Re: Winter Soldier

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My hope, of course, is that this event could be transformative but, then again, look at how quickly people forgot about Abu Ghraib. (I was about to write "but this time it's happening in an election year so it might have more of an effect" but fact-checked myself and was reminded that the Abu Ghraib story was leaked in April 2004.)


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:01 AM
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I've got a sick feeling about this. While I know at a rational level that revealing unvarnished facts about the occupation is the right thing to do, my lizard brain fears that this will be seamlessly woven into the stab-in-the-back narrative that is sure to emerge after the war. The obvious similarity to 1971 triggers a beaten-dog reflex in me.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:11 AM
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Yeah. This is only likely to hurt the anti-war movement politically. It needs to happen anyway, but there's no sense in expecting it to make it easier to end the war.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:41 AM
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The obvious similarity to 1971 triggers a beaten-dog reflex in me.

As I know you know, this is the same impulse that kept Kerry from responding forcefully to the Swift Boaters.

I wish some prominent Democratic politicians had the guts to stick with a counter-narrative that's more reality-based. I had high hopes for Edwards in this regard, but he's been somewhat of a disappointment - and he probably doomed himself as a credible Bush/war critic when he voted for the war.

Why doesn't Howard Dean get credit for prophesying that Saddam's capture wouldn't change much of anything? Because he shut up and hid when the Republicans and the media pushed back. Obama - as the Clintons gleefully point out - did the same on the war. Somebody should be making the obvious point that Iraq, like Vietnam, is damaging to our national security interests.

Jim Webb, for example, seems to get this - at least so far. It will be interesting to see if he changes the Democratic system, or gets co-opted by it.

Anyway, the original Winter Soldiers mattered, and they (eventually) won their day. That's something that we should remember. The DFHs and other stabbers-in-the-back weren't completely ineffectual.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:42 AM
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It depends on the video.


Posted by: NĂ¡pi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:43 AM
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This is something that needs to happen. I've said before that the only real argument against atrocities that Americans will listen to is an argument based on visual documentation. And IVAW is the only group that can make that argument. They'll be smeared and slimed, like the original VVAW, but it has to come from someone with the halo of military service around them.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:50 AM
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It depends on the video.

I'm not so sure. I fear it will be Scott Thomas Beauchamp all over again; however horrific and irrefutable the overall picture, the VRWC will seize on some incorrect tangential detail (or some personal foible of the witness) to discredit the entire proceedings.

If they're really smart, they will proactively plant false, but highly inflammatory stories in the proceedings, the better to expose them later.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:51 AM
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I've said before that the only real argument against atrocities that Americans will listen to is an argument based on visual documentation.

I'm less optimistic than you. The accusation of "dragging our soldiers' name through the mud" is damn near unanswerable, no matter how false.

No atrocity is better documented than the holocaust, and no contemporary government more historically conscious than that of the Federal Republic of Germany, and yet it is still politically dangerous in that society to say anything that impugns the honor of the Wehrmacht.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:56 AM
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Even with video, the argument "Just because you committed and documented war crimes doesn't mean anyone else did. Sicko. All those anti-war types are psychotic killers, and they think everyone else is," is going to be a tough one to refute. It's important to tell the truth, and these guys are doing exactly the right thing, but it's going to do political damage.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:58 AM
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I think this is one of those occasions where the best reason to proclaim the truth is because it is true. When shit this bad goes down, people should know, regardless of whether it would help or hurt the anti-war effort.

I'm not sure I can explain when it is important to tell the truth just because it is true, regardless of consequences. I know this isn't always the case ("you look great, dear") but dammit, this time it is.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:03 AM
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I think you're absolutely right about that. Bearing witness is an obligation. But the witnesses will suffer personally for it, and the movement will suffer politically.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:05 AM
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While the countercharges of impugning the honor of the soldiers will be hard to refute rhetorically, it would be a problem at all to refute them logically or factually. One can martial data about the number and severity of war crimes as easily as you can any other kind of courtroom evidence.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:06 AM
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9: Indeed, that's already happening in the article linked. It's not fair to call this a systemic problem. It makes it look like the U.S. has policies that means that soldiers shoot civilians. Just bad eggs.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:07 AM
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13: the claim we are defending, I assume, is not that the US has a policy that allows shooting civilians, but that the US policy against shooting civilians is not clearcut and well enforced.

Also, it has a huge gaping hole in it for military contractors, who can do whatever the fuck they want.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:11 AM
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Will anyone get mad at us for impugning the honor of Blackwater mercs?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:12 AM
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Will anyone get mad at us for impugning the honor of Blackwater mercs?

Ask Kos.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:15 AM
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Yeah, I used it first, but "war crimes" is a very slippery term. A policy that says "Shoot anyone in a car approaching a roadblock at more than 30 mph from a distance of less than 100 yards" (numbers invented for argument) is going to kill a lot of civilians. Is the policy unlawful? Um, I'm not actually sure. Is the soldier who pulls the trigger in obedience to that policy rather than refusing to obey orders a war criminal? I don't want to say that.

But once we start saying 'war crimes' the conversation is about the culpability of the individual soldiers testifying, not about the policy. The point is that people need to know about the results of the policies.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:15 AM
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17: Right. The bigger issue isn't that Soldier X killed Y number of civilians in some horrible bloodbath, but that the various policies of the United States in regard to foreign and military policy inevitably result in killing lots and lots of civilians in horrible bloodbaths.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:23 AM
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14: Don't blame me for how the guy spins it.

"I'd ask, 'Is what you saw U.S. policy, or is it an unfortunate occurrence?' Let's be real here," Hegseth said. "Did your company commander tell you to shoot women and children, or to maximize casualties? No! We don't do that.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:36 AM
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the stab-in-the-back narrative that is sure to emerge after the war.

Does the SITB ever NOT emerge? It seems to be a built-in part of conflict sociology unless the disparity in forces is insanely one-sided.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:45 AM
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Would your company commander have gotten in trouble if he ordered you to shoot women and children or maximize casualties? Did he know he would get in trouble? Did your company commander let you know discreetly that he wouldn't mind seeing causalities maximized? How the fuck did we end up with all these dead bodies anyway?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:45 AM
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How the fuck did we end up with all these dead bodies anyway?

German has a useful term for these situations: vorauseilender Gehorsam, or anticipatory obedience. The Bush administration has made masterful use of this phenomenon throughout the executive branch. The combination of ambigous directives from above, impunity for mistakes resulting from aggressive attempts to do the administration's bidding, and visible punishments for any perceived reluctance to do the administration's bidding is a much more effective motivator than any direct order.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:55 AM
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[["Did your company commander tell you to shoot women and children, or to maximize casualties?"]]

Well of course they do: just not in those words. I think it sounds something like "Do whatever you have to, to protect yourself.", or "No one will judge you for what you do in the heat of combat.", or "It's either you or them."


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:55 AM
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21: I'm not sure what the context is in which these questions are being asked, but I don't think they're all that useful.

Would your company commander have gotten in trouble if he ordered you to shoot women and children or maximize casualties?

Yes. This is easy. No one is out there giving explicit orders to "Go out there and murder some non-combatants."

Did he know he would get in trouble?

Likewise.

Did your company commander let you know discreetly that he wouldn't mind seeing causalities maximized?

I don't think anyone's goal is 'maximizing casualties', do you think? The sort of stuff that seems to be going on is systematically failing to put sufficient weight on the responsibility to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants.

How the fuck did we end up with all these dead bodies anyway?

This, of course, is the central question always. I don't think there's a useful answer to it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:56 AM
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Not to be tactlessly provocative, but, in light of the line of fatalistic it-has-to-be-said-but-no-one-will-care-and-we'll-lose-yet-again comments, is there any way to use such testimony and evidence that might be more likely than a Winter Soldier-type event to persuade people -- and by "people," I mean "a lot of voting people" rather than "a campfire circle of right-thinking progressives" -- against the war?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:01 AM
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To be clear, I think vorauseilender Gehorsam is more an explanation for Abu Ghraib-style atrocities than for inadvertent shooting of civilians at checkpoints.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:04 AM
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Seriously, I don't think so. I'm not saying that it's impossible to get popular support for ending the war, but I don't think there's any way to turn evidence that our soldiers are doing terrible things to innocent people in Iraq into increased support for ending the war.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:04 AM
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I think you liberal sophisticates err in assuming that the public can't handle the truth - though I admit that the truth does not, all by itself, set you free.

As Knecht and Asteele wisely point out, the key distinction is between policy and individual actions, and it's a pretty subtle distinction - not one that can be easily elucidated in a political debate.

But there is a blunt-instrument argument to be made, and the Winter Soldier narrative advances that argument: US policy led to war; war equals bad stuff; we want bad stuff to stop.

Should Hillary be quoting Winter Soldiers? No. Do the Winter Soldiers help advance an anti-war narrative in a politically useful way by speaking out? My guess is yes.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:06 AM
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27. I agree, if you could prove that this type of brutality was widespread and systemic, then maybe. This sort of anecdotal data will inevitably get you bogged down into the question of if these soldiers are getting into heaven or not. Which isn't particularly near an important public policy issue, and is a loser politically.


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:09 AM
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28: I'm sure the public can handle the truth. They handled Abu Ghraib really well. It was all the fault of that girl soldier and her commander. Wasn't it? The U.S. doesn't torture, so they must have done something wrong.

It is a good thing to have made public, but I don't expect much to come of it politically. It hasn't before.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:12 AM
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Should Hillary be quoting Winter Soldiers? No.

Quoting them? Ha ha! Come the general election, expect both Clintons to be eagerly swift-boating them.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:17 AM
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31: Speaking ex recto: The unveiling of the Abu Ghraib situation was politically useful to opponents of the war. That is to say, The Iraq War is marginally less politically viable thanks to the exposure of Abu Ghraib.



Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:18 AM
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32 to 30, I mean.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:18 AM
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27: The problem is that it's not new information --it's largely inherent in the nature of war.

So you've got people who, in the absence of this sort of hearing, wouldn't know that war means, to quote myself, setting innocent people on fire. Someone who's been able to maintain that level of ignorance is functioning at a weird enough level that I don't think giving them information is going to make them react in any predictable way.

Then you have somewhat more sophisticated people, who are nonetheless pro-war. And their response is "Of course shit like this happens. Marines took Japanese skulls home as souvenirs, GIs shot Nazi prisoners. That didn't make World War II unnecessary or illegitimate, and your thinking these sorts of stories are relevant to decisions about the war just demonstrates your pathetic naivete."

And then you have people who are already against the war, partially for the 'setting innocent people on fire for no good reason' reasons. And stories like this are preaching to the choir.

It is generally important that these stories be told, and that everyone remember that this is what war is, but it's not going to change the discourse about Iraq specifically in any positive way.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:22 AM
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31: Hillary's going to spend the rest of her days in this vale of tears making the rest of us pay, after she loses to McCain, isn't she?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:23 AM
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30, 32: I think Abu Ghraib had an important impact on public perception of the war. I'm not sure it had a significant impact on public perception of torture, of government support of torture, or of war in general.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:23 AM
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re: 34

It's possible the right evidence might shake a bit of the 'saintliness' from US self-image. But I doubt it.

Otherwise, I generally agree with you.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:24 AM
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35: I'm more nervous about who McCain picks as his VP, since I'm guessing that guy's going to probably end up in the White House within the next four years.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:28 AM
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On that note, who wants cake!


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:29 AM
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37: The real problem is that many Americans are really, really strongly invested in a national self image that is really inaccurate. Changing that isn't an easy or painless process, and I'm sure that many would really rather not thinking about it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:30 AM
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re: 40

Yeah, I'm aware of that. But that self-image is a big part of why the rest of us hate you [collectively speaking].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:33 AM
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34, 37.
Well now I'm not so sure. If you could establish that the level of systemic brutality in this war is much higher than it needs to be to accomplish the "public" goals of the war, or much higher than the Pentagon is letting on, you might have something. I agree though that this sort of piece-meal data isn't going to be useful. And frankly while I suspect it is, I'm not sure about that "much higher" part.


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:33 AM
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"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace." William Tecumseh Sherman on the burning of Atlanta

Is the point of the new Winter Soldier to document the particular cruelties of this war, or just another iteration that war is to be avoided if possible. I don't think that is a bad idea to periodically remind the voting public that war should not be optional, and that it will involve atrocities that will scar the participants for life.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:36 AM
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I'm more nervous about who McCain picks as his VP, since I'm guessing that guy's going to probably end up in the White House within the next four years.

Tangentially, I totally worry about Hilarry Clinton not being re-electable. I realize this is an exponentially more stupid line of reasoning than debating electability in 2008. But I do anyway.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:37 AM
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war should not be optional,

This has got to be a typo, or I'm misunderstanding it. Say it again?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:37 AM
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I read as saying "if war is to be waged, it should be waged only when there is no option", but only because "we must war all the time" doesn't work with the rest of the sentence.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:39 AM
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42: I think that's the goal, but I think it's hopeless. The irreducible minimum of slaughter and brutality in a war is still grotesque, and getting into an argument about how far above that irreducible minimum we are isn't an argument that we can practically win. Given that the administration controls the vast bulk of the information coming out of Iraq, individual anecdotes like the ones the Winter Soldiers are going to be able to provide can be dismissed either as isolated incidents for which the witness is individually culpable, or as the sort of thing that anyone with professional knowledge of warfighting would recognize as inevitable.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:41 AM
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34: I think you cynics fail to appreciate the fact that change takes place at the margins. An accumulation of bad stuff ... well, it accumulates. You're looking for Saul on the road to Damascus, but people are moved incrementally.

The American public has finally turned against the occupation of Iraq. Why? Because there has been an accumulation of bad stuff - and not just Americans dying, money wasted, innocents tortured and killed and terrorism encouraged - but Katrina, too. All of this plays against the domestic political viability of Bush's imperial ambitions.

Is it ludicrously slow? Will heroes be unfairly smeared in the process? Will villains be rewarded? Yep. And the dead won't come back to life, either. But hope lies in the direction of moving people incrementally, and speaking about horror is, on balance and at the margins, more effective than shutting up about it.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:41 AM
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46 works -- not 'war should be mandatory', but 'war should not ever be engaged in unless circumstances make it mandatory.'


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:42 AM
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45: I think he meant that war should be the only option remaining before it is prosecuted, or that an optional war is one that should not be fought. Or maybe he meant war should be mandatory, who knows.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:42 AM
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I think you cynics fail to appreciate the fact that change takes place at the margins. An accumulation of bad stuff ... well, it accumulates.

Technically you can have an infinite accumulation with finite total bad stuff in your pile.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:44 AM
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48: The American public turned against the occupation of Iraq because we're pouring tons of money into it and losing lots of lives and not really getting anywhere. If Abu Ghraib had broken as a scandal in an Iraq that was at peace, no one would have cared.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:46 AM
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Yeah, I know stories almost Abu Ghraib-class from New Jersey prisons.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:47 AM
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48: That's more hopeful if you see any realistic chance for significant incremental improvement. Merely holding ground until the next time you lose it isn't much of a way to get somewhere.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:50 AM
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52 is true. Also, none of the bad stuff coming out of Iraq would bother a significant percentage of Americans at all --- if only there was a convincing story that they were `winning' something.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:52 AM
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Egads people, what I mean is that a war must be fought only when there is no other option. The argument then becomes whether a particular set of circumstances fits that criteria.
Our treaty obligations muddle the clarity of for example an invasion by the perfidious Canucks, but after expelling Sadaam from Kuwait we stayed instead of coming home. This meant that the Iraq war was inevitable, and just waiting for the right set of circumstances so as to be sold as "no other option".


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:54 AM
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47,

While I don't think that these hearings are a good way to establish that we are too far above the minimum level of slaughter and cruelty (or whatever). I don't think that, doing so would be an impossible task in another context. Not all wars are equally as brutal or cruel, and I think it's a mistake to fall into the trap of: atrocities happen in war with the active or passive institutional consent of a military involved, therefore there's no reason to try and bring pressure to reduce that number. The torture scandals did seem to have an effect on interrogation polices in Iraq, and my guess is if other systemic brutalities were unearthed, public pressure could have an effect on those policies as well, and even an effect on support for the war. If public pressure couldn't, I don't think the Pentagon would spend so much effort trying to conceal exactly what's really going on from the public.

So, I agree with you that these hearings are not going to help, but am not so fatalistic on the ability of learning about what is going on in any given war to effect the conduct and popularity of that war.


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:55 AM
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52: Cala, I feel like you didn't read me there. The question is: Does speaking out in the Winter Soldier context help or hurt the anti-war cause, net-net? The question is not: Are other factors more important, or will the Winter Soldiers' information be treated with the respect it deserves.

LB aptly invokes domestic prison brutality by way of analogy. Is LB prepared to take that analogy to its logical conclusion and say that even though those who decry such brutality are honorable, they are politically damaging to their cause?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:55 AM
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57: I'm sounding depressing here, and I don't know how much this is valid and how much I'm reacting to being in a bad mood. But I think you're right -- identifying particular abuses can help end those abuses, people in power will clean up their act somewhat when the results of their bad acts are publicized. But that's not going to be broadly politically helpful, and the difference between a war in Iraq promulgated with the most perfect competence and good faith possible, and the one we have now, is really small compared to the difference between any war and no war. So, these hearings may do some good, but not, I think, much.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:02 AM
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59, comity!


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:05 AM
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58: I haven't said politically damaging, just not likely to be politically fruitful in the short term. I'm broadly in agreement with TLL and LB.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:59 AM
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Wow, I strenuously disagree with LB. That like, never happens.

There is a huge difference between being intellectually aware of awful things happening & actually being aware of specific awful things, & that difference is very very salient in how strongly anti-war, anti-torture, etc. that you are.

That said, people don't WANT to believe it & it's important to be really scrupulously accurate because even good faith errors will get thrown in your face & used to dismiss you as slandering the troops & ignore all the true stuff. See: the original winter soldier investigation.

My motto, cribbed from an investigative journalism prof. in college: "The truth is bad enough."


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:08 AM
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Maybe I'm just being cranky. But I don't think that sort of knowledge changes anyone's mind, because if you're ready to hear it without dismissing it, you were already anti-war. It might take you from vaguely anti-war to passionately anti-war, but not, for most people, from one position to the other.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:20 AM
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[Insert wicked fatalism here]


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:48 AM
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I agree that there's a % of the population it doesn't reach but I think they're a minority. "Vaguely anti-war" describes, at this point, most of the American public. And I think intensity matters.

There's also been a pretty dramatic change in public opinion around the detainee stuff & it's because of exactly what I'm advocating. You're argument would seem to imply that the human rights orgs don't know what they're doing. I think they do.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:26 PM
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For example: why is it that John Kerry was afraid to mention Abu Ghraib in 2004 & the major Democratic candidates are afraid NOT to at least say a few pro forma things about closing Guantanamo & restoring the rule of law in 2008? Public opinion has changed.

Why is it that even total asshole Republican Congressmen couldn't look Arar in the face & tell them that his rendition to Syria was justified?

This fatalistic: "the American people suck, inevitably" attitude explains much--maybe most--of what's wrong with our politics. Try them, why don't you. They sometimes suck but less then they're generally assumed to suck.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:30 PM
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I don't think `Vaguely anti-war' describes anyone really. There are a large number of `Vaguely anti losing this war', but I don't think that's the same thing.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:30 PM
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Try them, why don't you. They sometimes suck but less then they're generally assumed to suck.

I'm generally for trying them, and specificially agree that the Winter Soldier hearings are something that has to be done. I'm just having a hard time believing it will help much. So, not a practical disagreement, just gloom. Which is probably counterproductive.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:33 PM
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Given that one of the main arguments for remaining is that "it'll be a humanitarian catastrophe if we go", "it's a humanitarian catastrophe to continue this & we have to leave at some point" seems like a relevant argument--for the same reason that Abu Ghraib was a turning point away from the "Pottery Barn rule" stance for a lot of people. All of it is also an argument against starting new wars.

It certainly could have limited use, & could certainly be counterproductive if they're not careful. Not denying any of that.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:38 PM
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Yay, Katherine. I don't really have the knack for idealism. I was just holding the fort until your arrival.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:22 PM
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The real problem is that many Americans are really, really strongly invested in a national self image that is really inaccurate. Changing that isn't an easy or painless process

I would argue that, short of what happened to Germany in 1945, it's simply impossible. What really is good about America - that we're a nation of ideals, not blood and soil, and that this has allowed us to incorporate waves of immigrants - is tied to our inflated self-image. So while maybe we could tone down the triumphalism, I'm not sure we can take away much of the exceptionalism without people recognizing - rightly - that something good and important is been taken away.

As long as Americans think of the US as "a force for good in the world," then we are vulnerable to scurrilous appeals like those of 2002/3. But once Americans stop thinking that way, they become a lot more resistant to appeals, like MLK's, to "the idea[ls] of America."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:33 PM
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It's worth remembering that polls have been showing the public increasingly in favor of getting out of Iraq in a prompt manner for some time now - years, in fact - along with not just investigations of the whole mess but impeachment for Bush and Cheney. Glenn Greenwald keeps up to date on the demographics of all this. The scandal here is not the wretchedness of the general public, but the wretchedness specifically of the punditocracy, which is wildly out of step and lying all the way to the bank about it. There are times when the public is the enemy of peace and justice, but since at least 2005 or so, this hasn't been one of them.

Now it's likely true that most of the public doesn't want to deal with the full scope of the atrocities American forces have perpetrated during the occupation. But when it comes to the basic desire to get the hell out, yes, the public's there, and what we're lacking are good means of giving that extremely popular desire any useful political expression.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:26 PM
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