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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Past Should Not Be Forgotten or Necessarily Repeated

And Also: Still have tonight, but quite an eventful football weekend, including various injuries and a Colts loss. The Jets again showed themselves as a work in progress. Vinny Testaverde was around again ... eating up garbage time in the Pats game. And, Arizona finally found someone else to beat.

The newly out in the open guy over at TPM (Josh has help these days plus has a new baby) recently noted:
A number of readers have emailed with their outrage over the comments on torture by TPM Reader CH. So let me clarify a couple of things. As I said, CH was just one of several readers who had emailed to suggest I was living in a bubble. Pointing to the School of the Americas and the dirty wars in Latin America, they noted that U.S.-sanctioned torture has been going on for far longer than I was willing to acknowledge. You might call those the "where have you been?" crowd.

Sure enough. We should recognize such aspects of our history as suggested by ongoing protests respecting the School of the Americas and so forth as discussed recently on Democracy Now!. Our amnesia respecting American imperialism and such in the region is especially galling given the over the top rhetoric used against the likes of Hugo Chavez. There is a sentiment that such anti-American noises are just kneejerk hate America b.s., which is not quite as easy if we are truly aware and honest about our past ... and present in various respects. But, as Naomi Klein notes:
It is this departure from clandestine etiquette, more than the actual crimes, that has so much of the military and intelligence community up in arms: By daring to torture unapologetically and out in the open, Bush has robbed everyone of plausible deniability. ... The Center for American Progress has just launched an advertising campaign called "Torture is not US." The hard truth is that for at least five decades it has been. But it doesn't have to be.

Or as another email to TPM noted:
So even though the United States has been doing shameful things for a long time, the new situation is materially different. We've gone from a nation which claimed to uphold the Geneva Conventions, and only violated them in secret, to a nation which has openly rejected the Geneva Conventions, and which has been caught on camera.

CH is a former interrogator and puts forth a more "realistic" sentiment:
Essentially, this is a microcosm for what has arguably been going on for decades and for what the Bush Administration has used more 'openly' than their predecessors...but only 'openly' because people are finally coming around to the realism that often governs our geopolitical actions and are being exposed one way or another to certain dark truths. We may not like these truths, and we can act to change them if we want. However, so long as people continue to cite things like the Geneva Conventions and argue in ways that pretend as if we live in an ideal world and that 'we' are virtuous actors in said world, well, we are only going to help in perpetuating the bubble that so many of 'us' have been living in for so long.

Yeah, not convinced. Others in the business are much more wary about falling for the line that such "dark" behavior is necessary and not in the long run counterproductive, even if it might be in some fashion useful in various situations. We do not live "in an ideal world" but we do live in one where we can not torture people, or at the very least, not deem it fully acceptable behavior, even if something that might be a distasteful shameful thing that might be justified in certain desperate situations. Quite a different matter in practice.

Meanwhile, Bush's trip to Vietnam resulted in some rather interesting thoughts as well. No "champagne unit" this time around. Some wonder if Bush is aware that we lost over there. [Kevin Kline: "It was a tie!"] Others reaffirm the sentiment that it has something to teach us about Iraq, including the part about not learning from our mistakes ... or wanting to admit we really made any. A comment on "Dick" Nixon is especially amusing/on point. Finally, TPM generally reminds us that Kissinger is still around. Dave Barry once had a running joke on how Nixon's career never quite ended -- he kept rising from the dead like some vampire.

Well, the imagery is ever more true as his people continue to haunt us.