Apologias and apologies

by Henry on May 2, 2004

“Jacob Levy”:http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=scholar&s=levy043004 has a very good column in TNR, about politics and responsibility. Levy refers to Clinton’s persistent habit of making apologies that weren’t really apologies, because they weren’t accompanied by any real consequences for the people involved (as Jacob notes, this is preferable to not making apologies at all). There’s something similar going on in the current breastbeating over Abu Ghraib. Many of the condemnations, including George W. Bush’s statement, seem to me to be either complete disclaimers of responsibility, or non-apology apologies. By implying or stating that these are the actions of a small group of individuals, who will be duly punished, they’re saying that there isn’t any wider problem, nor any need for those who weren’t directly involved, or supervising those directly involved to take responsibility. They’re not so much apologies as apologias – speeches for the defence.

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My Cold Dead Hands and Yours

by Kieran Healy on May 2, 2004

John just “pipped me to a post”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/001797.html on torture in Iraq. I had been thinking how, just last week, even “quite sensible people”:http://volokh.com/2004_04_25_volokh_archive.html#108325807713464654 were endorsing the idea that Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be giving interviews in the Arab media because — in Eugene Volokh’s words — “the very likely effect of statements such as this is to magnify the resolve of those who are trying to defeat us”. This was watery stuff when it first appeared, and seems a bit beside the point in the light of the images we’ve seen this week.

More generally, it seems to me that American war hawks continue to show little ability to put themselves in the position of the occupied Iraqis and ask how they might respond themselves in such circumstances. I find this odd because you’d think that a strong tradition of personal liberty and local autonomy backed in part by private gun ownership would predispose you to have that sort of sympathy. But, with “some exceptions”:http://www.highclearing.com/ these sentiments are getting overridden by others.

Demolish Abu Ghraib

by John Quiggin on May 2, 2004

It is hard to overestimate the damage that has been done, not only to the US occupation of Iraq but to the cause of democracy and civilisation as a whole by the exposure of torture and sexual humilation of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, formerly used for the same purposes, though of course on a much more brutal and extensive scale, by Saddam Hussein[1]. If these pictures had been staged by the Al Qaeda propaganda department they could scarcely have been better selected to inflame Arab and Muslim opinion against the West, combining as they do the standard images of torture with scenes specially designed to show the determination of the West to humiliate Muslim men in every way possible.

Update 05/04. There is more on this, and on the symbolism of US occupiers living in Saddam’s palace over at Whiskey Bar, where Billmon notes a similar proposal by Hisham Melhem, a Lebanese journalist. See also Eccentricity

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Bush has really lost Tacitus this time. He is getting mighty depressed:

As I write this, Nightline just flashed, together, the photographs of the two dead in Iraq whom I knew from younger days: Kim Hampton and Eric Paliwoda. I didn’t realize they were killed sequentially. They fell in the line of duty, on the field of battle, and there is honor in their lives and deaths. What remains is for us to impart honor to the cause in which they served. I speak not of the defense of the United States: this is forever honorable, and right. I speak of the creation of a just Iraq. This would be an Iraq in which jihadis do not walk free, in which Ba’athist generals no longer rule, and in which civil war is not the near-inevitable future. That this Iraq does not exist, and will not exist because of our choices, means we have profoundly dishonored our dead there. They deserve better: something right, and lasting. It is hard to see those faces, those young faces, among the roll call of the dead. I look at them, and it strikes me that in walking away from Fallujah, we are walking away from their graves; leaving their light and memory to the cruel care of those who killed them. It is the worst of all worlds, for there is comfort in a parent’s asking, “Why did my child die?” and finding the answer, “For liberty, for justice, for America.” Now, in this defeat, as we slowly take the abdication of our duties to its inexorable end, that answer changes into something awful; something that should be a reproach to our halfhearted leaders to the ends of their days:

“For nothing.”

I recommed you go read both linked posts in thier entirety. Tacitus has always been a fairly eloquent fellow (if, like his namesake, inclined to morose skepticism about human affairs), and white-hot searing rage and disappointment have spurred him to new heights.

(And read this post for title quote from my and John’s favorite Melville, The Confidence Man.)