by Tom on May 12, 2004

I have simply no idea what the point of fairly predictable, mildly revolting, ex-Lefty right-winger, seems

Today’s good deed

by Ted on May 12, 2004

Terry Welch, who is serving as an Army public affairs specialist in Afghanistan, has a very reasonable request. He says that what Afghan children want, more than anything, are pens. Pens are cheap. Below the fold is his letter, including a link to OfficeMax and his address.

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Meanwhile, in the Hague …

by Daniel on May 12, 2004

Given the current revelations from Abu Ghraib, it is worth remembering that a major reason for the USA’s attempts to undermine the International Criminal Court was that making American troops accountable would impede them in the War on Terror. I personally don’t have much time for the Hague tribunal; I think that the US opposition to it on grounds of national sovereignty were valid and I don’t like unaccountable international institutions. But hell … isn’t it just a bit ironic that the US Army managed to achieve what nobody thought was possible (a successful war with minimal civilian casualties) and then fouled up on the kind of “war crimes” that nobody ever so much as imagined that the US Army would commit?

Sanctions on Syria

by Jon Mandle on May 12, 2004

Not that there’s much hope left, but have they simply given up on trying to win “hearts and minds” in the region? Is now really the best time for this?

Mr. Bush issued an executive order banning virtually all American exports, except for food and medicine, and barring flights between Syria and the United States, except during emergencies.

And it seems that it is mostly hearts and minds that will be affected:

In the near term, the action is largely symbolic, since trade with Syria, at about $300 million a year, is insubstantial and Syrian airlines do not fly to the United States. Moreover, the trade ban does not preclude investment, though American firms like ConocoPhillips and Chevron, which currently do business in Syria, will be required to turn to foreign suppliers to service their operations there, a State Department spokesman said.

I guess here’s the real target:

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican who was an original sponsor of the Syria Accountability Act, expressed satisfaction with the president’s announcement.

“He went beyond what was asked of him,” she said.

A brief request

by Daniel on May 12, 2004

Just a quick note to the fairly large proportion of our readers who also run weblogs. The photographs of Iraqi prisoners being humiliated and tortured are important historical documents, but the faces of those being victimised are not particularly important details. Nothing important is lost by linking to a version of the photographs in which the victims’ anonymity is preserved rather than one in which they are clearly identifiable. While some of the torture victims were extremely nasty people, many weren’t (apparently, many of them had been picked up simply by mistake), and in any case it is not good form to condemn the practice of humiliating prisoners while simultaneously disseminating pictures which increase the humiliation.

The genie is out of the bottle, obviously (thanks to quite scandalous insensitivity on the part of the world’s newspaper), but we can at least show willing ourselves. This will be doubly important, obviously, if and when the currently “secret” (and apparently much more distressing for the victims) photographs become public.

Update: When I rather loftily said above that “nothing is lost by linking to version of the photographs in which the victims’ anonymity is preserved”, I assumed that I’d be able to find such versions pretty easily, but apparently not. I’ve tried all sorts of search terms, but can’t find a single instance of publication of the photos in which anyone bothered to blur the faces. Christ. Did literally nobody stop to think about this last week? Last time I take a holiday.

The ticking bomb problem

by John Q on May 12, 2004

In response to the exposure of widespread torture prisoners in Iraq (on all sides) and elsewhere, it’s inevitable that the “ticking bomb” problem should be raised.

‘You hold a terrorist who knows the location of a defusable bomb which, if exploded, will kill x million people. Do you have the right to torture him/her to find the bomb?’

Various answers to this question have been offered, none of which seem entirely satisfactory.

Instead of offering an answer to this question, I’m going to look at a question that follows immediately, but doesn’t seem to have been asked. Suppose that someone has used torture to extract information from a prisoner in the belief (factually correct or not and morally sustainable or not) that doing so was justified by a “ticking bomb” situation. What should they do next?

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