« Why Does Donald Rumsfeld Still Have A Job? | Main | Bush Supporters: Explain This One To Me »

March 19, 2006

Comments

G*d it makes me want to cry! How can the current administration get away with this? How can the people of the US accept this? If we (peoples of the west) dont stick to high moral statndards how on earth can we expect to win a battle against terror, let alone a war.

"...that an "OGA" team -- or Other Government Agency, a euphemism for the CIA -- known as Task Force 121...."

As should be clear, this was a seriously confused statement; 121 was Army, not CIA, though surely they had CIA detached personel.

I first wrote about it, incidentally, here on 12/11/2003, then again four days later, writing again about how it was no secret on March 10th in 2004, when it got endlessly front page publicity for capturing S. Hussein, and on the switch from being Task Force 5 here in October of 2004 on how it had been re-tasked from Afghanistan back in 2002. SOCOM stuff really mostly isn't all that secret; not the big stuff.

"...have a lot to do with how these techniques 'migrated' from the CIA to the uniformed military."

Sorry, what are you referring to there? (Generally speaking, Army personnel are the ones apt to be prone to abuse, not CIA interrogators, to my general observation; more than not CIA personnel will tend to relatively scrupulous, whereas the Army is apt to use an insufficiently trained kid whose buddies and superiors aren't providing an atmosphere of attention to Geneva.)

But if you're saying that Task Force 121 was CIA, you're just wrong/confused, and following the WaPo's error. If that's not what you're saying, I don't follow what you're saying.

I assumed that the Post's confusion of 121 and "OGA" was a reflection of Jordan's confusion, and it's instructive to me if Jordan didn't know.

I guess I could have clarified that, sorry.

I knew they were DoD, I wouldn't have thought specifically army given the reports that includes members from all the branches. What's your source on that, or are you just using "army" and "DoD" interchangeably?

As far as the legal authorization of these techniques it seems to have started with the CIA & spread from there.

Army personnel are the ones apt to be prone to abuse, not CIA interrogators

I think you might want to think about this a little more. Unless by 'abuse' you are excluding intentional conduct (like that said to have been experienced by KSM).

If anyone asks, Camp NAMA apparently means, Nasty Ass Military Area.

Although from the linked anecdote, the "Nasty" seems to mean the accomodations.

"[M]ore than not CIA personnel will tend to relatively scrupulous."

Funny. That's not what John Walker Lindh said.

Naturally, no one believed his stories of being tortured, him being "the American Taliban" and all. Or cared if they were true.

I'm also not clear on the point you're trying to make. That torture techniques didn't come from the CIA at all? That we can disbelieve the entire article because torture techniques didn't migrate from the CIA?

CIA/"OGA" personnel also seem to be involved in whole lot of the deaths. I can think of four right off the top of my head: Jamadi, Mowhoush, Abdul Jaleel, the prisoner at the salt pit whose name we don't know. Plus the guy the CIA contractor, Passaro, beat to death in Afghanistan.

On a surreal note....

Okay, Gary, here's Jordan's testimony that that Post article references. The relevant stuff is pp. 53-5 of the PDF. He seems clear on the difference between TF 121 and "OGA" but says that members of the task force would go around telling soldiers that "we're with OGA, we're authorized". So the lines seem to have blurred.

Best Defense is Good Offense ...Swopa

"Iraqi police have accused American troops of executing 11 people, including a 75-year-old woman and a 6-month-old infant, in the aftermath of a raid last Wednesday on a house about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

The villagers were killed after American troops herded them into a single room of the house, according to a police document obtained by Knight Ridder Newspapers. The soldiers also burned three vehicles, killed the villagers' animals and blew up the house, the document said."

What's your source on that, or are you just using "army" and "DoD" interchangeably?
Yeah, I came back (after my power having just blown out, and gotten dressed to go downstairs in the snow storm to get to the circuit breakers) to note that I had been careless to use "Army" interchangeably with "military," actually.

"I think you might want to think about this a little more."

I'm thinking in terms of interrogation, not rendition, and I said "apt," not "universally." What do you have in mind?

"(like that said to have been experienced by KSM)"

Pointer?

"Funny. That's not what John Walker Lindh said."

That wasn't under controlled circumstances, so far as I recall. But I said "apt." If I didn't mean "apt," I would not have used the word. If you want to argue that instead the Army is more apt to be abusive in interrogations than CIA, go for it.

"I'm also not clear on the point you're trying to make. That torture techniques didn't come from the CIA at all? That we can disbelieve the entire article because torture techniques didn't migrate from the CIA?"

No. Also not other things that have absolutely nothing to do with what I said. My point, remarkably, was what I said, not something else.

"If you want to argue that instead the Army is more apt to be abusive in interrogations than CIA, go for it."

Sigh. Obviously I meant "If you want to argue that instead the CIA is more apt to be abusive in interrogations than the Army, go for it."

"The relevant stuff is pp. 53-5 of the PDF."

I'm sorry, but after five tries, three different programs, and more then ten minutes, all it's doing is locking up my computer. I don't know if it's my copy of Acrobat, or being on dialup, or what (I suspect trying to download a 191 page Acro document would take a while), but maybe you might quote what you're referring to? In any case, if the point is that SOCOM folks are apt to lie, I certainly would agree. I'm not sure what other lines you are suggesting were blurred. Whether someone is legally in the military or CIA isn't very blurry, and a contractor is neither, and the distinction isn't at all blurry. No matter who says what. But maybe you have some other point in mind.

Tom Macguire: "Although from the linked anecdote, the 'Nasty' seems to mean the accomodations."

You didn't actually link to anything.

Here are some sources on torture by the CIA:

A. James Risen, State of War, p. 32:

"Several CIA officials who are familiar with the way the interrogations of high-value al Qaeda detainees are actually conducted say that there are no doubts in their minds that the CIA is torturing its prisoners. Water boarding is used, not just once to simulate torture, but over and over again, according to one CIA source. According to several intelligence sources, as secret CIA report describes how Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was subjected to the application of several types of harsh interrogation techniques approximately a hundred times over a period of two weeks. Prisoners have been forced into coffin-like boxes, forced into cells where they are alternately denied all light and put in brightly lit rooms and denied sleep for long periods. They are subjected to long hours of extremely loud rap music—Eminem is one favorite—and they are forced to stand or squat in “stress positions” for hours at a time. “If you read the interrogation reports, you see that what is being done is torture,” said a CIA source who has read some of the reports. “It is the accumulation of all the procedures, and how frequently they are being used, that makes it torture. The reports are horrifying to read."

B. ABC article on CIA techniques:

4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.

5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.

6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

C. Human Rights Watch on "Dark Prison" in Kabul, most likely a CIA-run or affiliated facility.

D. Article on Passaro case. (the prisoner's name was Abdul Wali).

E. Article on Mowhoush case (which mentions special forces, CIA, and CIA-sponsored Iraqi paramilitaries.)

F. ACLU summary including description of docs on Abdul Jaleel:

An Iraqi detainee (also described as a white male) died on January 9, 2004, in Al Asad, Iraq, while being interrogated by "OGA." He was standing, shackled to the top of a door frame with a gag in his mouth at the time he died. The cause of death was asphyxia and blunt force injuries. Notes summarizing the autopsies record the circumstances of death as "Q by OGA, gagged in standing restraint." (Facts in the autopsy report appear to match the previously reported case of Abdul Jaleel.)

G. Jane Mayer article on Manadel al-Jamadi case.

H. Dana Priest article on hypothermia death at the "Salt Pit."

Based on the relative numbers in custody, and the greater secrecy surrounding CIA practices and abuses, I hope to hell this represents a higher prevalence of abuse than there is in the military.

Since I seem to have made a statement that some find unclear, let me point out that if I observed that during WWII, "SS personnel are the ones apt to be prone to intentionally engaging in mass killing of civilians, not Wehrmacht soldiers," and that Einsatzgruppen were the ones most apt to be so engaged, this doesn't actually mean that I'd be saying that the Wehrmacht were a bunch of loveable fellows of whose practices I approved.

Just to try to be clear with an extreme example (note in the other direction: I am not, in fact, comparing the U.S. personnel to Einsatzgruppen, or the S.S., or the Wehrmacht, in their practices, either), since I was clearly unclear before.

Neither would I be making some other utterly unconnected point by making such an observation. But the mistake was phrasing it as "not," rather than "more than." Sorry about that. Sloppy phrasing on my part.

"Based on the relative numbers in custody...."

That's precisely a major reason I expect it happens to far more people in Army/military custody. Or I'd like to hope "used to," but that's just trying to be optimistic.

I already linked to more than a couple of these articles myself over the years, you know, Katherine.

Setting aside questions of frequency/severity of torture, this 'apt to be prone to' point leads me to wonder. Does this mean that abuse that has trickled down to untrained Army interrogators is less or more problematic than abuse done by CIA/OGA interrogators? This is a general question, not a question directed at a specific commentator.

Well, I thought that was a possibility. But since your assertion didn't make all that much sense given what we know, and you asked for a cite on KSM, and said you were talking about interrogation as opposed to rendition, I thought I might as well stick them up here.

I assume you're familiar with the memos side of it that Lederman (among others, but especially Lederman) has explained so thoroughly?

If all you're saying is that more military detainees have been abused, because there are more military detainees, that might well be true. But what you said was that army interrogators were "more prone" to abuse prisoners than CIA interrogators. I do not think that's true.

"I assume you're familiar with the memos side of it that Lederman (among others, but especially Lederman) has explained so thoroughly?"

What, like here, here, here, here, here, and some forty other posts, not to mention all the other posts on torture I've done, a number of which I've e-mailed you in the past? Was there something specific you had in mind?

"But what you said was that army interrogators were "more prone" to abuse prisoners than CIA interrogators. I do not think that's true."

Perhaps not; do you have some statistical study to point to? And are we talking only about post-September 11th, or post-1947?

... what you said was that army interrogators were "more prone" ...
I actually didn't. I wrote this:
Generally speaking, Army personnel are the ones apt to be prone to abuse, not CIA interrogators, to my general observation; more than not CIA personnel will tend to relatively scrupulous, whereas the Army is apt to use an insufficiently trained kid whose buddies and superiors aren't providing an atmosphere of attention to Geneva.
Of course, maybe that observation is wrong. I didn't claim it as a provable fact, though. I said it was "my general observation." If we have actual statistical facts, I'd be very interested. Alternatively, maybe your subjective impression is more correct than mine was.

Actually, what you said was

Generally speaking, Army personnel are the ones apt to be prone to abuse, not CIA interrogators

Which, now that I think about it, may be an interesting grammatical mistake, in that abuse is a transitive verb, so one should, I suppose, read that as Army personnel are more likely to be abused, though I'm sure that is not what Gary intended.

But the question 'do Army personnel abuse people more than CIA personnel' remains dependent on how we are defining abuse, I think, and as such, it is impossible to have statistical information on such things.

One Morning in Haditha Time Exclusive, h/t Gilliard

Lead:"Last November, U.S. Marines killed 15 Iraqi civilians in their homes. Was it self-defense, an accident or cold-blooded revenge?"

"Someone remind me, what does "humanely" mean again?"

Humanely, as is commonly known, means simply "by humans". I, for one, feel sure in my knowledge that the Bush administration will not outsource America's capture and interrogation capabilities to some army of robot masterminds.

Gary, when all is said and done, and all the archives are open, long after we're all dead and gone, it will be found that a much higher percentage of people in CIA custody experienced 'abuse' -- if not 'torture' -- than people held by the military, even excluding people held for less than a few days by the latter. That's my guess, anyway. We're looking at very high figures in both groups.

And if anyone needs a standard, let's just say I'm applying the legal standard for abuse or torture that US courts apply to cases against Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Conduct that can produce multi-million dollar judgments under 28 USC 1605(a)(7). [There's this funny anomaly that under the Flatow Act (codified as a Note to 28 USC 1605), you can't sue an Iranian official for sanctioning a terrorist act unless a US official would be suable for the exact same conduct. US courts have routinely recited that this standard is easily met in the particular cases, but I imagine Mr. Arar has a different point of view on that subject.]

"Gary, when all is said and done, and all the archives are open, long after we're all dead and gone, it will be found that a much higher percentage of people in CIA custody experienced 'abuse' -- if not 'torture' -- than people held by the military...."

Oh, certainly so, given the relatively small number of people held in CIA custody, compared to tens and tens of thousands of people cumulatively held by the Army. It couldn't conceivably be otherwise.

But I said nothing whatever about people in CIA custody, and wasn't discussing that topic. Most CIA/OGA people involved in interrogations haven't been interrogating people held in CIA custody.

"People interrogated by CIA personnel" and "people held in custody by the CIA" are wildly different subjects. At least in terms of what I was talking about in my parenthetic remark. The CIA wasn't running Abu Ghraib, and has held a tiny proportion of American prisioners. What, .01%?

The Administration's eagerness to exempt CIA personnel from liability under the various don't-torture laws, I think, is a pretty big clue as to whether *authorized* torture has been practiced by the CIA.

Whereas the problem in 6-26 etc. would seem to be more one of *tolerating* abuse.

That said, I've been noting the evidence that Israeli advisers coached Boykin on the formation of TF 121. I wonder how the abuses there compare to those of Palestinians in Israeli custody?

US Soldiers Kill 11 Civilians ...Jeralyn Merritt picks up the Knight-Ridder story

"The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 persons, including five children, four women and two men," the report said. "Then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals."

A local police commander, Lt. Col. Farooq Hussain, interviewed by a Knight Ridder special correspondent in Ishaqi, said autopsies at the hospital in Tikrit "revealed that all the victims had bullet shots in the head and all bodies were handcuffed." Efforts to reach hospital spokesmen Sunday were unsuccessful."

Jeralyn Merritt is "skeptical" On what basis?

But leaving aside whether it is policy and practice of the US Military to kill the elderly and infant family members of "suspected terrorists", what may be interesting is the official nature of the report, with named witnesses. Whether with complete justification or not, I think it is important that the Iraqi gov't is now publicly attributing atrocities to American soldiers. They now might believe a political benefit is gained. Soon perhaps a general political benefit might be gained in Shia politics by killing American soldiers, and then, in the mad dash for Kuwait, the militia with highest kill ratios will get extra Parliament seats.

Ben Griffen, a British soldier with an excellent record who left the SAS because he was not willing to continue to fight alongside US forces in Iraq:

"As far as the Americans were concerned, the Iraqi people were sub-human, untermenschen. You could almost split the Americans into two groups: ones who were complete crusaders, intent on killing Iraqis, and the others who were in Iraq because the Army was going to pay their college fees. They had no understanding or interest in the Arab culture. The Americans would talk to the Iraqis as if they were stupid and these weren't isolated cases, this was from the top down. There might be one or two enlightened officers who understood the situation a bit better but on the whole that was their general attitude. Their attitude fuelled the insurgency. I think the Iraqis detested them."

More on my journal.

Thanks for pointing out that story, Bob. My guess (based on little besides the Lancet report and suspicions of how much unreported "collateral damage" there might be from US air strikes) is that most civilians killed by US forces are killed by planes and artillery, but I've been wondering if there have been any My Lai style atrocities. Of course this is just an allegation so far. But it is very interesting to see our allies pointing the finger at us. Maybe they're ticked off that in the last few months the US has been criticizing Shiite death squads (

"I wonder how the abuses there compare to those of Palestinians in Israeli custody?"

Israeli Supreme Court decisions and recent practices, including in allowing suits by Palestinian prisoners who have won awards, have been far more liberal than Bush policy; do I need to give links? Similarly I doubt we allow al Qaeda prisoners to run for office, have tvs, give tv interviews, and so on. Demonstrably hunger strikes are handled entirely differently (negotiation). Etc., etc., etc. I realize this doesn't well conform with using "Israeli" as a scare word.

This sentence from the Knight Ridder story was interesting--

"Accusations that U.S. troops have killed civilians are commonplace in Iraq, though most are judged later to be unfounded or exaggerated."

I hate the passive voice. Who did the judging?

Jes -

That's interesting when combined with the recent poll of U.S. troops (can't recall where I saw it) that something like 80% (though might have been 90 or 60%) believed they were fighting in Iraq as revenge for 9/11.

"...is that most civilians killed by US forces are killed by planes and artillery"

a) besides the "indifference" to collateral damage I have been googling to find quotes from Rumsfeld himself about "insurgent" support groups and civilian support structures...I was certain there were various significant statements

b) There has been a clear long-standing well-documented pattern of the US Military at a very high level (Colonels) using family members as leverage against Baathists and insurgents, from teenage boys to wives and parents.

With the Rumsfeld statements and command level complicity, and of course consistent defiance of the various conventions, I think a strong case can be made that the KR story is more an example of policy than any My Lai exceptional madness, and so hanging-level War Crimes can go all the way to the Oval Office.

Gary's response to my inquiry about possible Israeli abuses is, near as I can tell, 100% non-responsive.

I'm sure we give our prisoners at Gitmo medical care and Qur'ans. So we don't abuse them?

It is, btw, poor form to accuse anyone of using "Israeli" as a "scare word." Are we supposed to believe that the Israelis have never had any pattern or practice of using abusive techniques on prisoners? Nonsense.

Army personnel are the ones apt to be prone to abuse, not CIA interrogators, to my general observation; more than not CIA personnel will tend to relatively scrupulous.

Gary, I must disagree, if by 'scrupulous' you mean 'stopping short of torture'. The CIA has been researching, engaging in, and training others in torture for the last sixty years, with an emphasis on (but not limited to) psychological techniques.

Alfred McCoy has a new book on the subject. Jeanne has several good posts at Body and Soul referring to it.

---
I couldn't post this earlier; connection problems. I see that in the meantime others have responded more effectively. But do take a look at Jeanne's posts and follow her links.

To the episode of the eleven killed near Balad: Whether they were bound and shot or not (and the children were not; there is a picture of them and an AP story painting a different sequence of events linked at my blog), there is no question that U.S. forces flattened the house with noncombatants, including women and children, inside, after taking away one man who had been inside.

That's a war crime.

Gary, I don't want to pile on, but the know-it-all tone here is not only irritating but completely unjustified:

I first wrote about it, incidentally, here on 12/11/2003 ... SOCOM stuff really mostly isn't all that secret; not the big stuff.

You first wrote about it because Sy Hersh reported on it, and it most certainly would have remained a good deal more secret had he not written his December 2003 and May 2004 pieces on the task forces and special access programs.

Also, as the Times story repeatedly shows, it's one thing to know of the existence of the task force(s) and programs, and another to get any worthwhile detail on what they're doing, much less enough to hold those responsible accountable.

re the link in Katherine's 'on a surreal note':

This flag is presented to the student body in grateful thanks for the faithful prayers offered for our uniformed service members in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The flag was flown over Camp NAMA, a compound for a joint special operations task force in Baghdad, Iraq. It represents our nation’s resolve to protect and defend the liberty we cherish in our country. Your prayers significantly impacted our warriors through ministry events, and the results may be seen in their changed lives and those of the Iraqi people.

If the "changed lives" of the Iraqi people are the result of Christian prayer, so much the worse for Christian prayer.

There is indeed a need to "open hardened hearts to hear the gospel", but somehow I don't think the hearts are the ones to which MVNU assistant chaplain was referring.


I'm sure the school had no idea either what NAMA stands for or what went on there, but it does cry out for a post by Fred Clark (slacktivist), doesn't it?

There is indeed a need to "open hardened hearts to hear the gospel",
Have you told P. Z. Myers? :-)

Have you told P. Z. Myers? :-)

He's really that hard-core, eh? I've only been to Pharyngula a few times, and caught the pro-evolution emphasis more than the anti-religion one. (I would have said 'anti-Christian, but I assume all are equally anathema?)

I guess I felt free to recommend a real hearing of the gospel to the Seals/Rangers et al. of Camp Nama because so many of them claim to be Christians...

"He's really that hard-core, eh? I've only been to Pharyngula a few times, and caught the pro-evolution emphasis more than the anti-religion one. (I would have said 'anti-Christian, but I assume all are equally anathema?)"

I wouldn't feel comfortable talking about P. Z. much behind his back (though if there were some reason to, I'd just drop him an e-mail, of course), but I think it's utterly safe to say "yeah" to all the above. P. Z. is, I think it's fair to say, utterly passionately anti-religious (based on being anti-Christian, but he generalizes from fundamentalist Christians to all Christians to all religious people of any sort with little or no distinction); just drop by his blog any time (I guarantee) and see.

I'm with P. Z. on being pro-science and pro-evolution, of course, but despite being a life-long atheist, I have considerable respect for many forms of religious belief and religious people, whereas he regards it all as The Great Enemy, and is very emphatic on the errors of anyone who suggests even being strategically less emphatic in every possible situation. I long ago gave up attempting to argue with him about any of this, as it seems beyond futile.

There is a small movement of militant atheists that are getting some visibility these days--Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Natalie Angier (a NYT science writer). They all take a stance similar to the one Gary says PZ takes. (I don't visit PZ well enough to say if PZ is as militant as the other folks I've mentioned.)

You can probably get your fix if you go here, which is the brights.net. What is a bright?

* A bright is a person who has a naturalistic worldview
* A bright's worldview is free of supernatural and mystical elements
* The ethics and actions of a bright are based on a naturalistic worldview

Dawkins and Dennett are supporters. Interestingly, Dawkins expresses some second thoughts about his book _Selfish Gene_, not from a factual point of view, but, it seems, the way it came across (suggesting that Selfish Gene is not the best title). While I'm sure that he isn't going to take anything back, I get a sense of wistfulness that seemed to be completely absent in his Guardian piece about Brights 3 years ago.

Interestingly, Dawkins expresses some second thoughts about his book _Selfish Gene_, not from a factual point of view, but, it seems, the way it came across (suggesting that Selfish Gene is not the best title).

Alas, Dawkins hasn't learned from experience; he will perhaps be expressing the same regrets about "brights" 20 years from now.

I mean, if fundamentalists were secretly paying atheists to be as offensive as plausibly possible, could they do worse than "brights"?

I thought it was Dennett who coined the term "bright"--I haven't clicked on the website yet. My reaction to the term was the same as Anderson's. The last thing we need is a movement of atheists as self-righteous and self-congratulatory as fundamentalists.

I visited Pharyngula last night for the first time in a long time, and Gary's right
-- it didn't take long to run into some pretty sweeping condemnations.

The two "bright sparks" (one reason to avoid terms that represent one side of a judgement is that it is very easy for those terms to 'flip'. Thus a word like 'awful' comes from the notion of being filled with awe, but now clearly represents a negative notion.)that came up with the term 'brights' are Mynga Futrell and Paul Geisert, Dennett and Dawkins just jumped on the bandwagon, demonstrating the notion that being intelligent is not enough.

I have no idea whatever if the atheists-are-right usage/coinage of "brights," (which, again noting that I'm a lifelong atheist I think is apallingly self-congratulatory) has any relationship or derivationship whatever from its usage in Wilmar Shiras's classic sf story "In Hiding," (Astounding, 1948), which was later expanding into Children Of The Atom (Gnome Press, 1953) and much anthologized, but it's where I first saw the term "brights" applied to a class of people (I was age 9-10 or so, myself).

It's a story about how a tiny minority of children (whose parents were exposed to radiation -- what do you expect from 1948?) were born super-geniuses; they call themselves "brights"; other humans are normal, though some, whom we'd consider geniuses or extremely intelligent, are called "tweens."

It's a set of stories unsurprisingly extremely popular with adolescent science fiction fans since it exemplies that feeling of lonely isolation and feeling unappreciated by a hostile and stupid world that most adolescent or pre-adolescent, and many post-adolescent, sf fans/readers feel.

Needless to say, being the sort of "bright" addressed in the story (a type of super-genius similar to that which Orson Card later used in his extremely popular Ender's Game and sequels -- the appeal of the approach is timeless) is pretty much a fantasy, although the general sense of lonely isolation and that one is smarter than many people is not uncommon.

As I said, whether this influenced the atheist-usage coinage, I have no idea; it wouldn't surprise me, since the stories were so anthologized; it also wouldn't surprise me at all if it were a completely independent coinage, since it's an obvious choice.

But self-flattering coinages are inherently repellent, or should be -- look at me, I'm a "bright"! -- I'm not like you stupids!

Frankly, from the standpoint of a movement that wants to pick up followers, and influence society, it's not at all bright.

But, then, I don't think lumping all aspects of religious belief into belief in a supernatural guy with a long beard in the sky and lumping all aspects of everything religion has given us into belief in childish superstition and all results as nothing better than religious wars, Inquisitions, fundamentalism, and being anti-science, is at all bright, either.

I'd say that's pretty damn reductionist and simple-minded, myself.

Which is why although I'm an atheist, I'm not a militant one, or per se at all hostile to religion (though I am hostile to certain expressions of religious belief, certain religious beliefs, and certain religious behaviors -- but manage not to over-generalize from that).

Paul Di Filippo has another summary of Children Of The Atom here, by the way; he's correct to point out Stapleton's Odd John as a precursor, of course.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad