War Crimes, Then and Now


Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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15 Responses

  1. Herb says:

    I hate to paint with an overly broad brush, but the torture-apologists don’t seem all that concerned with putting forth a good-faith argument…

    So I don’t think we should expect one.Report

  2. Chris Dierkes says:

    To Herb’s lucid point–who cares what lemmings think? Right?

    In fact I think I hear the sound of Will falling off the cliff (oooohhhh) will all the rest of us weaklings who won’t torture enough. Goldfarb is nothing if not precious.Report

  3. I’ve been advocating we look farther back than Bush for some time now. My baseline is 1947. I’m not doing so though as a way of deflecting criticism of Bush (two wrongs never make a right). What I am suggesting though is that the torture investigation voices demonstrate this is about more than revenge by digging deeper.

    I would also mention that judging from the way the administration has been careful to not criticize the previous administration on torture leads one to believe that Obama knows more than we do.Report

  4. Jim Treacher says:

    “Shouldn’t we be trying to make better moral judgments than our predecessors?”

    Everybody knows that allowing another 9/11 to happen is more moral than pouring water on somebody’s face.Report

  5. Jaybird says:

    Treacher makes an interesting point (and this also applies to the Palestinian/Israeli dynamic).

    The “victim” never, ever has to make a difficult moral decision. The problem with another 9/11 happening is that the US, by definition, is not the “victim”. The people who may die in any given attack, of course, *MIGHT* be victims (then again, they might be little Eichmanns)… but the people who commit the attack, if they are “victims”, will be seen as doing nothing more than reacting.

    People will ask “why did they attack the US?” and come up with lists of reasonable grievances… which, co-incidentally, will echo pretty much their own beefs with the US. The Falwells will blame the gays, the Liberals will blame Cultural Imperialism, the Birchers will blame entangling alliances, the Palestinians will blame the Israelis, and open letters from the people who masterminded the attacks will be ignored pretty much entirely because the open letters will probably be inconvenient for all of these folks.

    The point is that victims never, ever have to make a hard decision. Hell, they never have to make decisions at all. All they do is react (or come home to roost).

    The moral decision makers (like the US, for example) are the only ones capable of acting (as opposed to reacting).

    This makes it imperitive that the US achieve “victim” status as quickly as possible.

    If another 9/11 is required for this, so be it. It’ll probably take more than one, though. We all know why the next people to attack the US will be doing so.Report

  6. J.L. Peppers says:

    Since when is the tu quoque fallacy (AKA the “your momma does too!” defense) a valid defense? Was Timothy McVeigh acquitted just because O.J. Simpson beat the rap?

    In point of fact, it’s a confession of guilt.Report

  7. Thanos says:

    I’m puzzled by why the atomic bombings of Japan are even being looked at as a so-called “mistake”, much less meeting the vaunted level of “war crime”.

    Despite the lies of revisionists like Gar Alperovitz, the Japanese were not going to surrender and were not using the Soviets as an intermediary for possible peace talks with the United States. The Japanese were digging in with defence-in-depth, identical to what the Soviets did to bleed the Nazi armies white, that would assuredly have caused innumerable casualties among the invading Allied services. The Japanese defence of Okinawa, accompanied by the suicidal activities of both Japanese soldiers and civilians, was clear evidence of the type of brutal defence that would have occurred if the Allies invaded the Japanese home islands. Hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers would have died. Millions further of Japanese civilians would have died. Several hundred thousand may have died both immediately at and after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Contrast these numbers with a death toll that would have been ten/twenty/thirty times higher if a conventional invasion had to occur instead. At this stage the revisionists should come out and clearly state exactly why they prefer the greater death toll, especially among Allied personnel, as opposed to the smaller one that only affected ENEMY civilians and industrial output.

    Truman’s decision wasn’t just the correct one, it was also the moral one when faced with the apocalyptic probability of conventional-warfare megadeath if unending raged across Japan (probably lasting for years) after 1945. And it is truly disgusting that the dementia promoted by the contemporary torture canard is now being used by revisionists to justify their never ending attacks on the past. Shame on anyone involved in this horrible anti-historical pathology.Report

  8. Ottovbvs says:

    The whole “Truman was a war criminal” comes from the Republican Attack Dog’s handbook. The chapter entitled “Muddy the Waters.” None of this is serious. It’s spin that the rubes can regurgitate across blogland or right wing shills on cable TV or in the press can replay. The only people who believe it are the 25-30 of the electorate who loved Bush and literally hate Obama. The other 70% either ignore it or roll their eyes. It’s possible it might have a confusing effect at the margins but that’s it. I realize that there is a case for pushing back on this kind of nonsense but I’m not sure what good it does. The people who peddle this stuff are at least getting paid for doing it, the rubes are demonstrable proof of that old Dilbert cartoon that said it’s a waste of time arguing with the stupid, as for the rest of us it’s a complete waste of time.Report

  9. Monsier Hammitone says:

    Count me among the “torture apologists” because I think a very serious case can be made that it is immoral to not subject the likes of KSM to enhanced interrogation when thousands of lives are potentially on the line.

    It’s not like he was a run-of-the-mill detainee, we were doing it for kicks, and what we were doing amounted to pulling fingernails, one might note. So given the circumstances, I’m at loss for why exactly the moral highground is so obviously on the side of the “torture is always wrong” crowd.

    But I’ve never been much of a gentleman, ordinary or otherwise.Report

  10. Jaybird says:

    Otto, I’ve heard that Truman was a war criminal in a handful of (non-history) college courses. Like, in the 90’s.

    This argument is not new.Report