We All Would Have Made The Same Decision


Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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71 Responses

  1. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Boy, I’m torn.

    On the one hand, I agree. On any date really, is the most news worthy thing we can find to cover KK’s mom’s new enhancements?

    On the other hand, do we ever get to a place and a time where the 9/11 media-driven moments of silences and annual TV-created memorial videos with flags cease being about respecting the dead and their loved ones, and start being about squeezing just a little more public relations out of a past tragedy?Report

  2. *slow clap*

    That is some Grade A irony right there, folks. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done better.Report

  3. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    When Americans have a moment of silence for the bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August, then we might be on the right track. I always stop and pray at that moment, 08:15. At least 11 American POWs were also incinerated at Hiroshima.

    With the Nagasaki bombing, the original target had been Kokura. Hundreds of American POWS were at Kokura.

    It’s not the nip-slip journalism which worries me. It’s the deadly serious distortions of history, passing themselves off as reputable facts. At no time during our war against Al Qaeda anyone but a handful of Arabic speakers ever see what Osama bin Laden had to say about why he’d attacked us in the American press. The Arabic speaking world, they got the point. Osama bin Laden became a hero, not because they approved of what he’d done, but because he’d shoved a sharp stick in America’s eye.

    America gets all maudlin over great tragedies, which isn’t to say we shouldn’t observe the moment of tragedy. Thousands of ordinary people, going about their lives, including six of my friends, died that day. But their deaths did not justify what was done in their name. Bush43 took a wrong turn on his way to Afghanistan to deal with that mess. The rest you know. We’ve made heroes of the first responders, and properly so. But nobody’s ever gone after the villains who used the heroism and tragedy of those moments to justify their wars.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      But nobody’s ever gone after the villains who used the heroism and tragedy of those moments to justify their wars.

      They never will, either. Nor am I at all persuaded that they should. One of the primary factors leading to the Roman Revolution was Caesar’s fear that once he retired his official office as proconsul of Gallia Cisalpina, he would lose his statutory immunity to suit, and become subject to prosecution for initiating a war of conquest.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        You brought back a moment in history and I’ve just recovered from a bout of insane laughter.

        I had a horrible Latin teacher who inflicted De Bello Gallico Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres. upon us. Every so often, he’d interrupt the class and commence upon a hilarious and impromptu Two Minute Hate episode, describing Caesar’s boasting and lies in the context of what was really going on at the time. Learned more about Pompey and the Senate than we ever did about Caesar.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko says:

          Well, hopefully you learned some Latin too.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            I did learn a lot of Latin. I’d been reading the Vulgate since I was a little kid. That’s one real advantage of being a missionary’s kid, your Dad has Tischendorf’s Vulgate, Textus Receptus, Strong’s Concordance, Keil and Delitzsch, Tanakh, copies of the Bible in half a dozen languages, and all of his textbooks from seminary. All I’d have to do is put them side by side on the floor of his office and work it out, like a gigantic Rosetta Stone, everything all pre-translated within an inch of its life. Many happy hours, lying there on my stomach, devouring languages. Some people enjoy crossword puzzles. That’s what I liked.

            Of course, Jerome’s Vulgate isn’t the same as Cicero’s Latin. I didn’t know much about Latin grammar and this guy wasn’t much help in that regard. Thank goodness for Lewis and Short, which did teach me Latin.Report

  4. Avatar Steve S. says:

    Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t step into this, but I care equally about the 9/11 anniversary and Kris Jenner’s breasts. That is, not at all. I not big on holidays and anniversaries, sorry. Bad shit, much of it on a massive scale, has happened every single day since the inception of the species and 9/11 just isn’t special to me.Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy says:

    “Mike and Mike”, ESPNRadio’s morning sports show, discussed the fact that they were largely not discussing it. About 40 minutes into the show, they acknowledged that they realized today was 9/11, an important and solemn day for many Americans. They said a bit more, but then said, [paraphrased] “However, we realize that people tune into this show to hear about sports and hear about football and that is what we’re going to talk about. Don’t think that we’ve forgotten or are ignoring the significance of today. It’s just not what we’re here to do.”

    If people wanted a moment of silence, I’m not sure that “Today” was the best place to go looking for it. I thought part of the idea of “not letting the terrorists win” was a return to normalcy. I realize we’ve sacrificed many rights and freedoms, but surely we still have the freedom to talk about a 56-year-old’s ta-ta’s, no?Report

  6. Avatar MBunge says:

    “When Americans have a moment of silence for the bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August”

    Bataan Death March. Rape of Nanking. Medical experimentation on POWs. The lives that would have been lost in an invasion of Japan. Yeah, it’s really the US that needs to hang its head in shame.


    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      A moment of silence = hanging one’s head in shame?

      I have no idea who you are, but I do hope you can do better than that.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      I don’t ask you to understand why I stop to remember 6 August. Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nobody’s ever detonated a nuclear weapon in human warfare. That fact stands in mute testament to just how horrible nuclear weapons are. A tyrant like Stalin, who famously said “One death is a tragedy, a million a statistic”, had nuclear weapons and didn’t fire one. USA is helping Russia deal with nuclear waste cleanup: the plutonium power plant on the Curiosity rover was once in the heart of a Soviet reactor. Mao was as heartless a beast as ever lived, he never fired a nuke.

      When the Trinity bomb was detonated, Robert Oppenheimer recalled the Bhagavad Gita, that passage where Arjuna asks Krishna to reveal his true form: Krishna becomes as bright as the light of a thousand suns. Oppenheimer gets it slightly wrong, saying “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

      Here’s what the Gita actually says:

      The Great Krishna, owner of all glory said “I am become the horror of time, whose task is to be the destroyer of all beings in the world. The soldiers of the opposing army, none will be spared, even without you.”

      Time spares no one. The world changed irrevocably in that moment, at 8:15. Warfare evolved, like dandelions flowering under the lawnmower blade. All those tidy axioms had ended long before, with the advent of aircraft and missiles. And we’re never going back. In one terrible moment, a small amount of matter was irrevocably transformed into energy and nothing will ever be the same again.Report

      • Avatar MBunge says:

        “That fact stands in mute testament to just how horrible nuclear weapons are.”

        Nuclear weapons are most likely the main reason hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of people didn’t die in the third world war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Stalin and Mao didn’t fire nukes primarily because they’d have brought a nuclear response on themselves. If you think those two mass murderers were restrained by anything else, you are a fool.

        You know, you can find a decent amount of commentary on the intertubes about how old, white conservatives are dying off and how wonderful that will be politically. Well, almost as good will be when slightly less old, while liberals join them in the grave so we can put all their BS to bed as well. Anyone who cries more over Hiroshima than Dresden is only proving how frivolous they really are.


        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          That’s likely true. Nuclear weapons are a pistol with two barrels: to pull the trigger is to kill both your enemy and yourself. Nonetheless, I would prefer to think of 0815 6 Aug as a significant moment in time, independent of the war itself, beyond the combatants, beyond our ability to comprehend.

          I do hope for the death of the old self-congratulatory bastards who continue to attempt to justify the unjustifiable. I’ve fought for this country and killed people in its name and they gave me medals for doing so. I hope you won’t blame me for what I did. But do not praise me, either. I’m getting old, myself. Frankly, I’m growing tired of living with my own past.

          Time has eroded me away, erodes me still and soon I will fade into merciful oblivion, or so I hope. My work sustains me, my friends also. Every day is a bonus day. I was once a Goldwater Republican. When Ronald Reagan sold arms to our enemies and negotiated with hostage takers, it changed me into what I’ve now become. Reagan once said he didn’t leave the Democrats, they left him. Well, the same is true of me, just going the other way.

          As for you, Bunge, come round here to use words like Frivolous and Fool, life has also taught me a unique skill: I say things people never forget. Mass murder is fine and good for you, it seems, when it’s us making excuses for it. I’ve seen napalm dropped on people. I ordered it up and it was dropped on my authority and it saved my life, more than once. But I wonder if you’ve ever seen and smelled a Crispy Critter, which is what we called the victims of napalm. If you have, we have something to discuss. If not, STFU.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Comparing the number of lives lost in the atom bomb drops versus what would have been lost in an invasion? Yes, that’s a credible argument; maybe it’s a winner, maybe not. I’m not going to litigate that here.

      But “They did it worse/more/first/too” does not constitute an adequate ground for moral exculpation.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Without actually making the moral case as it applies to World War II, I think there is a case to be made that “We were willing to play by these rules, they wanted to play by those rules, so we played by those rules” can justify a defense, can’t it?Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko says:

          No. We are the authors of our own moral standards.

          The Nazis committed genocide, but we would not have been morally justified in seeking to exterminate Germans in response. The Viet Cong systematically tortured its prisoners. That would not have justified torturing VC prisoners taken by US forces. Daniel Pearl was gruesomely behaded, but that does not mean we ought to behead his killers in the event that our forces somehow capture them.

          Not every enemy out there can be relied upon to have moral standards that are respectable or worthy of adherence. They are not our teachers.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            I think that’s a good counterargument, and should carry the day in many cases, but I don’t consider it a decisive counterargument.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              Burt beat me to it, so yeah, what he said, plus what I said below.

              There’s a debate to be had about whether the bomb was strategically necessary. There was a big debate about that even at the time. Let me ask you this: if you have the means to kill hundreds of thousands of people, and you’re not certain that it’s necessary or even useful militarily, are you justified in doing so?

              What about revenge killings? Think of the firebombing of Dresden, for example. Is that morally justified, just because the Nazis have been bombing London, even though firebombing Dresden doesn’t really serve any larger strategic purpose?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I’m honestly not sure. I would likely be very uncomfortable with doing so without a strategic component, at the same time the threshold for what strategic component is sufficient would raise or lower depending on the conduct of the adversaries.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I can understand that. I disagree, but I respect the position.

                With respect to Hiroshima and Nagasaki specifically, my argument doesn’t need much: Japan was defeated, was ready to surrender, and had already sued for peace. An invasion was likely unnecessary, and the military brass, and Truman, knew this by August. Even if an invasion were necessary, the casualty projections based on Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Saipan, were no longer relevant, because Japan was so thoroughly defeated. Their performance in Manchuria against the Soviets was ample evidence of this. The military brass and Truman were aware of this as well. The reason for dropping the bomb, therefore, had as much or more to do with the Soviets. I find this deeply problematic, morally.

                That said, while I’m against targeting civilians period, I think that if we were to say that it could be justified, the evidential burden for deciding to use weapons of mass destruction against civilians has to be much heavier than it is for their use against military or other strategic targets, and I find the use of “they did it” arguments in making such a case morally problematic as well. If we’re not pretty damn sure that we need to drop the bomb on a city, then we absolutely should not drop the bomb on a city.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                As I alluded to above, I don’t feel prepared to make the case one way or the other as it applies to the atom bomb in WWII. I was thinking more abstractly (and am appreciative of the responses I’ve gotten to chew over).Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Yeah, I don’t mean to sound like I’m being harsh towards you specifically. I’m using your comments as launching points to express my own position, both on the general question and on our use of the bomb in particular.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              The counterargument is the one I was given in the military: if you respond in kind to an atrocity, you’re sinking to the level of your enemy. If you can’t restrain yourself from abusing or torturing a prisoner, say so on the spot and get the hell out of that situation. Nobody’s going to fault you for it. You’ll live to regret it if you do go down there.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          I don’t know. “They were willing to play by those rules, but we’re better than that” is a much better position to take. I mean, we may have done some pretty shitty things in the last 11 years, but we draw the line in places that some of our enemies don’t, do we not?

          Dropping the bomb was a calculated decision, not just to end the war without an invasion of Japan (let’s not forget that Japan had already sued for peace), but taking the global political situation into account as well. The Soviets had just invaded China, and were mowing through large Japanese armies like they were so much wheat to be sewed. This was part of the calculation, as was the desire to show them our new toy, which would certainly give them pause when they were doing their own calculations. I have a hard time accepting the moral calculus that went into that decision, even if we accept the arguments about the necessity and scale of the invasion of Japan (which I don’t).Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            I don’t know. “They were willing to play by those rules, but we’re better than that” is a much better position to take. I mean, we may have done some pretty shitty things in the last 11 years, but we draw the line in places that some of our enemies don’t, do we not?


    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

      Here I was, trying to start a conversation about something as serious as bewbz, and a serious conversation breaks out…Report

  7. Avatar Mo says:

    The way that we “win” is more time spent focusing on the minutia* like Kris Jenner and less time on picking at scabs on old wounds. Maybe as this becomes more of a trend, crap like the TSA can go away.

    * Or better yet, spending more time on serious stuff that isn’t all 911.Report

  8. Avatar James K says:

    I have to ask – at what point does it become gratuitous to continue the minute’s silence. It seems to me that at some point an essential part of the grieving process is to let go. Now my grieving process tends to be faster than most people’s, but given that 11 years have passed and the mastermind is dead, how much longer would it be appropriate to maintain a national minute of silence?Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      I think the appropriate duration is the lives of the people who were affected by it. Whitman writing on the death of Lincoln sorta sums up my feelings on the subject.

      WHEN lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,
      And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
      I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

      O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;
      Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,
      And thought of him I love.


      O powerful, western, fallen star!
      O shades of night! O moody, tearful night!
      O great star disappear’d! O the black murk that hides the star!
      O cruel hands that hold me powerless! O helpless soul of me!
      O harsh surrounding cloud, that will not free my soul!


      In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house, near the white-wash’d palings,
      Stands the lilac bush, tall-growing, with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
      With many a pointed blossom, rising, delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
      With every leaf a miracle……and from this bush in the door-yard,
      With delicate-color’d blossoms, and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
      A sprig, with its flower, I break.


      In the swamp, in secluded recesses,
      A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.

      Solitary, the thrush,
      The hermit, withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,
      Sings by himself a song.

      Many other disasters are commemorated in history. Our national anthem is about a battle where America got its ass kicked up between its shoulder blades. but our flag was still there. Memorial Day, all those holidays have passed, like Eliot said from grief into relief. Nobody cares but the people who survived. Maybe nobody else should care.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Maybe, maybe not. The assassination of Lincoln was a crime. Pearl Harbor was an act of war. War is different than crime.

        And wars are commemorated in different ways based on a whole lot of different things. Were the lives lost in Korea from 1950 to 1953 or Cuba and the Phillippines in 1898 any less valuable or worthy of commemoration than the lives lost in Europe from 1914 to 1918 or in Europe and the Pacific from 1941 to 1945? Or any other war? Yet we commemorate these wars differently and we always will. Nothing wrong with that.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          It’s certainly possible to commit crimes in war. Hell, today, targeting civilians with a weapon of mass destruction would be considered a crime during war.

          I certainly don’t think that the lives lost in Korea, Cuba, or the Philippines were any less valuable or worth of commemoration than those lost in the two World Wars, but we are talking about several orders of magnitude more lives, and not just that, but those wars shaped world history in a way that Korea, Cuba, and the occupation of the Philippines did not. So it’s understandable that we’d tend to commemorate the sacrifices in those wars more than those in some others.Report

  9. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I’ve told this story before, but okay, one more time (the League just keeps sucking me back in!):
    At the end of a university meeting a few years ago, the assistant prof running the meeting said, “Okay, or next meeting will be on November 22nd. So, everybody be sure- remember November 22nd! (laughs) Okay, seriously, I have no idea how you guys are gonna remember November 22nd, but please try!” I looked around uncomfortably because she was really serious about that. Did anyone else catch it? Nope. Okay… Maybe one day you’ll be able to say, “Remember September 11! I don’t know how you’re gonna do that, but remember the date!” I’m not certain that would be a terrible thing.Report

  10. Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

    What bothers me most is how, right up until the moment that I saw this story, I was on the side of not needing to have a national meltdown every single time this day emerges on the calendar. The idea though that NBC would skip a moment of silence for Kris Jenner? I get it if we don’t want to discuss 9-11 anymore. I get it if being constantly told to NEVER FERGIT! gets old. But what’s the point of skipping something solemn for Kris Fishing Jenner? (Unless she’s promoting her new reality show Fishing Kris Jenner maybe?) Isn’t a brief moment of genuine remembrance more compelling than an interview with that plastic faced troll?Report

    • To echo Kazzy’s comment above, I’m not sure you can look to ‘Today’ for a moment of “genuine” remembrance.

      Further, it sounds like you’re saying it’s okay to not do a moment of silence, but only if you have an acceptable story in its place; that’s not really much of a difference, to me (and even saying that they “skipped” it implies that having a moment of silence is the default, and as others have noted, eventually it shouldn’t be).Report

  11. Avatar MikeSchilling says:

    Surely people of good will can all rally around getting a Kardashian to shut the fish up.Report

  12. Avatar Rose says:

    Dude. You’re against objective aesthetic properties, and then you write something as objectively awesome as this.Report

  13. Avatar Peter says:

    I’m so sick and tired about all the incessant 9/11 whining. For Christ’s sakes, it’s been eleven years.Report

  14. Avatar damon says:

    I wasn’t sure whether this was serious or not, but concluded it was, at least, a mix.

    Regardless, I’d agree. I worked very hard to avoid any recognition of this event yesterday. I don’t need to be reminded of the event; I saw it as it happened. I will also say that I also try very hard to avoid being exposed to any celebrity “news” with only a few exceptions. I even play a game with myself, tuning out any celebrity news when i come across it and then comparing my knowledge of the event with someone who actually pays attention to it–only to gauge how much of that crap seeps into your awareness even when you are actively trying to avoid it. Conclusion: it’s epidemic.Report