Comparisons on the Same Page
From the Anchoress I went to Malkins and then to this piece:
We Are Our History — Don’t Forget It
“Not knowing history is worse than ignorance of math, literature or almost anything else. Ignorance of history is undermining Western society’s ability to talk straight and think straight. Parents must attack the problem by teaching their own children the facts. Only fools would rely on the schools.
…… Ignorance of history destroys our judgment. Consider Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill), who just compared the Guantanamo Bay detention center to Stalin’s gulag and to the death camps of Hitler and Pol Pot”
David Gelernter I basically agree with. I think he has put things in a balanced perspective.
I feel I have to more deliberately handle some of the Anchoress’ points on the same topic. Here is why: I believe the entire affair has highlighted an underground conflict in our thinking as Americans. I have written about this before. We have divided in our core belief of our Civitas ideal, and in leaving the religious platform it was forged upon we have lost our mutually agreed standard of judgement. I thought it would be useful to use Words mean things. â€œTortureâ€ means more than rap music to look at some of what is going on….
The Anchoress begins:
“it means more than having to stand for a few hours, or a hot, stuffy room, or the air conditioner turned up too high, or a cold meal instead of three hot ones.
There is â€œinformation gatheringâ€ and there is torture.”
I say: Well, sort of.
In some ways we are talking about a matter of degree, and I understand that certain philosophical/religious views are more given to making distinctions in degree of evil than others, and that has real meaning and relevance. But I do believe what we are grappling with as Americans involves our view of ourselves. Lots of Americans view themselves as “the good”. I put the article in there because it is more than simply recognizing good in oneself or fellow man, it is idealizing our designation “American” as Good. In that self-designation we are struggling with the definition of whether ‘Good’ can include war and torture.
That is where the basic contention is between the Left and the Right. Both feel that we can’t really rationalize torture on our side of it, so we euphemize. Both sides do. And they are very vocal in pointing up the others disingenuousness.
The Left in their determined ignoring of Radical Muslim atrocity, “3000 of our countrymen are deadâ€¦actually many hundreds more are dead, if you count those who died throughout the 1970â€™s, 1980â€™s and 1990â€™s at the hands of Islamic fundamentalist extremists. (Imagine thatâ€¦theyâ€™ve been getting away with murder for thirty years, and all the Democrats can do is object to a president doing something about it.)” and the Right in their fluffing about the tactics of warfare,”we are trying to collect such information from people who hate us and want to kill us, who are trained to lie and to withhold information, we are sometimes forced to make situations a little unpleasant for those people, in the hopes that they will spill the beans.”
No one is saying that we ought to “give them foot massages and rub their backs and say, â€œIâ€™ll be your best friend, if youâ€™ll just tell usâ€¦.â€” No one is saying this.
What is being discussed is how far we go in our tactics before we become too much like the thing we are fighting. And in the meantime understanding that the men who have been there know what they are talking about: “war is hell”.
There are very ugly things in warfare, and you don’t tread on that ground unless you must- unless what you are fighting is so much worse than the demands of war.
This is where propaganda does, and must, step forward. There is a war of words also.
We as Americans are going to have to face the fact that our military men and women are doing a job that is a dirty job. They are having no picnic, and they are not giving one. They are in a struggle, and we are trying to maintain the lines of right on this one. It is pointing up weakness within our culture. Which is why I liked David Gelernter’s perspective. The problem is that we have forsaken many of the responsibilities and necessities of maintaining a free society. We have jimmied with the history books, and slanted the media, we have politicized the process with partisan allegiances trumping all.
And we are paying for it. Our children are paying, our military is paying…. you fill in the blank. It is costing us dearly.
The worst thing is that we have shifted the basic standard, and we no longer have a consensus on things like torture. Sure we watch Alias, but we have no idea what value to give to torture in the equation, so we deal with it in degrees. But where does the degree stop for an American soldier? Is anyone giving him/her guidelines? Or is it letting them hope for the best that they are making decisions that won’t eventually either get them killed or get them court martialed?
At least that is how I see the situation for them, and it is not fair that they bear the burden of our equivocation. Because I just know The Anchoress, like all of us, has an idea that the line of demarcation is somewhere. There is a line where you step over and suddenly you are in company with Stalin.
Where is that line, America? And why can’t we talk about it?
“It means that while our interrogators at GITMO must not and ought not andâ€¦it must be said DO NOTâ€¦submit these prisoners to fingernail-pulling, water tortures, routine beatings, etc, they ARE obliged to make their prisoners uncomfortable enough to persuade them.”
Yes, it does… and deriding some the procedures as little mickey mouse ‘we are just going lightly on them -“making them sit in a room with (gasp) a WOMAN” is avoiding the point.
The point is that we are saying that in war the rules change, and we will use force and sometimes torture. But we have standards of the Civitas, the basic things we believe as a people that are in force, as well. It is time to define this in our culture. Perhaps wartime is always a test for this.
“I grant you, none of it is NIIIIICEâ€¦”
Are you kidding? Are you kidding?
Who’s talking about nice? No one talks about ‘nice’ in war. It has a frivolity that doesn’t jive with the reality of what is happening. All that blood and guts and tragedy, you know.
So you rubbed me very wrong on this point. It is an attempt to whitewash war and make it all pink and cute. When you have to do something difficult and ugly and hard, the least that someone might give you is some respect to look at the reality of that.
No, Gitmo is not nice. No thinking person can view it that way, but that isn’t the point, the point is whether we have compromised our own values or not. We have to accept that in a war some of our values are that we are right to aggressively meet the opposition.
I think that is where everyone is breaking down in this thing. We won’t say something is evil. And we want to laugh instead of cry- just like “the woman in the black hijab, who shoved her face into the camera, ululating in obscene joy?”
How is our joking any different? In matter of degree only. we are just more civilized, I guess.heh.
Durbin was wrong. He was more wrong than his apology accounts for. But we don’t know where our values are or where our actions are taking us for the most part. We have this culture war going on, and half the time that is what most concerns us, not what is happening on the streets of Baghdad.
We are in this thing. We owe it to our troops, who are sons and daughters of our nation, to make our lines of value very clear. Before we send them to foreign shores.
And one thing I will heartily agree with, doing the right thing is not about being “nice”. But it is about being just. And justice doesn’t sit comfortably with excuses.
If we are firm in that we will not need to fear the rejoicing of our enemies. For we know their rejoicing will be in vain.