May 26, 2005

Showing off my right side

By linking to an essay I really liked a lot.

Thanks to Doug for the heads up.

UPDATE: And, oh yeah, read both parts, you know, if that's your thing.

Posted by Ryan at May 26, 2005 05:02 PM

Okay, you know what? I never ever ever want to hear that fucking, "This comment string soon to be released in paperback" crack from you again. This post should read, "Here's a link to a 100,000,000 page long rambling disjointed rant by some partisan hack who's taken over the market share once devoted to The Turner Diaries."


Posted by: Joshua at May 28, 2005 12:26 AM

I've read and enjoyed Bill Whittle's essays before, but they're sort of pointless to argue against because they use inaccurate generalizations to justify an inaccurate worldview. So for example:

So why were the Taliban and Al Qaeda and Fedayeen insurgents treated so differently? Why the hoods and shackles? Why the humiliation at Abu Graib?

It is not because these men shot at US soldiers. Regular Iraqi units, NVA units, North Korean Units, Germans, Japanese, Confederates and Redcoats have shot at American soldiers and upon their surrender their treatment has been, on the whole, exemplary. Why are these different?

It is not because they are opposing us. It is – to put it as bluntly as possible – because they are cheating – cheating in a way that none of the above ever did.

The Convention Against Torture, which was ratified by the U.S. in 1994, makes no exceptions for Unlawful Combatants or "cheaters".

There's a lot of back-and-forth in Bill's comment section about whether sexual humiliation, being threatened with attack dogs, waterboarded, beaten or hooked up to electrodes, hooded and shackled actually constitute torture per se. The obvious retort to such points would seem to be, "Well, how 'bout I do those things to you. Afterward you can tell me if you've been tortured." But somehow I doubt any of Bill's readers would take the point. In any event, the actions carried out against detainees certainly meet the conditions of cruel and unusual punishment asserted under the U.S. interpretation of the CAT.

What a uniform also does -- the corollary to the whole idea of a uniformed person – is to say that if the individual wearing a uniform is a legitimate target, then the person standing next to him in civilian clothes is not.

Here again: the presuppositions in this argument are patently false.

German soldiers wore uniforms. And yet, on February 13th and 14th, Allied forces including U.S. elements firebombed the city of Dresden, which Allied commanders later acknowledged had no military significance, massacring approximately 20,000 people. After the war Churchill said of the attack that, "The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing".

Japanese soldiers wore uniforms. But on March 9th, 1945 US bomber divisions burned 16 square miles of Tokyo, killing approximately 100,000 civilians. The firebombing continued through the rest of the war, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties. Curtis LeMay said afterward that, "I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal."

Free fire zones in Vietnam targeted all personnel in the zone, regardless of uniform status.

Likewise, operations Rolling Thunder, Arc Light and Menu killed tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of civilians in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

[Wearing uniforms during combat] is an ancient covenant, and willfully breaking it is unspeakably dishonorable.

Gen. George Washington wrote:

"As the Continental Army has unfortunately no uniforms, and consequently many inconveniences must arise from not being able to distinguish the commissioned officers from the privates, it is desired that some badge of distinction be immediately provided; for instance that the field officers may have red or pink colored cockades in their hats, the captains yellow or buff, and the subalterns green."

Not exactly a beacon that distinguishes soldiers from civilians.

Our soldiers are civilized, compassionate and decent citizens doing a tough, horrible job.

Say; how long do you think it would take me to find 1,000 quotes from U.S. soldiers regarding killing Iraqis that aren't particularly civilized, compassionate, or decent? I'm not going to bother, but if you're being honest I think you'll realize it wouldn't be hard to counter this statement.

Honorable surrender has never been treated with shame by any American unit I have ever heard of.

On April 29, 1945, the day that the SS surrendered the camp at Dachau, American soldiers of the 45th Thunderbird Division of the US Seventh Army lined up surrendered Waffen-SS soldiers against a wall and machine-gunned them. The same division machine-gunned a truckload of German prisoners of war at Comise airfield. Later that same day 60 Italian POWs were massacred the same way. On July 14, 1943 Sgt. Barry West murdered 36 POWs near Gela. US Captain Jerry Compton machine-gunned 43 prisoners at Buttera Airfield. The 45th may also have been responsible for the massacre of some 200 SS soldiers outside Nuremberg in 1945; autopsies revealed that some of the prisoners were bludgeoned to death with rifle butts. On April 8th, 1945 the US 95th Infantry division shot 14 prisoners from the 116th Panzer division in Budberg. On April 13, 1945 a US Infantry division massacred 20 German POWs near Spitze, 15 miles east of Cologne.

All that aside, the qualifier, "any American unit I have ever heard of," is telling.

These [terrorists] are the kind of men in Guantanamo.

While many of the presuppositions of this essay are understandable (if not particularly admirable) expressions of war-time jingoism, this comment stands out as an exceptional example of fuzzy thinking being advanced as a statement of fact.

On March 27th, 2005 the Washington Post published an account of the detainment of Murat Kurnaz, a German national detained at Guantanamo on evidence that was previously classified. The evidence was declassified in March; the post examined it and found that US Military Intelligence and German Authorities both stated that there was insufficient evidence to assume that Kurnaz was associated with Islamic terrorist organizations.

On January 2nd, 2005 the Post published a story titled "Long-Term Plan Sought for Terror Suspects," which included the following item:

The Pentagon and the CIA have asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions, including for hundreds of people now in military and CIA custody whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge in courts.

Evidence would tend to suggest that some of the men being held at Guantanamo may be guilty of terrorism and some of them may be guilty of-- nothing. Given that, Bill's blanket statement doesn't really hold up; more than that, it suggests a certain credulity with regard to the actions of the U.S. military and intelligence apparatus.

And sort of on and on like that.

Of course there's no point in arguing with Bill or his readers. But I do kind of expect better from you Ryan.

God knows why.

Posted by: Joshua at May 28, 2005 02:26 AM

Hey, I said I LIKED IT. I didn't say I expected YOU to.

Posted by: Ryan at May 28, 2005 06:27 PM
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