The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Iraq Files

It’s impossible to understand the Iraq war, our motivations for entering it, and the truth behind (erroneous?) intelligence projections without good information. Given this, its troubling that the MSM has all but ignored a fascinating new storehouse of information that sheds much light on what was going on in Iraq in the years before OIF began. Pajamas Media reports that over the past few weeks,
The Pentagon has begun to release some of the thousands of Iraqi government and military documents and media confiscated during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some of these materials are translated, but many are in the original Arabic and were made public for translation by bloggers and others fluent in the language. This blog will be a repository for those translations and for commentary in various forms (text, audio and video) on them and on the already translated documents.

Over the past three years, we’ve all been subjected to impassioned arguments that Saddam had no connection to alQaeda; that there was no WMD program underway; that the President entered into the Iraq war without reservation or deliberation… the list of transgressions is long. More importantly, because these transgressions are repeated almost daily in the MSM, it demoralizes the public, as evidenced by new lows in opinion polls. It’s possible that each of these claims is true, but with voluminous new raw information being released daily, it would seem that the MSM would be ravenous – looking to prove each of it earlier assertions about the transgressions of our leadership. Yet, little if any comment has been made on the thousands of documents that have been released.

For example, Pajamas Media reports that:
Ray Robinson thinks he may have found [WMD and terrorist connections] in one of the Docex documents: a report by the Iraqi intelligence service that al-Quds, a Jihad organization composed of Palestinians fighting in Iraq, was planning to carry out an attack with anthrax supplied by Iraq. Robison claims it proves Saddam’s had at least small amounts of WMDs and that he would use terrorists to strike, “exactly the scenario that President Bush warned about.”

One document does not make a case, but it is intriguing and probably newsworthy. Have you heard about it from the MSM?

I suppose one could argue that it will take time to digest all of this information and that the MSM is proceeding cautiously. That simply doesn’t wash, given the MSM’s history of rapid (and often erroneous) reporting, inadequate analysis, and outright bias. It seems that when information is released that might conflict with the MSM’s pre-established world view, reporting is tempered with “caution.” But when information reflects negatively on this nation’s actions in the Middle East, it is often reported without proper vetting, without needed context, and with little or no caveats.

A paper trail is beginning to emerge. I just hope that the general public hears about it.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Guantanamo. Over the past few years, any MSM treatment of this terrorist detention center has been accompanied by subtle (and not so subtle) implications that prisoner abuse and torture are practiced regularly. Various investigators (most of whom have never visited the place) allege the same mistreatment. And now, with the release of the Guantanamo hearing transcripts, we know the full extent of these “horrors.”

Scott Burgess reports the testimony of one Feroz Abbasi, a former detainee whose record of his treatment was reproduced as part of the transcripts:

In lengthy handwritten statements, included with the newly-released documents, Mr. Abbasi - who "left Britain to either join the Taliban or fight for Allah in [Indian-occupied] Kashmir", being driven by "pure hate" for Americans - details the extent of the torture to which he was subjected.

The list of abuses (set 5, page 14) makes for unpleasant reading, to say the least - but the whole thing must be included, for the sake of completeness.

During his time in Guantanamo, Mr. Abbasi (writing in the third person) alleges that he was:

  • subject to [unspecified] "mental stress and pressure"
  • "willfully misdirected ... to pray north"
  • deprived of "comfort items"
  • subjected to an [apparently failed] "attempt to withdraw Qur'an"
  • able to hear two guards having sex, while they "assumed he was asleep"
  • distracted from his prayer by the "sharp intake of breath" of a female MP who'd been "sexually fondled".
  • offered a plate of pork
  • the object of a conspiracy "to keep detainee ignorant of detainee's allotted Tuesday recreation"
  • subjected to a "partially successful" attempt to administer injections "under the guise of immunisation", designed to "unhinge detainee's mental and emotional stability"

While all of these acts are undeniably horrifying, being on a par with the worst excesses of Torquemada, even their totality pales in comparison with the most extreme of the tortures to which Mr. Abbasi was subjected.

Of course, countless abuses have been committed against war prisoners throughout the ages - no one denies that. But, while not downplaying their suffering, it must be admitted that even the most unfortunate of these victims can only breathe a sigh of relief that he was not subject to what Mr. Abbasi was forced to endure when he:

  • had his peanut butter eaten by a guard "right in front of him".

One needn't be a bleeding heart to shudder at the inhumanity thus displayed.

The only thing that’s tortured” is the logic that allows people to call events like those “suffered” by Mr. Abbasi “torture.” The only thing that’s “abused” is the MSM’s credibility when it aggressively reports alleged abuse, but fails to report that the vast majority of the allegations are patent nonsense.


Rachel Corrie – remember her? She has long since been abandoned by the MSM, but the angry left has granted her de facto sainthood and continues to dedicate random events, memorials, and Web sites in her honor.

A quick fact-based refresher from Wikipedia:

Rachel Corrie (April 10, 1979–March 16, 2003) was a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) who traveled as an activist to the Gaza Strip during the Al-Aqsa Intifada. She was killed in Rafah in the Palestinian territories when she tried to obstruct an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Caterpillar D9 bulldozer operating in an area designated by Israel as a security zone, adjacent to the Egyptian border. The circumstances of her death are disputed: the ISM and other eyewitnesses claim that the bulldozer driver deliberately ran over her twice, while the IDF claims that the bulldozer driver didn't see her and that the cause of death was falling debris pushed over by the bulldozer.

When I first encountered her story a number of years ago, I believed that Rachel Corrie was a well-intentioned, profoundly idealistic young woman who was swept up in the a cause that she believed would free the “oppressed.” To some extent, I still believe this to be the case.

And yet, her motivations continue to fascinate.

Obviously no one can say they knew what motivated Rachel Corrie with absolute certainly, but Lee Harris suggests that people like Rachel harbor a “fantasy ideology.” To describe this, he discusses a personal encounter with an activist from another era.

My first encounter with this particular kind of fantasy occurred when I was in college in the late sixties. A friend of mine and I got into a heated argument. Although we were both opposed to the Vietnam War, we discovered that we differed considerably on what counted as permissible forms of anti-war protest. To me the point of such protest was simple — to turn people against the war. Hence anything that was counterproductive to this purpose was politically irresponsible and should be severely censured. My friend thought otherwise; in fact, he was planning to join what by all accounts was to be a massively disruptive demonstration in Washington, and which in fact became one.

My friend did not disagree with me as to the likely counterproductive effects of such a demonstration. Instead, he argued that this simply did not matter. His answer was that even if it was counterproductive, even if it turned people against war protesters, indeed even if it made them more likely to support the continuation of the war, he would still participate in the demonstration and he would do so for one simple reason — because it was, in his words, good for his soul.

What I saw as a political act was not, for my friend, any such thing. It was not aimed at altering the minds of other people or persuading them to act differently. Its whole point was what it did for him.

And what it did for him was to provide him with a fantasy — a fantasy, namely, of taking part in the revolutionary struggle of the oppressed against their oppressors. By participating in a violent anti-war demonstration, he was in no sense aiming at coercing conformity with his view — for that would still have been a political objective. Instead, he took his part in order to confirm his ideological fantasy of marching on the right side of history, of feeling himself among the elect few who stood with the angels of historical inevitability. Thus, when he lay down in front of hapless commuters on the bridges over the Potomac, he had no interest in changing the minds of these commuters, no concern over whether they became angry at the protesters or not. They were there merely as props, as so many supernumeraries in his private psychodrama. The protest for him was not politics, but theater; and the significance of his role lay not in the political ends his actions might achieve, but rather in their symbolic value as ritual. In short, he was acting out a fantasy.

It was not your garden-variety fantasy of life as a sexual athlete or a racecar driver, but in it, he nonetheless made himself out as a hero — a hero of the revolutionary struggle. The components of his fantasy — and that of many young intellectuals at that time — were compounded purely of ideological ingredients, smatterings of Marx and Mao, a little Fanon and perhaps a dash of Herbert Marcuse.

For want of a better term, call the phenomenon in question a fantasy ideology — by which I mean, political and ideological symbols and tropes used not for political purposes, but entirely for the benefit of furthering a specific personal or collective fantasy. It is, to be frank, something like “Dungeons and Dragons” carried out not with the trappings of medieval romances — old castles and maidens in distress — but entirely in terms of ideological symbols and emblems. The difference between them is that one is an innocent pastime while the other has proven to be one of the most terrible scourges to afflict the human race.

I contend that Rachel Corrie and the tens of thousands of angry Left “activists” who lionize her are fulfilling a fantasy ideology. To paraphrase Harris, the Israeli bulldozers were, for Rachel, “there merely as props, as so many supernumeraries in [her] private psychodrama. The protest for [her] was not politics, but theater; and the significance of [her] role lay not in the political ends [her] actions might achieve, but rather in their symbolic value as ritual. In short, [she] was acting out a fantasy.”

Obviously, a harsh and tragic reality intruded on Rachel Corrie. Unlike those on the far right, I am saddened by her death.

But I am also saddened by those who choose to define victims and oppressors without regard to any objective truth; those who immediately assume that countries with democratic (Western) values are always wrong, while murderous “oppressed” regimes and those who support them are always right; those who lord their perceived moral superiority over those who take (dare I say it?) a more nuanced view of the world.

Like Rachel Corrie, you can choose to live by a fantasy ideology, or you can view the world through an undistorted lens. Neither approach is perfect, but I contend that the former leads to narcissism while the latter leads to truth.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


We live in an era of media-defined “victims.” In the eyes of many in the MSM, a victim can be an individual, a class, a culture, or a religion. When you’re a victim, you suffer under the oppressive tactics of those who are not victims – for example, voracious corporations or Western nations – and as a victim, you are given great latitude in how you respond to these oppressive tactics.

If you or your leaders spout intolerant, hate-filled speech or practice egregious human-rights violations, those who would harshly criticize such behavior in your oppressors tend to look the other way.

If you behave irrationally, the only adequate response by your “oppressors” is to admit fault and use every means available to remedy the wrongs (real or imagined) that you suffer. Appeasement is the only acceptable option.

If you use violence or deadly force in response to your victimization, any defensive response by those suffering the effects of that force is considered disproportionate and oppressive.

If your behavior is so extreme (e.g., bombing a civilian target) that it elicits a deadly defensive response, your death is that of a martyr -- not a thug, a terrorist or a criminal. And the response itself feeds a “cycle of violence” that justifies further extreme acts by your compatriots.

Your claims of victimization are rarely challenged. Facts that belie those claims are rarely presented. Context is unimportant. All that matters is that you are oppressed.

As a victim, you’re beyond criticism – after all, you’ve suffered enough.