May 09, 2004

Thoughts on Washington Monthly
Posted by Jon Henke

Reading Kevin Drums site, a few things seem to me indicative of the polarized nature of "the other side" at this point.
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First, this....

How high does it go? And how explicit was the policy? I don't know, but based on what we've seen so far I'd guess (a) pretty high and (b) pretty explicit. The only question is whether the investigation itself will go that high, or content itself with a few low ranking scapegoats. [emphasis added]
He doesn't know, and he's guessing....but he's narrowed the question down to this:
Question: Will the investigation go "that high" - [How high? I don't know!] - or will it content itself with a few low ranking scapegoats? [why does Kevin assume they would be scapegoats after conceding he has no idea how high this goes....or does not go?]

Seems Kevin has set the bar at an indefinite height, and demanded the military jump over it. And if those responsible are low-ranking soldiers, officers, and a few negligent Generals? Well, what do you want to bet that bar will be ex post facto higher?
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Secondly, this...

As this Washington Post editorial argues, Rumsfeld is pretty clearly responsible for encouraging and condoning harsh treatment of prisoners in general, and was quite possibly well aware of exactly what was going on at Abu Ghraib too. I imagine that goes for several other high ranking officials as well.

So yes: fire Rumsfeld. And don't stop there.

Note that this post is below (i.e., before) the post in which Drum says he doesn't know how high/explicit the policy went. So Drum argues that Rumsfeld should step down because he was "clearly responsible for encouraging and condoning" harsh treatment and possible aware of the Abu Ghraib situation...but he doesn't really know, and he's just guessing.

So, based on information that Kevin Drum doesn't know, Rumsfeld should be fired.

I'm not necessarily complaining about the conclusion he reaches. Should Rumsfeld be fired? I don't know, and I don't have enough information to make that judgement. Based on what we DO know, I'd say no....but we do need to find out to what extent there may have been any official encouragement before making a final judgement. No, what annoys me is Kevin's thought process. The leap from "I don't know" to "fire him" without even offering a rationale more substantive than "the Washington Post editorial thinks what I think".

That's lazy. It could also set the stage for some difficult explanations during a Kerry Presidency when - as is bound to happen - something really bad happens. Will Kevin insist the Department head resign because of the "environment" he created?
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Finally, a more interesting point...

The conservative response to Abu Ghraib has been fascinating, hasn't it? First reaction: this is horrible and the soldiers involved should have the book thrown at them.
Well, yes - assuming I can conflate libertarians with conservatives here - we did immediately call it horrible. So far as I have seen, the vast majority of the pro-war crowd have continued to do that. This is as bi-partisan an issue as I can imagine. Torture is bad, the guilty should be punished....no question. It's a shame Kevin had to fringe-bait by going on.
Second reaction: yeah, it's bad, it really is, but it's worth remembering that it's nowhere near as bad as what Saddam did.
At first, this annoyed me. On second thought, though, it's true....some few conservatives have said this. It's an irrational, non sequitur argument, but some few are making it. Still, if Kevin wants to make this argument, it would be nice if he didn't attribute it to "conservatives". That's no more fair than the "you don't support the troops" claim - which applies to a fringe, and not the mainstream of anti-war thought.
Third reaction: enough, enough! Jeez, it's been a whole week. This issue has been hijacked by militant Bush-haters who just want to use it for craven partisan reasons.
Take out the "enough, jeez it's been a whole week" part, and Kevin would be right. Quite a few conservatives are pointing out that some Democrats are turning this into a partisan issue. That's a pretty fair point, too. I have yet to hear one person say "enough, it's been a whole week", or anything like it. But perhaps Kevin runs in fevered swamps to which I am not privy.
Fourth reaction: still to come. Maybe torturers as heroes thanks to testimony from someone or other that one of the scraps of information they extracted saved a convoy somewhere? Hey, war is hell.
Forthcoming Washington Monthly reaction: "as long as we believe no leader should participate in war crimes and atrocities, then we have to admit that John Kerry is unfit for the Presidency".

Hey, as long as we're just making up smears.....

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Comments

That's lazy. It could also set the stage for some difficult explanations during a Kerry Presidency when - as is bound to happen - something really bad happens. Will Kevin insist the Department head resign because of the "environment" he created?

Nah, Kerry will just blame his speech writers, which is fast becoming his standard excuse for his lies, oops I mean "misspeaks"

Posted by: shark at May 9, 2004 10:17 PM

Second reaction: yeah, it's bad, it really is, but it's worth remembering that it's nowhere near as bad as what Saddam did.

In certain contexts, it IS an argument worth making. Whenever some arab "leader" or journalist acts all outraged over this, well hey- Saddam and other Arab Nations routinely do/did far worse and they didn't complain, so why don't they just STFU and spare us the hypocracy?

It's not an excuse for the assholery that went down, but it IS context.

Posted by: shark at May 9, 2004 10:21 PM

Maybe torturers as heroes thanks to testimony from someone or other that one of the scraps of information they extracted saved a convoy somewhere? Hey, war is hell.

Well, we all know how little the left cares for convoys, many of them protected by contractors.....I believe the term was "screw 'em"

Posted by: shark at May 9, 2004 10:22 PM

> But perhaps Kevin runs in fevered swamps to which I am not privy.

I think the key word is "privy" -- as in, where such sentiments arise.

I'm not happy about the pictures. I'm not happy they're on the front page of my local rag. I'm not happy about the clusterf**k that let this happen, and I don't buy the lame excuses I've heard from supposedly responsible parties.

That said, the reason that I'm displeased is not because of some mythical "rights to dignity," "Geneva conventions," "UN resolutions," or even "rules of engagement" (though this comes closest). I don't doubt that there are many in Iraq who I could personally authorize stripping, humiliating, electrocuting, drugging, torturing, or killing -- without the least tinge of regret.

Instead, we have pictures of embarassing things being done to random Iraqis -- the people we're trying to do well by. We don't know if this is just some guy who shoplifted fruit from the market or someone responsible for the deaths of hundreds.

And that's the most loathesome aspect of this situation. If these guys had parking tickets, they should be promptly processed and released. If one is Saddam, information should be extracted from him in the most expeditious manner possible, regardless of any damage he might be left with. I couldn't summon any sympathy for an Abu Ghraib warden or torturer if he were fed into his own shredders feet-first -- Geneva be damned. But the smiling GI's in the pictures suggest that every other pictured scene is just a goof. Just a lark. They don't know and they don't care if these prisoners are petty criminals or evil incarnate -- they'll strip 'em down and stack 'em up regardless. And that's obscene.

Liberals see this situation and think, "this violence is bad." Conservatives see it and think, "this uncontrolled violence is bad." While it may appear that there is some common ground here, the illusion lasts only so long as there is no consideration of the potential good from controlled violence.

Posted by: cthulhu at May 10, 2004 03:29 AM

Yeah, that fourth reaction of Kevin's (I do so love to be told what I'm going to be thinking, don't you?) nearly sent me over the edge... actually, it did, but I was able to delete the blog entry before posting it. Angry posts accomplish nothing. Angry posts accomplish nothing. This is my mantra, and I'm sticking with it.

Angry posts accomplish nothing. Angry posts accomplish nothing...

Posted by: Moe Lane at May 10, 2004 09:27 AM

Moe,
I'd argue that angry campaigns - indeed, angry political parties - don't accomplish very much, either.

Posted by: Jon Henke at May 10, 2004 09:46 AM

"I'd argue that angry campaigns - indeed, angry political parties - don't accomplish very much, either."

Why do you think that I picked this mantra in the first place? :)

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