No Comment — May 14, 2007, 1:45 pm

Department of Fundamental Dilemmas

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.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2015

A Goose in a Dress

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Genealogy of Orals

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Neoliberal Arts

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Gangs of Karachi

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Romancing Kano·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

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.

leadership
service
integrity
creativity

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.

Article
The Prisoner of Sex·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It is disappointing that parts of Purity read as though Franzen urgently wanted to telegraph a message to anyone who would defend his fiction from charges of chauvinism: ‘No, you’ve got me wrong. I really am sexist.’”
Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Gangs of Karachi·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Karachi, sometimes only the thinnest of polite fictions separates the politicians from the men who kill and extort on their behalf.”
Photograph © Asim Rafiqui/NOOR Images
Article
Weed Whackers·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
Photograph by Chad Ress
Article
The Neoliberal Arts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.”
Artwork by Julie Cockburn

Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:

65

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.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“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.”

Subscribe Today