Whom will they blame this time?

by Chris Bertram on September 30, 2004

“Gene at Harry’s Place writes”:http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/archives/2004/09/30/who_will_they_blame_this_time.php :

bq. I know I’m expecting too much, but I really hope the “we can’t be choosy” Western supporters of the Iraqi “resistance” will find a way to blame the murder of dozens of Iraqi children– at a ceremony in Baghdad to mark the opening of a new sewage plant– on those who actually perpetrated it, without in some way implicating the US government.

I’m no supporter of the Iraqi “resistance”, but I still guess it would be expecting too much to hope that the contributors to Harry’s Place desist from making this kind of heavy-handed point every time something nasty happens in Iraq. In any case, the presupposition of Gene’s point — which he may or may not endorse when it is brought to the surface — is that if one gives the bombers the blame they deserve one must thereby absolve the US government. Not so, and for two reasons. First, if a government’s policies bring a situation into being in which crazy fanatics take the opportunity to slaughter innocents, a situation that would not otherwise have obtained, then that government is sure as hell implicated. Compare: if the British government gave an amnesty to all Britain’s sex offenders, it would in no way be exculpatory of the rapists to hold the government to account for the increase in rapes. Second, if you invade a country, destroy or disband the existing state apparatus, and assume responsibility for the peace and security of its citizens, then it is hardly unreasonable to hold you responsible when that peace and security fails to obtain. None of which, of course, settles the question of whether there should have been a war or not. But it does settle the question “Is it possible to blame to fanatics appropriately and still implicate the occupiers.” The answer to that question is “yes”.

Republicans against torture

by Henry Farrell on September 30, 2004

Sebastian Holsclaw is a regular commenter here – while I’ve had some serious differences with him, he certainly deserves some kudos for this “post”:http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2004/09/republicans_mus.html on Obsidian Wings explaining why his fellow Republicans should disavow the proposed legislation that would facilitate extraordinary renditions. I only hope that others on the right side of the blogosphere start to pick up this message.

Party-line vote

by Ted on September 30, 2004

The Bush administration is supporting a provision in the House leadership’s intelligence reform bill that would allow U.S. authorities to deport certain foreigners to countries where they are likely to be tortured or abused, an action prohibited by the international laws against torture the United States signed 20 years ago.

The provision, part of the massive bill introduced Friday by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), would apply to non-U.S. citizens who are suspected of having links to terrorist organizations but have not been tried on or convicted of any charges. Democrats tried to strike the provision in a daylong House Judiciary Committee meeting, but it survived on a party-line vote.

The provision, human rights advocates said, contradicts pledges President Bush made after the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal erupted this spring that the United States would stand behind the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Hastert spokesman John Feehery said the Justice Department “really wants and supports” the provision.

Kudos to the Washington Post for picking up on this. If this is defensible, I’d really like to hear a defense. Until then, I’m going to contact my Representative again.

Revolution and Revelations

by John Q on September 30, 2004

John Holbo’s post on apocalyptic Christianity and its political implications raises a couple of questions I’ve been wondering about for a while.

The first one relates to my memories of the late 1960s, when most people of my acquaintance gave at least some credence to the belief that there would be a revolution of some kind, sometime soon. At about the same time, I encountered the Revelations-based eschatology of people like Hal Lindsey. Thirty years later, there’s been no revolution, and I don’t know of anyone who seriously expects one. As I recollect, belief in the possibility of a revolution had pretty much disappeared by 1980.

Revelations-based prophecies have similarly failed time after time, but they seem to be more popular than ever. What is about apocalyptic Christianity as a belief system that protects it from empirical refutation? I assume there’s heaps of research on this kind of thing, but I hope to get readers to point me to the good stuff.

The second point is that, as can be seen from Lindsey’s site, he and other apocalyptic Christians have strong political views, which could broadly be summarised as favouring a vigorous military response to Antichrist (variously identified with the Soviet Union, the UN and so on). How does this work? Do they think that another six armoured divisions could turn the tide at Armageddon? If so, wouldn’t this prevent the arrival of the Millennium and the Day of Judgement[1]?

And how does all this affect believers in rapture? Do they install automatic watering systems for their gardens and arrange for unsaved neighbours to feed the cat? Or do they just pay into their IRAs as if they expect the world to last forever?

fn1. There’s a genre of horror movies (The Omen, The Final Conflict and so on) that takes pretty much this premise.