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March 31, 2004

Comments

I'm not certain what 'winning' will look like in Iraq.

Perhaps if we're lucky we can look back ten years from now and see when the seeds of democracy began to be watered.

It sure would have been a lot less disconcerting if we had actually had a plan when we decided to go in though.

Have to say, killing somebody and kicking the corpse seems to me exactly as bad as killing somebody. This winds people up, sure, but so do schoolyard taunts and Janet Jackson's breast. We should be upset about our soldiers and civilians being killed, period.

We should be upset about our soldiers and civilians being killed, period.

So you see nothing ethically or intellectually wrong in celebrating an individual's death, and using portions of the corpse in that very celebration? I find that difficult to believe, Rilkefan.

von

I believe rilkefan's point is that dancing around with someone's corpse is less morally repugnant than killing them.

However, in this case the killers and dancers aren't the same people (presumably. God help us if they are), so there's plenty of repugnance to go around.

"Our principle enemies in Iraq are bad guys. They're thugs, assassins, terrorists, criminals. They're the remnants of a regime that tortured, gassed, and mutilated its own people, and followers of a religious ideology that favors death and oppression over life and freedom. Give them no quarter, for we will receive none."

While it may be Sunni pro-Baathist guerillas responsible for the ambush and killings in Fallujah, the crowd desecrating the corpses look like Iraqi civilians. I doubt the insurgents stuck around.

So who shall be given "no quarter?" It's one thing to fight terrorists, or a guerilla force. But how do you fight people in the street?

Well, I don't want to be offensive, but this issue strikes me as corpse-fetishizing. While I know many (most? nearly all?) people find this sincerely upsetting, it seems like superstition to me. I thought that some religions would look on this upset as a minor sin - the spirit is gone, the flesh is not important, and acting otherwise shows a lack of faith. The displays in question are distasteful to me, but some good people were killed - that's the savagery in my view, if we need to use the word "savage".

Dumb question - what difference in sentence would you recommend for the crimes of first-degree murder and first-degree murder-with-kicking?

Another dumb question - how do you feel about our mass burial alive of Iraqi soldiers in GWI?

I believe rilkefan's point is that dancing around with someone's corpse is less morally repugnant than killing them.

Of course I'd agree with that, Sidereal. But it's not what Rilkefan wrote:

killing somebody and kicking the corpse seems to me exactly as bad as killing somebody.

(Emphasis mine.)

von, I seem to be in question mode - how do you feel about _Antigone_?

what difference in sentence would you recommend for the crimes of first-degree murder and first-degree murder-with-kicking?

How about murder with "corpse-fetishizing," where the killer cut off portions of the corpse and paraded them around? Stiffer sentence? You bet -- 'cause the the post-mortem act reveals something (additionally) wrong with the murderer.

Another dumb question - how do you feel about our mass burial alive of Iraqi soldiers in GWI?

Ahh. The equivalent evil argument. How about: If the intent was to bury them alive when there was a reasonable appreciation that they wanted to surrender, I would say it was likely a war crime.

All day long, I've tried to wrap my head around what this means. I can't sort it out. I think it's horrible, repugnant. I feel terrible for the victims and angry at the perpetrators.

What I really wonder is: how will other Iraqis and the rest of the Arab world react to these images? Will the brutality be condemned or celebrated?

von, re GWI I'm not arguing equivalence, or whether killing those soldiers was necessary - I'm wondering if we should have dug up the bodies afterwards and given them a decent burial.

I'm probably in favor of _less_ strict sentences for people who have "something wrong" with them - in the sense of being nuts, or anyway in an extreme emotional state - compared to say a cold-blooded assassin who carefully buries the dead.

Our principle enemies in Iraq are bad guys. They're thugs, assassins, terrorists, criminals. They're the remnants of a regime that tortured, gassed, and mutilated its own people, and followers of a religious ideology that favors death and oppression over life and freedom. Give them no quarter, for we will receive none.

I'm at work so I don't have time to look around just yet, but this seems to be implying that the perpetrators of this atrocity are, in fact, former Baathists and not garden-variety fanatics. Has this been confirmed?

rilkefan:

"I thought that some religions would look on this upset as a minor sin - the spirit is gone, the flesh is not important, and acting otherwise shows a lack of faith."

In fact, most religions I know of, certainly the big three, have very particular rules and rituals for treating and burying corpses. I think the "spirit is gone" atttude is more atheist than anything else.

Antigone? I would prefer my brother be buried with honour rather than have his corpse desecrated. However, I would certainly not give my life to have him buried appropriately -- as I would to ensure he lives.

but this seems to be implying that the perpetrators of this atrocity are, in fact, former Baathists and not garden-variety fanatics. Has this been confirmed?

No, it hasn't -- but the quote you cite actually refers to two separate, and not necessarily coextensive, groups: "They're the remnants of a regime that tortured, gassed, and mutilated its own people, and followers of a religious ideology that favors death and oppression over life and freedom."

"I'm at work so I don't have time to look around just yet, but this seems to be implying that the perpetrators of this atrocity are, in fact, former Baathists and not garden-variety fanatics. Has this been confirmed?"

"Sir? Excuse me, sir. Yes, you with the gun. Can you share your past political affiliation with the viewers please?"

Who knows? I don't think the killers stayed around to be photographed, or shot if troops arrived, and the crowd in the photos looks massive and of diverse demographics, and so probably have a variety of views. The inhabitants of the Sunni triangle are pretty hostile to Americans forces in general, right?

I'm probably in favor of _less_ strict sentences for people who have "something wrong" with them - in the sense of being nuts, or anyway in an extreme emotional state - compared to say a cold-blooded assassin who carefully buries the dead.

I'm not sure you mean this. You may be in favor of treatment, because you think the offender is in need of it. But I don't think that you mean "less strict" sentences -- i.e., the murderer gets 25 yrs, the murder with the corpse decorations in his apartment gets 15 yrs. At least, I hope you don't mean that.

It does seem, by the bye, that you agree that this behavior is "wrong".

No, it hasn't -- but the quote you cite actually refers to two separate, and not necessarily coextensive, groups...

Ahhh, that makes much more sense now. Got it.

Who knows? I don't think the killers stayed around to be photographed, or shot if troops arrived, and the crowd in the photos looks massive and of diverse demographics, and so probably have a variety of views.

Quite possibly, but it's of fundamental import who's pulling the strings here -- if, indeed, there are strings being pulled.

von, I think passing on the right is wrong. I think the lack of universal healthcare for children is wrong. I think going into Iraq when/how we did was wrong.

Certainly treatment if appropriate.

I'm saying the man who catches his wife in bed with another man and hacks them to pieces may deserve less time than a murderer who observes the niceties. I certainly can't see the assassin getting less time than the decorator. If murderer scatters his victim's remains across the latter's lawn for the kids to see, that does seem like an aggravating circumstance to me, or rather a second crime. But in general I find it insults human life to weigh it in the same scales as a pile of meat.


angua, I believe you're right re Judaism and mainstream Islam and Catholicism, but I think there are threads of xianity which strictly limit what respect a corpse may be accorded. I admit I only have a literary knowledge of religion and find this topic difficult to google - and unfortunately it's hard to find believers at my lab to consult.

But in general I find it insults human life to weigh it in the same scales as a pile of meat.

"Ripeness is all," et al.? (Are you intentionally channeling Catch-22's second-most famous death scene in this argument?)

Use however many scales you'd like, Rilkefan. That I think the crime of murder is exponentially worse than the(yes, savage) act of corpse mutilation does not mean that I'm forbidden from criticizing the corpse mutilator.

Incidentally, von, you may be able to post part I+II = III: I just heard an allegation related on the NewsHour that a uniformed Iraqi policeman was involved in the celebration. Also note that John Burns said most Iraqis he knew were horrified and surprised by their countrymen's actions.

Oops, missed the crosspost - haven't read C-22 as an adult - I was thinking of Yeats's poem on a friend's illness:

Sickness brought me this
Thought, in that scale of his:
Why should I be dismayed
Though flame had burned the whole
World, as it were a coal,
Now I have seen it weighed
Against a soul?


Anyway, if you call this savagery, and don't say that about plain old killing of soldiers, it seems to me that you place a lot of weight on the mutilation relative to the murder. And, really, how many mutilations = one murder? (Yes, I know, math doesn't apply here.)

John Burns re "We may not win" - and "We may not be telling the truth about what's going on either".

We must win. The lesson here is that we must do the opposite of Mogadishu. Instead of cutting and running like we did back in '93, we need to redouble our efforts, and catch as many of the murderers and corpse desecrators as we can. The Marines need to go in and apply the 'no greater friend, no more terrible enemy' doctrine. This is a battle of wills, and even more so, this is a major front line in the War on Terror (I know I'm sounding like a broken record). For Iraq to truly be liberated, we must prevail.

One of the lessons of Mogadishu has already been forgotten, the one where you avoid humiliating the locals. Our boys need to have it drilled into their head that this can mean the difference between life and death. Instead, we've antagonised a lot of the locals and let the guerillas control the propaganda war.

A lot of these people are for the guerillas because they feel as if the Americans couldn't give a shit about them. They're probably right. A lot of soldiers started off optimistic and wanted to help, but too many snafus have made them disillusioned. The situation is FUBAR.

This war was a strategic blunder, a detour away from fighting those that were responsible for 9/11. Unfortunately, our current administration lacks the competence to properly deal with the current situation in Iraq.

We haven't yet won. We may not win.

I presume, von, you're defining 'we' as those on the side of peace and freedom in Iraq... that's the only thing worth winning there, I think. If you do mean that, then we will win - but it is going to take a long time. If you don't mean that, I humbly suggest you're looking at it from the wrong angle.

And as for the question over whether it's relevant or not how the bodies were treated - I don't want to comment either way on respect owed the body of a dead person; but it's a bad thing when people feel they want to do this to any creature. It's sick, and it's detached from feelings of compassion and empathy and everything people need if we're going to get past this stage in global affairs. It's a bad thing for them, it's a bad thing for us.

BD:

The architects of the "cut and run" in both 1993 and today are Repubs. Clinton wanted to stay in 1993. But I agree that we should tough it out -- unfortunately the policies of Bush do not (despite phony rhetoric to the contrary).

Time to acknowledge that the worm has turned the other way.

What this atrocity shows us:

1. that the Iraqis are fully capable of barbarism -- no surprise there.

2. proof of the ineffectiveness to date of counter-insurgency doctrine in Iraq. The marines are finally (a year later) doing what needs to be done -- actually occupy and take the fight to the insurgents. The crap from the Pentagon that these are just a few desparate hanger-ons is propoganda. In the Fallujah area, they are the majority.

I hope the marines can turn the tide, but their effort is an example of the exception proving the rule, and the rule is the Bush June 30 cut and run strategy. For the most part, we have been undermanned to fight a true counter-insurgency, and have for a year allowed insurgents to control their own neighborhoods. I doubt that there are enough marines to change that now in the next few months.

Are the marines going to continue this effort after handing over "sovereignty?" Does anyone think they can resolve the insurgency to any degree by June 30?

Also, realize that there are also plenty of armed potential insurgents sitting on the sidelines waiting. These are the private militias that we decided not to disarm, and which are currently not engaging in violence. They probably reflect the dominant military power in Iraq after the US forces. They will dictate events after we leave, including by violence against the central Iraqi authority (which will have no real power becasue it will not have the necessary military power).

3. that the Pentagon is spending double or more per man to hire mercenaries to provide convoy security (the "civilians" who were killed were American mercenary soldiers) -- that is seriously fucked up and proof positive that we are undermanned to do the counter-insurgency job. The Bush administration would rather hire and waste money on mercenaries than admit that it needs to deploy more troops to do the job right. Plus, they get to pretend that the "civilian" casualties are not as bad as soldiers getting killed.

"It's a bad thing for them, it's a bad thing for us."

Considering certain specific aspects of their own religious tradition, I suspect it is a considerably worse thing for them.

The architects of the "cut and run" in both 1993 and today are Repubs. Clinton wanted to stay in 1993.

Let's see. The Commander-in-Chief at the time was Bill Clinton. Congress at the time had a Democrat majority. And you're blaming the Republicans for the Somalia cut-and-run? That's like blaming the equipment manager for the game-losing two-point conversion! You're not revising history, you're concocting a wholly separate alternate fantasy world! If Clinton wanted to stay, then he would've stayed. The buck is supposed to stop there.

I'll just throw in, since I'm feeling so chatty, that while "If Clinton wanted to stay, then he would've stayed" is a bit simplistic, yes, I'm certainly unaware of any desire of President Clinton to maintain our forces in Somalia. I'd most definitely need convincing cites before entertaining the notion.

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