Commentary — December 31, 2008, 8:36 am


From: Jim Grobe
Subject: “What Motivates the Torture Enablers?,” by Scott Horton, December 20, 2008

What got me, as a 30 year veteran of the US Navy, was when Rivkin commented that the the use of tough techniques in SERE training justifies the use of tough techniques and Alexander replied that SERE training and being an actual prisoner were two different things. For me this was the crux of the debate. When I joined the Navy in 1961 we were given lectures showing that we treat POWs in accordance with the Geneva Convention. In fact we were given Geneva Convention ID cards with our name and serial numbers and instructed that, if captured, we were to destroy our regular ID cards and provide only the information on the Geneva Convention cards, but to be ready for tough treatment because our enemies did not necessarily observe the same high moral standards we did.

It’s well known that the people in the Bush Administration lacked military experience, even Rumsfeld, although he was a reservist. What really stands out to me is their lacking the ability to empathize. Alexander said it is one thing the be in SERE training, where you know the people torturing you are role playing and you can opt out, and another thing to be a POW with no power except–as some of the prisoners at Guantanamo have already done–to go on hunger strikes and commit suicide. I recently read and article by Gary Olson on that concluded that the ability to empathize is hard-wired in the human brain. Could it be that the leaders in the Bush Administration are physically deficient in this regard?

From: Bobby Baird
Subject: “Caroline Palin On The Campaign Trail,” by Ken Silverstein, December 19, 2008

I actually don’t think that Gawker’s point is a good one: the difference between Caroline and Patrick or Ted is that the latter were elected to their offices. Sure, they had all kinds of advantages going into the process–as did a movie star Ronald Reagan and a first lady Hillary Clinton–but at the very least they came out of it with the sanction of having been democratically elected. That’s not the case with Caroline, and that’s the part of this whole thing that’s really disgusting.

From: Ephraim Rosenbaum
Subject: “A Cartoon,” by Mr. Fish, December 30, 2008

Dear Harpers:

I realize that you are a bitterly partisan opponent of Israel, and serenely uninterested in their suffering over the years, but did you really mean to place such an offensive and antisemitic cartoon so prominently on your website? And if so, could you perhaps make some sort of announcement, along the lines of “Yes, we are openly antisemitic now. Deal with it.”

Thanks so much.

Updated December 31, 1:03PM:

From: Joshua Lore
Subject: Ephraim Rosenbaum’s statement regarding Mr. Fish’s cartoon of December 30, 2008

I’m sure it is no mystery to Harper’s that polarizing sensitivities have made “antisemitism” an almost almost useless term in the modern world, where Ilan Pappe has even said that the most antisemitic regime in place today is, in fact, Israel itself. The more important point that I wish to reaffirm to Harper’s, in your support, is that the critiquing of the undue coupling of military power with religious and ethnic identities is not antisemitic, and in fact loans more to the affirmation of a true Judaism than it does against it.

The nature of this cartoon is also clear in its irony, as Mr. Fish was no doubt making a statement about the dubbing of this recent, disproportionate military engagement, as “Operation Cast Lead”–a very brutal, and sickeningly blatant title in its appearance–which is actually derived from a Hanukkah poem. We see again a frightening coupling of religious convictions with modern imperial brutality, and this goes against the true nature of Judaism no less than the most direct forms of antisemitism seen during the age of fascism, which never really ended to begin with.

Anyhow, to accuse Harpers as being uninterested in Israel’s suffering seems an unfair reduction. A rabbi who worked hard throughout the last decade to condemn the military obsessions of Israel said “the only sufferings that can be felt by an empire are the groaning sufferings of empire; the only sufferings that can be felt by those beneath it are the deepest and most undeniable sufferings of humanity stolen.”

I hope that I am not wrong in saying with confidence that Harper’s, and Mr. Fish, have no doubt a deep sympathy for Israel’s victims of violence, but that they have a sight clear enough to define the difference between an Israeli, and a rogue military regime bought out from the beginning by the world’s largest empire. Mr. Fish’s critical eye for sad irony is a valuable asset to your publication. Please do not let the misuse of words like antisemitism keep you from challenging injustice and the debasement of true religion in this world.

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