Monday, May 04, 2009

Wrong + Wrong = ?

by Michael Dymmoch

Recently, I had an argument with a friend about the relative importance of the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp and the events that occurred at Abu Ghraib. My friend had seen video footage of the beating of a teenage girl by a mob of radical men, and a feature on how suicide bombers are recruited and brainwashed. He believes—if I understand his argument correctly—that in comparison to societies that tolerate or even encourage horrific behavior and de facto genocide, GITMO and Abu Ghraib are irrelevant.

I don’t agree. I think two wrongs never make one right. The behavior of the terrorists who use children as heat-seeking missiles is understandable—if unforgivable. People with nothing have nothing to lose. And if—besides nothing—all they have is their power to destroy those they see as a threat to that power, they’ll use it. I don’t see the phenomenon as any different now than it was when Cro-Magnon Man exterminated the Neanderthals. Absolute power has always been absolutely corrupting. I suspect that in a post-apocalyptic world, techno man—“Homo sapiens”—would be as ruthless as any al-Qaeda operative. Our present state of economic crisis is a clue. As is the fact that the “civilized” United States turned rabid over the 3000 casualties from 9-11, but hasn’t even noticed the 60,000 children killed in this country in the past ten years by fellow citizens with guns, or the 13,000+ people killed annually by drunk drivers.

My friend thinks that GITMO will be virtually forgotten in ten years time. He may be right. But I think that if GITMO doesn’t matter in ten years, if Vietnam doesn’t matter today, what terrorists do in the meantime won’t matter—ever. They’ve already won.

What do you think?


Barbara D'Amato said...

I'm with you.

Corey Wilde said...

If we're going to claim the high moral ground, I'm thinking we ought to have morals.

Michael Dymmoch said...

Great point, Corey.

Dana King said...

I agree with you on moral ghrounds, but let's leave them out of the argument, as people obviously have different opinions, or there would be no discussion.

Let's be pragmatic: Gitmo and Abu Ghraib are recruiting posters for terrorists, making it ever easier to demonize the United States. The way to talk infividuals off their fanatical perch is not through more fanatacism; it's thorugh reasonaed persuasion.

This whole "the beatings will continue until morale improves" mentality is getting us nowhere.

Corey Wilde said...

Oh, it's getting us somewhere but it's not the place we started out for.

Anonymous said...

Yeah let's reason and get to know the terrorists, that will work. You should try that next time there is a rapist/sexual predator in Chicago. Just get to know him and he will stop, all he needs is a hug. Ridiculous. The way to get individuals off their fanatical perch is to destroy the perch, without political interference like there was in Iraq. I know I will get ripped because the arguments tend to the liberal here but seriously, reasoned persuasion is the way to deal with terrorists?

Michael Dymmoch said...

Well said, Dana.

As for Anonymous (are you afraid to sign your opinions?), short of genocide (are you for that?), we can't destroy all the terrorists. But if we're not careful, we can become them.

Hồ Chí Minh advised the Viet Cong to be small fish in the vast school of ordinary people. Who won in Vietnam? Are we to kill all the fish to get the little sharks?

Wouldn't it be easier to give the majority of the hopeless something to hope for? Something to lose so that they have no reason to camouflage terrorists. Bad as things were in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, the Iraqis had electricity, sewage treatment and jobs. Maybe today they can vote, but considering their living conditions now, it's surprising there aren't more terrorists.

If our "intelligence community" spent as much time learning the language and customs of other peoples--how others see the world--as they do worrying about "terrorists" like Cat Stevens, or whether air travelers take off their shoes, they might not need to resort to torture.