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If we had to whittle the Bush Administration’s “war on terror” down to its core dilemma, I would suggest that it’s this—I quote from Michael Yon today in the National Review: “we cannot play fast and loose with our own values.”
Yon is writing about General Petraeus’s largely admirable letter on torture. But hasn’t the whole course of this war has been just that:
the introduction of torture and other highly coercive interrogation techniques;
discarding the Geneva Conventions and the U.S. tradition on rules of armed combat;
the introduction of mercenaries to do our fighting and the systematic destruction of the historical notion of the citizen-soldier;
the establishment of concentration camps and kangaroo courts;
an illegal widespread surveillance program targeting Americans;
the pervasive use of secrecy to cloak illegal and unethical conduct by the government; and
targeting the media and distorting their ability to report about the war.
This weekend we learn that the Department of Defense is barring access by soldiers to YouTube and similar sites. My sources in the Pentagon tell me that this decision is driven by concern about the practice of soldiers shooting video footage which documents abuse or mistreatment of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq. This weekend, I discussed this phenomenon with two NATO officers who are busily writing a paper for an important national defense institution on just this process. They had been shocked both about the proliferation of such YouTube materials and the entirely lackadaisical attitude the Pentagon showed towards it. “These are not the values we used to associate with our ally,” one told me. The Pentagon rarely if ever investigates these incidents, but it is concerned about the YouTube footage coming into the hands of investigators and journalists. So this exercise is designed to cut off the flow of such material into the net, and then into the press and broadcast media.
But the Department of Defense has also reached to imprisoning prominent journalists on no charges as an intimidation tactic, and seizing journalists in order to destroy their photographs and film footage of events the Pentagon doesn’t want Americans at home to see.
So can it come as a surprise when the Iraq Government bans the coverage of bad news? CNN reports:
Over the weekend, Iraq’s interior ministry banned the media from showing the aftermath of bombings. It is an effort by Iraq’s government to control some news outlets that are trying to ignite sectarian tensions by showing “the blood of the people,” government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said.
A free press is, apparently, just another one of those “pre-9/11” values.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”