“…relatively little interest…” 26 November 2008Posted by marisacat in 2008 Election, Afghanistan War, Culture of Death, DC Politics, Democrats, Inconvenient Voice of the Voter, Iraq War, Pakistan, WAR!.
A file photo from 2004 showing an outdoor solitary confinement cell at Abu Ghraib, Iraq. [AP via Spiegel]
Mark Danner has a piece up in NYRoB… appropriate title, Frozen Scandals:
[T]he story of how this happened is long and elaborate but one thing is clear: it has not happened for lack of revelation. The Abu Ghraib scandal broke in the spring of 2004. The images of Hooded Man, Leashed Man, Man Menaced by Dog—all quickly became “iconic,” the stuff of end-of-the-year news tableaux and faded murals on the walls of minor cities in the Middle East. This first and last occasion when torture became vivid, fertile scandal—when torture emerged, thanks to the photographs, as that most valuable of products: televisual scandal—came and went in the spring and summer of 2004, leaving a harvest of rapidly aging images and leaked documents. Those documents—many hundreds of pages, which told in great and precise detail the story of how United States officials, from the President on down, came in the wake of the September 11 attacks to order Americans to torture—were quickly published by journalists and writers, myself included, who no doubt expected that the investigative committees, the televised hearings, and the prison sentences would quickly follow.
In the event, the investigations did come, a dozen or more of them, and their very proliferation was the means by which the story was converted from shocking crime into perpetual news, then minor story, and then, at last, “key issue.” But for a handful of hapless soldiers—the smallest of small fish —there were no real prosecutions, no images of high officials in handcuffs. The leakers, who had risked their careers to make the documents public, must have been profoundly disappointed. For it was they, as it happened, who had committed one of the era’s signal crimes: unguarded idealism. At Guantánamo, at the “dark sites,” at various venues around the world, known and unknown, torture continued, even as it was studied and passed by due legislative oversight into the law of the land. Only the courts seemed, intermittently, to have a different idea. And all the while the torture story was well reported, mostly in the newspapers—for after that initial rush of photographs, which quickly became cliché, there followed nothing juicy enough to raise the story to the golden level of the televisual—and it continued to be reported even as it made its way through the complicated and mysterious transformational process by which a war crime becomes a “key issue.”
All the while, it must be said, the public, that repository of right, showed relatively little interest. Neither, following the lead of their constituents, did the politicians. John Kerry, running for president in the immediate wake of Abu Ghraib—and perhaps remembering his own unrecompensed temerity in calling attention, as a young returning vet, to war crimes in Vietnam—hardly mentioned it. ::snip::
The nation’s epitaph is in there, somewhere…
Danner also manages a couple of grafs on our perpetual state of war..
Wars are immensely valuable to those who sit atop “hierarchical societies” because they supply an overarching rationale for power and its expansion while choking off questions, not least by increasingly limiting the information on which those questions must be based. The War on Terror, of course, has been far from bloodless, embodying itself in at least two “real” wars—one of which, in Afghanistan, was launched to respond directly to attack; the other, in Iraq, to achieve less specific, more grandiose goals—as well as in a great number of secret operations of varying ambition carried out “on the dark side.” Still, unbounded as it is in space and time, serving as it has as a handy and near-inexhaustible rationale for accruing centralized power, the War on Terror has approached as close as we have yet come in reality to Orwell’s imagined perpetual war, accruing to those in control the increased power that comes with war but without the endless costs. Or it would have, had the war not brought in its train its own frozen scandal.
How will history choose to explain a war launched in the cause of ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to exist? It is a tantalizing question. Will the Iraq War take its place as a historical curiosity, alongside the Guano War of the nineteenth nentury or the Soccer War of the twentieth? And how interested will our descendants be in the response of our democratic polity: the investigations that, like dinosaurs slowly rousing themselves from the mudhole, ever so slowly got under way and then, after years of lumbering effort—hundreds of hours of testimony, thousands of documents examined—finally discovered…what? In the end, there was, alas, no “smoking gun.”
…one of which, in Afghanistan, was launched to respond directly to attack…
I don’t believe we went into Afghanistan purely or even largely in response to 9/11, handy tho it was… If that were the reason (meaning we had cared), we would have done something about the ISI in Pakistan and something, tho I cannot fathom what, about elements in S Arabia. What we did do was glom onto a pivotal piece, a big piece, of regional RE… and deal ourselves in, big time, on the largest cash crop of opium in the world.
And, of course, pound wedding parties to blood then pound the blood into the dust.
Other than that, a good take on “we’ve always been at war with Eastasia…”
From time to time I drag myself thru the boring writing of Ross Douthat, in that governmental prop, The Atlantic…I gather he is a rising young(ish) conservative… I spied this today… (full text)
25 Nov 2008 08:57 pm
Me, last week:
Max Boot, today:
As someone who was skeptical of Obama’s moderate posturing during the campaign, I have to admit that I am gobsmacked by these appointments , most of which could just as easily have come from a President McCain … Only churlish partisans of both the left and the right can be unhappy with the emerging tenor of our nation’s new leadership.
Take it away, Massie
… most of which could just as easily have come from a President McCain …
NO SHIT. One exception appears to be Melody Barnes, part of the financial scheme. She comes from Podesta’s org and was apparently intemperate enough, once anyway, to state that you can be religious and pro-choice. Donoghue of the Catholic League is after her. Bluster, I would say…
Douthat’s entry twins nicely with this, which someone kindly emailed me…(full text):
A senior Obama campaign official shared with The Washington Note and Huffington Post that in July 2008, the McCain and Obama camps began to work secretly behind the scenes to assemble large rosters of potential personnel for the administration that only one of the candidates would lead.
Lists comprised of Democrats and Republicans were assembled, sorted into areas of policy expertise, so that the roster could be called on after the election by either the Obama or McCain transition teams.
This kind of out-of-sight coordination is rare between battling presidential camps and provides some indication that both Obama and McCain intended to draw expertise into their governments from both sides of the aisle — or at least they wanted to appear interested in doing so if the information leaked out about the list development process.
Fascinating tidbit on cooperation behind battle lines.
– Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note
I’d call it cosy collusion, as both players know the rule book, rather than “cooperation”.
And I am happy to be churlish, if the flip side is being MAX BOOT. Or any of the liverish, jelly fish-i-fied for the ages, Democrats.