Various items

Book events. Persecuting military heroes. Self-justifications disguised as "self-criticism" from war advocates. UPDATE: AP photojournalist in Iraq finally ordered released.


Glenn Greenwald
April 9, 2008 5:10PM (UTC)

(updated below - Update II)

I'll be traveling for the next 24 hours or so, which will make posting erratic to non-existent, so until then, here are several matters to note:

(1) My last book, A Tragic Legacy, is, as of yesterday, now available in paperbook, both in bookstores and online. Amazon has now packaged it with Great American Hypocrites, so they can be ordered separately or together as a package. Various reviews of A Tragic Legacy are listed on its Amazon page.

(2) Open Left's Paul Rosenberg has now published an extensive review of Great American Hypocrites, which can be read here. Paul is an excellent writer and commentator in his own right and his review is well worth reading. There's also an interview Paul conducted with me about the new book for AltWeeklies, posted here.

(3) In connection with the release of Great American Hypocrites this coming Tuesday, I'll be at various events in Washington DC and New York, and possibly Philadelphia. The confirmed events thus far are a book event on Wednesday, April 16 at 7:00 pm at Olsson's in Dupont Circle, followed immediately by an event jointly sponsored by FireDogLake and Drinking Liberally, at the 17th St. Cafe.

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The following night -- Thursday, April 17, at 6:30 pm -- I'll be speaking about the book and related matters, with a Q-and-A session, at the University of Maryland-College Park, in the Crist Boardroom of the Samuel Riggs Alumni Center.

This Sunday, April 13, I'll be online at Daily Kos, beginning at 3:00 p.m., to discuss the book. McJoan will review the book and there will be a live discussion of it in the comment section. Other events are being finalized and I'll post them once they are.

(4) Speaking of events, John Yoo will be appearing at his first one since disclosure of his latest Memorandum embracing torture, presidential omnipotence and (by reference) the suspension of the Fourth Amendment. On April 14, at the Bancroft Hotel in Berkeley, he'll be appearing at a Berkeley Law School event to participate in a discussion of "the intersection between privacy and national security law." Even now, he's a highly respected member of the academy and treated as one of our nation's great experts on Constitutional matters and presidential power. It would seem like a good opportunity for those with strong views about his conduct to attend and express those views.

(5) A new poll released by Rasmussen Reports yesterday finds:

that 65% of Americans would like to see U.S. troops brought home from Iraq within a year. That's the highest total recorded in the tracking poll which has been conducted regularly since August of last year. . . .

Looking at the other end of the spectrum, 31% want troops to remain in Iraq until the mission is complete. That figure has ranged from 31% to 39% since tracking began.

So 31% of Americans agree with John McCain's views on Iraq (a low point for this poll) and 65% -- a record high -- reject that view. This, of course, shows that the Iraq War will be a big asset for McCain's presidential campaign and a real threat to the Democrats, and that withdrawal is political poison, because Americans are turning in favor of the war again and want to stay until we Win.

Also, everyone sane and honest admits that the Surge is working great:

The survey also found that 32% believe the troop "surge" has worked while 43% disagree and say it has not. Sixty-one percent (61%) of Republicans say the surge has worked. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democrats say it has not along with 51% of those not affiliated with either major party.

Since McCain is most closely associated with the Surge and with staying forever, this is all really good news for him.

(6) Daniel Drezner today "responded" to my post from yesterday (for those interested, Megan McArdle responded yesterday here). Professor Drezner says he had fun the last time we had an exchange but didn't like it this time around and, therefore, sadly decided he won't do it again. He also says that I'm "incapable of distinguishing positive analysis from normative advocacy" even though, as he notes, I pointed out why his "positive analysis" was incoherent and also argued why the alleged "positive analysis" was, in fact, a normative defense of the media disguised as objections to my methods.

Finally, he praises himself by claiming that even though he did support the invasion, he hasn't "shied away from self-criticism regarding Iraq." Needless to say, though, when one reads his "self-criticism", it's actually a self-justification, as he invokes the standard cliche of claiming that his war advocacy was so very good-hearted (he just wanted benevolently to drop Freedom Bombs on them) but he couldn't have possibly predicted that those incompetent Bush people would manage the war so badly and spoil his vision:

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My major screw-up was both simple and profound -- at the time, with regard to foreign policy, I thought the Bush administration could walk and chew gum at the same time (i.e., fight Al Qaeda and Iraq), when it turned out that they couldn't even chew gum unaided.

I also implicitly assumed that if administration officials -- many of whom had displayed a fair amount of competence in the Bush 41 prosecution of Gulf War I -- discovered that their initial plans did not go, er, according to plan, that they would recognize this fact and adopt contingency plans. I did not think that their response would boil down to something like "stay the course" for close to four years, followed by a surge proposal.

So his "major screw-up" was that other people were incompetent and couldn't implement his beautiful and kind invasion and occupation. As the recent series of supposed mea culpas from war advocates in Slate demonstrated, this is what passes for regret and "self-criticism" among most (though not all) war advocates: "Hey, those guys over there turned out to be incompetent war implementors and I didn't realize that at the time."

This, of course, proves, rather than negates, the central point I made. He doesn't consider it a "screw-up" that he cheered on an attack against a country that hadn't attacked and couldn't attack us (he even emphasizes that he supported the invasion without thinking Saddam posed any imminent threat - as though that's in his favor). Nor was it a "screw-up" of his to tacitly assume that we have the right to run around toppling governments, militarily occupying them and controlling how they function whenever the whim strikes us. It isn't the attack on Iraq itself nor the subsequent occupation that was wrong, just the technocratic inefficiency, the imperial mismanagement that followed.

And that was the whole point of the post that made him so upset. Beginning with the Nuremberg Trials, at least, we have loudly espoused a set of principles regarding things like "aggressive war" and war crimes that we apply to all sorts of other nations but feel no need to abide by ourselves. People like Dan Drezner don't actually believe in those principles as applied to the U.S. -- that's why he cheers on aggressive wars and only regrets that they weren't more efficiently managed -- and Megan McArdle, in responding to a commenter yesterday, all but admitted as much:

Mmmm . . . I am in no way unhappy with the outcome of Nuremberg, but my understanding is that most international lawyers regard them basically as show trials. I'm not sure they're a great example to use.

The trial themselves were, to be sure, a form of "victor's justice," but the principles they established have formed the foundation of ostensible Western morality in foreign affairs and war accountability for the last six decades. They're also what enable the much-glorified World War II to be thought of as a just war. As I noted yesterday, the primary principle is that aggressive wars inevitably lead to war crimes and tyranny and are thus the "kingpin of all war crimes." Those who plan such aggressive wars, concluded the War Tribunal, are therefore responsible for all of the atrocities that one should reasonably expect will follow.

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If I were Dan Drezner and Megan McArdle, I, too, would want the media to ignore things like the torture regime implemented by the U.S. Government and would be tempted to concoct all sorts of rationale to explain away their doing so and why it's perfectly fine that they focus on Barack Obama's bowling score instead. That's precisely why there's such a strong incentive on the part of the establishment to avoid discussing what they've spawned -- the number of innocent civilians slaughtered in Iraq, the wholesale destruction of that country, and all of the abuses which accompanied it.

When you talk about those things and demand that they be investigated and exposed, point out the responsible parties involved, and insist that there be accountability for it -- that what our Government has done and is doing not be ignored or suppressed -- that's when you become "simplistic and Jacobian," ignorant, "disgusting," "bizarre, even lunatic" and "the kind of frenzied conspiracy-theorizing [] generally associated with Ron Paul's more wild-eyed supporters," and all of the other angry insults those two managed to spit out in one 24-hour period.

The things that have happened in the U.S. over the last seven years haven't just magically emerged. They had actors behind them and ideas underlying them and acting as though it's all just a matter to leave politely in the past -- even though none of it has really changed -- is just a recipe for guaranteeing that it continues. It's hardly surprising that those who want it all minimized, ignored and forgotten will be hostile towards those who believe it shouldn't be.

(7) Related to all of that, I can't recommend highly enough that this post, from Harper's Scott Horton, be read. The true heroism and sacrifice he chronicles -- and Digby adds more about that here -- is the perfect contrast to the self-justifying mentality discussed above.

UPDATE:

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(8) This news is both huge and great:

Detained AP photographer receives amnesty by Iraqi panel in battle with US military

BAGHDAD (AP) -- An Iraqi judicial committee has dismissed terrorism-related allegations against Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein and ordered him freed after nearly two years in U.S. military custody.

The decision by a four-judge panel says Hussein's case falls under a new amnesty law and orders Iraqi courts to "cease legal proceedings." The ruling says that Hussein should be "immediately" released if no other charges are pending.

The lawless detention of Bilal Hussein was one of the worst American travesties of the U.S. occupation. He was but one of 24,000 Iraqis (at least) detained without charges. But the fact that he was an AP photojournalist (part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team covering the war) whose journalism reflected negatively on the Bush administration, and who became controversial (and then lawlessly imprisoned) as a result of that work, made his detention -- imprisoned for over 19 months without even any charges before finally being turned over to an Iraqi court -- that much more reprehensible.

I wrote about the Bilal Hussein case many times (including here and here), and interviewed AP executives about the case here. AP, in general, deserves criticism for many things, but they did a very commendable job of standing behind their journalist and battling the Bush administration's lawless detention of Hussein every step of the way.

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How ironic -- and tragically revealing -- that Hussein had to wait until he was turned over to the Iraqi Government before he could avail himself of the most basic precepts of due process. Continuing with a theme over the past couple of days, I'm going to quote Robert Jackson again, the Chief U.S. Counsel at the Nuremberg Trials, in his closing remarks to the tribunal:

Fairness is not weakness. The extraordinary fairness of these hearings is an attribute of our strength . . . . Let me emphasize one cardinal point. The United States has no interest which would be advanced by the conviction of any defendant if we have not proved him guilty on at least one of the Counts charged against him in the Indictment. Any result that the clam and critical judgment of posterity would pronounce unjust would not be a victory for any of the countries associated in this Prosecution.

As we abolish habeas corpus and indefinitely imprison tens of thousands of people around the world with no charges or process of any kind, we have obviously repudiated those principles -- principles that, back then, we even applied to the most heinous Nazi war criminals.

But, at least in this case, the Iraqi judicial system has not repudiated those principles, as they ordered Hussein released after doing what the U.S. military refused to do for almost two years -- offer him a chance to contest the charges against him and accord him basic due process (it doesn't appear that they found him not guilty -- or even adjudicated the question of his guilt at all -- but instead, ruled that he was legally entitled to amnesty under Iraqi law). The Philadelphia Daily News's Will Bunch has some additional thoughtssome additional thoughts.

UPDATE II:

(9) Megan McArdle has now written I don't know how many more posts responding to what I wrote, but I've said everything I have to say for now on these matters. I'm nonetheless compelled to write once more because both she and Dan Drezner are actually now running around to other places complaining I've defamed them by falsely accusing them of being pro-torture when, in fact, they say, they oppose torture.

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As is so obvious to anyone who even casually read what I wrote, I said no such thing. I don't know -- and really don't care -- what Dan Drezner or Megan McArdle's views on torture are, and I didn't write a word about any of that. What I wrote -- as clearly as the English language permits -- is that people like them who advocate aggressive wars, such as the invasion of Iraq, are responsible for what naturally follows. That's a principle established by the Nuremberg Trials. It has nothing to do with what they think about torture:

Both of them supported the Bush administration and advocated for the invasion of Iraq. Hence, the absolute last thing they want to face -- just as is true for most of our political and media establishment -- is that the things they cheered on have spawned grave atrocities and vast destruction.

And:

As is frequently pointed out by historians and other scholars, the types of aggressive wars that McArdle, Drezner and their fellow establishment mavens support inevitably lead to exactly the sort of war crimes and pervasive government lawbreaking which they want to pretend doesn't matter.

And:

Aggressive war is the linchpin of war crimes and tyranny and inevitably produces them. And that's precisely the evidence that is now emerging as a result of the endless, aggressive war people like McArdle and Drezner supported -- the systematic implementation of a regime of torture and lawless detention by the highest levels of our government, the assertion of the right to suspend even the most basic Constitutional liberties such as the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, the seizure of power even to break the law and to immunize the lawbreakers, and the ongoing willingness of our highest government officials to lie about terrorist attacks and the law in order to obtain still more unchecked power.

The only thing I said they supported was aggressive war, which is true. I also argued that people who support aggressive wars are responsible for what follows, which is why they're so blithe about the fact that those things that followed -- such as the Government's war crimes and even things like the suspension of the Fourth Amendment -- are receiving so little media attention. Could that be any clearer?

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People who are convinced that, deep down, they're so Good will automatically accuse you of "misrepresenting" their views if you link them to bad things, because how else could they possibly be responsible for bad things other than if you distort what they think? Believing that is fine. Running around petulantly claiming that I said they were pro-torture when I made no such statement isn't fine. We're all supposed to agree that Good people can advocate horrendous policies and still be Good -- or, more to the point, not responsible for what they cheered on -- and if you don't accept that premise, then it means that you're being unfair and shrill and must be misrepresenting their views.

If you cheer on optional invasions and aggressive wars, you do so knowing that you're supporting things that will -- at best -- lead to mass destruction and the deaths of thousands and thousands of people. Aggressive wars lead to war crimes; it itself, by definition, is a "war crime" by virtue of our own principles and legal framework. I know full well that it's impolite, overheated and shrill to point all of this out -- to suggest that those who advocate such wars, even the good, nice, well-meaning people, bear responsibility for what follows -- but that doesn't make pointing it out a "misrepresentation."


Glenn Greenwald

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