“Humane Societies … Pursue Justice”

One of the most important ways in which humane societies struggle to deter outbreaks of mass violence is by working to pursue justice, so that would-be war criminals might think twice about their actions after seeing that perpetrators of such crimes are being aggressively pursued and held to account for their crimes.

DOJ Criminal Division Chief, Lanny Breuer, boasting of the formation of the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section at DOJ, while speaking at a Holocaust Remembrance Program held by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

I don’t, in any way, mean to equate the war crimes committed by our own government in the last decade with the Holocaust. I do, however, mean to remind those in a position to do something about “pursuing justice” that more recent war crimes remain virtually unexamined.

93 replies
  1. BoxTurtle says:

    We are pursuing justice. And as soon as we catch that bitch, we’re going to lock her up in Gitmo!

    Boxturtle (She can keep her own blindfold)

      • PJEvans says:

        cut out her thorax to shut her the hell up

        Larynx. Or throat. But not the thorax, unless you want it to be noticed.
        (The thorax is the ribcage.)

  2. tjbs says:

    Israel and the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA don’t commit war crimes it’s called “projecting power”.

    To the winner goes the spoils and those in control decide who we can vote for and certainly not someone who would look into war crimes rather than committing his own personal war crimes. There’s nothing like the taste of blood to know which way the wind blows.

  3. orionATL says:

    well said, ew.

    good to see one of our official hypocrites called out.

    of course, war crimes are committed only by low war-power states like sudan or sri lanka,

    never by high war-power states like the u.s. or china or britain.

    or if high war-power states, only by high war-power states who have lost a war (germany, japan).


    powerful winners

    never committ war crimes.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The job Breuer talks up is not one requiring only fluency in German, Yiddish, Polish or Latin American Spanish. Nor are the skills required merely those of an antiquarian, adept at reading flamboyant old German penmanship and typescript.

    As do most high-level jobs in the DoJ, it requires intelligence, management ability, street smarts and political juice. It requires a thick skin and a warrior’s ability to lose concern for oneself while in battle, which enhances one’s ability to take the battle further and make it more costly for one’s opponent. It demands diplomacy, to elicit badly needed cooperation, and a keen eye, so as not to lose sight of the principal targets among the dross of lower level operatives who more quickly roll over.

    The list of war criminals is not limited to octogenarian Germans who emigrated to Argentina or Uruguay via Catholic enclaves in Italy or France, who still receive assistance by way of money from home and from the expertly avoided gaze of sympathetic public prosecutors and diplomatic officials. It includes those who stayed at home or came to America to work for its government. The list includes those with Ivy League degrees who speak English fluently and sometimes barely at all. And it includes the still wealthy and powerful.

    It is premature for Mr. Breuer to brag about having newly hired his team or changed the name on their office door. He should demonstrate the juice they have, praise the budget and resources they’ve been given, and brag about their accomplishments. Otherwise, he’s just doing an Obama.

  5. Mary says:

    At least Breuer can pride himself on how he’s shown the way – when perpetrators see the way he’s been aggressively pursuing torturers and torture killers, they really will think twice.

    And on that second thought, they’ll be thinking about how well he also helped out on the misplacement and loss of evidence front. Kind of a, “Have Affidavit, Will Travel” kinda guy.

    The millions of Iraqi refugees can take comfort in how the torture that was used to structure their fate is being brought to account – a kinda big, US miltary budget account. A surging and burgeoning account.

    I sure hope Breur had medical personnel on hand to keep him from injuring himself with that dangerous back-patting maneuver – seeing a brave man go so out on a limb without medical support, dang it brings a tear to my eye.

  6. MrWhy says:

    Slightly OT, has anyone asked Dawn Johnsen who she thinks would be a good candidate for the position as head of OLC? Unless she’s on a short list for a political appointment, she’s well qualified to make a recommendation.

  7. scribe says:

    I don’t, in any way, mean to equate the war crimes committed by our own government in the last decade with the Holocaust.

    The prime difference between the USG’s behavior and that other regime’s is more a matter of scale than of substance. That, and the science of torturing and killing people has become more refined in the 75 years intervening. WE haven’t gotten around to starving people to death while working them to death before killing them. Yet.

    • skdadl says:

      Some people don’t seem to get the nip-it-in-the-bud-before-it-picks-up-momentum part. Or the that’s-why-we-developed-the-laws-in-the-first-place part either.

    • PJEvans says:

      I wouldn’t make you do that to the frogs. (I hated the pickled frogs, and not a bio teacher. I read maps for a living.)

  8. bmaz says:

    No time for the ‘ole in out in out of the silly little war crimes actually plaguing society currently, Lanny is busy chasing the handful of Nazis that still have something close to a pulse. 80+ year old geezers whose own natural corporeal statute of limitations will claim them any minute. Brilliant.

    • knowbuddhau says:

      All part of the act, of defending the myths of American Exceptionalism, eh wot? “Hey look at us, we’re still the Good Guys! Listen to our fine words, check out our fancy offices and titles. Never mind that, given an opportunity to take our treaty obligations against torture seriously (by putting Dawn Johnsen in charge of OLC), we pulled the ol’ Lucy & Charlie Brown ploy. Evil is as we say it is, and we say we’re fighting evil. What are you, some kind of evil-doer, too? Show me your papers.”

      Reminds me of what John Pilger said, about the use of psychology and mythology by Edward Bernays, nephew of Freud, to produce a nation subservient to our usurpers’s desires.

      Not long ago, I [John Pilger] visited the American Museum of History, part of the celebrated Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. One of the popular exhibitions was “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War”. It was holiday time and lines of people, including many children, shuffled reverentially through a Santa’s grotto of war and conquest where messages about their nation’s “great mission” were dispensed. These ­included tributes to the “exceptional Americans [who] saved a million lives” in Vietnam, where they were “determined to stop communist expansion”. In Iraq, other true hearts ­“employed air strikes of unprecedented precision”. What was shocking was not so much the revisionist description of two of the epic crimes of modern times as the sheer scale of omission.

      “History without memory,” declared Time magazine at the end of the 20th century, “confines Americans to a sort of eternal present. They are especially weak in remembering what they did to other people, as opposed to what they did for them.” Ironically, it was Henry Luce, founder of Time, who in 1941 divined the “American century” as an American social, political and cultural “victory” over humanity and the right “to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit”.


      What the American elite demanded, wrote Frederic F Clairmont in The Rise and Fall of Economic Liberalism, “was not allies but unctuous client states…. The US military and its clients would guard the doors of these “international” institutions, and an “invisible government” of media would secure the myths, said Edward Bernays.

      Bernays, described as the father of the media age, was the nephew of Sigmund Freud. “Propaganda,” he wrote, “got to be a bad word because of the Germans . . . so what I did was to try and find other words [such as] Public Relations.” Bernays used Freud’s theories about control of the subconscious to promote a “mass culture” designed to promote fear of official enemies and servility to consumerism…. [Source: Mourn on the Fourth of July, John Pilger, New Statesman, July 9, 2009.]

      And you can bet yer ass DOD et al. have been all over that for the last 5 decades.

      That makes the Truth itself, and those of us after it, their worst enemies. They, the malicious myth-makers, can’t have DOJ, much less DFH bloggers, running around like so many loose cannons, blowing holes in the myths DOD, NSA, ETC., have spent all this time, blood, and treasure, conjuring up, to transmogrify our crimes of empire into our god-given American Way. That would make it harder to commit them going forward.

  9. BayStateLibrul says:

    Our arrogance stems from the fucking crazy belief that we are “an exceptional” nation…

    • knowbuddhau says:

      WORD! Holy synchronicity, Batman! That’s what I’m saying, too. And it’s not by chance that we’ve had our history mythologized beyond recognition.

      • wavpeac says:

        Which is of course why the U.S must “project” the role of perpetrator on to “other” nations…and “other” people. We are exceptional…throw in some rigid dichotomous thinking to go with that narcissism and we can see the perpetrator in other nations, but not in ourselves. And the denial…is so strong on this count because of the cognitive dissonance caused by “seeing it in ourselves”.

        If we saw it in ourselves we would get stuck in an endless mental battle that would require we define ourselves as “bad” not exceptional…Well we can’t be bad…because we do good, and Hitler was bad and we are not Hitler. And without some mechanism to counter the cognitive dissonance and the dichotomous thinking…we humans, and especially the USA is caught in an endless cycle of abuse. There can be no accountability, there can be no acceptance of this truth because we don’t have the mental tools to process this truth. We, the USA have developed a personality disorder that keeps us incapable of accountability and lacking a valid sense of self. We project, we deny, we lie…and then we get drunk to forget it all!

        Well, except for the fine folks on this and other blogs.

        • knowbuddhau says:

          Yes, I agree, that’s what we’ve been conditioned to do. Greatest thing about being human, IMO, is the ability to learn not to do what we’ve always done before.

          Regarding “some mechanism to counter the cognitive dissonance and the dichotomous thinking.” That might work, if we truly were mechanisms ourselves. Obviously, we’re not. We can only solve our human problems the same way they arise: from within. There’s no mechanical substitute for being fully human, no gimmick or potion or charm we can procure to transform us, entirely aside from our own intentional will, into “the better angels of our nature.” We have to do that quintessentially human work ourselves.

          The myth, that the cosmos is either god’s own, or no one’s own, construct, a mechanism, governed by the laws of which our culture is the (supposed) ultimate expression, sponsors the subordinate myth of American Exceptionalism. The mastery of this Great Cosmic Machine is believed to be all about leverage.

          The sleight-of-hand here lies in the perfect conflation of the Throne of Heaven with the Bully Pulpit. To oppose the state is to oppose the natural, some would say god-given, order. The economy and military are believed, in this mythos, to be god’s own, or no one’s own, justice-dispensing machine. If you’re rich, god must love you, or you sure know how to work the system; and if you’re poor, well, what did you do to deserve it?

          That’s so Newtonian! So medieval, so neo-feudal. That myth has failed us, is failing us and the whole planet with us.

          There are plenty of other ways of being human, than for organisms to strangely believe themselves to be mechanisms.

          Perhaps you’ve heard this one: 1) There is suffering; 2) the self-serving cravings of the illusion of the separately existing ego, selves cellf-imprisoned in cellves of our own mistaken making; 3) another way of being human is possible, in which the human psyche is liberated from its cellf-imprisonment and becomes rooted in the whole cosmos; 4) The name of the path to nirvana (a condition of having blown out, exhausted, extinguished the self-consuming fires of egocentric desires; of identifying one’s self with all there is: in this mythos, the cosmos is seen as essentially kenotic, self-emptying, a pouring forth from out of itself, back into itself; herein, there is no Other on to whom to project anything–neat solution eh?), is the Eightfold Noble Path.

          I”m not Tibetan, I’m Zen, and Zen is not so much a religion or a philosophy, as it is a way of liberation, in Alan Watts’s phrase. I highly recommend it.

          • wavpeac says:

            I treat personality disorders for a living (along with substance abuse, severe trauma and domestic violence…they all lap together somehow). At any rate, the therapy I use is a combination of Zen philosophy and cognitive behavioral philosophy. We teach the skills of mindfulness, nonjudgment and dialectical thinking. In my view, this DOES counter the rigid thinking, it counters many of the cognitive distortions that prevent accountability. It’s being used to treat veterans right now. There are mechanisms with which to counter this type of dichotomous thinking…we CAN teach dialectical argumentation to children so that they can stop being sheep…we can counter rigid thinking with a nonjudgmental stance.

            I remember I had a professor once who made the argument that peace would never come from some “leader” who taught us how to do right. (such as Martin Luther King Jr. or Jesus, or Buddha). He said instead that peace would come one person at a time, from within.

            I love Alan Watts and often quote him to teach the dialectic of water…and the idea that our very “need” for security fosters insecurity and our very “need” for peace foster conflict.

            • Petrocelli says:

              If you two find your way to Toronto, I’m buying the first two rounds of whatever you drink.

              What a great chat, that would be … Alan Watts sounds like someone with whom I share a common perspective.

            • knowbuddhau says:

              Great to hear, wavpeac (BTW, WTH does “wavpeac” mean?). There’s a counseling psychologist at my alma mater, U Washington (I majored in research, not counseling), who’s doing much the same thing. I think this is what people mean to say, when we say things like, we only use 10% of our brains.

              Tricycle Magazine, years ago, had a special edition on the neuroscience of meditation, mindfulness, and all that. The surprise, that mind can effect body, IMO, comes from the delusion that the “two” really are separate to begin with.

              Same goes for empathic altruism. The surprise comes from presuming that between any two people, or thiungs, for that matter, there is some sort of inviolable, impenetrable, ontological barrier: the self/other divide; giving rise to the further confusion over why “one” organism would give up any energy for an “other.” Who says the two aren’t arising from the self-same source?

              That makes compassion, not competition, the proper basis of being human, making progressive humanism only natural, not an interference with the almighty Great Cosmic Machine aka “The Hidden Hand of the Market.” That very phrase is a dead give-away of the indebtedness of our economy to evangelism.

        • knowbuddhau says:

          A liberal book-burning? I’d rather ridicule it into oblivion, but then, you can’t roast marshmallows over ridicule. Some of the retorts I’ve seen here, though, sure come close. /s

          How ’bout a book salon, where we bust his myths to smithereens?

  10. Leen says:

    “never again” If only people really meant that. If only this applied to all people’s lives and well being.

    “no one is above the law” if only Obama, Holder etc really believed this statement that many of our leaders repeat.

    As a teen I was fixated on reading about WWII. The consistent question that would always be out front in my mind would be “what was wrong with the people who sat by as millions were being tortured and brutally exterminated.” Makes me shake, cry, and feels like I am going to stop breathing when I think about the brutality that took place in that war. But since that systematic horrendous killing spree took place torture, numerous genocides, and insane brutality has taken place in the millions.

    Was outraged and out in the streets and in the halls of congress with so many others against Vietnam, our interference in Central and South American governments and Desert Storm.

    But here we are again. Apathy and complacency seem to rule. Our leaders, those who study and push for war bank on this apathy.

    I look around and I still wonder why the American people are not reacting to the massive amounts of death and destruction in Iraq at the hands of our military and the environment that we created there. Why is that people are not outraged, out in the streets in mass in reaction to our governments invasion of Iraq and the torturing of so many individuals?

    And as you point out Ew numbers of dead, and tortured in WWII do matter. Not sure what the rule is to determine a genocide has taken place. But if the Lancet report is accurate and 650,ooo Iraqi people are dead as a direct result of our invasion four years ago. Sounds like genocide to me.

    Some were held accountable for the criminal and horrendous actions of the SS. Not enough but some. That mattered. Accountability matters.

    But that is not happening in regard to the crimes crimes against the Iraqi, Afghani, Pakistani people by those who have broken international treaties and committed horrendous crimes. No accountability for the torture and international treaties that were pissed on by the Bush administration . Deeply disturbing.

    But when I look around at so many who could give a rats ass about the crimes that have taken place at the hands of our government I understand the pathetic apathy in the past

    What is the difference between the indifference that took place during the WWII holocaust and the indifference and apathy displayed by so many now? In my mind…not much.

    “never again” hollow words

    • knowbuddhau says:

      I look around and I still wonder why the American people are not reacting to the massive amounts of death and destruction in Iraq at the hands of our military and the environment that we created there. Why is that people are not outraged, out in the streets in mass in reaction to our governments invasion of Iraq and the torturing of so many individuals?

      That’s the power of myths, baby. It’s a strategic domestic disinformation campaign with a very long pedigree. It’s the power by which, through the deliberate use of carefully chosen mythic narratives and symbols, we come to see our crimes as virtues.

      “Look at all those dead bastards.”
      “Good shoot’n.”

      Those aren’t massacred civilians, those are human sacrifices on the altar of our Exceptionalism. Not murdered individual people, nor even collateral damage. In light of the benefit their massacres bring to the USA USA USA, we should see them as lucky stiffs.

      I’m surprised they haven’t resorted to selling us “lucky stiff’s foot” good luck charms.

      • Gitcheegumee says:

        For pluperfect sychronicity- now,all we need is the Golden Beetle to start tapping on the screen-the latest offering from Chris Floyd is a bullseye,right on target for the issue here at hand.

        Of particular note is the inclusion of a 2004 excerpt from a Moscow Times article Floyd wrote back in 2004,which is extremely enlightening.

        Engineers of Human Souls: The Pentagon’s Cult of Killing Strikes AgainApr 12, 2010 … Engineers of Human Souls: The Pentagon’s Cult of Killing Strikes Again … Dead Souls: The Pentagon Plan to Create Remorseless Warfighters …
        http://www.chris-floyd.com/…/1955-engineers-of-human-souls-the-pentagons-cult-of-killing-strikes-again.html – Cached

        • Gitcheegumee says:

          re: Golden Beetle and synchronicity

          In his book Synchronicity (1952), Carl Jung tells the following story as an example of a synchronistic event:
          A young woman I was treating had, at a critical moment, a dream in which she was given a golden scarab. While she was telling me this dream, I sat with my back to the closed window. Suddenly I heard a noise behind me, like a gentle tapping. I turned round and saw a flying insect knocking against the window-pane from the outside. I opened the window and caught the creature in the air as it flew in.
          It was the nearest analogy to a golden scarab one finds in our latitudes, a scarabaeid beetle, the common rose-chafer (Cetonia aurata), which, contrary to its usual habits had evidently felt the urge to get into a dark room at this particular moment. I must admit that nothing like it ever happened to me before or since.” [9]


          NOTE: The Wikipedia entry does not include the threapeutic significance of the beetle’s appearance

          From what I had read elsewhere, the patient was resistant to Jung’s methodology, and the timing and appearance of the beetle at that particular,crucial moment provided a significant turning point in her therapy.

          • knowbuddhau says:

            D’oh, sorry, Gitcheegumee, meant to thank you for going all Jungian on our uh, selves. Seeing, and being our earthling selves, IMO, is our best hope for getting the hell out of this Waste Land.

            The central focus of the Four Quartets is man’s relationship with time, the universe, and the divine. Time is depicted as a binding force that prevents mankind from transcending the boundaries of the material world and hinders them from finding redemption. The overall message of the series is that only through realizing Christ’s sacrifice for mankind is an individual capable of being saved. In describing his understanding of the divine with the poems, Eliot blends Christian theology with allusions to Western literature, Eastern texts including the Bhagavad-Gita, and the works of Dante.
            [Source: Wikipedia: The Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot (1944).

            No, that’s not entirely it. Only through the universal message, at the heart of all the world’s mythologies, as exemplified in Christ’s commission of suicide-by-pharisees (hence the nobility of the act; were he merely murdered, unfairly, then there’d be a perp and all that “as was our idol, so, too are we: the eternal victims” crap so typical of the Right) does a wee human, bound by the nursery and its rhyme and reason, become a real human.

            We’re not to idolize Jesus of Nazareth, like a freak, but to emulate: to die to our merely temporal, physical, mortal selves, thus becoming reborn as all that we can be, to steal back from the Army a Zen cliché. Jesus was as radical as radical gets.

            Or, as the Doobie Brothers sang it, “Jesus is just all right with me. Oh yeah!”

            What did JC preach? That the kingdom of heaven is within, not without, the human spirit. “Split the stick, there you will find me,” he says, according to the Gnostic gospels (revealed in the famous Dead Sea Scrolls).

            What we’ve got instead is a hopelessly politicized version of a once redeeming narrative: Jesus was murdered for your sins, this degenerate, perverse, malicious myth goes, and we’re god’s exclusive agents here on earth, so you owe us your immortal soul. Now, go kill or die, solely because we say so, on our word alone, or you’ll go to hell forever and ever amen.

            Have a nice day trying to be free under those extortionist conditions. /s

      • Leen says:

        “US SOLDIER 3: I got ’em.

        US SOLDIER 2: Should have a van in the middle of the road with about twelve to fifteen bodies.

        US SOLDIER 1: Oh yeah, look at that. Right through the windshield! Ha ha!

        I want to play another clip, this the voices of the cockpit laughing as a Bradley tank drives over the dead body of one of the Iraqi victims.

        US SOLDIER 1: I think they just drove over a body.

        US SOLDIER 2: Did he?

        US SOLDIER 1: Yeah!

        AMY GOODMAN: And here the cockpit learns from soldiers on the ground that the victims include children. One voice says, “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids to battle.”

        US SOLDIER 3: I’ve got eleven Iraqi KIAs . One small child wounded. Over.

        US SOLDIER 1: Roger. Ah, damn. Oh, well.

        US SOLDIER 3: Roger, we need—we need a—to evac this child. She’s got a wound to the belly. I can’t do anything here. She needs to get evaced. Over.

        US SOLDIER 1: Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.

        US SOLDIER 2: That’s right.”

        What happened to these guys and their up line bosses. Nothing

  11. cregan says:

    Since many don’t think there is a war on terror, then it seems the torture problems are not really war crimes.

    The “war” crimes of Iraq and other places are not so easy.

    To take a situation which is not those so that a more objective viewpoint might be possible:

    Which is the bigger crime:

    To stand by and let the Nazi’s gas Jew’s.

    Or attack them, even though they might not have done anything directly to you, knowing an attack will kill thousands?

    People are not as good as they play themselves to be. They have proven themselves very happy to stand around and say, “Oh, isn’t it terrible that that man is harrassing his wife in public!” and do nothing. Or, “Oh, those people in Sudan are just having a terrible time.” or “Man, somebody ought to do something about those people in Rwanda.”

    Hussein had already been responsible for 2 million deaths.

    The world has already proven it can waste millions of lives by sins of omission, so I don’t think it ought to get too high on the horse.

      • cregan says:

        You make the mistake that I am making excuses.

        First, those prison pictures were bad and had no excuse.

        Second, the sins of omission have no excuse. Though good people who did nothing make all kinds of excuses every day–as if the people who died are any different than the ones in the helicopter video.

        Though, there is this difference. The people in the video are already gone at the time it was discovered. The people in Sudan, Rwanda and other places were still quite alive when people found out about those situations.

        Why should the leaders who stood around and did nothing not be prosecuted for war crimes??

        If you stand by and allow your neighbor to kill his dog are you not just as responsible?

        You are the one who needs to quit making excuses.

        • Garrett says:

          Yes, those prison photos, a small glimpse into the system, were pretty bad.

          If we don’t change the system, we don’t change what is shown in the photos.

          The system we have now, is extraordinarily permissive rules, and non-enforcement of those rules anyways. Same as at that earlier time.

        • jdmckay0 says:

          Why should the leaders who stood around and did nothing not be prosecuted for war crimes??

          If you stand by and allow your neighbor to kill his dog are you not just as responsible?

          Fair enough… worthy topic of discussion IMO.


          You are the one who needs to quit making excuses.

          Oops… mis-direction ploy alert!!!

          You feign moral questions for purpose of including those you disagree w/into the trendy “let’s pretend it didn’t happen” (see no evil) crowd. Unfortunately, that maneuver has worked quite well w/significant population of USA.

          It is entirely circular: as long as that method operates, it’s groundhog day in perpetuity.

          So dude… where do you come down on this? Any more to say on how *you* would move things forward?

    • skdadl says:

      Actually, you did kind of stand by for a while at the beginning of WWII, which for many of us began in 1939. I assure you, though, that the UK and Canada and the other Western allies didn’t go to war to stop the genocide, but then neither did you two years later. We learned those lessons later.

      • cregan says:

        Yes, you are right. So, which is the bigger crime? Letting it happen, or doing something to stop it even if it costs lives–whether soldier or civilian?

        And, are those who stand by and let these situations happen (when they could do something about it) guilty of war crimes too?

        As I said, the world has allowed millions of lives to be wasted through inaction, so it really doesn’t have such a high horse to ride in on.

        • Mary says:

          It’s almost never an either/or situation.

          I’ve had the neighbor one come up, btw.

          There were a slew of alternatives and combos other than let neighbor shoot dog or shoot neighbor.

          BTW- where do you get the 2million re: Hussein (is that including the ones American helped with?) and, given that a lot of the deaths were in connection with Iran’s attacks and the Khurdish collusion with Iran, how does an either/or equation work there? Should Hussein have sat back and let Iran conquer Iraq and the Kurds erupt into a war in Turkey as well, as they strove for their own nation?

          I’m not snitting at you, bc I think you are pretty aware of the fact that the equations are more complex and are mostly just responding to what you think is too much of a hearts and flowers approach.

          Back before the Iraq war began – but as it was being sold and you were dubbed unpatriotic and a terrorist supporter to question it – I told anyone who would actually argue it with me that war means killing children. It means the outcome is so important, to achieve that outcome you are willing to bear the personal responsiblity of taking a child from its mother’s arms and putting a bullet into it – bc that is what war will, inevitable, do. It means you are willing to look at your own child and be willing to put that gun in his hand and send him to dutifully wrest that infant away and blow its skull to pieces.

          That’s your balance point. Is it worth that? Is what you are fighting “for” in the war worth that outcome? The fact that, due to money or luck you can force someone else and someone else’s child to kill the infants for you makes it very easy for a lot of people to just not factor in that cost. And the fact that the military for this war has chosen to abandon a soldier’s creed for a warrior’s and to instill so much hatred that the actual punch line of the “Haji Girl” song (the line that got the laughs from the soldiers) was a soldier grabbing a child and swinging it up to take a bullet from its own parent, those go to show that while the balance point hasn’t moved, people have been made very comfortable with the thought of killing for the thrill and fun of killing, without any real need for a goal or mission that is important enough to counterbalance what is being undertaken.

          • bmaz says:

            My understanding has always been maybe 400,000-500,000; but hard to peg because of issues in whether to include those lost in the war with Iran. Be pretty hard for an american to complain about those deaths by our proxy. Americans truly are exceptional though, just look at the tally from our stay in Iraq; we are likely getting perilously close to Sadaam in only on third of the time!

          • Leen says:

            “I told anyone who would actually argue it with me that war means killing children. It means the outcome is so important, to achieve that outcome you are willing to bear the personal responsiblity of taking a child from its mother’s arms and putting a bullet into it”

            The intentions or outcome that those in the Bush administration (Cheney, Wolfowitz, Feith) had in Iraq was clear. Not about Democracy, not about human rights…about the goods, strategic positioning, air bases, embassy.

            They did not give a rats ass about Iraqi lives. Hundreds of thousands, millions marched against that invasion worldwide. Many knew that intelligence was bullshit. Scott Ritter, Ray McGovern so many came out and said highly questionable. El Baradei came out in early march 2003 and said Niger Documents forgeries.

            I do not believe for one split second that any of those thugs were concerned about Iraqi lives etc. Not for one split second

          • cregan says:

            You make some good points.

            Regarding the neighbor thing; yes, there are alternatives, but did they result in the dog being kept safe?
            In the case of Sudan, Rwanda and many others, the “alternatives” didn’t result in anything, and believe me, those promoting those alternatives KNEW they would result in nothing. They essentially elected to stand by and let it happen. (some might say in the case of Iran today it is similar. It is easy to see the “alternatives” are going to result in nothing)

            Alternatives only meant to put off a difficult decision are the same as standing around.

            Your idea of a balance of “is it worth it if it will cost innocent lives”–which it will–is a good one.

            My major point being the “world” should not get on such a high horse, as its inaction in the face of clear evidence has resulted in millions of deaths over time. Sins of omission are just as culpable.

            • Mary says:

              Regarding the neighbor thing; yes, there are alternatives, but did they result in the dog being kept safe?


              There were also a few places on the journey to dog extricated from neighbor where I didn’t feel super safe, but the dog ended up safe and the neighbor and I even on good terms (although I would never leave him with a pet or a child unsupervised). He even laughed later when my horse got loose and jumped his line of tie-tomatoes to land spectacularly on his row of watermelons.

              Could have gone other ways too. I’m not saying there are ever perfect solutions. I have an acquaintance whose neighbor convinced her young stepdaughter to get a stray 1/2 grown puppy that he couldn’t corner to come to her (that puppy likes you, why don’t you call him…), then he took it from the girl and shot it. What did she do? Pretty much nothing – because she was worried about having her young step children out in a ruralish area with a neighbor who was pissed off that she had done something.

              The world can be a crappy place sometimes.

  12. Leen says:

    From a soldier
    “This Is How These Soldiers Were Trained to Act”–Veteran of Military Unit Involved in 2007 Baghdad Helicopter Shooting Says Incident Is Part of Much Larger Problem

    We speak with a former member of Bravo Company 2-16, the military unit involved in the 2007 helicopter shooting of Iraqi civilians that killed twelve people, including two Reuters employees, as seen on the military video released by WikiLeaks. “The natural thing to do would be to instantly judge or criticize the soldiers in this video,” says Josh Stieber. “Not to justify what they did, but militarily speaking, they did exactly what they were trained to do…If we’re shocked by this video, we need to be asking questions of the larger system, because this is how these soldiers were trained to act.” [includes rush transcript]

  13. Gitcheegumee says:

    In-depth studies by the U.S. Army after WWII showed that between 80 to 85 percent of the greatest generation never fired their weapons at an exposed enemy in combat, as military psychologist Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman reports. Many times they had the chance, but could not bring themselves to do it. They either withheld their fire altogether or else shot into the air, to the side, anywhere but at the fellow human beings – their blood kin in biology, mind and mortality – facing them across the line. This reticence is even more remarkable given the incessant demonization of the enemy by the top brass, especially in the Pacific, where the Japanese – soldiers and civilians – were routinely portrayed by military propaganda as simian, sub-human creatures fit only for extermination.

    Yet even with official license given to the most virulent prejudice .. even with all the moral chaos endemic to warfare, American soldiers, as a whole, killed only with the greatest reluctance, in the direst extremity.

    But far from celebrating this example of genuine glory, the military brass were horrified at the low “firing rates” and anemic “kill ratios” of American soldiery. They immediately set about trying to break the next generation of recruits of their natural resistance to slaughtering their own kind. Incorporating the latest techniques for psychological manipulation, new training programs were designed to brutalize the mind and habituate soldiers to the idea of killing automatically, by reflex, “at the bell-clap of command,” without the intervention of any of those inefficient scruples displayed by their illustrious predecessors.

    “Manufacturing Intent: The Army’s Cult of Killing Leaves a Generation Gap”,7/30/04,Moscow Times,Chris Floyd

    NOTE: Just a mere observation, this was published the same month Passaro was indicted .

    • Leen says:

      “But far from celebrating this example of genuine glory, the military brass were horrified at the low “firing rates” and anemic “kill ratios” of American soldiery. They immediately set about trying to break the next generation of recruits of their natural resistance to slaughtering their own kind. Incorporating the latest techniques for psychological manipulation, new training programs were designed to brutalize the mind and habituate soldiers to the idea of killing automatically, by reflex, “at the bell-clap of command,” without the intervention of any of those inefficient scruples displayed by their illustrious predecessors.”

      Dehumanize, don’t show the pictures to the all ready complacent and apathetic public, and make sure the MSM follows your rules. More coverage of what Sarah Palin is doing.

      • Gitcheegumee says:

        The article goes on to state that immediately following WWII, the Korean War kill ratios went up to 55%, and then to 95% for the Vietnam era.

        Eisenhower certainly was correct when he warned of the evils of an all encompassing MIC.

  14. b2020 says:

    “I do, however, mean to remind those in a position to do something about “pursuing justice” that more recent war crimes remain virtually unexamined.”

    Or the even more recent crimes committed per newly revised and amended policies, which could actually be pre-crimed simply by Obama living up to his oath upholding the constitution, not even requiring the DOJ to become involved. A conscience would do!

    After all, it is not like torture, disappearings, assassinations and actual war crimes have stopped, the continuity of the republic has been preserved across 2006 and 2009.

  15. Leen says:

    This Is How These Soldiers Were Trained to Act”–Veteran of Military Unit Involved in 2007 Baghdad Helicopter Shooting Says Incident Is Part of Much Larger Problem
    US SOLDIER 1: Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.

    US SOLDIER 2: That’s right.

    JUAN GONZALEZ: The whole question of how soldiers reacted to civilian casualties, could you talk about that? Your experience in the military when, on one of these operations, civilians were killed or wounded?

    JOSH STIEBER: Yeah, I mean, I would say that it’s definitely very troubling, but I guess, thinking from the military mindset—and again, this is not trying to morally justify it, but to explain something from that perspective—that you have a lot of young, impressionable people that, I think, at one point were idealistic in why they enlisted and why they participated in the military, and they find themselves in this horrible situation where, again, it is acting out the training that we’ve been so instilled with to do things like this. And part of that training is the dehumanization of the people in whatever country we happen to be in. That’s, you know, been the process throughout the history of militaries, in general. So it’s a result of the training.

    And I guess what I hear when I listen to that conversation in the helicopter is two things. One of them is that, as callous as it sounds, it seems to be beginning to have a little bit of remorse like, “Wow, we just—you know, this is what we actually just did,” and then a quick response or a quick excuse to not let it trouble you. And, you know, throughout my military training, there were different times where things would trouble me, as far back as basic training. And that’s kind of, I think, a natural human reaction, that, wow, this is what I’m being asked to do, but I’m told that doing these things is in the best interest of my own country. And I think, you know, this video should provide grounds for a much-needed conversation of whether or not that’s true. But again, speaking from the military perspective, that’s what people have going through their minds, so that callousness that the helicopter pilots have, one, is a result of military training that’s hammered into them, and two, what I hear is an excuse, like I feel like this isn’t right, but then that quick excuse that, oh, well, they shouldn’t have been there in the first place, to try and distance themselves from the act that just happened.

  16. JThomason says:

    We are not really that unique. For all our exceptionalism the Russians are prepared to match us with an orthodox messianic sense of prophecy.

  17. orionATL says:

    pjevans @28

    oh thank god!

    only afterward later did i reflect on what i had committed to for the sake of a bit of tiny bit of humor :-}

  18. wavpeac says:

    Mary…used to always say the same thing about wars…it means killing babies, it means killing children…it means killing innocent people…can you KNOW for certain that your higher power would support this? Can you know for certain that the outcome is worth these innocent lives?

    I just wish I had a recording of every pro life person who told me, “well yes, some babies have to die in order to save us all”. Seriously. Why couldn’t we get THAT quote and parade it around.

  19. rkilowatt says:

    Seek justice. Only justice.[Deuteronomy?]

    But what is justice?

    “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary.”
    [Torah is a compendium of Jewish law.]

    • 4jkb4ia says:

      Here is the whole paragraph, Deuteronomy 17:18-20(JPS):

      You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice. You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just. Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving you. [Similar reason given for honoring parents]

      In other spots, you are sternly warned against giving undue favor to a poor person when you are judging: don’t use your compassion that you might use to love someone as yourself.

      Torah is the Old Testament and the law code and all the commentaries on the law code and all the kabbalistic interpretations of the Written Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) and Jewish religious literature which is consistent with what the existing law says.

      After writing this, maybe I will be less crabby on this week’s parsha which is almost all tzaraas, a disease no one gets anymore.

      • Leen says:

        Some serious arrogance and ruthless passages In Deutoronomy ”

        “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth.”

        “Then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours … No man shall be able to stand against you. The Lord your God will lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that you shall tread, as he promised you.” In another passage, we are told that God says to his chosen people: “This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.” / 7

        “When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you — the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites — seven nations greater and mightier than yourselves, and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them; then you must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them … And you shall destroy all the peoples that the Lord your god will give over to you, your eye shall not pity them.” / 9

        • 4jkb4ia says:

          Has a people ever heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and survived? Or has any god ever miraculously come to take for himself a nation from amidst a nation, with challenges, with signs, and with wonders, and and with war, and with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with greatly awesome deeds, such as everything that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?

        • 4jkb4ia says:

          This is a separate point. Moshe isn’t making this whole speech because of arrogance. Moshe is making it because they are a stiff-necked people. Moshe explicitly TELLS them “Don’t think that I am inheriting this land because of my own merit”. It’s because of the patriarchs’ merit if anything, because if it had not been for that maybe the spies’ generation would have been the end of the story.

  20. 4jkb4ia says:

    Per Wikipedia, for Halabja at least we have European sources to say that the Iraqi government did it, and that’s a war crime. But all that gets you is that Saddam Hussein was a bad guy of which type the ICC is established to try and punish. The closest that the Bush types got to a humanitarian justification for the war was that Hussein was defying UN resolutions about the inspectors.

  21. brendanx says:

    I don’t, in any way, mean to equate the war crimes committed by our own government in the last decade with the Holocaust.

    Then compare our war crimes to the Nazis’. Who says that’s equating them with the Holocaust? The Nazis engaged in other war crimes, like torture… or invading other countries.

    Our commentariat’s line of moral defense these days seems to be that we’re not as bad as the Nazis, all the more reason to compare ourselves to them when the comparison is legitimate. If the Nazis hadn’t existed our foreign policy pundits would have had to invent them.

  22. thatvisionthing says:

    I don’t, in any way, mean to equate the war crimes committed by our own government in the last decade with the Holocaust. I do, however, mean to remind those in a position to do something about “pursuing justice” that more recent war crimes remain virtually unexamined.

    You know, that’s something that bugs me. That we can’t call something like a Nazi when it is like a Nazi, in clearly visible, fundamental ways. We see it, we can’t say it. We are just like them. Israel is just like them. We became what we detested. Not just Nazis, but Imperial Japan too. What’s more preemptive than Pearl Harbor? Yet now that’s our national policy.

    Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

    Ernst Janning: Judge Haywood… the reason I asked you to come: Those people, those millions of people… I never knew it would come to that. You must believe it, you must believe it!

    Judge Dan Haywood: Herr Janning, it “came to that” the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.

  23. thatvisionthing says:

    To everyone referring to Josh Steiber’s interview with Amy Goodman, and how callous the helicopter participants were in killing the Iraqis in the wikileaks video, please note this salient fact about him:

    Well, we’re joined right now from Washington, DC, by a former member of the company involved in this shooting attack, Bravo Company 2-16. Josh Stieber was not present at the time of this attack but was a member of the company at the time and served for fourteen months alongside the soldiers seen and heard in the video released by WikiLeaks. Josh left the military as a conscientious objector last year and is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

    Josh, welcome to Democracy Now! On this day, July 12th, 2007, where were you?

    JOSH STIEBER: I was back on the main base and was not part of this mission, because I had chosen not to follow an order a couple days before, so some of my leaders were upset at me and didn’t trust me in a combat situation at that point.

    Plus he talked about how hard it is for people in the military to find their way to object, and that demonizing them now isn’t going to help bring more of them to the light even if they want to come to the light.

    JUAN GONZALEZ: —on this issue of whether they’re morally defensible, could you talk to us about your decision to become a conscientious objector and how that was received and why you made that decision?

    JOSH STIEBER: I mean, I got to the point where, you know, I was saying things like this and realized that this is what the military wants me to do, and this is not something that I can do or that I want to do as a person, based on my religious beliefs and based on who I want to be, that this is what the military is telling me is acceptable—and again, I think this video illustrates that—and me that this is wrong. And it got down to some very simple concepts of doing unto others, and I knew I wouldn’t want other people doing similar things like this to me, and not only what’s in the video, but just day-to-day things of where we would go in people’s houses and rip through their houses. I’m pretty sure most people in my country would be pretty upset by that. So I decided to leave the military as a conscientious objector.

    And actually, that process, a number of soldiers were supportive of me, and they would tell me things like, “You know, we disagree with the war, too, but we don’t think it’s worth the effort to try and do anything about it.” So I think that’s a really important point to focus on with this conversation about the video, is that there are many soldiers who are struggling with what’s going on there. You know, I talk to a lot of them, and just about everybody I was with lost their idealism for why we were there. So they’re struggling through these ideas.

    But then, me speaking out about this, I’ve been getting criticism as a conscientious objector, being called a baby killer and white trash for enlisting in the military, to begin with. So, in terms of people who don’t want this kind of thing to happen again, if the goal is to get these soldiers who are committing these acts to stop doing that, if they see me, who has stepped out, getting criticized by people who are saying war is not the right answer, then that’s not going to make them any more likely to want to make that step, either. So I think the important part of this conversation is how can we work together with those soldiers who are struggling through these things and try to work towards other alternatives and try and provide them an outlet to say, “This is wrong, and I’m not going to do it anymore.”

  24. 4jkb4ia says:

    I didn’t attend any of the Holocaust Remembrance Day events around town, and one of them was on the Nazi legacy of medical eponyms by an expert on this subject, which I was sure Jeff Kaye would be interested in. If I see it written up in the Light I will link to it.

    I am not picking on scribe because Paul Rosenberg wrote the same thing last year. Scale is a very big deal. Scale is why genocide is a crime unto itself. Rabbi Shulman at Young Israel of St. Louis pointed out, when promoting the lecture above, that the destruction of the entire world of European Jewry has placed on the generation after and the generation after them the responsibility of restarting and reconstructing. Figures such as Rav Dessler who had learned in that environment were given great importance because they were the living legacy of before the war. There was a fundamental break in continuity. And the ordinary people who made a community and everyday life were destroyed. Perhaps people saw the article by Alana Newhouse about Roman Vishniac in the NYT Magazine on Easter. Once a community is destroyed, you may have a record of everything that happened there, but you have a space for people to manipulate memory and to say that the urban Jewish communities before the war were more uniformly religious than they actually were. I will grant that rebuilding Iraq may be the task of an entire generation as well.

    A core story at least for the way I look at the Holocaust is Survival in Auschwitz/If This Is A Man where Primo Levi, who didn’t believe in God, tried strongly to express that what the Nazis were after was spiritual destruction. They were trying to expunge the humanity of the people that they let live in order to take all of the Jewish spirit out of the world. When you hear about disrespect for the Koran or about torture techniques that are about dependency and helplessness and destroying a person’s mind there is some of that. When you hear about torture that was outsourced to get false intelligence to go into Iraq that is just evil.

    If something is defined by Geneva as a war crime that ought to be sufficient. It does not become automatically more evil because the Nazis did it. I don’t remember seeing anything that says that waterboarding was a Nazi technique.

  25. 4jkb4ia says:

    And I forgot to say that a desperate situation and genocide are not the same thing. That is my hasbara contribution for the day.

  26. cregan says:

    Leen, you are right. It was all for oil. Only oil.

    Now, of course, it is true that the lack of Iraqi oil for the US was because of UN sanctions that the US and others could lift at any time. Also, it is true that we could buy all the oil we wanted from any country selling it at the time. And, other than the embargo back in 1974 or so, we have always been able to get as much oil as we wanted to buy.

    So, those dumb, f’in son-of-a-bitches fought a war for something they already had!! Now, how stupid is that??

    AND, they must have been stupid enough to believe that they could get that oil and control it without having to take over and keep Iraq as a State forever.

    They were some dumb sons-a-bitches.

    • Leen says:

      Well it certainly was not so that they could have better access to electricity and clean water. Or for women to feel safer. Prostitution and rape are up. Many places still only have access to a few hours of electricity. The invasion certainly was not to the benefit of the people of Iraq.

  27. wavpeac says:

    wav peac…stands for “Women Against Violence” and “Peace” But they wouldn’t let me keep my “e”. I used to work for something called the women against violence program.

    • knowbuddhau says:

      Holy double synchronicity! I began my career, as a research psychologist, trying to get a job in a campus men’s center, teaching men about our role in violence against women. Busting the myth of “the bitch made me do it,” you might say, which, in the light of this very illuminating thread, can easily be seen as a displacement, onto women, for any and all things men don’t find comely.

      Well, long story short, I didn’t get the job. I’ve got the résumé of a poet, to put the best spin on it, not an academician: more holes than I care to count.

      Ah well, I’d rather arrive, than spend eternity justifying each footstep I took along the way.

      IOW, nice to meet you.

  28. wavpeac says:

    Now that I have worked on many different angles of the “violence story” from working with the women, the men, couples and families along with folks who self harm and have histories of child sexual abuse and physical violence…my fascination with the subject on a macro level won’t leave me alone. I theorize that the very same skills that help women who self harm to stop the violence against themselves might well be the same as the skills needed for men to stop using violence (power and control) in the family. It just seems like they share many of the same patterns and skills deficits.

    Nice to meet you as well…and as for Toronto…you don’t know how close I have come to moving to Canada…I have stated before that my folks have a place along the North shore Minnesota side, within 30 miles of the Canadian border. I am certain we would have a great discussion Petrocelli and Skdadl!!!

  29. orionATL says:

    gitcheegumee @84

    pretty much.

    certainly far and away the most intetesting for me that i’ve run across in the last 6 years.

    lots of straight-from-the-shoulder posting.

    a legion of thoughtful, humorous, smart, and caring commentors.

    too bad the new york times can not replicate this reporting model.

    if they could, their stock would have risen by magnitudes.

    but they can’t because they are a bureaucracy frozen, as are most bureaucracies, into sections, divisions, areas of concern, responsibilites.

    as such they can only recruit and retain those reporters with a high tolerance for bureaucratic structure and need to wear “nytimes” on their teeshirts.

    • Gitcheegumee says:

      I am a relative newcomer to the Internet,only since ’07-have learned a great deal from this site.

  30. cinnamonape says:

    The numbers of the maximal numbers of Iraqis that Saddam was involved in “killing” even if one includes those that died in the Iran war was 400,000 over some 35 years. 200K of those were deaths vs. Iran. So say 200K to maintain his regime in power. That’s about 6000/year.

    Now let’ compare that to the deaths that occurred to maintain US control in Iraq from mid 2002-2008. That was 3 years after the estimates of the Lancet report and a year after Bush basically confessed it was over 100K. So let’s split the difference and say 250K…50,000/year. Almost 10 times what Saddam accomplished. And more than were killed in the Iran-Iraq War (and at higher rates).

  31. lysias says:

    The Nazis didn’t get around to committing genocide until they invaded Russia in the summer of 1941. If we can’t compare anything without the Holocaust with the Nazis, doesn’t that mean we can’t compare the Nazis pre-1941 with the Nazis thereafter?

    Of course that’s ridiculous. The Holocaust was able to happen because of who the Nazis were pre-1941. And the mere fact that we haven’t quite committed genocide yet says nothing about whether or not we will commit genocide in the future. To the extent we commit Nazi-like acts now, to that extent we are likelier to move on to genocide later.

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