Monday, June 20, 2005

Storm in a teacup

I'm aware that a significant chunk of the readership of this site is US military, serving or retired, and therefore I am wary of saying this, but I feel obliged to simply because the commentariat coverage of this issue has been so heavily one-sided.

The rumpus over Senator Durbin's comments on the Senate floor represents an enormous storm in a teacup and most of those who are blustering hardest are intellectually dishonest hypocrites of the most flagrant variety.

I have taken the time to read Senator Durbin's comments in full. I don't agree with all, or even a majority of them. Much of it is boilerplate. And a straight The US Army = Nazis equation would have been ludicrous, offensive and wildly inaccurate.

This is not, however, what the Senator said. The Senator asserted that a dispassionate observer, reading FBI testimony on interrogation methods in Gitmo (captives forced into foetal positions for periods of up to 24-hours, under extremes of heat and sometimes noise, until they are left wallowing in their own shit and piss and in at least one case having torn out their own hair) without further context would assume, if asked to guess where such methods had been carried out, that it had taken place in an authoritarian or totalitarian regime such as Cambodia, Nazi Germany etc.

This is - unless somebody would care to claim that actually they'd assume that this sort of thing is characteristic of the USA - factually accurate. I wouldn't actually go for the Nazi thing, but I would, if not for the mention of rap music, assume that it was a description of conditions in, say, Iran, North Korea, Burma or Saddam Hussein's Iraq.*

I repeat - factually accurate.

Now, you can argue that this was undiplomatic and represented a very poor choice of words. I might even agree with you. What rankles, however, is the hypocrisy of many of Durbin's critics.

Conservative commentary on this sort of issue has often carried with it two themes:

1) It actually doesn't matter what we say or do because they hate us anyway.

2) Although stuff like Abu Ghraib is damaging, what is most damaging is the continual and excessive exposure it has been given by the "mainstream media".

And yet:

1) The same people who argue that we (generally meaning the present administration and its backers in the print news media) can say and do pretty much what we want because "they" hate us anyway and who leapt to the defence of people like General Boykin who stood, in uniform, and announced that Islam was a false religion are now claiming that a factually accurate statement by a Democratic senator in what SHOULD have been an obscure speech on the senate floor (of which more later) is serving to destroy the US war effort and will lead to deaths of US servicemen abroad and increased recruitment for terrorism.



2) The same people who argued that, yes, Abu Ghraib was jolly nasty but it was made so much worse by the fact that unpatriotic journos gave it so much newspaper coverage, thus drawing it out far longer than its natural shelf life and giving it ever more exposure in foreign climbs are now milking the Durbin situation for all its worth, providing a constant deluge of comment pieces all with the aim of not merely getting an apology but now setting up official censure and making damn sure that it doesn't go away.


I don't know whether these people are actively and unapologetically a bunch of dishonest hacks or whether they are so self-deluded, dogmatic and lacking in personal awareness that they just can't see the gaping inconsistencies in their positions but it makes me want to emit vomit.

*This does not mean - and, in spite of what some people would like you to believe, Durbin has never made such a claim, his remarks have been taken out of context to an astonishing degree that I can only assume started off deliberate and has become self-reinforcing - that the USA or US servicemen are somehow the equivalent of Nazis


Blogger J. said...

Thank you! Very well said. I've seen that drivel on conservative blogs but didn't want to respond to it, only because it gets into such a mud-throwing contest. Honestly, I think someone else said it, the Repub tendency to attack when attacked is just typical of the dog-eat-dog political environment today. And the Dems are still rolling over and submitting. Pathetic. But you state the case correctly.

3:30 PM  

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