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February 14, 2006


Could you maybe put that behind the fold? I can't look at it without feeling ill.

I second that.

I have no words to express what I feel. hilzoy, please keep posting.

For more of the photos, see here. And no, these are not in any way human-safe.

[I'm debating whether or not to forward these to some of my friends under the title "You're Not Angry Enough"... but I don't know that I can do that to them.]

And now, the tinfoil: I'm wondering if the slipshod way in which Cheney's office has handled the shooting of Whittington might be part of a semi-deliberate attempt to provide cover for the release of these new Abu Ghreib photos. I tend to doubt it -- I don't think they're that good, bluntly -- but I'll wager that these new photos sink into the memory hole without a trace, drowned out by commenters too eager to make the latest "quail/WMD/Iraq/Whittington's face" joke to notice the horrors unfolding before them.

It's below the fold now.

And sorry.

Sorry, ral, I wasn't asking hil not to post, just put the pictures behind a 'read the rest' link.

Nothing more to add just now.

It's OK, lj. I look. It hurts, but I don't close my eyes.

Oh, I got it backwards. Anyway, no issue.

I can't get any visible photos from either here or here.
Do I need to adjust my adblocking, or something?

Whether I use Firefox or IE, all I get is a blank page. :-( (I'm afraid I wish to link to a newspaper or magazine, not Kos, just for the sake of theoretically-increased credibility against accusations of photoshopping or something.)

Anarch, not too sure about that.

To tell the truth, I don't think the photos will have much effect on the citizenry at large. The soulless pinheads who still defend Gitmo/AbuGhraib/torture in general have already made their choice. A few more bloody photos, or rape photos, or any photos at all won't change them into actual functioning human beings with actual functioning consciences.

OTOH, the shooting story is an exemplar: it perfectly encapsulates everything about the Borgia wanna-bes running the country. All that mandarin arrogance, reflexive secrecy, reflexive lying, lawlessness, and depraved indifference, etc.: all bundled up in one story that even the laziest, most compromised MSM reporter can't resist.

Gary, for me (Mozilla vintage 1.4) your first link plays an ad, but then forwards on to the images.

A video to add to the collection.

The idea of providing new photos as a cover crossed my mind too. It wouldn't surprise me. Revamping old news, with a new twist, to take headline space just long enough for the quail incident to slip away...
"Iraq is free of rape rooms and torture chambers."--President Bush, remarks to 2003 Republican National Committee Presidential Gala.

Right... or just concentrated to Abu Ghraib prison.

You'd think Americans would want to act with dignity. You'd think, if they were being true to their mission, they would treat Iraqis, both prisoner and nonprisoner-- well.

And wouldn't you think that if this administration believed in protecting future generations from terror, that using terror tactics might spawn future terrorist acts?

Come on...

Some of those pictures look like they show what, to my uneducated eye, look a hell of a lot like cigarette burns.

But--we knew this was coming at some level, right? What was the point of delaying this for almost two years?

After the election, I suppose. I suppose we can now be told that this is old news, and the bad apples have already been punished.

p.s. I really doubt this has a damn thing to do with the Cheney shooting, even timing wise.


"there is something more in history than the relation between mastery and servitude. Unlimited power is not the only law."
--Albert Camus.

Someone at Kos said the puncture wounds were probably the result of dog bites. Gahh. I feel sick.

"I suppose we can now be told that this is old news, and the bad apples have already been punished."


Ral: "Gary, for me (Mozilla vintage 1.4) your first link plays an ad, but then forwards on to the images."

Thanks. I'll fiddle. (While our country and others burn.)

(You really should use Firefox, though. :-))

"the bad apples have already been punished"

Too late to save the barrel.

You know the famous saying of Harry Truman's: "The buck stops with some sergeants, and maybe a Reserve Brigadier General."

The lawyer in me says "Objection: Inflamatory" and the human being in me doesn't know whether to scream or weep.

Or as I just blogged: Alternatively:

RUMSFELD: No. Indeed, no. You know, the -- what was going on in the midnight shift in Abu Ghraib Prison halfway across the world is something that clearly someone in Washington, D.C., can't manage or deal with.

And so I have no regrets. I think that we have a wonderful team of people in the Department of Defense. We have good people. We've made a lot of corrections to make sure that those kinds of things happen -- either don't happen again or are immediately found out and limited and contained.

In giving the commencement address in Winston Salem, North Carolina, Powell acknowledged that "our nation is now going through a period of deep disappointment, a period of deep pain over some of our soldiers not doing the right thing" at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

But even in the midst of their disappointment, the secretary told the Arab leaders he met to "watch America. Watch how we deal with this. Watch how America will do the right thing. Watch what a nation of values and character, a nation that believes in justice, does to right this kind of wrong. Watch how a nation such as ours will not tolerate such actions."

"I told them that they will see a free press and an independent Congress at work," he continued. "They will see a Defense Department led by Secretary (Donald) Rumsfeld that will launch multiple investigations to get to the facts. Above all, they will see a president -- our president, President Bush -- determined to find out where responsibility and accountability lie. And justice will be done. The world will see that we are still a nation with a moral code that defines our national character."

We're watching.

Meanwhile Michael Gerson runs around telling everyone that God wants George Bush in office because, apparently, 1) He believes in women being forced to have unwanted children, and 2) Black people love him.

To quote Gerson, "...one of the great soft-power advantages of the United States of America is that we can imagine a different and better world, that we are unique because we are not defined by race or tradition but by a set of universal ideals.” Gerson's boss has tortured that advantage away.

How is this us?

p.s. I really doubt this has a damn thing to do with the Cheney shooting, even timing wise.

I'm not questioning that per se; the question I have is whether the serendipitous -- at least from someone's PR perspective -- juxtaposition of the two events is being used as cover. Of course, I also said that I doubted that this was the case, but the usual line about the Bush Administration and conspiracy theories (pace TNH) applies.

And Gary, Kevin Drum is linking through here.

"How is this us?"

Maybe we suck?

depressing thought which I'd forgot for twenty minutes: Congress has already seen most of these, a year and a half ago. Nearly every investigation vote has failed on party lines--and a good % of the Democratic caucus is afraid of this issue.

"How is this us?"

Maybe we suck?

Human beings suck, quite frankly.

On the "just because it's evil doesn't mean it's not also criminally stupid" front, see this article.

Sweet dreams everyone.

"Human beings suck, quite frankly."

Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crap.

Ellison's Addendum: That includes people.

Human beings suck, quite frankly.

Well we aren't supposed to. And the fact that we accept that statement as fact with a shrug a wry shake of the head. And this is the "culture of life". This is "family values". This is "winning hearts and minds". I don't get worked up often, but right now, I feel like breaking to posting rules and quoting the Vice President to their faces.

It's possibly just me who would find it useful if people would use standard online practice of quoting at least a fragment of what they are replying to; possibly it's just me who has no idea what some comments in this thread are in response to or in regard to.

Anarch: "And Gary, Kevin Drum is linking through here."

I've read Kevin's post, and clicked his link (the other being one of the two I previously linked to), but I regret to apologetically say that I'm not following why you are telling me this. Apologies for being dense.

"On the 'just because it's evil doesn't mean it's not also criminally stupid' front, see this article."

In case anyone's browser has as much trouble with the IHT format as mine does, the original article is here.

Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crap.

Ellison's Addendum: That includes people.

Harlan says many things I agree with. He says a number of things I disagree with.

This is one of them.

Pooh asks:

how is this us??

It's been "us" for awhile. One of our great advantages -- and blind spots -- has been a fervent belief in American exceptionalism. We aspire to more than the grubby Brits or Germans or Russians or Chinese, etc., etc., ad infinitum.

And when we fail, we should try to avoid repeating the mistakes. Yet repeat them we do.

Recap, perhaps the career of General J. H. "Howling Wilderness" Smith. Veteran of the Battle of Shiloh, the campaign in Cuba, and the "battle" of Wounded Knee, he became (in)famous for his role in the campaign to pacify the island of Samar during the Philippine Insurrection.

"I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn the better it will please me. I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in actual hostilities against the United States.” General Jacob H. Smith said.

Since it was a popular belief among the Americans serving in the Philippines that native males were born with bolos in their hands, Major Littleton "Tony" Waller asked "I would like to know the limit of age to respect, sir?."

"Ten years," Smith said.

"Persons of ten years and older are those designated as being capable of bearing arms?"

"Yes." Smith confirmed his instructions a second time.

Smith was court-martialed in 1902, which is something to our credit, I guess.

During the entire Insurrection, our soldiers helped to kill at least 200,000 Filipinos, civilians and military (although, curiously enough, we didn't actually try very hard to count the dead).

But at least we aspire to better things. After all, we gave the Philippines independence in 1946.

inevitable Wikipedia source, though there are other sources out there:


Pooh: Amen. It's up to us to make it not us.

The Smoking Gun posts the accident report.

Well we aren't supposed to. And the fact that we accept that statement as fact with a shrug a wry shake of the head.

Well, we're animals, aren't we? And I mean that in the literal sense. Brutality and death are part of the natural order as much nurturing and love.

I remember watching a film long ago in high school - and I'm sure it's quite famous, I just don't remember the name of it - about a psychological experiment in which volunteers would be instructed to adjust a dial that they were told controlled the level of electrical current that ran through a second test subject. (It was all a setup of course). Anyways, most people would continue to turn the dial upwards despite the "screams" of the fake test subject. Only a handful refused to participate at all.

American exceptionalism, and I'm glad it was brought up, is a very dangerous thing imho.

Shoot, I hate to get into a side issue, especially when it might appear I'm an apologist for US imperialism, but as an actual historian of the Philippines, working on this topic off and on for over thirty years now, I should say:

-- We didn't "kill" anything like 200,000 Filipinos during the Philippine-American war. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos did in fact die between 1899 and 1903, but most of them from epidemics, some of which had started before US forces arrived. (This, by the way, is an estimate of "excess mortality," i.e., the number who died beyond "normal" mortality for those years.)

The number of Filipinos actually shot or otherwise done to death directly by Americans was probably only [sic] around 10-20,000 at most. (BTW, we generally did "count the dead" - I've seen some of the after-action reports.) There's simply no way the figures add up to more.

Now the original quote says "helped to kill" and a good argument can be made that the US invasion/occupation contributed to the epidemics in a number of ways - e.g., killing water buffalo, creating or exacerbating (local) famines, herding possibly infected people together in "reconcentration" areas, spreading disease vectors, &c. - so in that sense "helped to kill" can be justified. The actual number, however, is necessarily fictive.

Ken DeBevoise, Agents of Apocalypse (Princeton UP, 1995), is an entire scholarly book on this topic, and is pretty much state of the art on mortality in the islands in this era, but he is forced to conclude that there simply isn't any way of quantifying America's blame for the loss of human life in these years. The number (200,000) rattled around on Wikipedia is pure speculation - not as unreasonable as some (I've seen allegations of up to a million!), but still without any sound evidentiary basis. (If there had been one, Ken would have found it: he was looking hard enough.)

It should go without saying, but it probably doesn't: in moral terms, killing 20,000 people isn't a whole lot better than killing 200,000. It doesn't get you (=us!) off the hook.

-- FWIW, it's no longer called the "Philippine Insurrection" except in old-fashioned US military circles. The current terminology is "Philippine-American [or Filipino-American] War." (I note this with regard to Wikipedia's entry, not you personally.)

-- FWIW (2), one of the historians who has studied the war most thoroughly has raised doubts about whether "Howling Jake" Smith actually gave the order quoted above, even though it appears in all of the standard sources, based on testimony before Congress, IIRC. The only evidence for it appears to be the testimony of Waller, as mentioned above, and this historian [I'll leave him nameless until I can track down what he actually said in writing, as opposed to what he told us one drunken evening in Manila] regards Waller as a weasel and a congenital liar and suggested that there's no reason to believe that these particular words ever issued from Smith's mouth. (Not that he wasn't a real hard-assed son of a bitch anyway.) I'm just sayin'.

-- Finally, let me remind the others what I'm sure you knew: that the strongest parallel between the Phil-Am War and Iraq was not the number of dead, but the practice of torture, including the "water cure" (= water-boarding), which was well-documented, even if not quite as widely practiced as some Filipino nationalists believe. We did it then; we do it now. Which, I think, was your point.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

"...I remember watching a film long ago in high school - and I'm sure it's quite famous, I just don't remember the name of it - about a psychological experiment...."

Stanley Milgram. Yes, extremely famous.

"American exceptionalism, and I'm glad it was brought up, is a very dangerous thing imho."

Before Charles brings it up: also, Japanese exceptionalism, Russian exceptionalism, Chinese exceptionalism, Turkish exceptionalism, Israeli exceptionalism (Charles perhaps wouldn't go there, I speculate), French exceptionalism, British exceptionalism, etc., and so forth.

Just trying to get that out of the way.

You're definitely catching fire with your posts, hilzoy. I don't think Gary or Bob would hang around otherwise.

dr ngo,
Thanks, as always. At the risk of diverting this thread, why is it that Phillipine culture has seemingly evolved into such an US friendly one? Is it because it really isn't that US friendly, it is because the damage of the War was not so great, or something else?

Gary, I think spartikus is USian, so he would be remarkably hypocritical to complain about (though not discuss!) those exceptionalisms, I think.

thanks, dr. ngo. (One of the things I love about this blog: you can have this sort of moment -- like in the Woody Allen movie in which someone says: as it happens, I have Marshall McLuhan right here...)

I think American exceptionalism is a worthy aspiration, but always a dangerous factual assumption, even on those occasions when it happens to be true. Far better just to try to make it so.

"(Charles perhaps wouldn't go there, I speculate)"


I missed the Charles reference completely, but yes, that is a low blow.

"...like in the Woody Allen movie in which someone says: as it happens, I have Marshall McLuhan right here...)...."

Annie Hall, in which Woody Allen says it. Incidentally, McLuhan was Allen's third choice; he first asked Federico Fellini and Luis Buñuel, but they declined/weren't available.

I could easily name the theater Allen and Keaton were in, were I not so tired. :-)

opit: "You're definitely catching fire with your posts, hilzoy. I don't think Gary or Bob would hang around otherwise."

It's no secret that I rank Hilzoy as far and away my most-admired/respected of the current crop of ObWi posters, but just for the record, I was reading and commenting here years before she got here. So I really couldn't say (and certainly couldn't and wouldn't say for Bob, of course).

Katherine was not a slouch as a poster, either.

ObWi hasn't been around all that long, as blogs go, by the way. Only since November 13, 2003, barely 2 1/2 years.

I don't recall the precise date I started commenting here, but it was certainly by mid-December, 2003.

I wrote: "...Israeli exceptionalism (Charles perhaps wouldn't go there, I speculate)...."

LJ responds: "...yes, that is a low blow."

Perhaps so, although I'm unclear why a statement of personal opinion, with two modifiers labeling it as speculation, is out of line, and, say, comments about "Farbering of this subthread" are unobjectionable.

Certainly Charles is welcome to object to what I said, and I'll certainly consider any objection from him. Meanwhile, it's certainly entirely possible I'm missed posts from Charles in which he has, in fact, criticized Israeli exceptionalism, thus proving that my speculation was idle calumny, and thus false and un-called for. I would welcome a pointer to such, in which case I should immediately withdraw my speculation and immediately apologize to Charles.

Given that Charles has not said anything in this thread, to use him as a stalking horse in trying to make a point is unfair and uncalled for. If you are feeling upset about Farbering/Farberesque, etc, taking it out on Charles (who, again, had nothing I can see to do with that) is doubly unfair.

Thanks, Dr. Ngo, for the Philippine information. I'm the sort that would continue to repeat the "200,000" killed or more by us, though from what you say I don't think the moral distinction between killing tens or hundreds of thousands through bullets and killing them through callous policies that cause famine and disease is really all that different. But one should be aware of the facts.

I forgot to add two other things--

Gary, I appreciated your point about people who are Israeli exceptionalists, but it wasn't appropriate to tag anyone with it in this thread. Keep it in storage until a thread comes along where it's appropriate.

Getting back to the thread topic, I have a good friend who was convinced the whole torture scandal was just the actions of a few bad apples, and that the criticism of it shows how wonderful our system is. I copied an HRW web page about the lack of accountability to him and may have shook him up a bit, but that's one down, and tens of millions of Americans left to go. (Actually, he's not American.)

Japanese exceptionalism, Russian exceptionalism, Chinese exceptionalism, Turkish exceptionalism, Israeli exceptionalism.....

Agree absolutely.

Gary, I think spartikus is USian, so he would be remarkably hypocritical to complain about (though not discuss!) those exceptionalisms, I think.

Canuckistani, so I guess I'm a hypocrite, even though we have front row seats to the Big Great Republic Show to the south, and have a tendency to serve as the Waldorf and Statler to the American Kermit. My somewhat drive-by comment wasn't meant to denote exclusivity either, rather point out we're all made of the same flesh and subject to the same dark instincts, which is why I mentioned the Milgram Experiment (thanks, Gary). Canadians may and are tempted to think of Canada as a gentler land, but our soldiers have done bad things too.

Because of the size and power of the contemporary United States, American exceptionalism is more dangerous than say, French exceptionalism. Coupled with Manifest Destiny, and it's potent one-two punch. It's the American system of government that is supposed to channel human beings in a positive fashion, but human nature being what it is, an "exceptional system" inevitably gets morphed into "we're exceptional" by some. It's natural, and not something to feel sleighted by. Again, that's just one person's opinion.

Hilzoy: I think American exceptionalism is a worthy aspiration

If your intent is for American citizens to take responsibility for the actions of their government, and to ensure the American system remains functioning as it was intended, I agree. But, I must say, statements like these make me nervous.

spartikus: So let me be as clear as possible. I do not believe, and think it would be a dangerous form of hubris to believe, that America is destined to be somehow special; that there is any sort of inevitability to any sort of exceptionalism.

If (as I was, but I should have made this clear) we're talking about the phrase: "America should be exceptionally good,an inspiration to mankind, etc.", then I think: we (US citizens, at least) should all try to make it so, but we should never, ever assume that it is.

This for more or less the same reasons that I think that "I am a very good person" is something I should try to make true, but be very, very wary of assuming. Again, even when it is, in fact, true.

As an individual, you have absolute control...well, almost absolute control...over your actions. I'm not saying the concept isn't worth pursuing....I just think the principle doesn't completely translate when applied nationally. And while you, hilzoy, may personally repudiate the idea that America has some sort of destiny of being exceptional, you can't deny there hasn't been a strong streak of that very thing in American history.

Also, it goes without saying your idea of what a "good" person or society is may vary with your neighbours ideas. Now, I tend to think that the majority of people around the world like the ideas of accountable government and free expression and will naturally gravitate towards it. But some people think those ideas require free enterprise, and others don't. And so on.

I don't see any inherent conflict between believing this is the best place to live, and taking actions consistent with having that as one's goals. Come to think of it, the belief without the action doesn't look good in comparison.

Or, in order to flexibly interpret hilzoy, one could believe that one's country as an ideal is preferable to all others, and still be unsatisfied with it in execution, and even speak out or take action in areas one sees need improvement (understatement, that, but brevity demanded it). How one chooses to express said dissatisfaction is probably important, but that's a whole 'nother conversation.

s/"having that as one's goals"/...fill in the blank.

I actually cannot recall what I was thinking when I typed this, so I'm going to call it a day as far as blog-comments go.

one could believe that one's country as an ideal is preferable to all others, and still be unsatisfied with it in execution

That's not really what makes me nervous.

I have a co-worker who has a twin sister. Sister A is non-religous. Sister B is very religious. Sister B, says Sister A, would for years try to get her to attend church, despite a complete lack of interest on the part of Sister A. "Pester" is the word she used. Finally, she confronted her sister and "Look, I'm not interested. Could you please just drop this subject from now on". Sister B, naturally taken aback, replied "I'm sorry, I just want what's best for you".

I do believe the root of all evil done by humans can be traced to the sentiments Sister B expressed. Inevitably, it seems to me, one is moved from simply living what one considers a good life, to trying to help those around you live a good life, whether they need it or not.

Sorry, very pop psychology, but it's the example that came to mind.

Playing along the pop-psyche lines, one could also make a case for that SOME of the root of human evil can be assigned to Sister A not having made her feelings clear in the matter; simply going with the flow. Which is not to say that your sister is evil or anything, just to be clear.

But yes, I get your point. Although I see pitfalls in the extreme where you don't get to impose your values on people who don't share them, too.

Not that anyone cares, but I miswrote--when I said I was one who would continue to repeat the 200,000 Filipinos in the US line. I meant I would have continued if I hadn't read Dr. ngo's comments. I'll now be more nuanced about it. Not that this matters. Just being obsessive. Time to join Slarti and stop commenting for the day.


Secretary Rumsfeld will be in my town as a graduation speaker in a few months. I would welcome suggestions, here or in email, on what to say in the newspaper ads we plan to run to greet him. Suggestions for the banners and placards also invited (he won't see them, they're for the passersby and possible media readers/viewers). Respond here or by email.

dr ngo,
Thanks, as always. At the risk of diverting this thread, why is it that Phillipine culture has seemingly evolved into such an US friendly one? Is it because it really isn't that US friendly, it is because the damage of the War was not so great, or something else?

I'm not dr ngo, nor a historian, but as a layman, I think part of the answer is that the US took over public education and made sure the history books used in school did not cover that section of history, and also they made English the offcial language, wiping out knowledge of Spanish as a second language in one generation (except for the ethnic Spanish minority). Since most of the written history of that period from the Philippine point of view (the leaflets, newspapers, etc) were in Spanish, that cut of the majority from easy review of primary sources.

The City needs an offenses-against-poetry czar: Willie Nelson releases song titled, "Cowboys are frequently secretly fond of each other".
(via unfogged)

spartikus: I didn't mean trying to force my views on others. I just meant, for instance: if you want your country to be a shining city on a hill, then work as hard as you can to keep it from e.g. engaging in torture.

I also think it's impossible to give up ever trying to force one's views on others, ever, if only because the line that separates 'my business' from 'someone else's business' is one of the contested topics. (Suppose I belonged to a religion that required me to assault people on a regular basis: saying that I have no right to do this is true only if my religion is false. Nonetheless, you'd be right to defend my victims.)

if you want your country to be a shining city on a hill, then work as hard as you can to keep it from e.g. engaging in torture.

And I have no problem with that. I think use of the term "American Exceptionalism" threw me off. Yes, Tocqueville coined and defined it quite specifically, but it's taken on baggage over the years.

I also think it's impossible to give up ever trying to force one's views on others, ever, if only because the line that separates 'my business' from 'someone else's business' is one of the contested topics.

Perhaps appropriate and reinforcing to your own point, the Koufax-nominated post "Tolerance and Responsible Freedom".

I don't need my country to be perfect, striving for improvement suits my personality better :)

The difference between my country and the US is that we play the part of Gimli in this age. A rich Gimli, but still...

"Witch great power comes great responsibility" and all that.

'Mankind was my business,' Jacob Marley.

I find myself, again, is absolute and complete agreement with Hil on this. Of course we should aspire, as a country, as parents, as children, as neighbors, to be the bast that we can be at that.

The problem comes when folks start going around saying that we're already the best there is, and so neither criticism nor opposition is permitted.

I join Ronald Reagan in hoping to honor the dream of John Winthrop (although I wouldn't, as Reagan did, call him 'that old Pilgrim') but for the execution, I think one has to look more to Roger Williams than John Winthrop. And, indeed, the various other (names escape me just now) settlers in the Bay colony who forced Winthrop to extend voting rights in the colony to all "freemen," beyond shareholders.

(The word "freeman" was a term of art, and would not have included most anyone reading these words. The 1630 Boston version of the velvet revolution was nonetheless a very important step in the advance of human freedom).

Conversely, and apropos of nothing, Howard Zinn on the city on the hill.

Spartikus: Canadians may and are tempted to think of Canada as a gentler land, but our soldiers have done bad things too.

Indeed they did, and shameful it was. What is noteable is what was done about this atrocity. Because of Canadian outrage at what its soldiers had done in this incident, there was a government inquiry into it that discovered a pattern or racism and abuse within the regiment that these men belonged to, the Canadian Airborne Regiment. The outcome was that the regiment were allowed a final parachute jump together, then its regimental colors were retired in disgrace and the regiment permanently disbanded.

When Bush originally reacted to the Abu Ghraib photos by saying "Watch how we deal with this. Watch how America will do the right thing" I expected something of that nature.

The plutocracy keeps on shining through.

Did I read through the Sydney Herald article too quickly, or does it not explain where the photos are supposed to have come from?

Yes, I know that they came from a leak, but before then? The original Abu Ghraib photos were private photos, right? taken supposedly as "trophies" of some demented sort, IIRC? These photos--some of them, at least--seem more clinical. The photo of the guy with puncture wounds on his lower back looks to me like evidence. I'm starting to think that some of these photos might have a more official provenance.

Before I start leaping to conclusions (probably too late), can anyone point me toward the better-informed analyses of these new photos?

Dr. Ngo: Thanks for the clarification. You'll note that I used the lowest estimate that appeared on Wikipedia since most of the other (actually academic) sources are careful to make a huge distinction between "military" casualties and "civilian."

However, is it not true that the United States actually did 'reconcentrate' civilians in numerous places -- the better to pacify the provinces? If a few thousand civilians die of dysentery in a 'reconcentration camp' because the US Army forced them to move there, do they not count as casualties of American policy?


Filipinos probably have a much better opinion of us Americans because, under Franklin Roosevelt, a program for Philippine independence was worked out in the 1930s; we promised to help get them on their feet with administration and defense, and leave by January 1945.

When Japan attacked, a lot of Americans (and Filipinos) died fighting; a few Americans stayed behind and helped with the guerrilla resistance against the Japanese; and MacArthur did lobby awful hard to get US troops back to the Philippines by 1944. And then we kept our word, sort of, by granting full independence in January 1946.

I've generally been a lurker here, and gotta say, I think the discussion here is excellent.

Also, not to discount the Milgram experiment as a seminal discovery of latent brutality, but I think the Zimbardo prison experiment is even more illuminating here.


(Sorry, don't know how to do embedded links)

I would also note that the fact that we've known for 30+ years that deterioration to this type of dynamic in the prison scenario is *natural* is even more damning of the lack of Pentagon leadership and oversight.

I would ask why this is still so unimportant to the majority of people in the US?

Upon reflection, I think it's also important to notice what the psychs' takeaway message from the experiment was, as quoted in the link:

"In psychology, the results of the experiment are said to support situational attributions of behavior rather than dispositional attribution. In other words, it seemed to entail that the situation caused the participants' behavior rather than anything inherent in their individual personalities. In this way it is compatible with the results of the also-famous (or infamous) Milgram experiment, in which ordinary people fulfilled orders to administer what appeared to be fatal electric shocks to a confederate of the experimenter."

So much for the whole 'bad apples' theory of etiology.

Lewis Carroll: I think you're right: the prison experiment is more to the point. Minor issue: I have always found the psychologists' distinction between situational and dispositional attributions of behavior untenable.

I mean: surely, in order to do X in situation S, you need to have (a) a disposition of some sort that leads you to do things like this in S-like situations, and also (b) be in the right sort of situation. So what the alleged distinction is supposed to come to, I don't know.

Having re-read Dr. Ngo's comment for a fourth time, I realize he has already answered my most recent point and I withdraw whatever tepid criticism I might have implied from said post.

I just teach history, I don't actually know as much as I let on.

So I'll hustle over to the library and pick up DeBevoise's book.

In the event that new attention to the Abu Ghraib horrors and the UN report condemning Guantanamo create an urge in anyone to do something about U.S. torture, one new vehicle is the statement by the newly formed National Religious Coalition Against Torture. Sign it, and use it as a way to raise the subject with friends or members of your congregation (or synagogue or mosque).

Approaching torture a moral issue, the coalition is refreshingly unimpressed with the achievement of the McCain amendment.

Congratulations on your Koufax nomination Hilzoy, well deserved!



I agree that the logical end of that experimental conclusion is disturbing and counterintuitive; specifically, there is no indication that the analysis stopped short of the position that the "disposition of some sort that leads you to do things like this" is being human.

In other words, what is the nature and extent of the *disposition*? I haven't followed psych research enough since college to know where the consensus lies on the dispositional v. situational continuum. I do know that research on riots have leaned toward a strong situational determinant.

Lewis C: my basic assumption (not being a psychologist) is that there are a number of things they might really mean: (a) to what extent are the situation and/or the disposition common, so that we might as well disregard them, or regard them as normal background conditions? (b) to what extent would the situation cause any normal human being to respond like this, or (alternatively) to what extent would a person with this disposition tend to respond this way whatever the situation?

All of these are completely distinct from (c) was it the situation or the person that caused the action?

I get picky about it only because mistakes here can lead to confusions about moral responsibility.

About the experiments in particular: I haven't reread the prison experiment in a while, but I once wrote on the Milgram experiment, and concluded that for a lot of the obedient subjects, the crucial thing was that they were unwilling to weigh their reasons for action at all in a tense situation like that, and thus went on doing what they were already doing. So basically there were three groups:

(a) people who decided what to do and disobeyed

(b) people who decided what to do and obeyed

(c) people who didn't decide at all, and went on doing what they were already doing, and thus obeyed.

Hilzoy: it's update time:


Salon has obtained files and other electronic documents from an internal Army investigation into the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal. The material, which includes more than 1,000 photographs, videos and supporting documents from the Army's probe, may represent all of the photographic and video evidence that pertains to that investigation.

The files, from the Army's Criminal Investigation Command (CID), include hundreds of images that have never been publicly released. Along with the unpublished material, the material obtained by Salon also appears to include all of the famous photographs published after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in April 2004, as well as the photographs and videos published Wednesday by the Australian television news show "Dateline."

The source who gave the CID material to Salon is someone who spent time at Abu Ghraib as a uniformed member of the military and is familiar with the CID investigation.

The DVD containing the material includes a June 6, 2004, CID investigation report written by Special Agent James E. Seigmund. That report includes the following summary of the material included: "A review of all the computer media submitted to this office revealed a total of 1,325 images of suspected detainee abuse, 93 video files of suspected detainee abuse, 660 images of adult pornography, 546 images of suspected dead Iraqi detainees, 29 images of soldiers in simulated sexual acts, 20 images of a soldier with a Swastika drawn between his eyes, 37 images of Military Working dogs being used in abuse of detainees and 125 images of questionable acts."

F*cking hell.

I feel sick.

Image Gallery

mattb, thank you for alerting us to the material at Salon. I'm more than a little concerned that the reaction to the release of additional images from Abu Ghraib will be "Those responsible have already been punished; case closed."

Images of a swastika'd soldier reinforce the 'few bad apples' theme. But this is fundamentally a lie and distortion, and most commenters here know it.

This degradation starts from the top, with the executive orders and 'legal findings' in the White House: flouting Geneva Convention provisions for those detained in Afghanistan and Pakistan, redefining torture as legal, blanket authorization to kidnap persons anywhere in the world and render them to secret CIA prisons or governments that torture routinely.

Only a very small percentage of the 500-600 prisoners at Guantanamo are connected in any way to attacks on the U.S. or terrorism in any form, yet the majority have been subjected to repeated torture and abuse for four years.

Renditions to torture (and possibly death) are estimated to number at least a hundred.

CIA torture in Afghanistan has been ongoing since 2002, at Bagram and other sites, and, according to one Marine now dead, in airborne shipping containers.

Please: It's important to discuss this. But it's more important to speak out in more public forums in your own community, and to act. Otherwise you are simply in category 3 in the gigantic Milgram experiment now underway.

mattb, thank you for alerting us to the material at Salon. I'm more than a little concerned that the reaction to the release of additional images from Abu Ghraib will be "Those responsible have already been punished; case closed."

Nell, that's exactly the line State and the Pentagon are peddling, along with the classic 'irresponsibility of teh press' meme.

BBC News:

The US government professed shock at the contents of the images, but said they should not have been released for privacy reasons, apparently.

"We felt that it was an invasion of the detainees themselves to have these photographs come out," said John Bellinger of the state department.

It could also "fan the flames around the world and cause potentially further violence", he added.

At the Pentagon, military officials said they too were worried the images could fuel anti-American feeling worldwide.


A Pentagon spokesman was keen to point out that 12 investigations had been carried out into the treatment of detainees in US military custody.

"None of those investigations," he said, "found that Department of Defence policy ever condoned or encouraged the mistreatment of detainees."

He said, too, that none of the abuses had been carried out during authorised interrogations.


This has consistently been the Pentagon's stance: that the abuses were the work of a few ill-disciplined and warped soldiers, and are not representative of the way detainees are treated.

No senior officer or civilian official was ever charged with a crime in relation to the Abu Ghraib abuses. The Pentagon would like to consider the case closed.

The Philippine sub-thread has all but disappeared under more recent and pressing events, but before it does I'd like to add a few closing comments. (I know of no way of hiving this off somewhere into a neater, if much shorter, thread of its own.)

Others have quite nicely picked up many of the points I might have made about why Filipinos are still so warm towards Americans generally. (As they are, a fact that frustrates the more outspoken "nationalists," especially at the University of the Philippines, who feel the country should be more suspicious of, and resentful toward, the USA - though they themselves are generally most cordial toward Americans.) Some reasons have to do with the Philippine-American War itself; some with the general tenor of colonial rule once the country was "pacified"; some with the nature of the education established under American auspices; much with the role of the US in fighting alongside Filipinos against the Japanese in World War II, especially "Liberation" in 1944-45. See below on the first three of these.

Passing points:

-- My initial post on this topic may have been misleading as to the scale of mortality in the period of the Philippine-American war. I said "hundreds of thousands died" in a context that may have allowed readers to assume I meant 2-300,000, whereas De Bevoise, on whom I rely, actually comes up with an estimate of 775,000. By combining this with a putative fall in the birth rate during this period (and thus large numbers of never-born Filipinos) he goes on to suggest that "the American war contributed directly and indirectly to the loss of more than a million people." It's precisely in the "directly [or] indirectly" that the rub lies, of course, but it can reasonably be asserted that the US bears a sizable responsibility for the deaths of several (?) hundreds of thousands of Filipinos without actually saying that we "killed" them.

-- The "reconcentration" of populations was a fairly rotten thing to do, and obviously not good for health, but it wasn't all that widely implemented in practice. I doubt that more than a hundred thousand [out of a population of 7 million] were actually "reconcentrated," though I've never seen an attempt at a precise calculation. (The Phil-Am War was highly variable in its intensity, province to province, with Samar and Batangas [about which Glenn May has written, especially in Battle for Batangas] being probably the worst affected; Albay [which I studied] much less so.) One may reasonably deplore the tactic without necessarily assuming that it accounted for untold thousands of deaths.

-- Despite all this, the political and psychological acceptance by most Filipinos of American rule was remarkably rapid, a topic on which I have written (with regard to Albay in particular) in the past (in The Bikol Blend). It must be remembered that the Philippines had been a colony of Spain for over 300 years by then, and although there was some genuine desire for greater self-rule, autonomy, or even independence, full-fledged "nationalism" of the modern variety was not at that juncture deeply implanted in the entire population. One senses that many Filipinos, even among those who would have preferred independence if offered it, saw that goal as unrealistic once the US had shown its determination to retain control by the use of force, and just tried to make the best they could of the new colonialism.

At that stage, it was just a matter of proving we were not as bad as the Spanish, which wasn't all that difficult to do. The "Americanistas" argued (according to one Filipino historian) that the goal of the independence movement was simply to produce "a good government," and that the Americans offered exactly that!

-- Education in English did play some small part in cutting Filipinos off from their history, but not a great one in strictly linguistic terms. For a start, most Filipinos under Spanish rule never learned Spanish: in that respect it was not like Mexico or most of Latin America. Spanish was retained by the educated classes for a generation or two, and lawyers continued to study it until the 1930s, IIRC, so the nationalist documents of the past were never totally hidden or suppressed. (And many of them were in Tagalog, anyway.)

However, the US, in establishing free public schooling throughout the archipelago - which was generally appreciated - also created a curriculum and supplied textbooks that were deliberately edited to emphasize reform rather than revolution as the path to progress and prosperity. Jose Rizal, who had advocated cooperation with Spain (until they shot him as a rebel) was reinstalled as national hero. Andres Bonifacio, who started the armed rebellion, was relegated to a subsidiary role until "re-discovered" by the UP nationalists in the 1950s. If one sees all education as being, for better or worse, a kind of "social engineering," then American education in the Philippines was remarkably effective.

Please do not let any of this distract you from doing whatever you can about American imperialism today, however.

Many thanks for that dr ngo. I have a number of questions about the urge to a re-examination of collaboration/cooperation with the Japanese, (which may be more of a push from the UP rather than an actual re-examination, since Teodoro Agoncillo was at the top of that reading list) but that might be asking too much indulgence of the kitty.

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