May 16, 2004 - May 9, 2004
Unless It Doesn't
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MEDIA PATRIOTS. I'm sure the mainstream media are grateful for the unexpected windfall they received this week. What could be a better distraction from the butchering of Nicholas Berg than the discovery of SEX PICTURES from Abu Ghraib? Maybe the pictures themselves, but I'm sure they're working on getting those for us too. If we could just lay our hands on a few of those, we could forget about Berg altogether. Possibly something featuring a BREAST. We all know how pleasurable it is to feel offended about seeing one of those. And, let's face it, it's not nearly as icky as looking at savage real world violence. Did anyone see Nancy Pelosi after she had viewed the sex pictures? She looked overcome, almost as if she had witnessed an unbelievable slaughter. Oh that's right. The Berg video didn't upset her nearly as much.
The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby has some interesting thoughts about all this:
Offensive and shocking pictures that undermine the war effort should be played up, but offensive and shocking pictures that remind us why we're at war in the first place shouldn't get played at all?The ruse that is used to rationalize this double standard is both clever and corrupt. Somehow, the mass media have connived to convince us that these truly national events belong only to the dead victims and their families. The major networks no longer run footage even of the planes striking the twin towers because the images are too troubling to the "9/11 families." Excuse me? We're all 9/11 families now. Our world changed profoundly on that grisly day and we are not permitted to remind ourselves of how awful the carnage was? The same logic has been employed from the very beginning to deprive us of the worst and most personal images of the WTC attack, those who chose to plummet dozens of stories to their deaths rather than be burned alive.
Yes, Virginia, there really is a gaping media double standard. News organizations will shield your tender eyes from the sight of a Berg or a Daniel Pearl being decapitated or of Sept. 11 victims jumping to their deaths, or of the mangled bodies on the USS Cole, or of Fallujans joyfully mutilating the remains of four lynched US civilians. But they will make sure you don't miss the odious behavior of Americans or American allies, no matter how atypical that misbehavior may be, or how determined the US military is to uproot and punish it.
Yet Peter and Tom and Dan have no scruples about showing us six-year-old
amputees as a way of driving home the collateral damage of American bombing.
If they were as fearless about showing us the mutilated victims of Saddam's
torture chambers, we might be better enabled to keep the "prisoner abuse"
photos in perspective. Maybe Teddy Kennedy couldn't get away so easily
with his glib and revolting
comparison of Bush to Saddam. But I guess that's the point. They want us
to forget why our country is embroiled in a complex situation in Iraq.
Why else would Peter Jennings somehow forget
to mention that Berg's self-proclaimed murderer has clear ties to the 9/11
attacks? Or is he already confident that the memory of those attacks has
been driven from our heads by a picture of a smoking girl in a tee shirt
pointing at the genitals of an Iraqi
TAXIDERMY. Just as Andy Rooney has overstayed his welcome, columnist Jimmy Breslin really needs to go home and do his ranting in a Lazyboy in front of the TV. A quote from his latest stream of bile:
The prison pictures they watched in such secrecy belong to the public whose taxes pay for this war. These utter fools in suits and uniforms, some smooth-faced liar from the Pentagon, or a general who should be in a grand jury himself, try to control the free speech of the nation and commit a war crime.You see, he knows that people are watching the Berg video on the internet, and he just can't stand not being able to displace those images with those of sex parties in Abu Ghraib cells.
Get stuffed, Jimmy.
Now for our rebuttal: uh, no.
The queen of venom, Randi Rhodes, followed Franken in the host slot. Her imitation of a cracker military type telling a soldier to "insert this fluorescent light bulb into that man's buttocks" was revolting. She compared U.S. prisons in Iraq to the "Nazi gulag" and said, "The day I say thank you to Rumsfeld is the same day I'll say thank you to the 12 people who raped me."
Rock bottom came when she compared Bush and his family to the Corleones in the "Godfather" saga. "Like Fredo, somebody ought to take him out fishing and phuw," she said, imitating the sound of gunfire.
There's more, and to be fair, Franken hasn't completely lost his light
touch. The same article
reports that he's gotten off some good ones about torture, pedophiles taking
communion, and a bunch of new (well, not really) names for Rush Limbaugh.
Ironically, the author of this little recital seems to hate Limbaugh as
much as Franken does. Perhaps he's listened to Limbaugh as much as the
rest of us have listened to Randi Rhodes. Still, my bet would be that we won't
have Randi around to not listen to for much longer. So we'd better not
listen to her while we can. Well, you know what I mean.
SELF-DELUSION. It's painful to read Andrew Sullivan these days. It used to be that he wrote reasonably about policy and politics, with occasional forays into the, for him, emotionally volatile subject of gay marriage. But since Massachusetts and San Francisco raised the specter of a constitutional crisis about marriage, it's just about all he can think about. He pretends to be weighing the relative strengths and weaknesses of Bush and Kerry, as if he were performing some kind of rational calculus. What is transparently obvious to an increasing number of his readers, however, is that he is desperately searching for an excuse to throw his weight behind John Kerry, a man he knows to be weak, hypocritical, and undistinguished. Yet Kerry's ability to pander to every politically correct fad makes him seem like the road to happiness if gay marriage is the only thing on your mind.
The coup de grace in the descent of a superior intellect to idiocy was
delivered in Sullivan's latest column for The New Republic. This once unflinching
champion of the war on terror has now devised a workaround for his preferred
candidate's career-long record of appeasement: prop up Kerry with McCain
in the role of VP. He begins by reasserting his long, and utterly unfounded,
faith in the unstable and self-obsessed publicity hound from Arizona. Then
he proceeds to offer up a truly ridiculous proposition:
He could become for Kerry what Cheney has been for Bush: a confidant, a manager, a strategic mind, a guide through the thicket of war-management. But he could also be more for Kerry: He could be a unifying force in the country in the dark days ahead.
Domestically, a Kerry-McCain ticket would also go a long way toward healing the Vietnam wound, now rubbed raw again by recent events in Iraq. The two men represent very different responses to that war, and could help unite their generation -- finally! -- over it.
Sigh. What all is wrong with these few sentences? Practically everything. McCain the politician is hardly anyone's guide through a thicket of anything. He threw himself out of the presidential race in 2000 by blowing his stack in public much the way Howard Dean did. His fellow senators aren't fond of him. Quite a few of us in the general public -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- are under the impression he's slightly nuts. He's a "unifying force" only if the constituencies you wish to unify are Andrew Sullivan and Chris Matthews.
But these are mere quibbles compared to the red flag Sullivan hoists in his next paragraph. Think about it. We're being asked to believe that the country will "finally" get over the Vietnam War if we put in charge the very two men who seem most obsessed with that war. Name any two other politicians who appear more likely to eat, sleep, and dream Vietnam every day of their lives. Imagine the policy discussions in the Oval Office:
"This latest thing in Iraq is the Tet offensive all over again."
"No, it's not. It's Qe Sanh."
"You say that one more time, I'm going to frag you myself."
Mr.Sullivan, if you want to back Kerry because you think he'll cave in on the gay issues you care about, go ahead. Everyone's entitled to be a one-issue candidate on occasion. But please spare us this kind of lunacy. There's always the danger that someone might actually listen to you. And that would be a disaster for the nation.
West Virginia Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, questioning Taguba, said the abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison was not just about guards and interrogators lacking in personal values, but "about policies and planning" from a higher level.-- Muslim American Society News
Senator Byrd displays chagrin at the mistreatment of his Arab brethren
THE SON OF DAVE. It's not hard to see why he'd be so upset.
CONTRADICTIONS. It does seem that the media strategy for covering the prisoner abuse story is to devote so much air time and column space to it that the context in which it might be understood disappears. We are being cajoled into viewing these events in isolation, as if there were no war, as if America has no enemies, and as if American troops are not being shot at and blown up by armed killers. That's why it's appropriate to shop around for some different perspectives.
In a recent Washingtom Times column, Bill Gerst offers a reminder of who it is we are fighting in Iraq, and hence who many of the prisoners are to whom we are devoting our heartfelt sympathy.
Writing from Iraq, Rich Galen wants us to know that there is a war going on in Iraq. Remember that? If you're having trouble remembering or haven't heard much about it from your media sources of late, you might find some of his points interesting:
Nearly all 8,080 prisoners being held by U.S. authorities in Iraq are considered security threats: insurgents linked to attacks on coalition forces, and terrorists and former officials of Saddam Hussein's regime suspected of having useful intelligence, military officials say..
The approximately 7,800 security detainees make up about 95 percent of the prison population, and are the category of prisoners photographed nude and being abused at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, where about 4,000 prisoners are being held, U.S. officials said.
"These are people who have been captured as a consequence of anticoalition or anti-Iraqi activity," the coalition spokesman said.
The Roar du Jour from those who want to get into this story by beating their chests over how terrible it all is, keep telling us that this has damaged American credibility in the Middle East.
Let’s look at that.
First, lots of Arabs don’t like us in the first place. Those Arabs will not like us any less for this incident.
That dislike has nothing to do with our cultural insensitivities. It has to do with America’s refusal to allow those same Arabs, many of whom have been bankrolling the Palestinian terrorists for decades, to wipe the State of Israel off the face of the Earth they way they have wiped it off the face of their maps.
Second, those who claim that the Abu Ghraib situation will poison the well of American goodwill for decades, are really the ones who are under rating Arabs. They have to believe that all Arabs will assign the actions of perhaps a couple of dozen soldiers to the 280 million Americans who have pledged to help the Iraqis attain security, independence, and prosperity.
He has much more to say, and he seems irate. It could be that he's irate because he's there, and he knows that there really are insurgents who would like to kill him... and us.
In case any of us have forgotten who the professional troops are whose reputation is being tarred by the broad brush of the mainstream media, Blackfive has found an account of a marine action in Iraq during the initial invasion:
There's much more to the story, but maybe nobody's in the mood to be reminded that our troops have been, and still are, performing valiantly in a situation of great peril. You decide.
It was fish in a barrel and the Marines were the fish.
And [platoon leader] Brian Chontosh gave the order to attack. He told his driver to floor the humvee directly at the machine gun emplacement that was firing at them. And he had the guy on top with the .50 cal unload on them.
Within moments there were Iraqis slumped across the machine gun and Chontosh was still advancing, ordering his driver now to take the humvee directly into the Iraqi trench that was attacking his Marines. Over into the battlement the humvee went and out the door Brian Chontosh bailed, carrying an M16 and a Beretta and 228 years of Marine Corps pride...
He fought with the M16 until he was out of ammo. Then he fought with the Beretta until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up a dead man's AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up another dead man's AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo...
When he was done Brian Chontosh had cleared 200 yards of entrenched Iraqis from his platoon's flank. He had killed more than 20 and wounded at least as many more.
But that's probably not how he would tell it.
Something I keep wondering about -- The Iraqis are being bombarded every day with incendiary anti-American rhetoric from Al-Jazeera. Either they swallow all of it, in which case they probably already believe far worse fiction about U.S. troops than the comparatively tepid reality that's coming out now. Or they have learned to discount a great deal of what the worldwide anti-war media says, in which case maybe they are actually forming their own, more measured opinions. Roger L. Simon has a long excerpt from an Iraqi blog that suggests the latter. The Iraqi, it turns out, is a doctor and has a colleague who had actually performed medical services at the infamous Abu Graib facility. The blog excerpt recounts a conversation between the two:
The doctor who had seen the facility in question goes on to explain how well the prisoners he observed were treated by their American captors, including food, hygiene, clothing, and, yes, civility. The whole conversation is educational.
Yesterday a friend of mine, who’s also a doctor, visited us. After chatting about old memories, I asked him about his opinions on the current situations in Iraq. I’ve always known this friend to be apathetic when it comes to politics, even if it means what’s happening in Iraq. It was obvious that he hadn’t change and didn’t show any interest in going deep into this conversation. However when I asked him about his opinion on GWB response to the prisoners’ abuse issue, I was surprised to see him show anger and disgust as he said:
"This whole thing makes me sick."
"Why is that?!" I asked.
"These thugs are treated much better than what they really deserve!"
"What are you saying!? You can’t possibly think that this didn’t happen! And they’re still human beings, and there could be some innocents among them."
"Of course it happened, and I’m not talking about all the prisoners nor do I support these actions, and there could be some innocents among them, but I doubt it."
"Then why do you say such a thing?"
"Because these events have taken more attention than they should."
Of course, a lot of us are worried about what the rest of the world thinks, particularly our allies and the estimable adversaries who don't need any more reasons to hate us. Here's a good entry at Snopes.com which documents just how much support the United States gets at the U.N. on matters that don't have to do with Iraq. You probably haven't ever seen any real figures about how the voting goes at the U.N. Well, here you go.
Finally, a huge unspoken question has been nagging at me for days now. Just who are these young prison guard-reservists who thought it was fun -- or at least not career threatening -- to ship photos of themselves mocking Iraqi prisoners to their friends and families across the world? Or, if they didn't ship them, to pose for them? No one has more respect than I do for the professional military that has wrought all the major accomplishments in Iraq. But isn't it possible that some small percentage of ancillary personnel are, in fact, something like the self-absorbed and media-besotted high school youngsters who are IMing each other every hour to discuss who's doing who and emailing cellphone photos of the outfits they'll be wearing tomorrow? Do you know any of these young Einsteins? If you don't, think about the poseurs in Iraq while you read this, and this, and this. The question is not just what language they are speaking, but whether it's a language that CAN possess any component of morals or values. I leave it up to you.
That's all for now.
THE LEGACY OF NED. Since it's Mothers Day, we offer an update on Bernadine Dohrn (see the Instapunk entry ECHOES OF WILLIE on April 28), that great mom who finally quit being a serial bomber so that she could make enough money to raise her kids. The Weather Underground documentary was vague, as we mentioned, about the scope of her current activities, although it seemed clear she was not as conscience-stricken as her fellow ringleader Mark Rudd. Now it turns out that she's giving speeches on college campuses again, most recently at Northern Illinois University. The campus newspaper, ironically named The Northern Star (does anyone else remember the wartime Hollywood movie North Star, which glamorized Stalin's Russia?), ran a cordial feature story about her visit that said, in part:
The main topic of discussion centered around Dohrn’s part in the radical “Weather Underground” group during the ’60s. The Weather Underground and its members took part in doing all they could to change the course of the Vietnam War by educating people on the need for reform. “We organized both against war and racism,” Dohrn said. “We also taught that all human life is equally valid, not just the body count of the United States.”The article didn't contain a single reference to the Weatherman bombings. Note Dohrn's use of the words "educating" and "taught," as if she and her brethren spent the 70s holding wine and cheese seminars about the verities of life. Students at Northern Illinois could no doubt come away from the whole proceeding and its coverage believing that Ms. Dohrn is a mild-mannered heroine of the antiwar movement who is now contributing her time-honored wisdom to the current situation in Iraq. They could believe that if they never stumbled by accident on David Horowitz's account of her present-day affiliations and activities. He writes:
Bernardine Dohrn is one of America's most notorious homegrown terrorists. She was the head of the Weather Underground in the 1970s. She and her cohorts declared "war" on "AVmerika" and blew up many sites, including a bathroom in the Capitol in an effort to incite others to take up arms against this country. Today she is anti-American activist, in full support of global radicals dedicated to overthrowing this democratic government and to aiding and abetting America's enemies. She is also the scheduled commencement speaker at Pitzer College, one of the nation's premier liberal arts schools. All across this country, liberal administrators and radical professors are providing support for terrorist ideas and movements. Indicted terrorists Lynne Stewart (a colleague and comrade of Dohrn's) and Sami al-Arian (head of Palestine Islamic Jihad and a leading "civil libertarian" against the Patriot Act) have been honored speakers at law schools and universities all over America. They are supported by the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU (Dohrn is on the ACLU advisory board for example) and other liberal organizations. I guarantee you that conservatives who are in the forefront of the battle of ideas defending this country -- Victor Davis Hanson, David Frum, Robert Kagan to name three -- have never been commencement speakers, officially sponsored keynoters and honored guests of any liberal university. This tells you more than you probably care to know about the commitments of our university officials and the state of their campuses.Horowitz, of course, has good reason to keep an eye on Dohrn. He was a leftist radical himself in the 60s and 70s, extensively involved with the Black Panther organization which was so lightly treated by the Weather Underground documentary. His defection from the left was driven in large part by his guilt for having supported Panthers whom he knew to be murderers and thugs. The book Radical Son is Horowitz's autobiography and mea culpa, and it is necessary reading for those who wish to understand how the extreme left operated in the Vietnam era AND how the extreme left is operating today.
One of the key revelations in Radical Son is Horowtiz's explication of the relationship between the American Communist Party (CPUSA) of the 1950s and the New Left of the Vietnam period. Shows like Weather Underground tend to present SDS and other radical groups as a follow-on to the civil rights movement, applying its tactics to new causes, including pacifism, feminism, and environmentalism. Horowitz argues that this is essentially an illusion, that the New Left actually learned its tactics from the organization which spawned Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs. In fact, many of the prominent New Left activists were, like Horowitz himself, the offspring of lifelong CPUSA members. This is the source of the New Left's skill at employing the smear, the oft-repeated lie, and the frankly treasonous uses of illegally obtained national security information. It was also the source of the Weather Underground's ability to organize itself in cells and live undercover without detection for a decade. (They sure didn't learn it from Martin Luther King.)
All this may be interesting, you say, but what does it have to do with the contemporary political scene, and why is there anything ominous about an appearance by Bernadine Dohrn at a midwestern university? Here is the opening part of the Northern Star piece:
A decade of disaster was revisited Thursday night as the infamous anti-war activist Bernardine Dohrn spoke on behalf of the atrocities that she witnessed during the Vietnam War. Dohrn served as an active participant in the radical anti-Vietnam War movement throughout the ’60s.This is the problem. One of the greatest skills of the Old Left was its ability to rewrite history (any history) in terms favorable to its agenda of the moment. Now we are being asked to listen to Dohrn for her knowledge of the atrocities of the Vietnam War. How could she have witnessed any atrocities? She was never in the military, never in Vietnam. The only atrocities she witnessed were her own. But Associate Professor of English Larry Johannessen doesn't see fit to clarify the facts for the college students in attendance. The renascent New Left described by Horowitz above resides in the colleges and universities of the United States, which were the preferred sanctuary of radical activists after the war ended. Actually, "resides in" is too bland a term. It would be more accurate to say "occupies." And we have every right to ask what kind of generation Bernadine Dohrn and her academic sponsors and apologists are intending to give birth to.
Although Dohrn holds a plethora of positions to her name, including multiple degrees from the University of Chicago, she is most notable for her work as a radical anti-war activist.
“She is best known for what she did in the 1960s and ’70s,” associate English professor Larry Johannessen said.
For a hint of what this might be like, the current issue of Reason Online provides some disturbing insights. In an article titled Fools for Communism, Glenn Garvin reviews and analyzes the academic response to In Denial: Historians, Communism and Espionage, by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr. His essay spells out in painstaking detail the ongoing effort within the American university system to rewrite the entire history of the Cold War in terms favorable to Stalin and derogatory to the United States. Many of his anecdotes would be funny if they weren't so ominous. For example:
A constant stream of articles in academic journals and lefty magazines -- even an entire conference sponsored by New York University’s International Center for Advanced Studies -- has pilloried them [historians accurately recording the facts uncovered since the fall of the Soviet Union] for everything from "triumphalism" (that is, they’re glad Stalin didn’t win the Cold War; can you imagine a historian of World War II being drummed out of the profession for expressing gratitude that Hitler didn’t win?) to accepting funding from conservative foundations (which, unlike the tens of millions of dollars the CPUSA took from the Kremlin, might come with secret strings attached) to starting the Vietnam War, destroying affirmative action, and dismantling the welfare state.Garvin's essay is lengthy, but it's as entertaining as it is thorough. He documents how pervasive the new orthodoxy of the new New Left is and illustrates what a stranglehold this bizarre fictionalization of our own history has on the academic establishment. Our most powerful academics and scholars seem intent on transmuting violent felons into luminaries, murderous tyrants into misunderstood idealists, patriots into fascists, U.S. history into a criminal indictment, and, perhaps, Islamist barbarians into the nemesis of American democracy. If you want to understand what lies behind the softer, gentler new face of Bernadine Dohrn, read every word of it
That bit about Vietnam came from a piece co-authored by Ellen Schrecker of Yeshiva University, who in a movement rich with unintentional self-parody nonetheless towers above the rest. We might even call her the Lucille Ball of anti-anti-communism, though, to be sure, she would never be so gauche as to associate with a pre-revolutionary Cuban like Ricky Ricardo. A prodigious apologist, Schrecker in one article conceded that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg delivered atomic secrets to the Soviets, then plaintively demanded: "Were these activities so awful?" She also coined the immortal phrase "non-traditional patriots" for the Rosenbergs, a felicitous way of saying that they lived in the United States but were loyal unto death to the Soviet Union.