New Civilization News: When Christians Torture    
 When Christians Torture25 comments
picture25 Jun 2007 @ 11:12, by Richard Carlson

O to be delivered
from the rational
into the realm of
pure song...

---Theodore Roethke

Remember these teachings, remember the clear light, the pure bright shining white light of your own nature. It is deathless.

---The Tibetan Book Of The Dead

The healthy person doesn't torture others. Generally, it's the tortured who turn into torturers.

---C.G. Jung

The Torture Of St. Victor was created by an unknown painter in 1490.

I've never been comfortable with the notion of the United States as a Christian nation. Even as a child, I wondered what trusting in God was doing printed on all our money. Was it supposed to be a reminder not to get too involved in the things of this earth? If so, I'm not sure that strategy has worked.

I knew no Pagans, Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus in the 1940s, but Jews were among our neighbors and family friends. A classroom assignment in the second grade in which we were supposed to write a paragraph about our family's Christmas celebration and then read it aloud reduced a Jewish friend to tears when it was his turn. He read, "In my family we have no Christmas. We have no Christmas tree. There is no Santa Claus or presents." And he put his head down on his desk and cried. That's a long time for me to remember that essay. Obviously it changed me forever.

In the 1950s during the "Red Scare" and McCarthy's era, I remember distinctly when "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. We said the pledge in school everyday, and at first nobody could get it right. The teachers finally said we didn't have to say the new thing if we didn't want to, but just be silent during the time others might say it. I still don't say it.

So it's been quite a stretch for someone as old as me and so often described as a kid who always was thinking about things to get my head around the policies my government has evolved the last quarter century. Bush described his foreign policy at first as a Crusade. He quickly was shut up, not so much because it didn't describe the spiritual nature of Globalization, as his family saw it, but because the term obviously brought back some memories for followers of Islam...and after all, some of those guys are clients.

When the first photographs from Abu Ghraib came out, I thought sure the White House game was up...and I said so. I remembered a couple of photos from Viet Nam that lost us that war, or whatever it was. But the years and months and deaths have dragged on since then. Aren't Americans affected anymore? And what of the Republican "Christian base?" How do they theologize treatment of "detainees?" Do they think about it? Do they pray for them? Do they forgive? Do they love?

As I've written before, we have a new priest at The Church of the Good Shepherd. Bill Carroll and his family have been with us a year now, and so I'm glad to let him know he's not "new" to me anymore but instead a wonderful leader and accepted easily as my personal priest. His wife Tracey is a priest too, although understandably she ministers as Mother more to their 2 children than to us right now.

Both share strong academic backgrounds and Bill clearly is a biblical scholar and Anglican historian. Sometimes his sermons reflect a prior career of lecturing to theology students...which is fine with me. Perhaps there's some of that in the message he delivered yesterday. He used as his text a line from Psalm 63, which we had chanted earlier in the service, and spent most of the sermon differentiating between an idol and an ikon. That's an important distinction to make in one's worship, in whatever religion, but why am I writing to you about it this morning?

It's because at the end, he suddenly made a connection between idolatry and the frame of mind it must take to torture someone that I find stunning. And of course it's because Christians worship Christ who was tortured to death.

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost: Torture and the Broken Image of God

“Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place, that I might behold your power and your glory.”

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Orthodox ikons. We have a beautiful one right here in the sanctuary. It’s a gift from the Greek Orthodox community, with which Good Shepherd has such strong ties. Ikon is a Greek word that means image. Paul uses it in his letter to the Colossians, where he calls Jesus “the ikon of the invisible God.”

This verse became important in the iconoclastic controversy, in which some Christians, under the influence of the first two commandments and the need to compete with emerging Islam began to forbid the use of images in worship. Iconoclasm was condemned by the seventh ecumenical council in 787. The bishops who prevailed there appealed to the received practice in Christian liturgy, as well as to the tradition that St. Luke painted Christ’s portrait. But, more importantly, they relied upon the doctrine of the Incarnation. Because the Word became flesh, images may be used in worship. Since Christ is the ikon of the invisible God, the Church as his Body, every detail of our liturgy, and the symbols used within that liturgy become transparent to God.

The council taught that “whoever venerates the image, venerates the prototype for which it stands.” I would add, under the influence of Genesis, as well as 1John, chapter 4, that every human being is an image of God. John teaches us that we can’t love God, whom we don’t even see, if we don’t love the human beings we do see. This is clearly rooted in the teaching of Jesus. Our neighbor is an ikon of God, and, by serving her, we serve God.

Despite its reemergence in certain forms of Reformation piety, iconoclasm remains a heresy.

And yet, like all heresies, iconoclasm involves a distorted and one-sided version of an important truth—in this case, the dangers of idolatry. God does, after all, command the people of Israel, “Thou shalt make no graven image.”

The differences between ikon and idol are subtle. Luther touches upon this in his famous distinction between a theology of glory and a theology of the cross. One of the things he’s quite clear about is that glory is seductive. As Paul teaches, Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. The apostles of glory seem to offer divine power and personal sanctity, but they ignore the cross.

What’s more, idols tend to dazzle us, overpower us, and “arrest our gaze,” to borrow a phrase from Jean-Luc Marion. Ikons, by contrast, contain internal movement and invite growth. They convey what Marion calls the “excessiveness of an irreducibly other gift.” In the Eucharist, giver, gift, and recipient become one, as the proclaimed Word is given a body, is broken, and gives himself away. In Christ, more is given than can ever be received. As Rowan Williams notes, in the ikon, the eyes of Christ direct us one place, the hands another. There is movement and exchange and relationship, like the eternal exchange and interpenetration among the persons of the Trinity. Ultimately, when we pray with ikons, we have the sense that we are being seen by God’s gaze of love, God’s perfect vision which loves us into being, but there is nowhere for our gaze to stop. We do catch, however obliquely, a glimpse of the Kingdom of God, and of the holy, immortal One who “dwells in inaccessible light.”

Taken out of context, the verse I quoted from Psalm 63 could be taken as an invitation to idolatry: “Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place, that I might behold your power and your glory.” The whole notion of holy places, as well as that of God’s power and glory, might mean different things to different people. Christianity is an ambiguous historical movement, capable of profound evil as well as good. How easily we slide from God’s power and glory, which are the power and glory of utterly non-violent, self-giving love, to the seductive power and glory of the lords of this world—whether in the state, the army, or the church. That’s been a temptation for us Christians since we first climbed into bed with the emperor Constantine. Too often, we embrace the false Messianism of worldly power at the expense of Christ Crucified.

But in context, this verse is preserved from idolatry. First, idolatrous readings are put in check by a dynamic relationship with the living God. Our psalm begins with a cry of longing: “O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.” Which of us has not longed for God and cried out to God in desert places? God is not an idol, which seduces us with monumental beauty and mesmerizes us with satanic power. God is Holy Love with whom we are in relationship. God is pure Goodness, who gives himself away. God is incomprehensible Beauty, who eludes our grasp or control, yet gives herself to us in grace and power. This is the God Augustine sought when he prayed “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”

The psalmist speaks of God only in the context of loving relationship. He lifts his hands up to God, in the ancient posture of openness and prayer. God is the giver of good gifts, who leaves the psalmist content “as with marrow and fatness.” God is his helper and protector, a silent presence in the middle of the night. He clings to God, and God keeps him safe. There is no room in this vision for the god of violence and overwhelming power. At its worst, the power and glory of the idol become the satanic hopelessness of the torture chamber. Lately, I’ve been reading an anti-torture blog called “Death and the Maiden.” [link] It’s not for the faint of heart. Torture is, in the fullest sense of the word, OBSCENE. One of the things I found there was an account of Jean Amery. Tortured by the Nazis for his role in the Resistance, this Austrian Jew took his own life 35 years later. According to Amery:

"In torture, the other becomes 'absolute sovereign' with the power 'to inflict suffering and destroy,' and the victim becomes nothing but hurting body, agonized flesh. 'Only in torture does the transformation of the person into flesh become complete. Frail in the face of violence, yelling out in pain, awaiting no help, capable of no resistance, the tortured person is only a body, and nothing else beside that.'"

William Cavanaugh has written a book entitled Torture and Eucharist. Without appealing to his analysis, let me say that I agree that torture and Eucharist should be thought about together.

It’s not just that, in Eucharist, we celebrate the memory of a tortured man. In the Eucharist, the Word is willingly reduced to flesh, put at our mercy in the form of bread and wine. The remembrance of his torture and death creates a certain intensification, which is very much like a tortured person becoming his or her body without remainder. Christ becomes a body—and we become that body too—as we remember his death with thanksgiving. But unlike torture, in Eucharist, we become ourselves—there is no assault on personhood.

Moreover, Jesus now lives and is risen from the dead. He becomes flesh completely, while remaining himself, the living Word of God. So the symbol conveys what he represents, without giving our gaze a place to rest. Christ gives himself in bread and wine, but that’s the least of it. Above all, he gives himself in his people and as the hidden host of our gathering. Breaking idols involves more than superficial iconoclasm. By becoming flesh and taken on a broken form, Jesus becomes a living witness and Ikon, who stands against every blasphemous desecration of the image of God.

“Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place, that I might behold your power and your glory.” Amen.


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26 Jun 2007 @ 23:10 by quinty : I kind of doubt
true Christians would ever appeal to theology to justify torture. That their reasons are probably much more worldly and dark. Though perhaps they associate with Christ’s agony in the more lurid depictions?

There is always plenty of BS to justify anything. The Bush years have demonstrated that more than anytime before, and there have been whoppers. Both Democrats and Republicans have been pastmasters. Roosevelt, for example, always knew we would have to go to war.

The bogus justification of finding where a terrorist’s A bomb is hidden before it can be used is often brought up by the apologists for torture.

What would you do if you only had fifteen minutes to find out? And the whole of Manhattan could go up in smoke? Millions dead.

Logic is trampled on by such people. They ignore that this scenario has never been a real-life factor as they engaged in torture: at Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib after it was "Gitmoized." Or in all those hidden places in dark places in the world where American prisoners are kept. That they torture whether there is a pressing need or not.

No, torture wasn’t Jesus’s schtick. But his parasites believe in it. As a non-Christian but admirer of Christ I like the Sermon on the Mount. At least those parts where God isn't vengeful and selfish. When it comes to the Old Testament I think I would prefer a God who is more considerate of human suffering. It's all about Himself. If He made us He should have done a better job.

But God is no excuse for torture. We can't blame Him and have to look at ourselves. Play a dangerous game and you may have to pay the consequences.  

27 Jun 2007 @ 08:30 by jazzolog : Whip 'N Boots For Christ
When I wrote this the other day, I wasn't thinking of the long tradition of self-flagellation. A review in the New Statesman of a book on the history of whipping stung me into recognition. There is inherent in Christianity a tendency to slight the physical, the body, the law, and Nature itself. The spirit and Heavenly Land awaiting the virtuous reign. This duality in Christianity is the first thing I found the New Age went after when welcoming converts. There's a theology to all that and I think Christians who torture think they're straight with God, even if they aren't sorting it out rationally. The stake and the dunking stool were thought to benefit the maimed and killed, since the soul would be saved even as the flesh was peeled off.

Ziad Sabah Jasim, a detainee who confessed to being a member of the Islamic Army in Iraq and to killing American soldiers, waits outside an American Joint Security Station in the Ghazaliya neighborhood of Baghdad. (Photo by Ashley Gilbertson)  

27 Jun 2007 @ 14:59 by Quinty @ : Thanks,
that's a convincing argument. Degrade the flesh to purify the spirit and soul. Wasn't this also a reaction to paganism, to Roman pursuits? Like the baths?

My god the things we, humanity, can do simply because we are compelled by our own conviction!  

27 Jun 2007 @ 15:38 by rayon : Certainly,
there are dark understandings on Christianity, there are also soft ones, which allow themselves to be manipulated, but mainly it is literary licence which combines these two topics here backed up by touches of zeal of presidential and prime ministerial order lending credibility.

Very curious the fact of self flagelation, it goes with punishment of purgatory and hell supposed cleansing or never cleansing. What people do not realise is that physical self flagelation is a deep sin in itself, and will not affect the spirit at all. They then assign for afterlife the lifelike and un spiritual sufferings of the body no longer around the poor spirit in purgatory. The pain of spirits in purgatory is that of seeing life in purity and realising the mistakes the old body made on earth and knowing they no longer have a body to make good those mistakes.

I don't want to imagine what kind of spirit realisation the Torturers have in the afterlife, they may of course be forgiven by their subjects, but the magnitude of universal love is bigger than we can imagine and even they will in the end choose a karmic life for themselves to make good their actions, even to repay those in later lives they cruelly afflicted in acts of great unasked for kindness. and the people that made them into Torturers will also have to make up to the torturers in future lives at some point, otherwise they will die forever.

All kinds of things happen in War. And it does not matter whether the war was justified or not. War is war. God is only with each individual dependent on their records with him, or with the priests ministering within their capacity, and God is only with a President on the basis of him alone, on his record.


28 Jun 2007 @ 09:04 by jazzolog : The Gates Of Hell
Interesting that nraye's clear post should get us into the Underworld at this point. Tom Englehardt's column yesterday gives us an exhaustive look at the numbers of dead in this little Mission (click to the original for footnote links)~~~

Iraq by the Numbers: Surging Past the Gates of Hell
By Tom Engelhardt
Wednesday 27 June 2007

Sometimes, numbers can strip human beings of just about everything that makes us what we are. Numbers can silence pain, erase love, obliterate emotion, and blur individuality. But sometimes numbers can also tell a necessary story in ways nothing else can.

This January, President Bush announced his "surge" plan for Iraq, which he called his "new way forward." It was, when you think about it, all about numbers. Since then, 28,500 new American troops have surged into that country, mostly in and around Baghdad; and, according to the Washington Post, there has also been a hidden surge of private armed contractors - hired guns, if you will - who free up troops by taking over many mundane military positions from guarding convoys to guarding envoys. In the meantime, other telltale numbers in Iraq have surged as well.

Now, Americans are theoretically waiting for the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, to "report" to Congress in September on the "progress" of the President's surge strategy. But there really is no reason to wait for September. An interim report - "Iraq by the numbers" - can be prepared now (as it could have been prepared last month, or last year). The trajectory of horror in Iraq has long been clear; the fact that the U.S. military is a motor driving the Iraqi cataclysm has been no less clear for years now. So here is my own early version of the "September Report."

A caveat about numbers: In the bloody chaos that is Iraq, as tens of thousands die or are wounded, as millions uproot themselves or are uprooted, and as the influence of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's national government remains largely confined to the four-square mile fortified Green Zone in the Iraqi capital, numbers, even as they pour out of that hemorrhaging land, are eternally up for grabs. There is no way most of them can be accurate. They are, at best, a set of approximate notations in a nightmare that is beyond measurement.

Here, nonetheless, is an attempt to tell a little of the Iraqi story by those numbers:

Iraq is now widely considered # 1: - when it comes to being the ideal jihadist training ground on the planet. "If Afghanistan was a Pandora's box which when opened created problems in many countries, Iraq is a much bigger box, and what's inside much more dangerous," comments Mohammed al-Masri, a researcher at Amman's Centre for Strategic Studies. CIA analysts predicted just this in a May 2005 report leaked to the press. ("A new classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda's early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat.")

Iraq is # 2: It now ranks as the world's second most unstable country, ahead of war-ravaged or poverty-stricken nations like Somalia, Zimbabwe, the Congo, and North Korea, according to the 2007 Failed States Index, issued recently by the Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine. (Afghanistan, the site of our other little war, ranked 8th.) Last year and the year before Iraq held 4th place on the list. Next year, it could surge to number #1.

Number of American troops in Iraq, June 2007: Approximately 156,000.

Number of American troops in Iraq, May 1, 2003, the day President Bush declared "major combat operations" in that country "ended": Approximately 130,000.

Number of Sunni insurgents in Iraq, May 2007: At least 100,000, according to Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar on his most recent visit to the country.

American military dead in the surge months, February 1-June 26, 2007: 481.

American military dead, February-June 2006: 292.

Number of contractors killed in the first three months of 2007: At least 146, a significant surge over previous years. (Contractor deaths sometimes go unreported and so these figures are likely to be incomplete.)

Number of American troops Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and other Pentagon civilian strategists were convinced would be stationed in Iraq in August 2003, four months after Baghdad fell:): 30,000-40,000, according to Washington Post reporter Tom Ricks in his bestselling book Fiasco.

Number of armed "private contractors" now in Iraq: at least 20,000-30,000, according to the Washington Post. (Jeremy Scahill, author of the bestseller Blackwater, puts the figure for all private contractors in Iraq at 126,000.)

Number of attacks on U.S. troops and allied Iraqi forces, April 2007: 4,900.

Percentage of U.S. deaths from roadside bombs (IEDs): 70.9% in May 2007; 35% in February 2007 as the surge was beginning.

Percentage of registered U.S. supply convoys (guarded by private contractors) attacked: 14.7% in 2007 (through May 10); 9.1% in 2006; 5.4% in 2005.

Percentage of Baghdad not controlled by U.S. (and Iraqi) security forces more than four months into the surge: 60%, according to the U.S. military.

Number of attacks on the Green Zone, the fortified heart of Baghdad where the new $600 million American embassy is rising and the Iraqi government largely resides: More than 80 between March and the beginning of June, 2007, according to a UN report. (These attacks, by mortar or rocket, from "pacified" Red-Zone Baghdad, are on the rise and now occur nearly daily.)

Size of U.S. embassy staff in Baghdad: More than 1,000 Americans and 4,000 third-country nationals.

Staff U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker considers appropriate to the "diplomatic" job: The ambassador recently sent "an urgent plea" to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for more personnel. "The people here are heroic," he wrote. "I need more people, and that's the thing, not that the people who are here shouldn't be here or couldn't do it." According to the Washington Post, the Baghdad embassy, previously assigned 15 political officers, now will get 11 more; the economic staff will go from 9 to 21. This may involve "direct assignments" to Baghdad in which, against precedent, State Department officers, some reputedly against the war, will simply be ordered to take up "unaccompanied posts" (too dangerous for families to go along).

U.S. air strikes in Iraq during the surge months: Air Force planes are dropping bombs at more than twice the rate of a year ago, according to the Associated Press. "Close support missions" are up 30-40%. And this surge of air power seems, from recent news reports, still to be on the rise. In the early stages of the recent surge operation against the city of Baquba in Diyala province, for instance, Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times reported that "American forces.... fired more than 20 satellite-guided rockets into western Baquba," while Apache helicopters attacked "enemy fighters." ABC News recently reported that the Air Force has brought B-1 bombers in for missions on the outskirts of Baghdad.

Number of years Gen. Petraeus, commander of the surge operation, predicts that the U.S. will have to be engaged in counterinsurgency operations in Iraq to have hopes of achieving success: 9-10 years. ("In fact, typically, I think historically, counterinsurgency operations have gone at least nine or 10 years.")

Number of years administration officials are now suggesting that 30,000-40,000 American troops might have to remain garrisoned at U.S. bases in Iraq: 54, according to the "Korea model" now being considered for that country. (American troops have garrisoned South Korea since the Korean War ended in 1953.)

Number of Iraqi police, trained by Americans, who were not on duty as of January 2007, just before the surge plan was put into operation: Approximately 32,000 out of a force of 188,000, according to the Associated Press. About one in six Iraqi policemen has been killed, wounded, deserted, or just disappeared. About 5,000 probably have deserted; and 7,000-8,000 are simply "unaccounted for." (Recall here the President's old jingle of 2005: "As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.")

Number of years before the Iraqi security forces are capable of taking charge of their country's security: "A couple of years," according to U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Dana Pittard, commander of the Iraq Assistance Group.

Amount of "reconstruction" money invested in the CIA's key asset in the new Iraq, the Iraqi National Intelligence Service: $3 billion, according to Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar.

Number of Iraqi "Kit Carson scouts" being trained in the just-captured western part of Baquba: More than 100. (There were thousands of "Kit Carsons" in the Vietnam War - former enemy fighters employed by U.S. forces.) In fact, Vietnam-era plans, ranging from Strategic Hamlets (dubbed, in the Iraqi urban context, "gated communities") to the "oil spot" counterinsurgency strategy, have been recycled for use in Iraq, as has an American penchant for applying names from our Indian Wars to counterinsurgency situations abroad, including, for instance, dubbing an embattled supply depot near Abu Ghraib, "Fort Apache."

Number of Iraqis who have fled their country since 2003: Estimated to be between 2 million and 2.2 million, or nearly one in ten Iraqis. According to independent reporter Dahr Jamail, at least 50,000 more refugees are fleeing the country every month.

Number of Iraqi refugees who have been accepted by the United States: Fewer than 500, according to Bob Woodruff of ABC News; 701, according to Agence France Presse. (Under international and congressional pressure, the Bush administration has finally agreed to admit another 7,000 Iraqis by year's end.)

Number of Iraqis who are now internal refugees in Iraq, largely due to sectarian violence since 2003: At least 1.9 million, according to the UN. (A recent Red Crescent Society report, based on a survey taken in Iraq, indicates that internal refugees have quadrupled since January 2007, and are up eight-fold since June 2006.)

Percentage of refugees, internal and external, under 12: 55%, according to the President of the Red Crescent Society.

Percentage of Baghdadi children, 3 to 10, exposed to a major traumatic event in the last two years: 47%, according to a World Health Organization survey of 600 children. 14% of them showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. In another study of 1,090 adolescents in Mosul, that figure reached 30%.

Number of Iraqi doctors who have fled the country since 2003: An estimated 12,000 of the country's 34,000 registered doctors since 2003, according to the Iraqi Medical Association. The Association reports that another 2,000 doctors have been slain in those years.

Number of Iraqi refugees created since UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon declared a "humanitarian crisis" for Iraq in January 2007: An estimated 250,000.

Percentage of Iraqis now living on less than $1 a day, according to the UN: 54%.

Iraq's per-capita annual income: $3,600 in 1980; $860 in 2001 (after a decade of UN sanctions); $530 at the end of 2003, according to Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar, who estimates that the number may now have falled below $400. Unemployment in Iraq is at around 60%.

Percentage of Iraqis who do not have regular access to clean water: 70%, according to the World Health Organization. (80% "lack effective sanitation.")

Rate of chronic child malnutrition: 21%, according to the World Health Organization. (Rates of child malnutrition had already nearly doubled by 2004, only 20 months after the U.S. invasion.) According to UNICEF, "about one in 10 children under five in Iraq are underweight."

Number of Iraqis held in American prisons in their own country: 17,000 by March 2007, almost 20,000 by May 2007 and surging.

Number of Iraqis detained in Baquba alone in one week in June in Operation Phantom Thunder: more than 700.

Average number of Iraqis who died violently each day in 2006: 100 - and this is undoubtedly an underestimate, since not all deaths are reported.

Number of Iraqis who have died violently (based on the above average) since Ban Ki-Moon declared a "humanitarian crisis" for Iraq in January 2007: 15,000 - again certainly an undercount.

Number of Iraqis who died (in what Juan Cole terms Iraq's "everyday apocalypse") during the week of June 17-23, 2007, according to the careful daily tally from media reports offered at the website 763 or an average of 109 media-reported deaths a day. (June 17: 74; June 18: 149; June 19: 169; June 20: 116; June 21: 58; June 22: 122; June 23: 75.)

Percentage of seriously wounded who don't survive in emergency rooms and intensive-care units, due to lack of drugs, equipment, and staff: Nearly 70%, according to the World Health Organization.

Number of university professors who have been killed since the invasion of 2003: More than 200, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education.

The value of an Iraqi life: A maximum of $2,500 in "consolation" or "solatia" payments made by the American military to Iraqi civilians who died "as a result of U.S. and coalition forces' actions during combat," according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. These payments imply no legal responsibility for the killings. For rare "extraordinary cases" (and let's not even imagine what these might be), payments of up to $10,000 were approved last year, with the authorization of a division commander. According to Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, "[W]e are not talking big condolence payouts thus far. In 2005, the sums distributed in Iraq reached $21.5 million and - with violence on the upswing - dropped to $7.3 million last year, the GAO reported."

The value of an Iraqi car, destroyed by American forces: $2,500 would not be unusual, and conceivably the full value of the car, according to the same GAO report. A former Army judge advocate, who served in Iraq, has commented: "[T]he full market value may be paid for a Toyota run over by a tank in the course of a non-combat related accident, but only $2,500 may be paid for the death of a child shot in the crossfire."

Percentage of Americans who approve of the President's actions in Iraq: 23%, according to the latest post-surge Newsweek poll. The President's overall approval rating stood at 26% in this poll, just three points above those of only one president, Richard Nixon at his Watergate worst, and Bush's polling figures are threatening to head into that territory. In the latest, now two-week old NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 10% of Americans think the "surge" has made things better in Iraq, 54% worse.

The question is: What word best describes the situation these Iraqi numbers hint at? The answer would probably be: No such word exists. "Genocide" has been beaten into the ground and doesn't apply. "Civil war," which shifts all blame to the Iraqis (withdrawing Americans from a country its troops have not yet begun to leave), doesn't faintly cover the matter.

If anything catches the carnage and mayhem that was once the nation of Iraq, it might be a comment by the head of the Arab League, Amr Mussa, in 2004. He warned: "The gates of hell are open in Iraq." At the very least, the "gates of hell" should now officially be considered miles behind us on the half-destroyed, well-mined highway of Iraqi life. Who knows what IEDs lie ahead? We are, after all, in the underworld.


Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch Interviews with American Iconoclasts and Dissenters (Nation Books), the first collection of Tomdispatch interviews.

A Sunni man is detained by a Shiite-dominated army force at a JSS in the Mansour district of Baghdad. He was suspected of detonating an IED that killed a member of the unit. (Photo by Ashley Gilbertson)

30 Jun 2007 @ 06:50 by Questioner @ : Christians
Remember those little incidents Christians created called The Crusades and The Spanish Inquisition?  

30 Jun 2007 @ 09:26 by jazzolog : Onward Christian Soldiers
Indeed, anonymous Questioner, the theological basis for such events is the thrust of this Log entry and ensuing thread. The next line in that old hymn goes, I think, "marching AS to war" (emphasis mine). I'm trying to imagine Jesus marching into Jerusalem. I'm not trying very hard though. Can there even be Christian soldiers, never mind them marching into war somewhere?

One of the questions I raised when I posted "When Christians Torture" last Monday was how do Christians respond to US "extreme interrogation" of "detainees." By extension, what are Americans doing for the "war effort" besides putting rubbery magnets on their SUVs that say Support Our Troops and various patriotisms about pride. I'm sure some church groups are sending care packages (does the real Care organization still exist?) and maybe Sunday schools are writing letters to service personnel. But besides these things, is there a sense in the Wal-Mart parking lot that this nation is at war?

Richard Strax is a physician and hospital administrator in Houston. He replied by email last week with a good answer, and with his permission to reprint here it is~~~


A very thought provoking piece, this one.

Aside from the religious references, you ask "Aren't Americans affected anymore?" Why don't the images of Iraq resonate with us as they did during Viet Nam?

I think that the reason is that Americans don't feel they have a stake in this war. No one is asked to sacrifice and no one's children are forcibly taken by conscription. The war is an intellectual concept, images on TV, fodder for political debates, nothing more personal than that.

I have, it seems forever, been an ardent opponent of the draft. I have lately come to believe that a draft is the only way to assure that all Americans are aware of and involved in how we use our military. Nothing gets students, and their parents and families, involved faster than the threat of being drafted into the military.

More and more we use our giant standing army in ways that have nothing to do with self defense. If Americans remain uninvolved, feeling like this is somebody else's war, somebody else's army, we are all of us, every human being on the planet, in growing danger.

Of course this is exactly why those who wield the levers of war are so strongly opposed to a draft. My my, how the tables have turned in a generation.

--Richard Strax, MD

Suaada Saadoun tells American and Kurdish soldiers that the two Shiite men outside her house were trying to evict her from Khadamiya, a neighborhood in Baghdad. (Photo by Ashley Gilbertson)  

30 Jun 2007 @ 15:11 by a-d : Finally an explanation
that makes sense; rings true! Now I can finally grasp what emotional blackmailing- rational is at work here. Is "only the crooks in DC that are doing this s---- , not us, The People!..... EXACTLY because of what your friend says: not being (forcibly) drafted!.... What an impact seemingly small nuances in "how things are handled" can have!!!
YET: THIS IS the harsh TRUTH about Things![ ]
THANK YOU, Richard -and thank your friend for me!

30 Jun 2007 @ 23:58 by quinty : I think Americans are affected....
Volunteers tend to be gung ho. They do not gripe like draftees do. Boot camp is a form of brainwashing as well as basic training for combat. These volunteers learn how to be proud “killing machines.”

Volunteers will more readily believe their civilian and military authorities’ lies. (If the president says there is an “imminent threat” then there is an “imminent threat.” And it is necessary to go off to a foreign land, one most Americans know nothing about, and go to war.) Soldiers are taught to work as a team, without questioning authority.

When this war was in the making and in its early stages there was a general stampede in the Congress, the news media, and the nation at large to back the president. No one who was concerned with his public image wanted to appear “unpatriotic” or “naive.” No one wanted to be out of step or display a “negative attitude.” The Bush propaganda campaign, as lurid as it was, was extremely successful. It was a moment of deep shame in our nation’s history.

Since the generals often lie to us, the general public, it is difficult for us to tell what the true state of morale currently is among the troops in Iraq. Are they tired of this war? Do they still believe that Iraq is the strategic center of the war on terrorism, as they have been told? Do they still believe Saddam was also behind 9/11?

For the past four years no prominent critic of this war has omitted reassuring his audience that he “supports the troops.” It has become necessary to include this demeaning rote reassurance since criticism of the war has been successfully conflated by the administration’s backers with not backing the troops. An absurdity. One only leading to increased and unending casualties in Iraq. Why? Because no one in authority wants to admit that this loss has been a waste, or a tragic mistake, or “in vain.”

If we had a draft the reality of war would be much tighter and closer to home. As it is, there is a great deal of concern over this war, though it may appear that life (in the shopping mall) goes on as usual. And that the smiles on the street display a certain oblivion. (President Bush’s smile is certainly obscene.)

I think the American people, even if unrelated by blood to soldiers serving in the field, are extremely disturbed by this war. That there is a great deal of concern.

Like Vietnam, which was fought by an army of draftees, the war nightly enters our homes on our TVs. We can see, in spite of a certain amount of censorship, the unending slaughter. It hangs over our heads. The rightwing childishly complains about this emphasis, accusing the media of not reporting the “good news.” This attitude is unworthy of adults, revealing they wish to dream on without being disturbed by reality.

By now there is no excuse for not knowing the administration boondoggled us into the war. And I think most Americans deeply feel the unnecessary loss of so many lives in Iraq, especially the daily loss of at least two or three American soldiers every day. It weighs heavily on the American consciousness.

Americans, for the most part, are tired of this war: not only in human terms but in terms of national prestige. And opinion surveys reveal this. According to the polls the Iraq War is the number one issue in the country today. What’s more, most Americans believe the country has lost its direction and is “on the wrong course.” That there is something terribly wrong.

That the Democrats took a majority in Congress in the last election demonstrates all that. Not that the voters necessarily put their faith in the Democrats per se, but that they were seeking a change in direction. As well as an end to this war.

Asking the Congress to end the Iraq war is like asking a doctor to perform delicate surgery with a meat ax. Only the president can direct our foreign policy and bring the military out of Iraq in a decent manner, something Bush refuses to do. The Congress could cut off funding but then it would be up to Bush to act accordingly. Is this anything any Democrat would ever trust the president to do? Would you?

And without the necessary 2/3s votes the Congress can not override a presidential veto. That means 67 votes in the Senate. What’s more, the dishonesty of this president complicates matters. Remember the Bolin Amendment? The Reagan administration paid no attention to it. The right would probably back Bush if he bolted from a Congressional mandate, for the same reasons the right backed Reagan during Iran/Contra. They would believe it is the patriotic and honorable thing to do in our war of “survival” against “Islamo fascism.” There could be a Constitutional confrontation, and with the righward shift of the Supreme Court I wouldn't hold my breath.

Eventually more Republicans will join the Democrats. The pressure is on the Congress to change course. The question is, will we be out of Iraq before a new president takes over? And let’s not forget, most of the Democratic candidates are promising to leave a certain number of troops there. Which was one of the original goals of the Bush administration. Though, of course, the president didn’t talk about it.

To get back to the initial enthusiasm and support for this war, if it had been successful, sadly, the American people may have been happy with the outcome. It’s time to face reality. Though we are conditioned not to by the corporate mass media which defines and expresses most of American culture.  

1 Jul 2007 @ 10:04 by jazzolog : Torture & The Draft
Quinty and I grew up with the draft, and I think we both made it up to the Cuban Missile Crisis before we really started to sweat it. I had been called that summer for my first physical (I had to go to Portland, Maine, because they still had my college address), I still was 1-A (which means prime meat) and by that time I was looking pretty hard at conscientious objector status. I hoped to flunk out by naming off various radical groups I supported, like Fair Play for Cuba and War Resisters League. (WRL rages on magnificently but Lee Harvey Oswald pretty much took out Fair Play all by himself .) When I got to the interview part of the exam, which was a check on my Americanism, the sergeant showed me the "Attorney General's List" and I perused in vain to find any of my groups. Silver Shirts of Albania, the Brown Shirts of Jerusalem...I mean, I never heard of any of them. So I continued 1-A, and I was a rare commodity, because most of those Maine guys WANTED to go in to get some other kind of work than harvesting potatoes once a year, but at that time in history they got turned down. Two months later we were in a showdown with Krushchev and I stayed up all night in Boston, listening to whether the jets would take off and I'd be going to war the next day. The draft changed tremendously with Viet Nam but then I was no longer eligible. They turned it into a lottery system---which always is forgotten when people talk about why Americans turned against that "war"---and that process was complete madness for the guys caught up in it.

Here's an excellent reply from Father Bill to my post yesterday. The argument he refers to is the remark made by Dr. Strax about the draft. I would add to Bill's point about torture breaking down resistance a possibility the mere PRESENCE of such techniques within a regime may do plenty to shut folks down. We're wondering why Americans are so silent against alleged Bush crimes and why Congress hasn't crashed through the White House front door? Are we so close to a police state that fear reigns? The best defense against scare tactics is to shine a Light right on them.

----- Original Message -----
From: R. William Carroll
To: Richard Carlson
Sent: Saturday, June 30, 2007 7:27 AM
Subject: Re: More On Christian Torture

This kind of argument is relatively common. I think the more fundamental problem, which the powers that be actually foster is the atomization of our society and the destruction of alternative social bodies which might provide resistance to a draft or any other nefarious policy. William Cavanaugh, whose book "Torture and Eucharist" I reference in the sermon points to torture as a method used by the Chilean state under Pinochet to accomplish just that. He thinks that resistance to torture in terms of individual rights cedes too much to the state's own strategy of atomization, which torture serves. Torture breaks down not only the individual body of the tortured but any alternative social body.

The problem with the draft as a means to galvanize opposition is that it still works within the statist framework and cedes to the state the right to discipline the bodies of our young and to coopt them into the state's violence. We ought to be giving these bodies over to the discipline (ascesis) of Christ, the Church, and the liturgy, as well as other embodied social practices, such as those found in the other historic religions, the labor movement, the counterculture, etc. If there is a problem with Cavanaugh, it is that he focuses too exclusively on the Church.

In the end, I believe the destruction of all forms of community in American society is more to blame for lack of effective resistance to the war. The mass media is largely to blame as are present modes of organizing work.

The draft not only violates the individual conscience of many. It legitimizes state violence as such and deligitimizes resistance, except within the strict limits of legal conscientious objection.

As you may know, I sit on the board of the Center on Conscience and War, which helps CO's, "legal" or not, whether they are in the military or not, to resist war.



A Kurdish soldier questions Shiite Abbas Radhi in front of Suaada’s family. (Continuing the photos of Ashley Gilbertson)  

1 Jul 2007 @ 22:55 by quinty : is it that bad?
If “the powers that be” are “atomizing” society I don’t feel it. At least not coming from government. (If I were gay, black, poor, a woman, or an immigrant I would probably not see government as benign.) Rather, I think the workplace, community groups, and the overall mythologies we as a society adopt are more powerful and influential in shaping us.

Our mass media attempts to be as mainstream as possible, believing the doings of Paris Hilton are more in touch with the majority than hard news. And assuming they have the tools to determine who’s watching and listening, and how many are, they may be right.

Even though we are a nation of 300 million people we can nevertheless generalize: and there are some widespread national mythologies. Such as the belief that “we” (the United States) are always basically well intentioned. The good guys who liberated Europe, spreading freedom and democracy around the world. This is history as taught by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Stepehen Ambrose, Michael Beschloss, and other authors of best sellers.

I think this expression of a national “consensus” is a far remove from government “atomization.” Nor do I see the Bush administration actively engaging in it. Though if you do, you do, and I may be wrong.

I see an opposite trend regarding dissent. There has been an impetus toward criticism of the Bush administration, starting with the Katrina debacle, which the mainstream media, both shaping and accepting the popular voice, often exhibits. After all, Bush is a disaster. He doesn’t even truly have his own party with him any longer.

There has also been a reaction against the bullying tactics of the far right. Calling dissenters “traitors” is no longer accepted. And Bush’s lies have been so outlandish that his propaganda slogans have been called into question. There is much uncertainty and doubt out there. And at this moment a majority of Americans are putting their hopes into Democrats.

Perhaps I am being too optimistic, and perhaps my memory fails, but a major difference between the Iraq War and the Vietnam War is that opposition to the Vietnam War was, for quite a long time, primarily expressed by a nonconformist fringe. Who, yes, were often attacked, even physically. So called “middle America” supported the war for many years and only changed very slowly. And slogans such as “back the troops” were more successful and unchallenged in the sixties.

But today we hear many criticisms of the war coming from the mainstream. And there has been a loud, popular outcry for the Democrats to act, and to finally show some backbone.

I think all the Democratic presidential candidates have promised to undo the Bush administration’s assault on the Bill of Rights, and have spoken against torture. And since (if there’s any justice in the world???????) it appears a Democrat will win in 2008 the Bush administration’s overall authoritarian trend will probably be reversed.

Torture as a means of obtaining information reveals a degree of foulness I don’t believe any of the Democratic candidates possess. Torture (though it was frequently used in the Philippines) is unique as an accepted federal government practice and I’m hoping the Democratic candidates are genuinely repelled. And I think they are. (Though I’m not entirely sure about Hillary.)

Though the rightward shift of the Supreme Court should make us nervous. They are more sympathetic to authority and their recent rulings have strengthened the presidency, at the expense of dissent. And, to indulge my paranoid side, what if there is another “9/11?” A national emergency? Will Bush declare martial law? Suspend the Constitution?

Regarding the draft, I think this comment is right on: “It legitimizes state violence as such and delegitimizes resistance, except within the strict limits of legal conscientious objection.”

Pinochet was closer to a classic Spanish caudillo than he was to any American. And no American president has come close to that degree of brutality, at least not within American borders. Pinochet was closer to Franco, I think, than to Nixon and Henry the K.  

2 Jul 2007 @ 13:55 by quinty : Thanks,
Richard for plugging my father's work. Here's a link to the calendar illustration Richard was refering to. I suppose you could call it {link:|Miss June}, 2007.

(If I knew how to directly add a photo to an entry I would have to save you the trouble.)  

2 Jul 2007 @ 19:59 by jazzolog : Not To Deter A Visit
to Paul's amazing site in honor of his father, nevertheless here is Miss June~~~  

3 Jul 2007 @ 11:17 by jazzolog : Two Vaguely Connected
to the topic and each other are these essays, both courtesy of Bryan Zepp, my online friend born in Ottawa but denizen at various times of all parts of the disintegrating British Empire, before opting out of it all in the Yankee High Sierras where he writes.

One of the essays is by Bryan and can be found at the Canadian blogspot MyTown. Here he attends to the UK's very own recent terrorist plot~~~

Britain turns Brown
Hokey “bomb” threats in London and Glasgow reveal new PM’s colors
© Bryan Zepp Jamieson 1/7/07

By now, we’ve all heard about how terrorists, with horrible efficiency, caused all of Glasgow and its environs to vanish in a vast explosion that killed nearly thirty million Scots, or roughly 500% of the inhabitants of the country. That’s normal, by the way. You usually have to kill a Scot several times before he’ll lie down and be still. Britons were horrified, thunderstruck by a level of terror that had never been seen on the Sculpted Isle, or even in the Sculptured Aisles. (The Sculptured Aisles, like the Isle of Mann and Wyoming, are a semi-autonomous part of Great Britain, and would normally be considered a part of that Island were they not separated from it by stretches of open water, and did they not have their own currency, preferring Tesla coils to AC).

The “attacks” in Britain, no matter how deadly the intent might have been, were nothing more than low farce. One car bomb, which, had it been a real bomb, would have been most murderously placed, at Haymarket by Piccadilly, and the other would also have had maximum effect, being situated in a heavily trafficked area. The first fizzled, the second didn’t go off at all, and being illegally parked in one of London’s busiest areas, quickly attracted official notice and, in fact, had been impounded and towed off before anyone noticed anything unusual about the contents. As for the incident at Glasgow, the SUV hit the building, caught fire, which in turn caused a small part of the terminal’s facing to catch fire. On the plus side, it was one less SUV cluttering up the M-1. The driver apparently climbed out, poured gas over himself, and set himself alight. Truly an exercise in pathos. If he dies, I can just imagine his next conversation. “Seventy two virgins? You think you earned seventy-two virgins with that embarrassing cockup!? You made the whole of Islam look clownish! No, my boy, I’m not giving you any virgins. Instead, I’m sending you to the worst place in all of the afterlife. That’s right! I sentence you to BAPTIST HEAVEN!!”

That’s assuming, of course, that the event at Glasgow was anything other than an ordinary car crash. They seem to be retracting the self-immolation element of the story, and now admit that no explosives, other than the fuel in the tank, were found. So maybe the guy gets seventy virgins and points off his driver’s licence.

Now, the Brits have this tradition. When hit with adversity, they tend to get resolute. Whether it’s Henry the Fifth and his merry band at Agincourt, or Churchill snarling defiance over the Beeb at Hitler, Briton’s leaders rise to the occasion and urge their people to keep a stiff upper lip. Keeping a stiff upper lip has made Brits among the most courageous people on earth, but unfortunately also plays a role in that other well-known national trait, British teeth.

The events of the past couple of days hardly count as adversity. It certainly doesn’t compare with 7/7, the terror attacks in the Tube and on the double deckers of London a couple of years back, and it’s not in the same league as the IRA bombings of the 60s and 70s. Anyone remember Harrods? These “terror attacks” barely climbed above the level of April Fools pranks. London saw a lot more bombs from labor strife in the late 19th century.

It’s hard to imagine Churchill getting on the radio to talk about fighting them on the landing grounds and on the beaches. “No matter how many SUVs they ruin, we shall never stop laughing.” Any proper PM would have been contemptuous if he bothered to respond at all.

Not Gordon Brown, though. According to the Guardian, “The prime minister, Gordon Brown, warned Britain was subject to a “long-term and sustained” terror threat and warned that attacks like those attempted over the last two days “can happen at any time.”

Be afraid, Britain. Be very, very afraid. They’re under your beds, they’re in your closets, they hide in your tea kettles, on the beaches and especially on the landing grounds, only now we call them airports, don’t we? We shall always surrender, or at least whimper a lot and give up.

When Blair finally faded into the sunset, or at least the middle east, a lot of Britons “including most Labourites“ heaved a sigh of relief and hoped the new guy would a bit less blatant in the office’s propensity to leg-hump the President of the United States.

Since it’s unlikely that Brown really wants Londoners to quiver in the alleyways hugging their knees and peeing themselves in fright, it’s likely that the “we’re-all-gonna-die” talk was for the benefit of Washington, which adores public officials who are anxious to inform people that a ragtag band of clowns with explosives is a greater threat than Hitler and Stalin combined, and that the only thing for it is to throw ourselves to the ground and beg George W. Bush to protect us from the bogeymen.

That something as bad as 9/11, or even much worse, could be in the works is beyond dispute. But panicking the public with an eye to quashing their rights and freedoms is no answer to that.

The government of the US, and now, apparently, Gordon Brown, want to protect us all from the big bad terrorists. What they don’t or won’t admit is that terrorism, by its very structure, defeats the ability of government to protect anyone. In fact, it’s a tactical jiu-jitsu, using the power of the government against itself.

The government has a vast military, which avails it naught against bombers. It has the power to watch, to control, to track, but it is a power that catches precious few terrorists but instead alienates its own populace, who, even if they are timid enough to believe that big daddy government will protect them from the mad bombers, quickly tire of the endless watching and restrictions and limitations, the guarded speech and endless sense of being watched that a government in full protect mode instills. They quickly learn to hate the false security.

Brown finished up his speech by saying, “I think it is very important that the British people send a message to the terrorists that they will not be allowed to undermine our British way of life. But it is also important that the public are vigilant, that we take proper precautions.”

In other words. Watch each other. Snitch. Deal with the endless cameras, the posters begging you to turn in your neighbor, the not-so-subtle appeals to racism and xenophobia. Remember, the fatherland comes before all.

Brown isn’t going to be any better than Blair. And Blair was just plain embarrassing.

The second is Paul Krugman's OpEd from Friday's NYTimes. Bryan finds the Times "select" columns usually posted at but I don't see the blog working this morning. is OK so I hope the guy hasn't encountered special problems. Anyway, this one is about selling the news~~~

Paul Krugman: The Murdoch Factor
The New York Times, June 29, 2007

In October 2003, the nonpartisan Program on International Policy
Attitudes published a study titled "Misperceptions, the media and the
Iraq war." It found that 60 percent of Americans believed at least one
of the following: clear evidence had been found of links between Iraq
and Al Qaeda; W.M.D. had been found in Iraq; world public opinion
favored the U.S. going to war with Iraq.

The prevalence of these misperceptions, however, depended crucially on
where people got their news. Only 23 percent of those who got their
information mainly from PBS or NPR believed any of these untrue things,
but the number was 80 percent among those relying primarily on Fox News.
In particular, two-thirds of Fox devotees believed that the U.S. had
"found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely
with the Al Qaeda terrorist organization."

So, does anyone think it's O.K. if Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation,
which owns Fox News, buys The Wall Street Journal?

The problem with Mr. Murdoch isn't that he's a right-wing ideologue. If
that were all he was, he'd be much less dangerous. What he is, rather,
is an opportunist who exploits a rule-free media environment - one
created, in part, by conservative political power - by slanting news
coverage to favor whoever he thinks will serve his business interests.

In the United States, that strategy has mainly meant blatant bias in
favor of the Bush administration and the Republican Party - but last
year Mr. Murdoch covered his bases by hosting a fund-raiser for Hillary
Clinton's Senate re-election campaign.

In Britain, Mr. Murdoch endorsed Tony Blair in 1997 and gave his
government favorable coverage, "ensuring," reports The New York Times,
"that the new government would allow him to keep intact his British

And in China, Mr. Murdoch's organizations have taken care not to offend
the dictatorship.

Now, Mr. Murdoch's people rarely make flatly false claims. Instead, they
usually convey misinformation through innuendo. During the early months
of the Iraq occupation, for example, Fox gave breathless coverage to
each report of possible W.M.D.'s, with little or no coverage of the
subsequent discovery that it was a false alarm. No wonder, then, that
many Fox viewers got the impression that W.M.D.'s had been found.

When all else fails, Mr. Murdoch's news organizations simply stop
covering inconvenient subjects.

Last year, Fox relentlessly pushed claims that the "liberal media" were
failing to report the "good news" from Iraq. Once that line became
untenable - well, the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that in
the first quarter of 2007 daytime programs on Fox News devoted only 6
percent of their time to the Iraq war, compared with 18 percent at MSNBC
and 20 percent at CNN.

What took Iraq's place? Anna Nicole Smith, who received 17 percent of
Fox's daytime coverage.

Defenders of Mr. Murdoch's bid for The Journal say that we should judge
him not by Fox News but by his stewardship of the venerable Times of
London, which he acquired in 1981. Indeed, the political bias of The
Times is much less blatant than that of Fox News. But a number of former
Times employees have said that there was pressure to slant coverage -
and everyone I've seen quoted defending Mr. Murdoch's management is
still on his payroll.

In any case, do we want to see one of America's two serious national
newspapers in the hands of a man who has done so much to mislead so
many? (The Washington Post, for all its influence, is basically a
Beltway paper, not a national one. The McClatchy papers, though their
Washington bureau's reporting in the run-up to Iraq put more prestigious
news organizations to shame, still don't have The Journal's ability to
drive national discussion.)

There doesn't seem to be any legal obstacle to the News Corporation's
bid for The Journal: F.C.C. rules on media ownership are mainly designed
to prevent monopoly in local markets, not to safeguard precious national
informational assets. Still, public pressure could help avert a Murdoch
takeover. Maybe Congress should hold hearings.

If Mr. Murdoch does acquire The Journal, it will be a dark day for
America's news media - and American democracy. If there were any justice
in the world, Mr. Murdoch, who did more than anyone in the news business
to mislead this country into an unjustified, disastrous war, would be a
discredited outcast. Instead, he's expanding his empire.

Suaada smiles after Shiite militia were stopped from evicting her from her house. (Photo continues series by Ashley Gilbertson)  

3 Jul 2007 @ 13:17 by Quinty @ : Well, I'm glad to hear
it was onlly 500%! I thought it was much more!!!  

3 Jul 2007 @ 15:10 by rayon : Draft and Torture
.....My comment got lost - may attempt a repeat of thought . . . ohhh!

It occurs while reading William above on Draft that this would have a similiar sonnumbulent (drowsy) effect to that of the Security here in the UK which does a fantastic job of prevention. The security is totally responsible for this, not the Government at all, but whichever party is in power will of course talk endlessly about it, even if they have been in the seat for only one day! as already touched upon in previous exchange with Jazzolog today.

Drafting to my mind means leaving the real world of feeling, and going into a purely rational world, by definition devoid of feeling. It is easy to see that anything can happen in this impersonal mode. Then,
it is not a big leap in imagination to see that Drafting itself can lead to Torture, first of one's own kind in the form of bullying (out of unacknowledged fear) and then perhaps on enemy captives, all in the name of whatever army and not much to do with the person himself.

The next small leap of conclusion which comes to mind now - and don't everyone jump at once, is that if one is bred in the family for war, as in England, the second son goes to the army, ((the first inherits the estate, in primogeniture)(the third to the church)), then MOST importantly, this person when in the Army is not drafted, is not voluteering, but is his own person with family behind him, this person to my mind is most unlikely to torture, but to be most brave and chivalrous, as indeed I know some German Officers were in the first and second world wars. To them War was a matter of honour, and in fact this was the case with all the Pre Ancien Regime European countries. I did say don't all jump at once. It was a matter of honour due to their families and loved ones. And that was what one did in those days, and honour was not entirely out of the question.

No one can deny there is still pockets of "dedicated honour" which also translates in the historical company or regiment, very much the basis of the british army for good reasons in ideal wars, but one can see especially in the US, that drafting will have a negative effect on each individual, unless he is lucky and cannot realise this factor in his safe return to home.

The Indians have a tradition of warrior castes, and most famously the Sikhs turned it into a religion breaking a way from the mainstream hindoism. No doubt there is much honour amongst this lot. Their special way of life, not trimming the man's hair, etc etc became holy (actions for staying alive) rituals, items of treasure, ie life.

I can see that being Drafted is like being lifted out of reality and into a world in which operates as part of a much larger machine. You could almost say this person was no longer responsible for any of his actions.

+++++ This does not cover all in the original lost penning - but will suffice. Clearly Volunteering to act in such a purely rational way is plain stupid. To volunteer to give up your mind, is madness even without torture at all!!

Does this fit the dialogue - it is foreign territory to me!  

3 Jul 2007 @ 23:19 by a-d : Fitting right in to the
comments above: [ ] American OFFICIAL "Christians" in Action sharing the their GOODNESS, I guess. How else could it be -Christians as they are, meaning deeply Moral/Ethical as God decreed Humankind to be. Emotional TORTURE of INJUSTICE is PLENTY CRUEL by itself -let alone all the rest .....for DECADES! ...or what do you guys say?  

4 Jul 2007 @ 00:01 by quinty : I find your argument, nraye
convincing. But I’m no military historian and my two cents can only be more morale boosting than fact based.

Front-line wars between superpowers is a thing of the past. For the simple reason that if one power begins to lose it can resort to its nuclear weapons. And that will prevent anyone from winning. No losing front-line force can then ever lose. And no overpowering front-force can expect to win.

Superpowers can easily roll over small countries though. That the Iraqi military would soon be destroyed in 2003 was never in doubt. The US vastly outspends the rest of the world, all nations combined, on “defense,” and there are those who claim we don’t spend enough. (Hillary has said she will increase the Defense budget.) But we see today in Iraq the kind of war we should expect in the future if we ever invade and occupy a third world country again. We can not occupy underdeveloped countries unless we are willing to take an enormous beating and loss.

The choice to torture was not made by privates, corporals, and sergeants. That “culture” was introduced by the civilian authority and top generals desiring to advance themselves. Low ranking soldiers could never get away with such exploits in a military prison or anywhere else unless they had the approval of their higher ups. And those higher ups, unless they were rogues, needed the assurance of top civilians.

Look at the famous photographs of Lynndie England in Abu Ghraib. They are not the photographs of a sadist carried away with joy and passion but are clearly contrived. She is stiffly adopting a pose, putting on a gungho smile. Feigning enthusiasm. And the aura of officers nearby seems also there: though they may not actually be in the room. The Bush administration made these privates and low ranking officers the fall guys. Alberto Gonzalez is far more to blame than Lynndie England.

By the very nature of war horrors and atrocities have to always be expected. Apologists for a war sometimes smugly remind us of that axiom when those horrors finally occur. Wisely they tell us “In war, there are mistakes. Shit happens.”

Which is another reason why war should be avoided. Because atrocities and horrors can always be anticipated. War brutalizes those who fight and engage in it. Soldiers are taught to kill and in a civilian guerrilla setting they may fire on anyone, not knowing who’s who. Taking out their fierce frustrations (after all, they may die) on local civilians, who look so much like their enemy. Who behave like the enemy, talk like the enemy. Who may be the enemy.

And then at home in the US the backers of the war argue that the military has to be “untied” and allowed to do its job. That the generals shouldn’t be hamstrung by politics or politicians. That PC attitudes stand in the way. But what can the military do in a guerrilla war, where the enemy can disappear at night and sleep in his own house, like any of his neighbors. Nor in any way stand out?

During the Vietnam War the ironic notion of “destroying Vietnam in order to save it” became widespread. This was one of LBJ’s many dilemmas. But even today there are still people at home who would like to see this same approach in Iraq. And the distinction between the Iraqi people as friends and as enemies is becoming increasingly blurred. In our impatience to finally win the war the original goal to free the Iraqi people, who are supposed to be our “friends,” after all, is being lost. Soldiers tend to belittle their enemies: and when they can’t distinguish between them and anyone else in the strange land they are occupying, their morale and attitudes can eventually become very bad. And this has nothing to do with criticisms at home. Though the right will probably blame critics for any loss of morale.

Meanwhile, the generals lie to us. And they lie to their men. And they lie to their Commander in Chief if they think that what they say is what he wants to hear. And it is. They are not fools in that regard.

Torture? It’s not the privates and sergeants and lieutenants who have introduced it . Nor do I think it is even the military. If it was, then it was condoned and encourage by higher ups in the executive branch. But the civilian authority is where the buck stops.  

5 Jul 2007 @ 12:10 by jazzolog : Here Is The Torture
Just trying to live there!

You may presume from the photo of the smiling Suaada Saadoun in the series I've been posting that we have a happy ending by intervention against Shiite militia attempts to evict her family. The next morning Suaada suffered 8 bullets as she walked home from the market.

Suaada’s dentures lie on the ground after she was assassinated.

Suaada’s daughter wails after hearing her mother had been executed. (Photos by Ashley Gilbertson)  

5 Jul 2007 @ 13:02 by rayon : Not to pre-empt, PostScript:
the fine ending of Jazzo here above of this truely informative exchange: and while Quinty et al are exchanging huge casualty figures, there is a link here

to the Battle for Stalingrad - which is supposed to have caused more casualties than the rest of the 2nd WW. Can't find the reference in the link, but on the docomentary recently on TV, we were taken step by step into the developments of this conflict. The Germans, finally holed in in a bend on the all important river, totally surrounded for miles by Soviets, were instructed by Hitler, being a high ranking General NEVER to surrender, but fight to death. They had been holed in by now for the winter with no food, and the General did in fact, surrender to the Soviets, because he said he was a Christian and could not commit suicide. It is an incredible story and one in which one completely agreed with the German General about the surrender, it was after this point that the course of the war turned into the allies favour, slowly but surely. There has to a lesson here somewhere or two about Surrender etc. Most of the citizens of This model of all new model modern cities built by the Communists, starved or froze. The beleaguered Russians fought in the sewers even, and developed the sniper tradition by hiding in the ruins of this vast ruined city. In this way a mere handful of guys survived. A modern Epic of a Story, with a special denouement, tragical turning point of good karma, one for the Honourable General and one for the Soviets, and one for the whole war.

JAssolog, if you saw the first version of this log, me the great historian got the germans and soviet actions confused here, so have swapped all the Stalin bits for Hitler and it should read true to form now. So sorry. But fitting certainly the Honourable Action reference.  

17 Jul 2007 @ 12:15 by jazzolog : Torture And The Celebration Of Communion
Father Bill Carroll was kind enough to follow up his OK for posting his sermon in the entry with recommendation of an article coincidentally written the same Sunday. I'm afraid I forgot about it until now. Its author is a theology student named Thom Stark~~~

I've been asked by a partner in resistance over at Death and the Maiden to write my thoughts on the ethical status of torture. Specifically, I've been asked to answer two questions: 1) What is torture? and 2) Is it necessarily immoral?

In answer to the first question, some dictionary definitions:

1) The act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.

2) The deliberate, systematic, or wanton infliction of physical or mental suffering by one or more persons in an attempt to force another person to yield information or to make a confession or for any other reason.

The United Nations Convention Against Torture defines torture as

"any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."

To read the complete convention, click here. It should be pointed out that in Section 1 torture is defined as severe pain or suffering, which means there must be levels of pain and suffering which are not severe enough to be called torture (often termed "cruel, degrading or inhumane treatment"). However, "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" is independently prohibited in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5.

The second question is where the rub's at. Given these definitions, is torture "necessarily" (by which I think she means always) immoral? Or, put differently, could there ever conceivably be a time in which the use of torture would not be immoral?

And you would think the answer would be obvious. You would think we'd have settled this issue by now. But the fact is the question of torture is far from settled in our society. The fact is, the United States currently has a President, Vice President and Attorney General who not only condone the use of torture theoretically but are actually personally responsible for torture sessions which are transpiring even as I write. The United States President has admitted, nay, gloated, on national television that his administration not only condones but implements torture in secret locations around the world. This is the example set by the leader of the rhetorical "free world."

Not only does the President condone and implement torture, but he claims that he does so with the understanding and approval of a majority of United States citizens. Not only does the President claim the support of a majority of United States citizens, he may well have it. According to a recent poll, more than one third of the United States military serving Halliburton in Iraq believe that that torture should be allowed (by the U.S. or its allies, that is, not by the enemy). Up to forty percent would approve of torture "if it would save the life of a fellow soldier." Furthermore, two-thirds of Marines and fifty percent of Army troops surveyed said "they would not report a team member for mistreating a civilian or for destroying civilian property unnecessarily." Fewer than fifty percent believed that even Iraqi non-combatants deserved to be treated with dignity and respect. Ten percent of the troops surveyed admitted to having "mistreated civilians in Iraq, such as kicking them or needlessly damaging their possessions."

Domestically, two of the top-rated television shows in America (one a fictional drama, 24, and the other, reportedly a "news" program, The O'Reilly Factor) are adamantly pro-torture. In virtually every episode of 24, the "hero" (played by Kiefer Sutherland) uses torture techniques, including "kneecapping" (shooting a victim in the knee with a handgun), in order to extract information. Faux News guru Bill O'Reilly has forcefully supported torture on his show, in part by downplaying the pain involved in such techniques as waterboarding (simulated drowning while attached feet over head to a board) sleep deprivation, and prolonged exposure to extreme cold. O'Reilly eschews the word "pain" in favor of "mild discomfort." The fact that these two shows continue to enjoy top ratings in their genres attests to the strong possibility that President Bush was not lying (pinch me) when he said that his position on torture enjoys the support of the American people.

In addition to Bush, Cheney, Gonzalez, Rumsfeld, at least forty percent of the United States Army and Marine Corps, Fox Television, Bill O'Reilly, and a large number of American TV watchers, all but one of the Republican candidates for the presidency of the United States support torture. (The one exception, John McCain, himself a victim of torture in Vietnam, is wishy-washy.) What's more, a Democrat controlled Congress just voted not to close the infamous School of the Americas (rightly dubbed the School of Assassins). (More on this here and here .) According to Michael L. Westmoreland-White, the School of the Americas, originally located in Central America but now run out of Fort Benning, Georgia,

"has been a sponsor of state-funded, pro-government, right-wing terrorism since the 1970s, at least. Here, the U.S. military and CIA, with American tax dollars, trains Latin American militaries in 'counter-insurgency' tactics-including torture, assassination, the 'disappearances' of whole families, etc. Until Abu-Ghraib and the Guantanamo Bay Gulag, this school was the largest source of U.S. shame to human rights activists. Those who murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero were trained here. So were those who slaughtered the Jesuit school in El Salvador, those who wiped out whole villages in Guatemala, and those who raped and tortured nuns in Nicaragua."

The vote to keep the SOA open was a close one (214-206). But that's not good news. That's bad news. The vote should have been unanimous! That's 214 representatives representing 214 constituencies voting in favor of United States sponsored terrorism. If the President is serious about this "War on Terror" (which he isn't), it would seem the United States would be next in line for invasion, by the United States. (No doubt we would find significantly more allies for that war!) Although, it is doubtful that the United States would ever attack the United States, if for no other reason than that another Abu Ghraib could not be justified merely by calling attention to the inferior nationality of the victims. (Still, there's no rule that says we would have to torture white boys.) Nor could there be any offshore detentions of enemy combatants because unfortunately, habeas corpus does in fact apply to United States citizens.

Of course, I guess anyone suspected of terrorist activity (like, for instance, the soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia or anyone at MSNBC) could be detained indefinitely and without trial on the premise that terrorists are traitors and thus have relinquished their citizenship. They could therefore be held as enemy combatants in the War on Terror, and tortured because, as terrorists not soldiers, they are not properly prisoners of war and thus do not fall under the protection of the Geneva Convention, which is quaint and subject to interpretation anyhow.

In the end I guess it could go either way. It depends on whether we can successfully torture an Iranian into confessing that Iran has WMDs with intention to kill. If not, I suspect McCain will change his tune, from Bomb, Bomb Iran to Georgia on My Mind. Either way freedom will continue to advance, so it doesn't really matter as far as I'm concerned.

What does all of this mean? It means we are living in dark days. We live in a capitalist democracy approaching boiling point--capitalism all grown up. Of course, the "democracy" in the capitalist democracy is an oligarchy of transnational corporations, virtual nation-states in their own right. United States policy, domestic and foreign, is determined not "by the people for the people" but by global market trends, oil, munitions and fast food. Accordingly, we are a society of virtual killers (television, PlayStations), killers (high-schoolers and the LAPD), and credit consumers, who have been formed by McDonalds, Wal-Mart, and Hiroshima to inhabit the "real world" where expediency always trumps truth. In such a society the question, "Is torture necessarily immoral?" is no longer intelligible. The question assumes that "morality" is something that can be determined apart from considerations of national interest (oil, munitions and fast food = security). If it's expedient for us to torture some sandnigger, if it prevents having our way of life (obesity, debt, poverty, warfare, torture) taken away from us, the very question is offensive. It's immoral not to torture! A bleeding heart liberal is no better than a terrorist when our children's lives are at stake. So if we have to kill a few Muslim kids to save our children, well, that's a sacrifice we're willing to make, for freedom.

Seriously, just the implication that quaint notions like "immoral" or "illegal" apply to the obviously essential "enhanced interrogation" techniques of a post 9/11 world is reprehensible. If our Air Force can kill Afghani children to save American children, why shouldn't we be able to make a full-grown man "mildly uncomfortable" when it can save lives to do so. I mean, this is a known terrorist we're talking about (suspected anyway). He's a big boy. He'll get over it. We're talking about the stabilization of society here, and in the face of globalization, that means we're talking about the stabilization of the global market for national interest. Peace is big business. The only bigger business is war, and if we can wage the one in the name of the other there's a lot of money to be made from every angle. And that's good for the American economy (i.e. transnational corporations).

Besides, you can't expect to beat terror if you're soft. You've got to fight terror with terror. That's how the Romans did it anyway. Sure, they crucified an innocent man once or twice, but they meant well, and you've got to make sacrifices for peace.

Obviously, the imperial pathology is impenetrable. Face to face with Truth, Pilate could only deny the utility of the notion, which is exactly the pathology of the current administration. Ultimately, from the perspective of a mature capitalist democracy, the question of the morality of torture is just bourgeois. Freedom is on the march and it can't be slowed down just to answer philosophical questions about the nature of freedom. Those who are committed to it know what it means, and if you're not already in on it you probably ought not to be. If you want to challenge it you're challenging the very structure of the society itself and thus you're an enemy of the state. Enemies of the state get crucified. There's no other cure for them.

And there is no cure for this pathology but an eventual and inevitable implosion. There can be no convincing a mature capitalist democracy to respect human rights. A capitalist democracy is inherently, systematically inhumane because in a capitalist democracy humanity is reduced to an aggregate of individuals which become commodities bound together not transcendentally but contractually. A mature capitalist democracy cannot go back on itself without utterly deleting itself, and so it conceals itself inside the ideology of liberation and stabilization. To be liberated is to be free to choose, to choose between McDonalds, Taco Bell and Subway, between Die Hard, The Notebook and Dodgeball. To have stabilization is to have the assurance that such choices will always be in front of us. And whenever our liberty is threatened by the "enemies of freedom," the only recourse we have is to kill and shop, for to shop is to render our wartime sacrifices meaningful.

There is no penetrating this pathology, there is no converting it to something else. There is only the denial of it embodied in an alternative politics. There is no capitalist language for the rejection of torture. To argue against torture in terms of commodity and utility is to perpetuate a subtler torture, the torture of living in a society where human freedom is reduced to consumer choices. To argue that it would benefit capitalist democracy (i.e. transnational corporations) to find other means than torture to meet their ends is to aid capitalist democracy in its survival. The only alternative left to us is to answer the question as Christians. Only after we have learned what it means to be Christian in a world of torture will we be equipped to give an account to the world of what it means to renounce torture. So we pose the question not first to the state, but to ourselves as Christians.

How can one who claims to follow a crucified Messiah ever, under any circumstances, approve of torture? This is the riddle I cannot solve. There is no good answer for it, other than to acknowledge that such a person is so constituted by capitalist democracy, so subsumed by the imperial pathology that they are no longer able to conceive of what it would mean to follow Jesus. To approve of torture is, literally, to be antichrist. Those who commit themselves to following a victim of torture must be willing and ready to become torture victims themselves, but they can never become torturers, for to do so would be to follow the Caesar over against the Christ. To commit the act of torture is to commit the ultimate act of treason against the Crucified King.

Yet those who follow the Crucified King cannot live under any naïve delusion that the world they inhabit is basically good. Those who partake in the Eucharist remember every time they gather together that they live in a world of power-mongers who would torture and assassinate peacemakers in the name of "peace," which when translated is just the perpetuation of the system that keeps them in power. As William Cavanaugh argues in his doctoral dissertation, Torture and Eucharist, when Christians participate in the Eucharist they are engaging in a counter-politics in which they learn to wage peace in a tortuous world by taking the world's violence upon themselves. This absorption of the world's violence into the Body of Christ is the militant act of resistance and imperial subversion for which the counter-polis has been training as it celebrates in the Eucharist the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Crucified One.

Only in the face of such eucharistic resistance will the torturer's eyes be opened to the "utility" of Truth. Only in such subversive suffering will the torturer discover the meaning of power. Only after we have absorbed the torturer's violence will he be empowered to look upon his victim and say, "Surely this was a 'Son of God.'"

So the question then becomes: what does it mean to absorb the world's violence into the Body of Christ? If this names the mode of our resistance to the imperial violence, what does it signify? I leave this question open for discussion. . .

The original article, hyperlinked to references, is here~~~

There also are comments, and you may add one.  

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