetus in 1453 for blasphemy. Then you have such jolly shows as the Salem witch trials. There is still (as of 2001, anyway) a law against blasphemy on the British statute books, though no one has been sent to jail for it since 1922. Some states such as Massachusetts (!!) have a blasphemy statute as well, and there were blasphemy trials in the US apparently as late as 1970 (though it seems no case has ever reached SCOTUS).

As for rabbis, the Talmud has prohibitions against blasphemy and similar offenses, punishable by execution, though it is an arguable point whether the sentence was ever carried out. (There is an obscure reference to Mattai and 4 others, which MIGHT mean Matthew.)

Lamas, as far as I know, are off the hook on this one.

The point is not to defend in any way the current attitude among some (many?) Muslims. The point is that all of the Abrahamic religions (at least) have had similar pasts, and we're not over it yet either.

by DanK 2005-05-21 12:22PM | 0 recs
Don't believe the hype.
Keep in mind that there's actually nothing (other than the assertion of the White House, amplified by the Right-Wing Noise Machine) linking the Newsweek article to the riots. On the contrary, before the media feeding frenzy began, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the military commander in Afghanistan said that the two were "not at all" related -- that the riots were in response to actions taken by the Karzai government.

I rant about that here.

by catastrophile 2005-05-20 12:14PM | 0 recs
I hope you took them from your dudgeon generator
"I guess you don't count the Iraq War that was retaliation for 9/11. I guess it doesn't matter that Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11.

So if a Christian nation lashes out in blind rage against a country that had nothing at all to do with the source of the rage, that doesn't count."

You'd have to walk a long mile to find someone who hates the Iraq war more than I do. I hope there's a special treat in store for Chimpco when they get to hell and discover that they no longer have an army of howling talk-show flacks to shill for them, no supine "liberal" media to report their every lie as gospel. Oh, it's gonna SUCK to be Smirky, Snarly, Karl, etc. when they get to meet Lucifer and see what he has for them. So your accusations are entirely unfair and off base. Guess you missed my post on how ashamed I am of our "leadership".

My sole original point was that I found myself agreeing that Muslims have, shall we say, an image problem? Ask Salman Rushdie if you need an example. The "Christians" (HAH!) in charge here didn't attack Iraq on religious grounds, unless being hypocritical, utterly shameless monsters counts as a religion. Sure, the Golden Warrior Prince has a messiah complex, and there's a reason he and Jesus have never been seen together in public (see But the idea of jihad is unknown in Judaism and Christianity, far as I know.

So please don't try to explain away the fact that yes, radical Muslims will indeed "lash out in homicidal rage when their religion is insulted"--a point completely and tragically lost on the bastards who're doing everything in their power to inflame every living Muslim against the US.

by GaryHobson 2005-05-20 12:23PM | 0 recs
Re: I hope you took them from your dudgeon generat
The batteries, that is.
by GaryHobson 2005-05-20 12:23PM | 0 recs
Christian jihad
"But the idea of jihad is unknown in Judaism and Christianity, far as I know."

No it isn't, it's equivalent is "crusade". A word Bush has used at least twice in connection with Iraq.

by antiHyde 2005-05-21 06:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Christian jihad
I knew someone would bring up the Crusades. Only a  matter of time. Sorry--that atrocity was a long, long time ago and does not obtain in today's world.
by GaryHobson 2005-05-21 11:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Christian jihad
Since Bush used the "crsudae" word - something the Muslim/Arab community picked up on, even if the US media largely ignored it - it certainly does apply to today's world.

Also largely overlooked was that, after we invaded Iraq, a number of Christian groups took advantage of the situation to send missionaries there.

I'm not saying the war was driven by Christian desires to conquer/convert Muslims (though listening to Bush as he talks about his belief that God ordered him to invade Iraq, one could sure get that idea). But there certainly some overlap.

by DanK 2005-05-21 12:28PM | 0 recs
Actually, you're wrong
People are people no matter where you go or what religion they pretend to. Every society has its share of fascist zealots, our are called Christian Conservatives, in the Middle East they are called Islamic Fundamentalists: they are all the same. The beauty of the War on Terror is that domestic enemies of progress are sparing no expense in promoting progress abroad. What delicious irony! Could you imagine Bush declaring war on backwards religion here at home? And yet he does the equivalent in the Middle East! The other beauty of spreading democracy abroad is that it is an insurance policy against the loss of freedom at home. When 95% of the world is free, can our 5% deviate? Not without a war of annihilation.

Article 4 section 4 guarantees a republican form of government for all Americans; you would fight to the death (I give you the benefit of the doubt) if the fascists attempted to take over America. Are brown foriegners so much less your brethren that you won't cheer on others when they fight to free them?

Sure, the Islamic terrorists are the reigning champions of evil, but they are not alone.

by Paul Goodman 2005-05-21 07:01AM | 0 recs
Moral Relativism
"What is the difference between individuals who commit acts of violence, and individuals who support governments who engage in far grater acts of violence?" the author says.

So if I'm a Jew in Germany circa 1937 and I my brother gets killed by Nazis, I'm wrong for sucessfully leading a revolt, and killing all the Nazis by 1939? I don't think so. There is a major difference between our liberal-socialist civilization and Islam. If you can't comprehend that, I feel sorry for you. And the usual cop-out of saying "but the Republicans will turn this world into a theo-fascist hell in 50 years" is no excuse. Islam is that theo-fascist hell Right Now. Kinda like social security, yeah, it'll go bankrupt in 50 years, but Bush is running deficits Right Now. Progressives that don't viscerally despise Islamic culture are worthless.

by Paul Goodman 2005-05-21 07:15AM | 0 recs


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