Friday, September 30, 2005

"We're talking about rape and murder"

What's in the Abu Ghraib pictures that the US government doesn't want people to see? Two months ago I linked to a piece in Editor and Publisher containing quotes from people who had seen the material. The original is down, but they've kindly rehashed it. Here's the highlights:

"[the acts] can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman" - Donald Rumsfeld

"The American public needs to understand we're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience... We're talking about rape and murder -- and some very serious charges." - Senator Lindsey Graham

"The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. The worst about all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking..." - Seymour Hersh

Note that contrary to Senator Graham's claim, no charges have been laid, despite the evidence being in the hands of the government for eighteen months. Instead, the worst of what went on at Abu Ghraib has been quietly swept under the rug in the name of "protecting America's reputation" and "not providing a pretext for terrorism". And as a result, those responsible have not been held accountable, and people have been allowed to get away with - literally - rape and murder simply because the Bush administration wishes to avoid a scandal.

Meanwhile, down in the sewer they're posting pictures of Saddam's atrocities. Because obviously, that makes it all OK. You really have to love these guys...


Unsurprisingly, the currently reported Iraqi torture techniques bear remarkable similarity to the classic Saddam-era torture techniques: cables, hosepipes, electric shocks, acid, rape/sexual humiliation, threatened rape etc. Tried and true methods I suppose; perhaps they are using the same handbook, or are the same people. So there wouldn't be much difference in the state of the body at the end of it - though there may have been more mutilation in the Saddam era.

I think the key point of difference for the US troops and post-Saddam Iraqi military torture seems to be the use of stress positions and baseball bats (which I suppose are uniquely American), and that there may objectively be less of it. So that's nice isn't it. But the key point of difference in terms of harm to the Iraqi population as a whole may be the replacement of widespread systematic torture with widespread risk of being killed in the new civil war/increasing anarchy (and increasing levels of torture as the war escalates). I'm just amazed at how people try to make these inept comparisons between Saddam's Iraq and a situation that is basically becoming Somalia 1993. I mean, why should anyone have to make a choice between living in Saddam's Iraq, and Aideed's Mogadishu?

Posted by Anonymous : 9/30/2005 05:15:00 PM

Those guys are absolutely around the bend
They are so filled with hatred it is scary. They spent the whole day last week wanking off over the perverse assumption last week they got from Trademe that Holmes was going to somehow "out" Peter Davis on his site. The comment section that followed was just sick. I had no idea they could hate the left so much, its boardering in psychopathic.

I really cannot tell if Antarctic Lemur is just some sick new age Milgram experiment I recon he really is a psychology researcher posing as a night wing nutjob and seeing how far he can egg on those other halfwits. Its just he is so clique I dont think he really can be for real.
God if they are this hateful now, id hate to see where they have descended to by election 2008

Posted by Anonymous : 9/30/2005 05:31:00 PM

I was talking to a US infantry major just back from Tal Afar yesterday, he was very glad that the Iraqi police and army have been developed to the point where they can contribute to the struggle against the insurgents. The best part for him was that the Iraqis don't have any Geneva Convention restrictions, so they can just torture suspects to get information quickly, and they're so much better at it than Americans. He claimed his men had killed 5 out of 6 Al Qaeda leaders in Tal Afar recently thanks to this improved intelligence. So on the one hand, it's business as usual in Iraq - meet the new torturer, same as the old torturer - but on the other hand, the guys getting whacked as a result are busy organising car-bomb attacks on Iraqi civilians, so it's hard to feel real bad about it.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 9/30/2005 08:15:00 PM

Haha, I love it when right-wing loonies feel the need to compare the crimes of their heros with the crimes of their villains. It's a real insight into their warped minds.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/30/2005 08:34:00 PM

Actually Psycho Milt, I find it harder to feel sorry for the guys getting whacked who organise the helicopter gunship attacks and the rest of it. Not only are they killing far more people, including children and families, but they're also the one's giving the car-bombers more propaganda material for their cause.

Check out this essay: Why Immediate Withdrawal Makes Sense.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/30/2005 08:44:00 PM

Christiaan, those guys aren't getting whacked. The insurgents are now car-bombing Iraqis precisely because attacking Americans is now too difficult. The concept that fewer Iraqi civilians would die in the civil war that would follow American withdrawal is just insane.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 9/30/2005 09:51:00 PM

It is an error to think that your aly against a common enemy must be your hero.
Just as the right should not see the iraqi government as their hero or the left should not see osama as their hero or allow themselves to be backed into pretending that is the case.

Iraq was never going to become a mini USA or a mini switzerland / sweeden - anyway as soon as you declare that as your aim you bring considerable forces to bear to oppose you.

the lesson I guess is to ensure your aims are such that it is difficult to develop effective opposition to them.

Posted by Genius : 9/30/2005 11:45:00 PM

Actually Psycho Milt the U.S. death toll is approaching 2000. You're clearly comfortable in your little bubble. Try reading the article instead of mouthing off.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/01/2005 06:54:00 AM

muerk, "Propaganda material does not a reason make Mr Christiaan..."

You seem to misunderstand muerk. The continued existence of U.S. troops in Iraq is not part of the solution. As long as they continue to stay in Iraq and slaughter innocent people Zarqawi and his team will have all the propaganda they need to recruit the people they need to continue their attacks. Take the U.S. out of the equation and Zarqawi loses his recruiting tool.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/01/2005 07:01:00 AM

Anon re Sir Humphreys: Those guys are absolutely around the bend. They are so filled with hatred it is scary. They spent the whole day last week wanking off over the perverse assumption last week they got from Trademe that Holmes was going to somehow "out" Peter Davis on his site. The comment section that followed was just sick. I had no idea they could hate the left so much, its boardering in psychopathic.

Here's sometyhing amusing about that particular thread: while they're busy conjuring fevered and outlandish fantasies about Peter Davis, the administrators have deleted two posts referring to a certain rumour that actually *is* circulating. (Which does not, you may have guessed, relate to anyone on the political left.)

Quoth AL (after actually demanding that commenters ante up with their allegations): "Take your innuendo elsewhere."



Posted by Anonymous : 10/01/2005 09:30:00 AM


You really think that if the foreign troops left they would have less recruitment? Bah, these people want the whole world under Sharia Law. As long as Israel and America _exist_ they have a recruitment tool. As long as young men are young men they will get recruitment.

The damage has been done, America is now an enemy of these people, and there will always be plenty of disaffected muslim men who are prepared to die for their cause. America could become a saint overnight, they'd still want to destroy it.

I don't know if they are, or even if they could, do any good in Iraq. But really, the troops should leave, but I don't think Iraq is going to improve with their going.

Posted by Muerk : 10/01/2005 02:39:00 PM

Christiaan, listen to yourself. The death toll is approaching 2000 more than 2 years into the conflict, with a significant proportion of that total due to accidents. The Americans of the Vietnam War would have considered that death rate an undreamt-of blessing from above. The fact is, the Americans' armour and tactics have adapted to insurgency warfare so well that it's now difficult to kill them. That's why the car-bombings are now targeting civilians. I don't need to read any articles to tell me that - it's clear enough from the news, even if it wasn't confirmed by talking to the soldiers coming out of the place.

I don't like them being there either and I'd like to see Bush, Rumsfeld et al taking Milosevic's place at the Hague when he's done, but the lovely dream of the conflict dying down if they pulled out is just that, a dream.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 10/01/2005 06:13:00 PM

Well if we are

1) pessimistic about iraq's future if the soldiers leave
2) think they should leave
3) consider it worse than under saddam

Then the rational conclusion is that we should provide at least nominal assistance (or fail to provide any sort of opposition at all) for some despot to take over as quickly as is reasonably expectable.

Maybe an iranian puppet (if one considers iran now better than iraq now).

Posted by Genius : 10/01/2005 06:59:00 PM

muerk, "You really think that if the foreign troops left they would have less recruitment?"

That's what history tells us. According to terrorism researcher Associate Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, and author of Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism:

The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign—over 95 percent of all the incidents—has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw.

Once the occupying forces withdraw from the homeland territory of the terrorists, they often stop—and often on a dime.

In Lebanon, for instance, there were 41 suicide-terrorist attacks from 1982 to 1986, and after the U.S. withdrew its forces, France withdrew its forces, and then Israel withdrew to just that six-mile buffer zone of Lebanon, they virtually ceased. They didn’t completely stop, but there was no campaign of suicide terrorism. Once Israel withdrew from the vast bulk of Lebanese territory, the suicide terrorists did not follow Israel to Tel Aviv.

Again, I implore you to read Michael Schwartz's convincing and thoughtful essay. This is what Tom Engelhardt had to say about it:

Michael Schwartz makes the case, both simple and sophisticated, for withdrawing quickly from Iraq, but more than that for stopping thinking of ourselves as part of the solution—a bulwark, for instance, against an onrushing civil war—rather than part of the problem.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/01/2005 10:12:00 PM


I have read it, I just don't agree with it.

The problem with the examples you provide, eg. Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Chechnya (I'll except Kashmir), is that they were not about religion, they were about self government. So obvious if self government occured, then yes, their reason for terror also stopped.

But Al-Qa'ida is _not_ a nationalist organisation, unlike the Tamil Tigers for example. It is a religious organisation with a religious goal. These people don't just want Iraq. Remember that the World Trade Center bombings (both times in fact) were prior to the Afganistan or Iraq invasions.

Please read what Iraqi Al-Qa'ida say about themselves from MEMRI:

Note that they specifically state that this is not a geographical issue, but one about Islam. These people want a world Caliphate.

This is not another Lebanon, this is a religious and cultural conflict. As long as America (and the rest of the West) exists, they have a reason to fight.

Posted by Muerk : 10/02/2005 03:14:00 PM

You can;t seriously be implying that all the car bombings etc in Iraq are the work of Al Queda?!
That's just equating every shadow you see with the bogeyman..

Posted by Anonymous : 10/02/2005 07:18:00 PM

Muerk, I have to wonder whether you have read the essay. You clearly haven't taken onboard Schwartz's comments regarding the makeup of resistance in Iraq, or his discussion of the different motives of the jihadists and the nationalists. You talk about "Al-Qa'ida" but the jihadists make up only a part of the resistance ("certainly no more than 10%" as far as Schwartz is concerned). But not only that you're ignoring a simple fact:

The terrorist offensive against the Shia is largely a consequence of American brutality in Iraq. Despite Abu Musab al Zarqawi's oft repeated desire to launch a holy war against the Shia, his success in doing so is directly linked to a continuing U.S. presence. His primary appeal in Iraq, after all, rests on the claim that the occupation is "being aided by their allies from Shia."

You really think the Muslim world at large wants to destroy the West? You'd have to be completely balmy to believe that. Have you ever travelled to a predominantly Muslim country. I've been to Iraq and they are some of the most gentle people I have met on this planet. You put far too much weight on the ability of jihadists to win the support of these people and their Muslim brothers and sisters around the world. The way they can, however, is for the U.S. to continue acting the way it does; with is complete and utter contempt for international law, domination of access to key natural resources, and the use of State terrorism to further foreign policy objectives. Without this argument the vast majority of Muslims in this world would ignore these people and carry on with their lives. It's no surprise that Bush is seen by many as bin Laden's best recruiting tool.

You're also mistaken in believing this is a "religious and cultural conflict," a clash of civilisations. This is imperialism 101. Muslims are not the first group of people to come under attack from European imperialism, and they're not the first group to fight back. Far removed from its rhetoric the U.S.'s actions provide a continuos stream of propaganda for the jihadists and the nationalists alike. As long as the U.S. remains in Iraq they will continue to spread their misery like a virus.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/03/2005 02:24:00 AM

Since the terrorists/millitants are targeting the government surely they would continue to do so untill it falls? As opposed to just until the USA leaves...

Of course that might not take long but one has to wonder what the situation in iraq would be like with no government at all. Terrorism might just start getting called tribal warfare.

Posted by Genius : 10/03/2005 07:39:00 AM

Christiaan, you're so full of shit it's a wonder that you don't burst. Islam is the most imperialist ideology in the world. How else would you describe making all nations and cultures face Mecca 5 times a day? And as for Iraqi sunnis as fighting against 'imperialism', give us a break - Sunni Islam is fighting wars all over the world - I would say that it is hence pathological. Let's see: In Irqai against Shias and Americans, In Kashmir against non-Muslims, in Thailand against non-Muslims, in Chechnya against the children of Russians, in Bali against hindus and tourists, in Sudan against black Africans, in Algeria against tribespeople, in Bangladesh and Pakistan against Christians and Shias, in India against Hindus. Not to mention its brutal war against basic rights for women. Enough? Care to explain how these are all the fault of the Imperialist west? I'm waiting...

Crawl back under your hole, you idiot...

Posted by Anonymous : 10/03/2005 04:01:00 PM


No, I'm not suggesting every car bomb is Al-Qa'ida, however I would suggest that the Sunni insurgents (who are doing the car bombing) are certainly ideologically connected with Al-Qa'ida.

Posted by Muerk : 10/04/2005 12:18:00 AM

Come come Russell, you shouldn't be going round telling porkies to inflate the anonymous gossip you post round the blogs. Old Petey Metcalfe might come out and hand you your arse on a platter again.


Posted by Anonymous : 10/04/2005 12:33:00 AM

Adrian, I can do little more than giggle when a spoilt little brat like yourself sits comfortably at his computer and crassly suggests that Islam is more imperialist that the U.S. or Britain. Heh, ever pick up a history book? Maybe you could try a little exercise and look up "American Empire", "British Empire" "Islam Empire" and see what you come up with. Methinks you're trying to bend the propaganda in your head to fit the real world that doesn't make any sense to you otherwise.

Next you're going to tell us they're under our beds. Godless even!! Since going into Korea in the 1950s the U.S. has been at war with someone or other in some corner of the globe non-stop right up to the present day. All in the name of democracy I might add, despite the outcomes.

Er, and by the way, Islamists do not make "all nations and cultures face Mecca 5 times a day." I think we might exagerrating a little biddy wit doncha think?

I must say when bombs go off in the West I can only hope that it's sorry bastards like yourself - the ones who are so ready to believe what their masters tell them - that get killed and not the ones who think to stop for a moment and question their masters.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/04/2005 11:41:00 AM


History would quite happily offer up Muslim empires. How about the Muslim Ottoman Empire and the 1.5 million Armenians the Turks slaughtered between 1915 and 1918?

Look at these photos and tell me that it's only the Christian West who can do evil?

Posted by Muerk : 10/04/2005 04:08:00 PM

*yawn...* Christiaan - if this is the best you can do, please desist from posting. You just dig yourself a deeper hole...

As Muerk said, we could happily talk about the Ottoman Empire. What about Sudan or Bangladesh? Oh - that's right...

Being a Slavist and having spent lots of time in Russia, including a stint at Moscow Sate University, I feel entirely happy with America's contribution to ending the threat of Orwellian Stalinist beauracracy. And as for books, I'm currently finishing a PhD here in Ivy-League country, looking at forms of Stalinist/totalitarian subjectivity, and how they were used to suborbinate stonger people than yourself. I guarantee I've read more books than you. Wanna wager?

Happily, I also suspect that as you leave adolesence behind, you'll add a touch of proportion to your fits of apoplexy. Now, tell us how Ottoman Turkey dosn't cont as form of Imperialism again??

Posted by Anonymous : 10/04/2005 05:49:00 PM

"Look at these photos and tell me that it's only the Christian West who can do evil?"

That's a straw man muerk. I never suggested the contrary. What I suggested was that it silly to suggest Islam is more imperialist than the U.S. and Britain.

I think it's far more appropriate that you ask yourselves, "why do I continually justify the evil actions of my culture?"

Posted by Anonymous : 10/04/2005 08:59:00 PM

adrienne, it's amazing how much you can say witout saying anything.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/04/2005 09:01:00 PM

> it silly to suggest Islam is more imperialist than the U.S. and Britain.

to look at it rationally
It depends on what you mean - the US and britain have very strong anti imperialist culture the same vein of culture that probably spawned you. Including britain fragmenting into its component parts (as opposed to expanding) this exists in many from the far right (they are even anti federalist and anti EU) all the way across to the far left.

the non-western powers spend rather more of their time trying to maintain their control over territory and expanding it.

On the other hand they have more money and so forth than most of the islamic countries and therefore are more likely to have "imperial" influence.

Iran for example probably would like to annex much of iraq but they dont have much of an opportunity to do it at the moment.just as iraq wanted to annex kuwait etc etc of course such things are les noteworthy becaue those countries are weaker.

Posted by Genius : 10/04/2005 09:37:00 PM

Is this the tone of the debate? Seriously, is it? Is this the best we can do? How about, instead of snide arguments ad hominem, actually addressing the problems?

Apart from the fact that people are being tortured and murdered (you know, actual thinking and feeling people), I think the most worrying aspect of the whole Iraq thing has been, and is, the way the debate's been distorted by ideology. It's not a matter of taking sides, it's about seeing things clearly and telling it like it is, regardless of the implications.

Posted by David Cauchi : 10/04/2005 10:31:00 PM

By seeing things clearly, I mean dealing with specific things in the world, not abstract entities. To say that 'Islam' does this, wants that, thinks this is absurd. There is no such thing as an Islam (or a US or whatever) that is capable of doing, wanting, thinking, etc. Same goes for 'right-wing loonies' or 'liberals' - the only generalisation that's valid is that all generalisations are bad.

Posted by David Cauchi : 10/04/2005 10:36:00 PM

Agree David, but if "right wing loonies" isn't a good description of sir humprey's, I don't know what is.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/05/2005 09:10:00 PM