Fisking the Anchoress


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. “Torture” 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 “information gathering” 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 dead…actually many hundreds more are dead, if you count those who died throughout the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s at the hands of Islamic fundamentalist extremists. (Imagine that…they’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, “I’ll be your best friend, if you’ll just tell us….”” 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 and…it must be said DO NOT…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 NIIIIICE…”

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.

4 thoughts on “Fisking the Anchoress”

  1. “What is being discussed is how far we go in our tactics before we become too much like the thing we are fighting.”

    This is perhaps the fundamental question in this entire debate and you make good points.

    I’d like to toss in a question for consideration, though. Is it possible to commit some of the same acts as those we are fighting without becoming like those we are fighting?

    One of the conclusions that seems foregone here is that conducting violent interrogations is bad because in doing so, we step over some sort of moral line.

    But violence, in itself, is neither moral nor immoral. I remember the story of Jesus, who engaged in some violence to drive the money changers out of the Temple. Would words have sufficed? Would it have been possible for Jesus to, over a period of hours or days, convince the moneychangers to leave? I have to believe that it would. If he could persuade men to leave everything and follow him, I’m sure he could persuade some moneychangers to move themselves outside the Temple.

    The message there, though, is that violence, properly channeled and with definite purpose is not an immoral thing.

    So what of the violence we’ve heard about at Guantanamo Bay? Is that immoral just because “we’re better than that”? I don’t know that doing what we’ve heard our interrogators there have done is all that violent and I don’t know that properly applying that violence toward a specific goal makes us like the terrorists we’re trying to stop.

    The biggest reason that’s so, though, is because we have a fundamentally different moral code in our country than they. We may cross a line that we as a people find distasteful, but we will never cross it for long. Prolonged violence isn’t in us. We find that we can allow only so much before we pull ourselves back.

    We have limits. They do not.

    That, I think, is the biggest difference and the reason I don’t worry that anything that’s happened at Gitmo will make us like the terrorists.

    You have some very insightful writing here. I’m blogrolling you right away!

  2. I wouldn’t say I worry that we will become what we hate, so much as I’m watchful about it. I think this is the stance every American should have:vigilance.

    I am trying to point out that when we start on a path of aggression, and war is always that ( defensively or offensively) we have to have the stomach for what that entails, while at the same time keep the line of our own moral code.

    “We have limits. They do not.” I agree, but I think that we are having trouble defining just what our limits are in our society. We need to shore up the traditional code of ethics that we have tried to uphold in the past, but we also have to understand what we are dealing with. We are dealing on the plane of religious strife, and we have not been used to that. That is what I think, anyway. Not everyone will agree with me. It is almost dangerous to recognize, but I think the war of words is to make the more moderate Muslims face up to this somehow. Else how will they not cave in to the Taliban forms?

    Secular government in a neutral stance is a great asset. And I never thought I would advocate that as strongly as I do now.

    thanks for the blogrolling:)

  3. Ilona, I think our society as a whole has abdicated our responsibility to debate and discuss those limits. And we have done so because we want to escape the responsibility for these things. We want to be protected, but we don’t wish to be individually responsible for some of the measures used to protect us.

  4. MoM, that is right on. Yet,it is almost more than that. Besides the topsyturvey manner of dealing with affronts to moral infraction ( focusing on the lesser but denying the greater), there is a refusal to learn the lessons of the holocaust, and I think the denial of that is part of what can best be described as a psychosis on the general scale.

    I have Biblical explanation for this, but no rational one. It seems to go against every reasonable thought to see how the criticsm deliberately centers on the fallout of warfare rather than the consistantly horrific reprehensible actions of Muslim regimes and terrorist groups.
    It becomes a smokescreen, and in that is particularly despicable. To raise outraged protest for the sake of detracting attention from far greater evil.
    So, biblically, it says that there are those who love darkness…they love to allow evil its way to create a cover for their own deeds. But mixed in are those who are genuinely concerned with the abdication of moral responsibility.
    I see the need to keep an eye our our own actions and keep them in line , but we also have to face what we are seeing in our adversary. Perhaps the partisan jockeying for postion is what most contributes to our inability to balance that.

Comments are closed.