Friday, May 27, 2005

Leaping Over the Line

I'm sure everyone reading this has heard the story by now. In their report on the conditions of the treatment of detainees at Gitmo, Amnesty International has called it "the gulag of our time." To call this absurd is an understatement. Mike Totten does a great job of pointing this out. This is exaggeration at best, and moral stupidity at worst. I recognize that a dangerous pattern of incidents has occured with respect to the treatment of detainees and prisoners. I so not justify these acts. It' s important to point out that most of these incidents have been investigated, and many of those responsible have beeen prosecuted. However, there does seem to be a lapse in leadership in this area, and other incidents have yet to be dealt with.

I reject wholeheartedly the idea that we should base our commitment to human rights on the worse records of other countries. The simple fact is, we're not supposed to do stuff like this in America. When things like this happen, we investigate, and make sure it doesn't happen again. People like Sen. Inhofe who were "outraged by the outrage" over Abu Ghraib, or Bill O'Reilly seem to think that we shouldn't worry, because we're not as bad as Saddam was. Of course we're not that bad. The moral standard has never been to "not be as bad as the jihadists," rather America's moral strength is that we don't allow any of this.

And for the most part, we haven't. While we have some major problems in the treatment of detainees, there is no consistent established policy of torture. It's certainly no gulag.

To recklessly throw out words like that is not only ridiculous it's insulting. It seems that Irene Khan has never been to a gulag. I've never either, but I enough about the gulag to know that Gitmo doesn't compare. In fact, to even make such claims what get Ms. Khan thrown into a gulag. Those who survived the real gulags deserve an apology. Those who survive the Holocaust, and other real-live torture chambers deserve an apology. I respect Amnesty International's mission in defending human rights, but they've crossed the line. In fact, they've leaped over the line.

On a political note, this only hurts the cause. The only validates the idea of the "elaborate left-wing conspiracy against America's War on Terror," that the O'Reillys, and the Malkins, and the Inhofes of the world think exists. The danger of hyperbole like this is that when you cry wolf like this, people will be less likely to respond to real abuses. If, God forbid, a real gulag-level situation were to arise, many of us would just wonder whether Amnesty International was just being melodramatic. America is not running a gulag, and any serious voices in this debate ought not assert to the contrary.

Oh, and on a sort-of-lighter note, the right-wing of the Republican Party has come unglued.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Newsweek, George Galloway, and Other Idiots

OK. I'm sure you all know by now. Newsweek has screwed up big time. I really don't need to get into all the details again, but in case you didn't know, Newsweek ran a story proporting that Gitmo soldiers had flushed a Koran down the toilet, in order to goad detainees. The thing is, the story is bogus. Newsweek used a single anonymous source, and we find out later than the story is bogus. The bigger problem is that this story may have contributed to riots in Afghanistan and Pakistan that left 14 dead. Big, hefty, stinking faux pas.

Now, I'm pretty sure that these riots were caused by more than this Newsweek article, and that preexisting factors led to the violence. Gen Richard Myers essentiallybacked that up. However, it cannot be denied that at the very least, this article couldn't have helped matters much. The question I still cannot answr is why they felt they had to run this story right away, especially one so factually suspect? Was it for journalistic glory? To satisfy the fickle, sensationalist beast that controls a lot of media coverage today? Was it rank stupidity? The Bush crew have of course decided to blame the liberal, anti-Bush bias. I put no stock in the liberal media canard, but if Newsweek was trying to dispel that perception, then they really f'ed up.

Even if this story was true, I fail to see the journalistic importance. I don't think Newsweek maliciously put this out, but this is full-bore incompetence on their part. Eric Alterman points out that this is part of a pattern for one Mike Isikoff, who during the Clinton years was a well-known agent in making bogus stuff up during those Clinton "scandals," much to the delight of the anti-Clinton right. He admitted to being used by the likes of Linda Tripp and Lucy Goldberg.

So, this is yet another indictment of the fickle, non-fact-checking, short-sighted dark side of the media elite. Not liberal, but lazy. And loose. And you know.

Scott McClellan is in no moral position to lecture anyone on responsible reporting. Period.

George Galloway, while he may find some support from the naive, short sighted quarters, and the unreconstructed flank of the anti-war Left, if this guy really did buy oil from Saddam, then he deserves all he gets. The word on the street is that this guy is quite the pro-Saddam, neo-Stalinist lunatic.

If all those conservative myrmidons are really going to stand behind their Don, Tom DeLay, then they do so at their peril.

OK. I'm done.