November 23, 2003

Corpse mutilation

Lovely people, keeping alive the grand tradition of lynching and all. What is it with folks in this part of the world and the frenzied public desecration of dead bodies? Mogadishu, Ramallah, and now Mosul. (Not to mention the similar horrors they perpetrate on one another, whether it be to a Palestinian with the misfortune of not hating Jews and saying so, or a Hashemite caught in Baghdad in '58.) Lynching! Alive and well alongside slavery, female genital mutilation, and religious apartheid in places populated mostly by....well, here we go again with the Islam versus culture versus "it's all exaggerated" versus "the Tamils do it too" arguments. I don't have the energy for it.

Barbarous savages.

Prediction: A massive overlap between those arguing that the existence of a nationalist resistance to foreign occupation mitigates this horror, or at least makes it understandable; and those denouncing Camp X-Ray as a "war crime." Just getting ahead of the curve, here.

UPDATE: To spare you the trouble of reading comments, I am not implying that the American left as a whole will think this way. Most won't. But someone will.

UPDATE 2: Closely related to the social acceptance of corpse desecration is the existence of the Islamist slasher flick, which has a long history from Kashmir to Chechnya to Karachi. A prior discussion on this was held here.

UPDATE 3: The mutilation report is false. See comments for elaboration.

Posted by tacitus at November 23, 2003 10:09 PM
Comments

"Barbarous savages."

Yes, but such behavior happened in the US not *that* long ago. Less than a century. There was also that recent case of the guy who was dragged to death behind a pickup truck until his body fell apart.

My point isn't that it was okay when Americans did it - it was still barbaric - but rather to point out that we're not that much more advanced and enlightened, and that it's a fairly recent development.

As a civilization, the west has only been civilized quite recently.

Posted by: Jon H at November 23, 2003 10:16 PM

Nice prediction. Assuming you know the meaning of the word 'mitigate' -- "make milder in manner or attitude, make less hostile, mollify" or "Give relief from, lessen the suffering or trouble caused by"* -- I'm stuck with the notion that you believe those of us on the Left think an atrocity like this is somehow made milder, or lessened by the facts on the ground in Iraq. Or even excused by it.

Geesh. I'm guessing that's not something you bruit around the house. Why drag it in here?

*OED, first two definitions

Posted by: Harley at November 23, 2003 10:21 PM

Obviously I'm angry having just read about this, so let me expand upon the "barbarous savages" line a bit.

For starters, obviously not all Iraqis/Muslims/whatever are barbarous savages. There's the kid who did the right thing and went to tell the soldiers what was happening, for example. That's good. On the other hand, you did have a public display of corpse-mutilation going on for a long time. That's bad. Very bad.

And agreed on the comparatively recent advent of Western civilization. I have no objection whatsoever to characterizing the lynch culture, past and present (however miniscule it is in the present) of the American South as barbarous savagery.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 23, 2003 10:21 PM

You're so vain, Harley. You probably think this post is about you.

Seriously, if you're not among those "arguing that the existence of a nationalist resistance to foreign occupation mitigates this horror," then don't worry about it. Do I need to draw Venn diagrams for the habitually-offended left?

If the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 23, 2003 10:23 PM

Don't try to wriggle out of a gratuitous snark. (And as predictions are always designed to prove one's I'm-So-Smart bona fides, I wouldn't hum the Carly tune quite so quickly.) If memory serves -- and mine often doesn't, so apologies in advance if I'm wrong -- you recently mentioned that you married a 'left-winger'. Kudos. But I'd think the practical reality would make it less likely that you would be so quick to hurl bile at the Other Side. At the end of a post about a horrific tragedy. I guess not.

Posted by: Harley at November 23, 2003 10:30 PM

Tac: So aren't you implying that this horrible crime against our people mitigates Camp X-Ray? The only reason I can think of that you brought this up is because you perhaps think that whatever they do in Camp X-Ray, it's justified because of crap like this.

Which seems like such a circular argument. I don't think anything justifies or mitigates either behavior.

Posted by: JC at November 23, 2003 10:31 PM

Oh, hell.

There is nothing understandable or mitigating about this. Do I really need to say that? Do you really believe that most people who denounce Guantanamo think so? (Most people who defend this in any way probably would denounce Gitmo, but talking about an "overlap" implies that the connection goes both ways.)

Posted by: Katherine at November 23, 2003 10:33 PM

The South is not the only place in America where lynchings have occured. Marion, Indiana, 1937 was the time and place of a multiple lynching of blacks by whites. In fact, the Village Voice ran a photo of it on their cover a few years ago. Definitely not a Southern state.

Posted by: David Quick at November 23, 2003 10:35 PM

To be a snark, Harley, it needs to be a little more subtle. Its like predicting 'A massive overlap between those arguing that Bush is a nazi and those denouncing Sharon as a genocidal murderer. Goes with the territory.

Posted by: Max M at November 23, 2003 10:41 PM

Almost every state Supreme Court, if not each and every one of them, hears a lot of murder appeals. Since the stakes are so high, murder appeals tend to be considered and documented rather meticulously.

What that means is that you can probably go down to your local law library, pull out the casebooks recording the opinions of your state's Supreme Court, and read in sufficient (though generally not excruciating) detail the facts of numerous murder cases as presented at trial.

Were you to do this, you would realize that corpse mutilation is not restricted to any single part of the world. It is the province of savage sociopaths everywhere.

Posted by: Trickster at November 23, 2003 10:42 PM

Wow.

I find the semantics of those that argue against the US utterly contemptuous.

Posted by: AG abu Houston at November 23, 2003 10:42 PM

No, JC. No, no, no. I'm not advancing that argument at all.

The point of the line is to point out the inevitable double standard applied by those who will advance the argument regarding the Mosul lynchings that I put forth. Substitute "cluster bombs" or "depleted uranium" or "jailing Mumia" for "Camp X-Ray," and the contention is the same. That's all.

By the way, Harley, it ought to be obvious that "those who will advance the argument regarding the Mosul lynchings that I put forth" does not equate to "the entire American left." If I wanted to say that, I'd say that. Odd that you consider applying plain meaning as "wriggling," but whatever suits you.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 23, 2003 10:48 PM

....corpse mutilation is not restricted to any single part of the world. It is the province of savage sociopaths everywhere.

How many places these days can you do it publicly in front of appreciative, or at the very least non-interfering, audiences?

That's the real problematic indicator, Trickster.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 23, 2003 10:49 PM

Hmm. Still pretty wriggly. Like Katherine, I didn't take it that way. The original prediction, I mean. Not the revision that explained it. Hey, if you'd be a little more precise when hurling insults we wouldn't have to debate what you meant in the first place! Heh.

Posted by: Harley at November 23, 2003 10:53 PM

How many places these days can you do it publicly in front of appreciative, or at the very least non-interfering, audiences?

A fair point, although it sounded somewhat from the news reports I've seen as if it were a group of teen-agers doing the bad stuff, i.e., a gang or a gang-like situation. If so, people might've been motivated to butt out by fear.

I tend to think of Iraqis as a good bit more sophisticated than Somalians, but then again Mosul is pretty far off the beaten path. . . .

Posted by: Trickster at November 23, 2003 10:57 PM

I don't really want to get into a debate about the semantics. The revisions make it clear what you meant. We're now in a war that we need to win and does that not seem to me to be going well, with leadership I do not trust, probably poised for the most bitterly contested election in recent memory. When I read stuff like that news story--any desire I might have to pick fights with people of good faith on the other side flies straight out the window.

Posted by: Katherine at November 23, 2003 11:02 PM

Yes, life is exactly the same everywhere. In every country. Every act committed in one part of the world has an equivalent or equal act committed in another. Keeps the earth balanced so that it doesn't fly into the sun.

I understand your rage, Tacitus. This is a vile, sick thing. But I think you've taken it a bit far with this post. I don't really like the whole 'blame Islam' thing. This is a failure of a society to evolve and develop - not a failure of an entire religion.

Posted by: Madhu at November 23, 2003 11:04 PM

As a mirror on the condition of the human soul, this seems far too distressing to discuss. The mind just revolts from the idea of ANY rationalization or justification...not Gitmo, not greedy corporations, not even opposition to the occupation.

This is just pure savagery....as humans are so very capable of, and easily too...without the constraining invisible hand of civilization.

There is nothing new or startling in this...this is just the way it is in the human heart in dealing with, "others," people different than ourselves.

I posit two questions...Will this be an education to the people of the United States...but even larger, will people understand how very thin and fragile is the veneer of civilization?

As a warning to Europeans....Poof, it can all dissolve in less than a moment. Please get on the wagon before all is lost.

As a scold from Europeans to America...Before you go into a precipitous war, make sure you have the levels of authority and power necessary to impost a civil society.

In the end, I sometimes really believe that America is a naive society, even operating from the best and most honorable intentions, thinking other people are like us, refusing to recognize that the human heart is not all light and airy and open green fields with blue skies...

The human heart is knotted & dark & bloody red, bestial often in it's intentions, without rhyme or reason or even for any gain...it is simply Savage.

The problem isn't that the United States doesn't understand Iraq, (It being sacrosanct in my liberal theology that people are people, wherever situated, whatever the circumstances of their lives, they are the same in essence across this wide world), the problem is that the Western World, secure in it's comfort, has forgotten the true nature of Human Beings.

Given an excuse, man reverts to naked barbarity with gleeful happiness.

With Sorrowful Best Wishes,

Traveller

Posted by: Traveller at November 23, 2003 11:16 PM

it's nothing to do with geography or culture. civilization is a wonderful thing, but it seems to be a very thin veneer. small cruelties or illegalities, once accepted or rationalized, can quickly lead to atrocity. american soldiers in vietnam who collected ears as souvenirs weren't monsters or savages -- they were ordinary human beings. not having experienced the horrors of war, i don't feel qualified to say they were evil men, though they certainly commited evil acts (my lai, for instance).
i'm no fan of, or apologist for, islam. i shudder to imagine my life under sha'aria. but this incident is an example of the brutalities that happen in war. and these brutalities are what led to the Geneva Conventions, which it would credit the US to begin adhering to.

Posted by: ray c at November 23, 2003 11:18 PM

Ok, I forgot to add a 'sarcasm' tag to the first paragraph of my comment.

The 'people are just people' and we are all the same post-modernism seems really wierd to me. Seems the veneer of civilization is a little thicker in some places than others. A few more coats of enlightenment, you might say.

Posted by: Madhu at November 23, 2003 11:31 PM

Wait a minute isn't this a "war"? Isn't this what the prowar side wanted?

Posted by: wellbasically at November 23, 2003 11:55 PM

The veneer was stripped away in the King riots in LA also. I haven't forgotten Reginald Denny. It appears that some people have moved up (been driven?) from the triangle. There have been several incidents there lately. The commanders are going to have to switch back to multiple vehicle patrols again. We may even find out that this was a regularly scheduled run between the garrisons. If it was a planned ambush (likely) then paying kids to hammer on the bodies may have been part of it. If the gunmen remained in sight, what was the crowd supposed to do?

Mosul has a large IP force in place. It will be interesting to see if they can round up those responsible quickly.

Posted by: RDB at November 24, 2003 12:01 AM

Isn't this what the prowar side wanted?

Don't make a fool of yourself.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 12:02 AM

How many places these days can you do it publicly in front of appreciative, or at the very least non-interfering, audiences?

Just to repeat a point I think a couple of others are making: there's two ways of viewing the savagery.

1. The "veneer of civilization" is particularly thin in Iraq. There's very little constraining the baser impulses, much encouraging them, and little encouraging the better angels. This is true for a wide variety of reasons, economic, political, and cultural--Islam being just one of them, and probably not the most salient. The fact that we removed a central authority and haven't replaced it with anything being another. In such circumstances, some subset of human beings will behave savagely.
2. The people involved are inherently more barbaric and savage. This would be transparently racist, not to mention ignorant.

The problem with those--and Tacitus, you are drifting into this group--who demonize Islam is that they say things that sound like #2 and then, when called on it, retreat to something like #1.

Posted by: Realish at November 24, 2003 12:05 AM

Look tacitus.
War is hell. You want hell, you make war. However, you seem to be crying foul when it is our guys falling. Look. Mosul is outside the Sunni Triangle. All those pictures of kids waving happily at tanks, there were from Mosul, all the great enws about schools, Mosul. Now, look whats happening. We cocked up. Badly. It is a war we should have started. An aftermath based on the delusions of ideologues. This is what happens in hell. I hope you are glad that this is what you wanted.

Posted by: Sysiphus at November 24, 2003 12:10 AM

There are ideologies and beliefs that render people more barbarous and savage, Realish. Nazism and Klan-style racism, for starters. Since these are individual choices rather than immutable characteristics, it's not racism or ignorance to point that out.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 12:10 AM

What does a bit of insomnia get me?

This.

What the bloody fuck does female circumcision have to do with Muslims?

It's not a bloody common Muslim practice, it's an African practice. Only one Arab Muslim state has it to any degree, Egypt, and it's bloody well unknown throughout most of the bloody Islamic world.

In Africa, for those who want to not engage in bigotry and pure, unvarnished Islamophobia, one would note that it's bloody common among non-Muslim pops.

Ah whatever.

Posted by: collounsbury at November 24, 2003 12:14 AM

Three things, Sisyphus:

1) I willingly accept my miniscule share of responsibility for the consequences of policies I've advocated. So spare me the braying accusations.

2) That being said, to state or imply that I somehow wanted corpse mutilation is dull-witted in the extreme.

3) I pity you indeed if you do not understand my partiality to my own countrymen. It is a poor American that has no especial fellow-feeling for his own in a time like this.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 12:14 AM

But nothing on the corpse mutilation, slavery and religious apartheid, eh, collunsbury?

Get some sleep.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 12:16 AM

Madhu,

It's never very thick but I'd have to agree that there are areas where it appears to have been applied lightly (if at all). Barbarity worked for thirty five years in Iraq. Why expect an overnight change?

Posted by: RDB at November 24, 2003 12:17 AM

Looks like it's au courant in great swaths of the Arabian peninsula, coll. But yes, you're right that it's also pathetically common in non-Muslim Africa.

Is that barbarous savagery too? You bet.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 12:19 AM

What's the f*cking difference between this and dropping a two thousand pound bomb in the middle of Bahgdad the way we did a few days ago, the dead are dead and their bodies have definitly been desecrated.

War is a bitch and you guys on the Right wanted it, now go and fight it.

Posted by: Don_Quijote at November 24, 2003 12:22 AM

I felt physically ill reading that story, and of course it reminded me of Mogadishu. I hope we react well to this as a society.

Posted by: praktike at November 24, 2003 12:27 AM

What's the f*cking difference between this and dropping a two thousand pound bomb in the middle of Bahgdad the way we did a few days ago....

You're the voice of ignorance, Don Quijote. The 2,000-pound bomb strikes in Baghdad were against empty buildings, and the populace was warned well beforehand. Ludicrous tactics, but hardly immoral.

And, might I add, we are not in the habit of mutilating Iraqi corpses.

Next.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 12:29 AM

Only one Arab Muslim state has it to any degree, Egypt, and it's bloody well unknown throughout most of the bloody Islamic world.

Good Lord. Do facts not matter at all?

Sudan

Mali, etc.

Exclusively Muslim? No. But your statement was exclusively stupid.

Posted by: carter at November 24, 2003 12:30 AM

After my "holy jeebus" reaction on reading this, I started to wonder what the big difference is between killing someone with a concrete block and killing someone with a gun. If, unarmed, I had had the opportunity to do the former to a (pick your example of obviously horribly evil person) in wartime, I don't know that I would feel I'd lost style points; and I can imagine cheering such an act under the circumstances. Certainly less horrifying than dragging someone to death behind a car or letting them be mauled to death by a dog. Anyway, if someone on this list ever finds it necessary to kill me, as long as it's really quick I don't much care what method you use.

Posted by: rilkefan at November 24, 2003 12:33 AM

Rilkefan (good poet choice, by the way), the unique horror here -- as opposed to other killings of American soldiers via gunshots or IEDs -- lies in the mutilation of the corpses. My understanding is that they were killed by the gunshots, and then has their bodies smashed with the concrete blocks. At length, in public, for quite a while.

At least, I hope they were killed by the shots.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 12:35 AM

I can accept being horrified and angry about how our soldiers were treated in this case. I can accept wanting revenge against those responsible.

I can imagine that Mogadishu being such a vivid memory, it's easy to let it swirl into a continuous story, prompting an assessment that this is widespread and common place.

Extrapolating this behavior and associating it with these "lovely people" and "folks in this part of the world" is sloppy and lazy though.

How many soldiers have been killed? How many have been desecrated? The numbers just don't support the conclusions.

Be horrified. Be angry. But please be sensible. Yes there are horrors in certain cultures around the world (what happened in Los Angeles during the riots wasn't particularly unsavage---should we all accept that sort of barbaric action as our national character?), but don't maginify them to assert these "lovely people" are ALL savages.

It's truly lame reasoning.

Posted by: Edward at November 24, 2003 12:38 AM

praktile,

"I hope we react well to this as a society."

George Bush defined our societal reaction to this some time ago. "Hunt them down and bring them to justice." retains it's ring to me.

Posted by: RDB at November 24, 2003 12:48 AM

How many soldiers have been killed? How many have been desecrated?

How many have been desecrated whose bodies fell into enemy hands? That's the real question. I can only think of two instances -- this and those two poor fellows kidnapped and murdered a few months back. I seem to recall that their bodies were desecrated too, but I can't find confirmation of that.

....don't maginify them to assert these "lovely people" are ALL savages.

Well, I don't, as the third comment on this thread makes clear.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 12:49 AM

Tacitus, I find it hard to understand why it's ok to kill someone but not ok to hack up the corpse. I take it you don't feel outraged about the reportedly hundreds of civilians we've killed after liberting Iraq, seeing that as a necessary evil, the way I try to think about the Iraqi soldiers we buried alive in Golf War I (which I supported.) This seems to me to be in that category.

Posted by: rilkefan at November 24, 2003 12:52 AM

It all depends on why it's being done, rilkefan. It's okay to kill Nazis and Ba'athists in war. It's not okay to kill Jewish teenagers in a pizzeria. It's okay to hack up corpses with familial consent for science. It's not okay to hack them up in hate.

Basic humanity and all that.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 12:56 AM

How many have been desecrated whose bodies fell into enemy hands? That's the real question.

I would assume that's what we're talking about (Americans who fell into enemy hands). What's the alternative, that we handed dead soldiers back over to the enemy?

There's no sense in comparing these actions with those in America or other parts of the world. They are horrific. Full stop.

There's equally no sense in drawing conclusions about millions of other people who live in this region because of these particular monsters.

As I noted and someone else did above, there were atrocities during the LA riots that I see no reason I should have to defend. They have nothing to do with me.

9/11 and the blackout here in NY have raised that old argument that all New Yorkers are 1 night's sleep and three meals away from total savagery. I suspect that's accurate (there are those who'd argue we're already savages...but they probably were not here on 9/12).

My point is not that these Iraqi monsters are victims of circumstances, as much as that any twisted set of circumstances can make anyone behave out of character...you can't assume these same folks would have responded the same way the day before.

Calling them savages is perhaps the only revenge we can take on them from here in the US. But whether you retract it in your third post or not, you do imply this is a characteristic of many people in this part of the world in your original post. Statistics on this would perhaps support your claim....got any?

Posted by: Edward at November 24, 2003 01:11 AM

Tac,

I don't see how it's any worse that this:

We visit another family, several streets over. Twenty-two people live in this simple compound. During the attack that Saturday some gathered in the small open-air cubicle that is used for washing clothes. Raja Mizhir, 40, the mother of seven children, tried to shelter them when two small bombs blasted through the wall. It was about 11am. The holes in the wall show how one came in high, above their heads, and the other low, at shin level. Raja's legs were hit and later, in hospital, both were amputated. She died on March 30 from, her death certificate states, "aggressive shelling".


Mapped: The lethal legacy of cluster bombs

Documented Collateral Damage: Minimum 7898 maximum 9727

So who are the savages exactly? How many US civilians have the Iraqis ever killed?

Posted by: Don_Quijote at November 24, 2003 01:16 AM

"It's okay to kill Nazis and Ba'athists in war" - and American soldiers too, if I understand your reasoning. Hence my questions above.

"Basic humanity and all that" seems rather close to "my standards are correct, so there". Which, admittedly, is where these sorts of discussions often seem to arrive.

Incidentally, I do think our actions in Gitmo are beneath us - and unrelated to this current discussion, unless for reasons of propaganda.

Perhaps this would be a useful point to ask if we're doing enough to stop the mutilation of live people in the war-torn places of the world.

Posted by: rilkefan at November 24, 2003 01:17 AM

Tacitus,

I know that you're not in the habit of doing this, but if you wanted to close comments on this thread, I don't think anyone would blame you. This tragedy is the last thing I want to see used in goddamn point-scoring games.

Posted by: Ted Barlow at November 24, 2003 01:24 AM

There's no sense in comparing these actions with those in America or other parts of the world.

Why not, exactly? Seems like it would be a useful comparative tool.

There's equally no sense in drawing conclusions about millions of other people who live in this region because of these particular monsters.

Again, why not? To return to the American South parallel, lynchings and the social reactions to them told us a great deal about the "millions of other people who live in this region."

Seems to me you're just advocating ignorance -- or at the least lack of inquiry -- as a means of precluding conclusions you'd disagree with.

So Don, get one tired canard shot down, move on to the next? We already have one Jesurgislac. But short version is that you need to bone up on your just war theory.

"It's okay to kill Nazis and Ba'athists in war" - and American soldiers too, if I understand your reasoning.

I'm not sure you do. The point is that Nazis and Ba'athists are, as a rule of thumb, not the moral equals of Americans. Anyway, color me speechless if I have to explain why public corpse-mutilation is wrong. What was it the guy said in Cool Hand Luke? "Some people you just can't reach."

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 01:25 AM

Alive and well alongside slavery, female genital mutilation, and religious apartheid in places populated mostly by....well, here we go again with the Islam versus culture versus "it's all exaggerated" versus "the Tamils do it too" arguments. I don't have the energy for it.

Barbarous savages.

It's utterly ridiculous to say that the mutilation of corpses is not evidence of a deeply sick society, one without traditional mores and institutions safeguarding a healthy structure of values upon which we all agree. It's also extremely valid to point out that savage behavior goes on in places where ignorance and repression are the norm, specifically male dominance (I refer to the Middle East in general and not Iraq on that point; Iraq's actually pretty good on that score) and fascist dictatorship.

I'm perplexed by the link to Islam, though. A lot of other cultures have done this at various stages. Perhaps there's something intrinsic to modern Islam that encourages this, although it's much more likely that what's going on is just the a destabilized political structure under a blanket of Islamic rhetoric. I'm late to the party on this debate, I guess.

Prediction: A massive overlap between those arguing that the existence of a nationalist resistance to foreign occupation mitigates this horror, or at least makes it understandable; and those denouncing Camp X-Ray as a "war crime." Just getting ahead of the curve, here.

I don't see the link. Some on the far-left don't want to see us succeed in Iraq and are anti-American quasi-fascists. Some on the far-right are power-hungry racist neo-imperialist sickos. This only matters to the extent that the fringes have power within their respective parties.

Posted by: MattS at November 24, 2003 01:28 AM

Horrible. Just as it was horrible when the Tiger Force of the 101st Airborne mutilated the corpses of the civilians they murdered in the Highlands of South Vietnam in 1967. The soldiers of this unit took scalps. They took ears. They decapitated at least one infant.

Barbarous savages, indeed.

Posted by: Small Axe at November 24, 2003 01:29 AM

Why not, exactly? Seems like it would be a useful comparative tool.

to support what hypothesis exactly?

Posted by: Edward at November 24, 2003 01:30 AM

Isn't this also a good reason to, in parallel, scour our own forces so that we act as justly as possible? I mean, if Americans started acting like Nazis, presumably this would knock out the moral edge to your argument.

[note use of the conditional tense to show conditionality and not reality]

Posted by: MattS at November 24, 2003 01:31 AM

rilkefan:

If your handle speaks true, you are a connoisseur of poetry. Do you remember your Homer? The desecration of the dead is no small matter. Few - if any - horrors lie closer to the marrow. These teenagers understand that, even if some of us don't.

But what's the use in crying about it?

Suppose the worst. Suppose that this is no aberration, but the sign of things to come: a rising tide of anti-American violence, celebrated even by those from whom he once hoped for thanks. A tide that will not be stemmed by handing out toys for tots or by refurbishing schools and hospitals...

What's next?

Posted by: Vinteuil at November 24, 2003 01:32 AM

Yep, Small Axe, the men of Tiger Force are barbarous savages too. No doubt about it.

What does it tell you that they have to hide their deeds? What does it tell you that they almost certainly could not do such a thing in the light of day at home?

Your point is what, exactly?

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 01:33 AM

to support what hypothesis exactly?

You can make any number of hypotheses to justify doing it. My question is why you want to preclude it.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 01:35 AM

What sort of standard of judgment should we use for handling American atrocities, of which there are some? A lot of us question our motives for going into Iraq, not in the sense of sincerity (I believe Cheney wants stability and democracy, and that Bush thinks that God is on his side) of the people commanding us, but in the sense that the values guiding our leadership are seriously wrong-headed. Like, it's cool to be spiritual and have faith; it's also great to want a stable world, but your value system is really problematic if you eschew evidence because it doesn't conform to your worldview, as this administration seems to have done.

Also, a lot of people of all stripes do it, including Democrats. But most of those people don't have the power to start wars and occupy countries, so they probably are less worth challenging.

Posted by: MattS at November 24, 2003 01:35 AM

What does it tell you that they have to hide their deeds? What does it tell you that they almost certainly could not do such a thing in the light of day at home?

This tells me I'm glad we have strong media protections in our society and a reverance for truth, and gives me an especially deep contempt for the leadership of this country who is undermining these protections and the office of the Presidency by issuing non-credible threats and lying about their motives.

Posted by: MattS at November 24, 2003 01:38 AM

Tac,

No one knows if any civilians were killed by those bombs in Downtown Bahgdad. I would be shocked if there was no collateral damage.

As for just war theory, I know nothing about it but I know right and wrong and IMNSHO this war is WRONG.

Posted by: Don_Quijote at November 24, 2003 01:41 AM

What does it tell you that they have to hide their deeds? What does it tell you that they almost certainly could not do such a thing in the light of day at home?

Sorry, let me complete the thought. There's also that whole 'thou shalt not kill' ethos which makes the killing of anyone in the light of day problematic. I like that about our society as well.

Posted by: MattS at November 24, 2003 01:43 AM

Then by your standard, whether you realize it or not, all war is wrong. The Civil War was wrong. The Revolution was wrong. World War II was wrong. All because of "collateral damage."

Most people recognize "collateral damage" as a morally acceptable price of war. You may not, but I hope you understand the implication of that belief.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 01:44 AM

How many places these days can you do it publicly in front of appreciative, or at the very least non-interfering, audiences?

Regenald Denny?

Posted by: Irving at November 24, 2003 01:48 AM

"What does it tell you that they have to hide their deeds? What does it tell you that they almost certainly could not do such a thing in the light of day at home?"

Tac, do object to the mutilation of corpses more strongly if it is done in public? You seem to suggest that Americans are morally superior to Iraqis and Somalis because Americans do their corpse mutilation in secret. In any case, the soldiers of Tiger Force celebrated their atrocities within the unit.

Posted by: Small Axe at November 24, 2003 01:50 AM

Vinteuil, I much preferred the Odyssey to the Iliad, but if you want my self-indulgent opinion about what that work has to say to us today (after which I will shut up since Tacistus thinks I'm a lost cause), here it is:


The Swan and Leda

The god swoops down upon her from behind.
It was that or waddle to the attack.
The bright wings batter her down on her back.
He does what she's not done with her own kind:
Swans have, unlike most birds, external genitals.
He spreads, with webbed reptilian feet, her thighs,
Upon her senseless lips his senseless beak,
His neck snaked round her neck. His eyes
Are elsewhere - they foresee perhaps the roles
The girls who soon will hatch will play:
Adultery justifying murder and war crimes
By barbarians considered heroes to this day -
Having more imagination than those of our times,
And an above-average publicist in their pay.


Posted by: rilkefan at November 24, 2003 01:51 AM

Is there some sort of reference material on corpse mutilation that seems to be what this is all about? I'm lost here.

Those people are dead. It doesn't matter what happened to their bodies.

As for the war, it's proceeding pretty much the way I thought, with the hard-headed rightwing realists going to their militarist side, where the motive is simply revenge and death, and humanitarian reform goes out the window. This was the plan B, which I wrote about to Stephen Den Beste a hundred years ago. I'm sure he's consumed with rage too.

So it is always with rightwing human rights advocates, who are so clumsy with the genre. Maybe some maturity will come out of this.

Posted by: wellbasically at November 24, 2003 01:52 AM

Tac,

War is wrong, but occasionally a necessary evil, in this particular case it was not necessary. Iraq did not threathen the US nor did it have the ability to strike at the US (No Navy, No Air Force).

In the Twentieth Century the US participated in numerous wars, but only one of those, WWII was just as far as I am concerned.

Now, you people on the right wanted war, you 've got it so quit bitching.

Posted by: Don_Quijote at November 24, 2003 01:54 AM

MattS,

I suppose that at the very root the issue is self definition by the religion in question. Examining only the three monotheistic religions that draw a common heritage from Israel we find two which objectively grant non believers roughly equivalent societal status and one which does not. My (admittedly limited) understanding of Islam is that a non-believer is theologically considered to be less than a believer. An unbelievers word carries less weight in court, he is subject to additional taxes and is subject at all times to discriminatory practice. In some countries a public proclamation of his faith would subject him to the death penalty. He is literally less in the eyes of God than a believer (according to Islamic theology).

The argument can be made that in practice Christians and Jews behave in a similiar way to Muslims. It is difficult in either the Jewish or Christian belief system to find widely accepted theological justification for disparate treatment of non-believers. Mosaic law (I'm no expert there either) generally deals with contact rather than treatment. This may appear to be a distinction without a difference but it is not. Christian doctrine holds all equal in God's eye. There are elements of proscription regarding non-believers (less so than under Mosaic law) but there is no difference in expectation with regard to how an individual treats another individual - whether believer or not.

The diminished status of the non-believer according to shari'a is one rationale for customs concerning treatment of "infidel" dead. A system that assigns a lower "status" to a non-believer will have rather predictable results in its treatment of that non-believer.

Is Islam barbaric in nature? Not if you are a believer. Non-believers may hold other opinions. As a non-believer in the Islamic faith my resistance to it's spread is absolute.

Posted by: RDB at November 24, 2003 02:03 AM

Correction:

"What does it tell you that they have to hide their deeds? What does it tell you that they almost certainly could not do such a thing in the light of day at home?"

Tac, do you object to the mutilation of corpses more strongly if it is done in public? You seem to suggest that Americans are morally superior to Iraqis and Somalis because Americans do their corpse mutilation in secret. In any case, the soldiers of Tiger Force celebrated their atrocities within the unit.

What does it tell you that the Army ivestigated the Tiger Force atrocities, found evidence to indict, but covered it up?

Posted by: Small Axe at November 24, 2003 02:04 AM
Closely related to the social acceptance of corpse desecration is the existence of the Islamist slasher flick, which has a long history from Kashmir to Chechnya to Karachi. A prior discussion on this was held here.

What a stupid post.
Was this supposed to be controversial or something?

Posted by: WillieStyle at November 24, 2003 02:05 AM

You're not a lost cause, rilkefan. Quijote, on the other hand, would be better off in a preschool for moral idiots. "Quit bitching." Good God.

wellbasically can't understand why corpse mutilation is abominable. I feel pity.

Two things for you, Small Axe:

1) Can you really argue that the Tiger Force is anything but an outlyer -- an exception to the rule -- insofar as the modern American Army is concerned? Having actually been in the Army, I can assure you that such behavior is not generally condoned.

2) Yes, a society that tolerates public corpse mutilation is far sicker and more debased than one that forces it out of view.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 02:08 AM

MattS,

The correct translation is "Thou shalt not unlawfully kill".

I belive a correct definition of the term to describe your (and many others here) point of view can be found here.

Posted by: RDB at November 24, 2003 02:10 AM

As for the Army's failure to prosecute Tiger Force, SA, yes, another gross moral failure -- on par with the disgustly light treatment given to William Calley.

Given what we're doing to Allen West now, I'd say the pendulum has decisively swung now, wouldn't you?

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 02:11 AM

Something you don't understand, WillieStyle? Don't tell me the Princeton dollars went to naught.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 02:12 AM

Islamist slasher flicks?

So we Americans are looking down upon another culture because their entertainment glorifies violence?

Let's go ahead and criticize liberals for the incivility of American political discourse while we're at it.

Posted by: Trickster at November 24, 2003 02:13 AM

Right, Army doesn't condone corpse mutilation, but in the case of Tiger Force it didn't prosecute those responsible for it either.

Of course, Tiger Force is an exception. Isn't Mosul? Do you believe that most Iraqis would mutilate American corpses if given the opportunity?

Posted by: Small Axe at November 24, 2003 02:13 AM

I think that instead of speculating about what this incident tells us about Islam, or about "that part of the world," it would make more sense to consider what it might tell us about the status and prognosis of our occupation.

Specifically, who were these "barbarous savages" that mutilated the corpses? And how are we going to integrate them into our new, thriving, model Iraqi democracy?


Posted by: JakeV at November 24, 2003 02:15 AM

So we Americans are looking down upon another culture because their entertainment glorifies violence?

Um....best read the post. We're talking about films in which people are actually killed. Not exactly Hollywood fare.

Do you believe that most Iraqis would mutilate American corpses if given the opportunity?

Seems to have happened in 100% of cases thus far.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 02:15 AM

>>>>can't understand why corpse mutilation is abominable.

I understand that corpse mutilation is terrifying, I also understand that there's going to be thousands of unmutilated corpses because of this incident.

Your plans put our guys at the mercy of these mobs, and they are mobs for a reason. The entire country is a Sunni triangle, the entire country will be former Baathists by the end of this.

The mutilation will only make your buddies go mad with rage, and then the mowing down starts. Tell me how we get from there to reforming Islam. Your grand plan is going down in flames in front of all of us, and you're handing out cultural commentary? Like this is a discussion about honor killing? Poll your conservo-buddies -- don't you understand that we're on the edge of a holocaust here?

Posted by: wellbasically at November 24, 2003 02:17 AM

Tacitus, how can the U.S. military ever deliver democracy to a population that would just assume mutilate the dead bodies of our soldiers as not?

Why are we in Iraq?

Posted by: Small Axe at November 24, 2003 02:17 AM

RDB,

All three religions distinguish between believers and non-believers.

Also, I'm not sure why you're labeling me a Civil War era Democrat, or, more to the point, why you think that's a particularly useful label for anyone. The parallels between the Civil War and that in Iraq don't seem striking.

Posted by: MattS at November 24, 2003 02:18 AM

I'm no Marxist, but I do believe he got one thing right: economics is in the driver's seat. Watch the money. The specific doctrinal content of the three monotheistic religions is almost inconsequential. Christianity was used to justify (or at least condoned) plenty of atrocities, and still is in some parts of the world. Now that we in the U.S. live in a wealthy, semi-peaceful society, it's become a social club, a comfy tradition, a nag about manners. The same would happen to Islam, inevitably, if political circumstances changed, and they would change if economic circumstances changed. Give people money and stability and they'll stop being barbarous, or at least barbarism will become the province of "outliers."

In other words, it really is (watch for it!) all about oil.

(And please, luvagod, let's skip the part where somebody tells me that "the terrorists" are middle-class.)

Posted by: Realish at November 24, 2003 02:18 AM

MattS,

If you can see no difference between distinguishing between and discriminating against then I must say you have a point. Copper heads were peace at any price Democrats and the parallels between anti-war beliefs then and now (based upon who is and was in the White House) are rather striking.

Posted by: RDB at November 24, 2003 02:23 AM

Tacitus,

I will echo what others said.

How can anyone think we can impose any semblance of a modern democracy on people that behave like this?

Posted by: GT at November 24, 2003 02:28 AM

wellbasically:

Read The Iliad, where Achilles' desecration of Hector's corpse outraged the gods themselves. This suggests that at least in Western society, it's a show of disrespect and a violation of the social order that goes back at least 2,600 years.

Posted by: Zack at November 24, 2003 02:29 AM

Your plans put our guys at the mercy of these mobs....

Don't be a fool. My plans for how to conduct this occupation are far different from the reality, as longtime readers here know. You truly are the voice of ignorance.

The mutilation will only make your buddies go mad with rage, and then the mowing down starts.

Nah. I have a great deal of faith in the average American soldier.

....don't you understand that we're on the edge of a holocaust here?

Have you met Dave Neiwert?

....let's skip the part where somebody tells me that "the terrorists" are middle-class.

Yes, skip the part that directly contradicts you.

Tacitus, how can the U.S. military ever deliver democracy to a population that would just assume mutilate the dead bodies of our soldiers as not?

SA, I give you Japan.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 02:38 AM

Wasn't democracy in Vietnam the goal? A noble goal indeed. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Might as well grow redwood trees in Iraq as grow democracy.

Posted by: lk at November 24, 2003 02:43 AM

Has Turkey disappeared? An Islamic country with democracy and a reputation for peaceable transition of power. Are the Turks in some wise different than other Moslem countries? Is the Turkish model not transferable?

A secular Moslem nation is obviously possible and the Turkish model proves it. They also mandate freedom of religion, by the way.

A Moslem theocratical democracy is a contradiction in terms.

Posted by: RDB at November 24, 2003 02:45 AM

I was plenty shocked when I heard this news this morning. The original story was that the two troops had their throats cut; it wasn't until later that they mentioned them being shot, too. The sheer ferocity of cutting someone's throat made me stop and wonder again what we've gotten ourselves into. And the corpse mutiliation - more of the same reaction.

It may be, as someone suggested upthread, that this is the behavior of people who are willing to loot weapons, gear and personal possessions from two still-warm dead men. That is, the behavior of such people is far outside the norm for any society. The alternate explanation is that Iraqi civilian anger is such that ordinary Iraqis would leap to hurl a concrete block at an American head if they were sure not to get shot. I really don't know which, or how much of each, is true.

Posted by: Mithras at November 24, 2003 02:46 AM

I'm waiting for Collounsbury, Jesurgislac, and the usual decriers of "bigotry" to spring forth and wallop lk, GT, et al., for the bigoted assumption that Arabs (and Iraqis in particular) aren't capable of democracy.

Hm....

Anyway, stopping communism was the goal in Vietnam, lk -- not promoting democracy.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 02:47 AM

Stopping Communism was goal in Vietnam? How'd we do? How we going to do instituting Democracy in Iraq (where a minorty has ruled for 500 years)? No problemo, piece of cake.

Posted by: lk at November 24, 2003 02:54 AM

How'd we do? Pretty good, till we cut and left. Why not tell us all the peoples you think incapable of democracy and liberty, lk? A list would be nice.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 02:59 AM

It all depends on why it's being done, rilkefan. It's okay to kill Nazis and Ba'athists in war. It's not okay to kill Jewish teenagers in a pizzeria. It's okay to hack up corpses with familial consent for science. It's not okay to hack them up in hate.

But is it ok to kill Mulim teenagers in Pizzareias, is it ok to kill batthist conscripts? Is it ok to kill the children of bathists? Is it ok to kill a certain percentage of women and children by accident? Is it ok to mutilate them before they're dead.

Our unwillingness to see our own brutality while glossing it over as a necessary cost of war (as if invading Iraq was as necessary as liberating Europe) is not any more noble or civilized, it's just a different sort of perversion.


Posted by: Boronx at November 24, 2003 03:00 AM

Quijote, on the other hand, would be better off in a preschool for moral idiots.

As opposed to being a graduate of the American version of "Might makes Right" school of thought. A school of thought that has given us the conquest of the Philipines, the Savak in Iran, a bloody civil war in Guatemala that left a couple hundred thousand dead bodies behind, Pinochet in Chile, Suharto in Indonesia(1965), 3 Million dead in Vietnam, the school of the Americas and the list goes on and on...

Posted by: Don_Quijote at November 24, 2003 03:03 AM

....let's skip the part where somebody tells me that "the terrorists" are middle-class.

Yes, skip the part that directly contradicts you.

So, remove the centralized autocracy that lives on oil money, distribute political power, move a substantial number of the poor to the middle class, but keep Islam as the dominant religion, and terrorism remains? "Barbarous savagery" remains? It's their religion that's the primary driver? It seems to me that folks who believe this enjoy having enemies to whom they can feel morally superior.

For my part, I tend to think that people are more similar than they are different, and that they'll respond in similar ways to similar material circumstances. I understand this view is out of favor.

Posted by: Realish at November 24, 2003 03:03 AM

It's morally acceptable to kill opponents in battle, whomever they may be, Boronx. And so long as you undertake sincere, reasonable efforts to avoid noncombatant casualties, there's no moral opprobrium attached to "collateral damage."

I hate that phrase, by the way. Where's it from?

You can't equate the actions of a lynch mob with the actions of soldiers in legitimate battle.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 03:04 AM

As others have pointed out: it's not as though such things haven't happened right here. In fact, it happened here when the US was at just about at the same level of exonomic and industrial development that most of the middle east is at today. Here's some food for thought. Check out the smiling women and children in the crowds, dressed in their Sunday Best. These folks thought of themselves, and were seen by their contemporary communities, as honest, churchgoing Christians.

So, Tacitus, you go right ahead and blame race, or Islam, or whatever it is that you want to blame. Then look in the mirror and see... your ancestors.

Posted by: CD318 at November 24, 2003 03:05 AM

I understand this view is out of favor.

Well, the experience of reality tends to do that.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 03:05 AM

CD318, really, try reading the thread before lumbering in with the sanctimony. This stuff is old.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 03:07 AM

I see you've abandoned everything but snark at this point. I guess I'll check out.

Posted by: Realish at November 24, 2003 03:16 AM

Vietnam - "Pretty good, till we cut and left." If we did not "cut and leave", we might still be there. And Nixon (1972 landslide) left, do you think Bush has more grit? Democracy and liberty cannot be imposed in Iraq. The minority has ruled for 500 years, it's gonna a loooong time. I love this keyboard action. I know a guy that has had 3 keyboards blown out beneath him, but he still opines (war is hell).

Posted by: lk at November 24, 2003 03:17 AM

Tac--do you think there's any good response to something like today, as far as U.S. policy or tactics? (either the specific incident, or in general.) Or is the best response to keep doing what we're doing, subject to the changes we should be making anyway?

I think "collateral damage" is Pentagonspeak. I first heard it in the Kuwait War, but that's really the first war I'd remember.

Posted by: Katherine at November 24, 2003 03:28 AM

I read the thread it its entirity.

Who exactly is dealin' out the santimony? You're the one condemning whole regions, cultures, perhaps races on the basis of behavior that as others pointes out (and I pointed to documentary evidence of) is as American as hot dogs, apple pie, Injun killin', and free-fire zones. Seems to me that yours is a distinction without a meaningful ethical difference. If it were my kid killed in one of the recent collective-puishment raids by the US, I don't imagine that I'd be a whole lot less forgiving than if my son were one of the two American boys who was murdered this week. In each case it's savagery being used to make a point, and in any case such behavior is unacceptable. I am not arguing that ANYTHING "mitigates this horror". I *am* wondering at your abililty to assign blame to cultural institutions that happen to be those of the Enemy, while ignoring vast data indicating that such crimes have been recently* perpertrated in and by our own culture, aided and abetted by analagous cultural institutions which today are still highly regarded by the ruling party.

*For someone who calls himself Tacitus, 3 or 4 generations surely count as recent.

Posted by: CD318 at November 24, 2003 03:31 AM

I'm reminded of the scene in "Little Big Man" where the braves attack the white guys inorder to achieve a coup by slapping them, then get shot for their efforts.. Let me take a wild stab and suggest that if we were to mutilate Iraq bodies in a similar manner that their reaction would be much more heated than ours is now.

You can't equate the actions of a lynch mob with the actions of soldiers in legitimate battle.

If they accidentally let the Green River Killer go and a mob gores after him, I would consider that a much more moral actoin than this invasion, since we would be getting rid of a Very Bad Man with considerably less ...collateral damage.... and it would be an act of defense in favor of the beautiful women of the Pacific North West.


It's morally acceptable to kill opponents in battle, whomever they may be

Surely battle is not it's own justification.

It's seems likely that the lies told in the runup to war have had a negative impact in the way Iraqis view us as occupiers. MIght the occcupation have gone smoother if Bush had simply told the truth? Would people be as fervent or brutal in their opposition if it wasn't so easy to paint our cause as unjust?

Posted by: Boronx at November 24, 2003 03:44 AM

i wonder why you bother sometimes, tacitus.

Posted by: red clay at November 24, 2003 03:48 AM

When I said upthread that I hope our society responds well to this tragedy, I feared what this thread has become. I worry about the country.

Posted by: praktike at November 24, 2003 03:52 AM

Another horrible case of saveragy: Afghan citizenry vs. the Taliban.

Posted by: Arash at November 24, 2003 03:53 AM

Let me clarify and echo Ted Barlow:

These soldiers were somebody's children. If you were their mothers, would you want the horrible circumstances of their deaths used to score political points on a weblog?

Posted by: praktike at November 24, 2003 03:55 AM

RDB,

Copper heads were peace at any price Democrats and the parallels between anti-war beliefs then and now (based upon who is and was in the White House) are rather striking.

Yes, there are people who are anti-war at any price. This is not relevant to anything except the need of warbloggers to have some point somewhere to use in a discussion to justify their support of a disastrous foreign policy.

Oh, and I was pro-war until the WMDs lie came out, at which point I got tired of being lied to and realized that my government had no credibility.

Posted by: MattS at November 24, 2003 03:57 AM

The whole purpose of this post was to show how disgusting and subhuman Muslims are. If those guys had just had their heads blown off, would the prowar side care? No, you guys would just be sweeping it under the rug as "militarily insignificant".

Well OK, you guys got what you wanted, you get to say how subhuman Muslims are... now what are you going to do? Kill them all? Ignore it? Reform the Muslim world? Stay the course?

Posted by: wellbasically at November 24, 2003 04:01 AM

One more thing... Now you all know what it was like when Somalia happened. It's so easy to criticize in retrospect isn't it.

Posted by: wellbasically at November 24, 2003 04:07 AM

A just question, praktike. However, I don't think that a swipe at people who would downplay this horror is doing a disservice to the dead.

do you think there's any good response to something like today, as far as U.S. policy or tactics?

Travel in armed convoys, I guess. That's the only thing that comes to mind.

I fail to see your point, CD318. I am aware of the phenomena you describe, and I'm perfectly happy to condemn the participating and contributory segments of American culture as also being barbarously savage. I think it's only just. If you're trying to point out a double standard, there is none; if you're trying to exculpate debased Iraqis by drawing a parallel with debased Americans, you're wrong.

Not that I'd excuse anyone by shrugging and noting that such things were common decades ago....

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 04:09 AM

I'm trying to clock in how many dumb things you can say in one evening, wellbasically. Good going so far.

Perhaps you ought to, say, read the thread. I'll make it easy -- third comment.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 04:12 AM

Now you all know what it was like when Somalia happened. It's so easy to criticize in retrospect isn't it.

Dude, my criticism of this occupation is exactly the same as my critique of Somalia -- not enough people, not enough support. As is painfully evident, you know not whereof you speak.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 04:14 AM

Tacitus, regarding Somalia-

Wasn't the problem also a mission creep? From a mission to provide a secure enough situation to prevent mass starvation, Albright and the UN (w/ a conflict of interest) decided suddenly that going after Aidid and creating some sort of magic democracy was the new goal. Let me anticipate your response by saying that if those were deemed to be reasonable goals, we should have comitted the resources and political capital to get the job done.

Posted by: praktike at November 24, 2003 04:22 AM

well, looks like all the Bush-haters, and America-haters are giddy with joy, now that 2 of our guys were savagely killed and then their bodies desecrated. As an immigrant to the US, I am always struck by seeing how many American citizens hate their own country, and would gladly do anything to hurt their own country. And dont make snarky remarks- it is indeed remarkable to see how some Americans, especially of the left-leaning variety seem to be obsessed with being critical, and are unable to even accept t he fact that there are a great many things in this country, that are well worth fighting for, or dying for. For example, in the country I came from, guys like DonQuixote, Boronx etc, would have ben tracked down, and arrested and tortured and killed for the kind of comments made as a response to Tac's post. Think about it for a moment.

Posted by: ronin at November 24, 2003 04:33 AM

Tacitus,

Barbarous savages.

Exactly right. I know I am gonna get flamed, but unfortunately that's their tribal culture and twisted views on respect, manhood, etc.
I got a knife pulled on me just few days ago (on Thursday) at a bar by a Georgian. Georgians are Christians, but their culture is very tribal and similar to Chechens in regards to violence.
I was sitting at a bar, and this Georgian dude sat next to me, just talking. Asking me if I respect Georgians (out of nowhere). I said "sure". Then he proceeds to tell me how Georgians are all man, etc, meanwhile, I look down I got a big ass kitchen knife to my ribs. And he goes on rambling about how Georgians don't give a fuck. Asked me if I ever killed a man, I said no, he goes "To me its the same. Chicken. Man. Same thing. We don't give a fuck".
Its pretty much the same with people from that region. Uzbeks, Georgians, etc. They are known for having a short fuse and most carry knives. This is in Brooklyn. You can imagine what its like over there where its acceptable.

Posted by: Stan LS at November 24, 2003 04:33 AM

[sigh]

Posted by: Macallan at November 24, 2003 04:34 AM

Tacitus,

Despite your disclaimers in this thread, your original post is rather difficult to read except as a condemnation (or broad-brush tarring, if you prefer) of a rather broad swath of Islamic humanity for specific acts that have occurred in probably all wars and in many cultures, this one included, during peacetime.

"Alive and well alongside slavery, female genital mutilation, and religious apartheid in places populated mostly by....well, here we go again with the Islam versus culture versus "it's all exaggerated" versus "the Tamils do it too" arguments. I don't have the energy for it."

Go ahead. If you think you're being misread, then fill in your goddamn elipsis and be clear. There seem to be points that you want to make, and between the "horrors they perpetrate," and the elipses, you seem to make them. But then you disclaim those points. You had the energy to upload the post; you might as well find the energy to say what you actually think.

I don't think this is "understandable" beyond confirming that human beings are capable of astonishingly cruel behavior. This is not news to anyone who's read Tacitus, or indeed, to anyone who reads "Tacitus". But it may be predictable, and it does little to make me like "them" less or "us" more, or indeed even to define clearly who "they" are, beyond the fact that "they" pepetrate "similar horrors" on one another. So it goes. And once again it is clear that we've made the mistake of putting our people in situations that they should not be in.

Posted by: CD318 at November 24, 2003 04:36 AM

I'm not saying what I think, eh? Sounds like you've shovelled all manner of things into the ellipses already, CD.

If you can't take what's said at face value, I urge you to relax. Or join an English department.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 04:40 AM

Oooh, Boy, Tacitus! You stepped on a hornet's nest here -- good job fendin' 'em off!

Posted by: Navy Davy at November 24, 2003 04:43 AM

Sorry, Tacitus, I don't have the stomach for litcrit. The writing I'm paid (if you could call it that) for is published in biochemistry and molecular biology journals. Perhaps this is why I'm unable to parse your sentences as you say you intend.

Anyway: if not for shovelling, what exactly was the ellipse (and the commentary bracketing it) for?

Posted by: CD318 at November 24, 2003 04:51 AM

Damn. This is one ugly thread. Barlow was right a couple hours ago. Justifying hatred -- and I don't care what side it comes from -- is as sad as it is counterproductive. I don't know if there's a quagmire in Iraq. But we got one right here, that's for certain.

Posted by: Harley at November 24, 2003 04:51 AM

Shorter Tacitus: Too lazy to comment and Ad Hominem in the comments section.

You used to be fun, informative, all that. Time has past. At least, that's what my opinion. I used to agree with you a lot too.

Posted by: Arash at November 24, 2003 04:55 AM

Nah, I just don't feel like repeating myself ad nauseum, Arash. Or suffering fools at this point.

If you want a windy essay for every dumb question (favorite: why does it matter if they're already dead?), God gave you Dear Abby.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 04:58 AM

Mutiliating corpses is an atrocity in any culture. It can't be mitigated by reference to other types of horrible consequences of the war. And is has a level of deparaved intention that does not make it comparable to killings by "collateral damage." Although lets be honest -- the military calls it that precisely so it can try to lessen the sting of civilians deaths, some of which were needless.

The term has been around a long time. I remember it in 70s in relation to the nuetron bomb controversy. I am sure it predates that.

What does this episode really mean? I don't think you can make a broader cultural judgment based on this one episode. I think its typical in war, and more so in this type of irregular war. That doesn't make it less heinous.

Real issue is effect on troops -- this has to harden them toward the locals, which only worsens the long-term problem.

What does this say about the pacification of Iraq? This happened well outside Sunni triangle during the day by some guys traveling between bases in a Humvee.

Finally, to counterpoint Tacitus' prediction of the typical (as modified, typical for only a few) leftie's skewed reation to this, I point above to ronin's comment, which reflects the same type of dementia, only from the right. And also predictable.

Posted by: Dmbeaster at November 24, 2003 05:29 AM

Mutilating corpses has a long tradition in every society, and it's ALWAYS purposeful. Clearly the teenagers that did this were either reflecting their own or their parents hatred of the American soldiers - and the US occupation. Were they Ba'athists' children? Who knows? Did they reveal a community-wide hatred of the US, or are they the exception? No way to know. What's particularly troubling is that it went on for a long time before somebody thought to notify other US troops about it. It's a sickening situation and I fear it will be repeated.

Posted by: Elrod at November 24, 2003 05:42 AM

Oh God, Oh God, where to start...(though I tell myself not even to start....)

Sometimes I have to agree:

"i wonder why you bother sometimes, tacitus."
Red Clay

But then I see something like this, which I myself wanted to quote:

"Read The Iliad, where Achilles' desecration of Hector's corpse outraged the gods themselves. This suggests that at least in Western society, it's a show of disrespect and a violation of the social order that goes back at least 2,600 years."

And then there is the Tiger Force Thread:

As maybe the only person here that was with the Tiger Force for a short period in '67...and assigned to write about them....

I can only say that the worst of the atrocity stories are unfounded and may, with some thought, be attributed to general war guilt, and especially Survivor's Guilt.

Survivor's Guilt can do very, very strange things to the inside of a person's head, (Why am I alive when all of my buddies are dead? This may seem like a simple Question to you, but it is very tough), though I will concede that TF did do some bad things...they were, for a short period of time a little out of control.

It was not Army Policy...things happened it is true, some ears were taken from enemy combatants, but it was not accepted. While with Strike Force, I recommended, insisted, on a Courts Martial for even such attempted behavior.(and I wasn't even an Officer...but my recommendation was accepted)

There is no moral equivalence. War is a terrible business...mutilation is NEVER acceptable. It is heinous. It is completely antithetical to the Worrier's Code from time immemorial...even in Death there is Honor. Warriors understand this...their stock in trade, their terrible calculus is, after all, death and dying.

As to Don_Quijote...Guatemala, Iran under the Savak...blah, blah, blah....

I fear that you conveniently leave out the purges of Stalin both before and after the war, the Gulag, the purposefully induced famine in the Ukraine, Mao's great leap forward, the killing fields of Cambodia, Totalitarian excesses all...what are we talking? A Hundred Million dead? Real live living and breathing human beings...tortured and murdered.

I would be the last to forgive the United States her sins...but they pale to insignificance agaisnt the Totalitarian left's bloody history.

As a card carrying Lefty myself, (and thanks Rich for the great and very thoughtful email on why I'm really a conservative...I'll get back to you), the problem with the Left is that they see the individual life lost and properly morn it...but somehow the mass graves of 300,000 people in Iraq seems to be beyond their comprehension...they simply can't get their mind around the essence of Evil...and hence dismiss all this proof to it's real and vibrant existence.

Lastly, I suppose that I have to say something about Islam...though I hesitate...still, I have a bright thought, so here goes...

The Church Militant, as the Catholic Church called itself in the early and middle ages, was a force against Humanism...it had to change to allow for a flowering of the human spirit and for Civilization to progress.

Islam provides intellectual and emotional cover for the subjugation (Is this a good word?) of humanity over great swaths of the world...this is regrettable. It must change & evolve....now.

The primacy of the Individual and Individual Conscience is the bedrock of Western Civilization.

Islam, as an intellectual construct, does not seem to allow for this...kind of, End of the Discussion, No?

And finally, looking at this historically, Charles Martel stopped Islam at Pointiers in 732, and again Islam was stopped at the gates of Vienna on September 11, 1683.

Is this just a continuation of this long ongoing struggle?

And Rich, I have given this some thought...I am a lefty...Honest, and proud of it...lol

Best Wishes,

Traveller

Posted by: Traveller at November 24, 2003 05:53 AM

Tac,

Let me get this straight. You maintain 1) that most Iraqis would be willing to mutilate the corpses of our dead troops if given the chance and 2) that these same people will be brought to democracy by the US Army.

If you really believed that the Iraqis wish to kill and mutilate our troops, what chance have got of leaving that country with a democratic governmnet that is also acceptable to the Bush Administration?

You give me Japan. Should we, then, use nuclear weapons to get their respect before writing their constitution for them?

Posted by: Small Axe at November 24, 2003 06:05 AM

ronin,

//Bush-haters are giddy with joy//

hmm, didn't see that

//struck by how many would gladly do anything to hurt their own country//

you're talking about the president right?

//left-leaning variety seem to be obsessed with being critical, and are unable to even accept t he fact that there are a great many things in this country, that are well worth fighting for, or dying for//

like fighting for keeping the US out of aggressive wars ending in a quagmire? (choice of oppinion of course)

// in the country I came from, guys would have ben tracked down, and arrested and tortured and killed for the kind of comments made as a response to Tac's post//

So we should all just hail the king and do as the rulers want? Then this country would turn into what you've left behind ... think about it

Cheers

Posted by: Nils at November 24, 2003 06:18 AM

tacitus, lynch mobs do not generally require the populace to consist of "barbarous savages", unless you consider the pre-1960's south to have consisted of a bunch of barbarous savages.

Lynch mobs require a general resentment, stoked by authority and the media. And they require the madness of crowds.

Yes, they are barbaric. But presuming "barbarous savages" will lead to suggestions like Churchill's:


    I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favor of using poison gas against uncivilized tribes.

As it happens, he was talking about Northern Iraq and the Kurds. I suspect the Kurds haven't forgotten.

Posted by: p mac at November 24, 2003 07:28 AM

"Iraqis wish to kill and mutilate our troops, what chance have got of leaving that country with a democratic government that is also acceptable to the Bush Administration? "

The heart of the argument. Ergo, there should not be any talk about "handing over" of Iraq without a long period of neo-acculturation.

Posted by: Manish at November 24, 2003 10:17 AM

Corpse mutilation, eh?

Sure, there are people in Iraq who are really upset at what has happened, and who really genuinely think Americans are doing wrong to them, and are totally convinced this is the most pivotal thing in the world and their lives and that Americans are the Evil Empire.

So let's suppose they think Americans are evil and that they are massively caught up, emotionally and psychologically in all this.

Two points.

1. If you're so caught up in something that you do this sort of thing, then you're too caught up for your own good, and are letting this take over everything and ride roughshod over anything else of importance. I happen to believe there are limits to how far one should take anything. In my book suicide bombing is wrong. Intentional killing of civilians is wrong. Disrespect to the dead another such.

2. If you think corpse mutilation is acceptable under any circumstances, I don't trust your judgement or want to listen to your opinions.

Tacitus is right. Barbarous is the word. Obviously they're not savages. Which makes it worse.

Posted by: James Casey at November 24, 2003 10:18 AM

Our unwillingness to see our own brutality while glossing it over as a necessary cost of war (as if invading Iraq was as necessary as liberating Europe) . . .

That's right, kids: Remember, only white people deserve to be freed from cruel dictators!

Posted by: Nattering Nabob at November 24, 2003 11:38 AM

You think a crowd of Americans would never act this way?

Imagine a hypothetical scenario in which one of the 9/11 hijackers somehow survived long enough to fall into the hands of a mob of New Yorkers.

What you're really saying is that they have no good reason to be this mad at us, which is debatable, but doesn't so easily lead to a conclusion that they're uncivilized.

Posted by: rea at November 24, 2003 11:47 AM

Rea, there was a case of a man who, shortly after 9/11, went to lower Manhattan and stood on a street corner loudly praising the hijackers. Drew quite the hostile crowd, too. He was eventually arrested for disturbing the peace (the case against him was later dismissed, if I remember correctly), but he wasn't lynched.

What you're really saying is that they have no good reason to be this mad at us....

That implies that there's a level of anger that would justify public corpse mutilation. I disagree.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 11:51 AM

How many US civilians have the Iraqis ever killed?

Extremist math as written by an extremist. Keep tilting Quijote.

MattS,
I'm perplexed by the link to Islam, though. A lot of other cultures have done this at various stages.

True enough, but Islamic culture is where most of it's happening right now. You gotta call it out when you see it.

wellbasically,
I also understand that there's going to be thousands of unmutilated corpses because of this incident.

Any support for that beyond unfounded conjecture?

Realish,
economics is in the driver's seat.

So poverty breeds terrorism? I didn't know Saudi Arabia was poor. The better answer is that militant Islam breeds terrorism and barabaric savages.

CD318,
Referring to lynching decades ago is a diversion, rhetorically changing the subject. It ignores the FACT that we have evolved, and it does not diminish the FACT that other cultures have some evolving to do.

Posted by: Bird Dog at November 24, 2003 02:01 PM

Here's another reason why we're in Iraq (and here). The swamp has to get drained.

Posted by: Bird Dog at November 24, 2003 02:06 PM

GT commented:

How can anyone think we can impose any semblance of a modern democracy on people that behave like this?

And immediately I thought of Japan and Germany. GT go figure.

Posted by: Timmy the Wonder Dog at November 24, 2003 02:31 PM

[corpse mutilation] can't be mitigated by reference to other types of horrible consequences of the war. And is has a level of deparaved intention that does not make it comparable to killings by "collateral damage."

There is a crippling level of superstition going on here. Mutilating the bodies of our *dead* boys is worse then shooting them when they were *still alive*? Is worse then us shooting their women and children when they're *still alive*? Your great on paper "Warrior Code" has been shredded in just about every protracted war that ever happened. Did you really hope this one would be different?

The swamp has to get drained.

Nice idea, but you have to go to where the much is at.

Posted by: Boronx at November 24, 2003 02:53 PM

lk, Nixon forced a favorable peace accord by bombing Hanoi and mining the harbors. We withdrew the troops with the promise that we would arm S. Vietnam and bomb N. Vietnam again if the North invaded. S. Vietnam fought for a year without us, but Ford was not able to get Congress to live up to the promise to S. Vietnam. He caved in to congress and the newly passed "War Powers act", and congress cut all funds for S. Vietnam and blocked arms shipments. S. Vietnam fell because the US betrayed that country.

Posted by: Steve Malynn at November 24, 2003 02:54 PM

And immediately I thought of Japan and Germany. GT go figure.

How much is the war-for-democracy crowd willing to kick the living crap out of the Iraqis before they accept defeat as a people? Let me go out on a limb and suggest that your beef with them is not a serious as it was with the Germans and the Japanese. Couldn't it also be that defeated opponents are little more shameful and a little less defiant when *they* were the agressors?

Posted by: Boronx at November 24, 2003 02:58 PM

Nice idea, but you have to go to where the muck is at.

Posted by: Boronx at November 24, 2003 03:01 PM

Eh boro, GT was talking about behavior, my retort answered his question.

Now are Arabs/Moslems incapable of democracy? If they are, than you take a much different approach to the overall situation.

Posted by: Timmy the Wonder Dog at November 24, 2003 03:16 PM

Boronx.
Mutilating the bodies of our *dead* boys is worse then shooting them when they were *still alive*?

No, killing our soldiers, THEN desecrating their corpses is worse than killing our soldiers and letting their bodies be. You're twisting the argument.

Is worse then us shooting their women and children when they're *still alive*?

Uh, yes, because we're not TARGETING women and children. Outside of Aghanistan, name one war where fewer civilians were killed.

Posted by: Bird Dog at November 24, 2003 03:19 PM

Oh, there's plenty of muck in Iraq.

Posted by: Bird Dog at November 24, 2003 03:23 PM

If it carries on like this, LGF will become redundant.

Bird Dog -- surely also the claim that Iraq was only 60 years behind the US would be a cause for celebration? Only another 30 years for equal rights for the Kurds then I guess.

Oh, I've just seen the bit where you say it doesn't matter how many US civilians the Iraqis have killed. Really? Does it matter how many of their civilians we killed?

So Tacitus, do two wrongs make a right? Do you approve of detention without trial or do you think the attack on New York provides mitigating circumstances? Does only the US get mitigating circumstances? All you're encouraging here is a rudderless race to the bottom. Has noone here come across the concept of original sin? No? The road to hell is paved with what?

This is an intemperate post, convincing only to the convinced and only likely to provoke responses just as intemperate. A complete waste of time if you ask me. I'm disgusted.

Posted by: Jack at November 24, 2003 03:25 PM

Don't get your knickers in a wad, Jack. If you read the comments, all your questions are answered.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 03:58 PM

Jack,
Your first paragraph simply makes no sense. If it's LGFian to identify, condemn and hold accountable those commit barbarous acts, well sign me up. Charles Johnson would be surprised to hear that he and Tac are bosom buddies.

What matters is that civilian deaths are minimized during war. Answer the question asked of Boronx: Outside of Afghanistan, name one full-scale war where fewer civilians were killed.

Posted by: Bird Dog at November 24, 2003 04:00 PM

He was eventually arrested for disturbing the peace (the case against him was later dismissed, if I remember correctly), but he wasn't lynched.

There were attacks against Muslims and Sikhs, and I think a few deaths. I don't remember any by angry mobs, though.

Posted by: Katherine at November 24, 2003 05:48 PM

I can't recall the link, Katherine, but there was a recent news report showing more attacks on Jews than Muslims in the US. Yes, there were a few attacks on Muslims post-9/11, but for the most part anti-Muslim violence has remarkably small. And there were no mobs.

Posted by: Bird Dog at November 24, 2003 06:04 PM

Small Axe I think that if the House of Saud's of the world were convinced that we would determine them responsible for the next OBL act and respond with a Riyahdoshima or a Syriasaki we might have more "partners" in the war on terror.

Every time I read comments on this site Tacitus reminds us that his view is that we need to try and create a secular democracy in Iraq as a "proof of concept" if you will for the rest of the region to see that they too can be successful. He always goes further in recommending more money and more soldiers as his strategy for securing this end. I'm not sure it'll ever work, but think that its worth trying this before going with the above.

However, every time I read comments on this site and I ask someone who is against the war, or against the occupation or whatever to tell me if we should leave Iraq right now or what, I end up reading is that its ABOUT Bush's oil buddies or we're reaping our support of Pinochet or we don't care about the down-trodden of the world.

Now, I've been out of internet contact lately, but dang, is there really another strategy out there besides stay the course until we're convinced that ordinary Iraqis would rather live with what they had than what they have?

Posted by: crionna at November 24, 2003 06:14 PM

Brıefly as Turkısh keyboards are deeply ırrıtatıngç

(a) I have no fuckıng clue as to what corpse mutılatıon has to do wıth fuck all ın Islam.
(b) Slavery - agaın what the fuck ıs that about - not hardly unıque to Islam nor even ıts late abolıtıon. Agaın selectıve thınkıng rather reflects bıgotry.
(c) In re female cırcumcısıon, ıf one dıgs a bıt farther one fıll fınd that ıt ıs largely found ın the Gulf among Afrıcan derıved communıtıes- ıt ıs not a natıve practıce. Agaın, female cırcumcısıon ıs an Afrıcan phenom that cuts across relıgıons, eg the Egyptıan practıce ıs found ın Coptıc Xıan comms and prob dates to Pharonıc tımes. Rıffs ın Islam ın thıs regard are merely ıgnorance and bıgotry, but then you seem to have thıs tendance ın re Islam. It ıs a pıty. Both your bıgotry and the blındness to the same.
(d) On Islam and Muslıms and Arab democracy, try agaın bucko, your blog and Amerıcan Neo Con Porn commos on supposed "arabısts" posıtıons on thıs has fuck all to do wıth my real posıtıon on the genuıne problems ın buıldıng Arab democracy. When I get back to home base I wıll expand, but no one has ever found me sayıng Arabs were essentıally ıncapable of democracy. Are there real and actual barrıers depandent on actual socıal and above all economıc structures that morons ın Washıngton wıth khayalı want to pretend do not exıst - yes. But that ıs not the same as the funny lıttle polıtıcal porno ımage sold by some mendecıous fucks ın the DC Amerıcan Conservo Porn communıty.

In short, do not bloody ascrıbe polıtıcal porn dıstortıons to me.

Posted by: collounsbury at November 24, 2003 06:46 PM

No corpses were mutilated in the making of this comment.

Four paragraphs down:

A coalition spokesman told CNN that autopsies on two soldiers killed Sunday in Mosul revealed that both died of gunshot wounds, and their bodies had not been cut nor their throats slashed, contradicting some witness reports.

U.S. Army Maj. Trey Cates, a spokesman for the 101st Airborne Division, told CNN the Army's investigation showed their bodies had no stab wounds or slash wounds.

Posted by: BD at November 24, 2003 07:07 PM

Point by point, collounsbury.

1) Me neither. That's why I'm curious why it happens with distressing frequency in Islamic lands at war. Again, Mogadishu, Ramallah, Mosul -- is this not a pattern?

2) No one claimed that only Muslims ever kept (or keep) slaves. But slavery does survive in the Muslim world today -- across the Sahel, in the Sudan, and in the Arabian peninsula. Why? Why do prominent Saudi scholars defend the institution?

3) Regarding female circumcision, your original assertion being already demolished by Carter and myself, it's a bit poor form to simply shout "bigotry" at the facts. In any case, again, no one is disagreeing with you that this is also an African practice.

4) Your paragraph here is utterly incomprehensible. I'm guessing this is not because of your Turkish keyboard.

By the way, here's your one warning for language under the posting rules.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 07:17 PM

Nils- if you did not see leftists giddy with joy - read previous posts
As far as your assertion, that it is leftist loonies who are keeping democracy alive in this country, well, I can only laugh.
And nothing I have heard or seen in the blogosphere, or in print or broadcast media or in academic journals, seems to indicate t hat the left is interested in doing anything but cry wolf, and criticise just for the sake of criticism, and to appear cool aand contrary. Policy makers in DC, and that includes folks in Democratic administrations would take folks like you a lot more seriously if you all were interested in serious debate, and i n offering solutions- but, you all are more interested in imposing your solutions and vilifying those that dont march lock step with you. mind you, the country I left to migrate to the USA was a "socialist paradise", and Nils, there is a heck more freedom , and conservatives are perhaps more interested in protecting those freedoms than the left is. If youwant to see the suppression of freedoms and rights inside the USA, it is not the Justice Dept of the FBI or the local cops doing it - usually the culprits are leftist university administrators, leftist faculty members, and leftist student groups trying to shut down the rights of those in Universities and colleges that dont toe the leftist line.

Posted by: ronin1516 at November 24, 2003 09:08 PM

Bird Dog,
Tacitus is normally more scrupulous than this. Facts loosely associated but actually with only innuendo to link them, no context. The conclusion left hanging and unexamined. All topped off with a gratuitous, snarky straw man. Only likely to alienate anyone not already convinced. In other words a bit long winded but basically the stuff of LGF. Tacitus is normally less obnoxious, more disciplined and more open to reason. It's a disappointment, a bit like trolling his own site.

Posted by: Jack at November 24, 2003 09:29 PM

BD has given the CNN link, here is the NYTimes link. The corpse mutliation story is being denied by the US military.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/24/international/24CND-IRAQ.html?hp

So the whole thing was false. Tacitus' post with its hype and hysteria, along with the remainder of the comments, seem even more interesting now. Lets preserve Tac's post and this thread for the next time folks go bonkers, hysterical, or nuts.

Barbarous savages. Here we go again.

Indeed.

Posted by: Ikram at November 24, 2003 09:35 PM

Tacitus has had a different tone since he returned from Africa. I think what he saw there changed his mind on topics like this. Where horrors like those originally reported had been abstract before his trip...he saw them upclose during his trip.

I've spent enough time here to suspect he's sincere in his desire to be objective given the first-hand experiences he's had, but, as condescending as I know this is going to sound, I'm hoping it's a short-term reaction.

Posted by: Edward at November 24, 2003 09:39 PM

I am quite glad the story is false. While it doesn't affect overall points too much -- there is, sadly, a survival of a lynching ethos in that part of the world (public executions in Saudi Arabia, mob murders in Palestine and elsewhere) -- obviously this is not an example of that.

Murdering two American soldiers and looting their corpses like that is evil and loathesome. But it's not barbarous savagery.

The lesson learned here? Give the press 48 hours to get its facts straight.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 10:02 PM

"The lesson learned here? Give the press 48 hours to get its facts straight."

Lesson two: the press is likely to present occurances as luridly as possible - e.g., J. Lynch.

Lesson three: we are quicker to believe things that accord with our expectations.

Posted by: rilkefan at November 24, 2003 10:10 PM

Really, rilkefan, if that were the case, this would be one of those blogs making the case that things in Iraq are going just swimmingly.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 24, 2003 10:11 PM

And Nils, the very fact that you and your fellow travellers can express you views, on blogs, or on other public forums, and in the media, and can actually force your ideas down students throats at all major univs just goes to prove very strongly, that civil liberties are not at risk in this country, despite the left's bitching and moaning that it is so.

Posted by: ronin at November 24, 2003 10:37 PM

Tacitus, it seems to me that you have a tendency to overinterpret the scope of statements that disagree with you. This is a general human failing. If it needs clarification, I wrote "we" above. I unsceptically bought the guns-blazing-Lynch story when it came out. I'm sure you don't feel that this thread tried to use the deaths of American soldiers to bash elements of the left, but that's the way it appears to me, with my liberal bias. I think this blog would be better if it were less openly partisan - less interested in the failings of the leftist fringe and even more interested in testing ideas. That's my physicist's bias - I'd be more interested in what people here think about the energy bill than Rachel Corrie's folks.

Posted by: rilkefan at November 24, 2003 10:42 PM

Mogadishu, Ramallah, Mosul -- is this not a pattern?

No, except that they were all televized.

Posted by: Arash at November 24, 2003 10:48 PM

I think collounsbury may have been hitting one or more controlled substances. Or perhaps he’s just tired and shagged out after a prolonged squawk.

Anyway, I wonder if his fourth paragraph wasn’t supposed to go something like this:

“Arabs are not essentially incapable of building democracy. But there are genuine problems to be faced. Some of those problems arise out of the *social* structure of their societies, but the most important are more specifically *economic* in origin. Unfortunately, the neoconservative idealogues who now drive administration policy are so blinded by (a) lurid caricatures of the bloody-mindedness supposed to be intrinsic to Islam and (b) sentimental fantasies about the transforming power of democracy, that they utterly fail to come to grips with the realities at hand.”

But that’s just my guess.

Incidentally, if Mr. Lounsbury is not of British origin, then his persistent use of the expression “fuck-all” is an embarrassing imposture. And if he is of British origin, then it reveals him as – well – not quite of the best class.

Posted by: Vinteuil at November 25, 2003 12:23 AM

NYTimes is reporting that there was no mutilation.

" Military officials retracted a report today that two American soldiers had been slashed in their throats in an attack Sunday in the northern city of Mosul.

A military official here, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the two soldiers had died of gunshot wounds to the head and that their bodies had been pulled by Iraqis from their car and robbed of their personal belongings.

The military official said that contrary to some reports, the men had not been beaten by rocks or mutilated in any way."

http://nytimes.com/2003/11/24/international/24CND-IRAQ.html?hp

Posted by: Jon H at November 25, 2003 12:29 AM

Hey Tac,

Slavery across the Sahel? Where? Senegal? Mali? Gambia? Niger? Nigera? Burkina Faso? Where? Where?

"there is, sadly, a survival of a lynching ethos in that part of the world" Damn right!!! Sir you are guilty as charged.

Shiizzziit!! En plus, you owe me; I was ready with my bag of feathers for you much hyped-up tar, only to find out Tac is a happy trigger. Now wait a frigging minute, isn't it just like how you wackos started this un-war...

Bigot.

Posted by: Libre at November 25, 2003 06:03 AM

Slavery does survive and even thrives in the Sudan, in Mauritania, and in parts of Mali. The Anti-Slavery Society (yes, same one from they heyday of the 19-century anti-slaving movement) considers much of the camel-jockey trade in the United Arab Emirates to be a slave trade. There is also a serious case to be made that many of the expatriate domestic laborers in Saudi Arabia exist in a state of slavery -- see, for example, the few cases in which Saudis have tortured or killed their domestics with relative impunity. This last bit is apparently changing for the better, although it's unclear to me how much.

And then there's this, Libre, which I'm guessing you didn't read.

If the facts constitute bigotry, then I am guilty as charged. But that's a tenuous assertion at best: indicative of a willful blindness on your part that is almost indistinguishable from base stupidity.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 25, 2003 10:45 AM

Tac -- That's part of the lesson. And often, even 48 hours is not enough.

But there is another lesson you can learn by examing the type of post you wrote in the heat of the moment.

Why did you, in reacting emotionally, string together unrelated events like a LGF commentor on crack. Like Playboy asked Jimmy Carter back in 79 -- what have you got in your heart? Maybe not lust, perhaps another sin all too common among bloggers.

Also, tac, you should correct the post itself to indicate your error. Someone mught run across this post in a google search months from now and not realize that is was a debunked story. No need to spread incorrect information.

Posted by: Ikram at November 25, 2003 03:15 PM

(continued)
Ok -- I'm lecturing you in a patronizing way here. But your post was pretty uncharacteristic of you. Fairly suprising. Perhaps its an opportunity to examine your views. Was it a mistake? Or should you be guest blogging when Charles Johnson is on vacation?

Posted by: Ikram at November 25, 2003 03:17 PM

It's a big step from me to LGF, which bleats jihad every time some Arab teenager swipes a candy bar. My motivations are based on alarm and fear heightened not only by my personal experience on 9/11, but also, as Edward correctly noted, by what I saw in Africa -- not simple hate and blanket loathing. If that were the case, rest assured I wouldn't be a full-fledged endorser of the neocon utopian project in the Middle East.

You're right that the post should be corrected -- it will be.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 25, 2003 06:09 PM

Hey,

I thought you were on an airplane...you bloggin' from 30,000 feet?

Posted by: Edward at November 25, 2003 06:24 PM

To be fair to Tacitus: the lgfers dont go screaming barbarism when somebody mutilates dead bodies - they tend to ADVOCATE it, wrt to our enemies (lots of talk about wrapping bodies in pigskins and all that)

Note - one of the reasons the original reports seemed SO credible, is precisely because it DID not appear to be a simple expression of barbarism - it appeared to be a calculated strategic move - an attempt to imitate what happened in Somalia. Note the original reason for scalpings was not to dishonor the dead, but as proof of death (see also what David did to the Philistines - also proof of death)

Folks, if you dont want anyone to mutilate the bodies of American troops, the best approach is to keep a stiff upper lip and ignore it - If you keep getting all emotional at the whiff of a rumor of it, (with the implication - explicit in Somalia - these are all savages, lets get outta here) you can expect this to become SOP for anyone trying chase America away.

Posted by: liberalhawk at November 25, 2003 10:36 PM

Tac

easy with the insults, brodda!!! I want links, facts not just some assertions on your part. A trip (or several) to Africa does the Expert make you not, bro.
"Slavery does survive and even thrives in the Sudan, in Mauritania, and in parts of Mali", where in Mali. In the Sahel I live, Sudan is not considered part of it. Mauritania? your evidence sir!!!!
"If the facts constitute bigotry, then I am guilty as charged"...did I ever call you a bigot. Qui se sent morveux se mouche.
And that descent in Insultania....I am impressed by its intellectual contribution.

Posted by: Libre at November 26, 2003 05:02 AM

...did I ever call you a bigot.

Did you. Huh.

I see they have Comcast cable internet in the Sahel. That's interesting.

Posted by: Tacitus at November 26, 2003 05:44 AM

"To be fair to Tacitus: the lgfers dont go screaming barbarism when somebody mutilates dead bodies - they tend to ADVOCATE it, wrt to our enemies (lots of talk about wrapping bodies in pigskins and all that)"

*Scott looks in the dictionary in vain for "wrapping bodies in pigskin" under the entry for "mutilation"*

Enjoying life as an illiterate, Liberalhawk?

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at November 26, 2003 06:09 AM

Tac

I live on both coasts of the Atlantic, mon cher ami. I do the Trekk almost monthly.
I never called you a bigot (show me where I did), nor do i think you are one (yet). But i think you are misguided in your false attacks and that holier-than-thou posture.

Now answer the questions I posed (with facts, links ...) for the edification of all.

Oh, and that is very LGFian to ban me (based on my Comcast IP) for challenging your position and very un-the-real-Tacitus. Irreductible apologists seem to resort to the "if you can beat'em ban'em" facile exit strategy.
BTW you did not need to that, just an order and I'd go away, after all this is your party and I do not mean to crash it.

Sorry and hasta la vista.

Posted by: Libre at November 26, 2003 05:17 PM
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