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Excess of Evil

In a single, sweeping masterstroke of hyperbole, Benedict (perfect name) Carey at the New York Times takes a look at the nature of evil, and manages to equate the U.S. prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib with terrorists beheading hostages, the "ethnic cleansing" of Kosovo, Nazi prison camps, and Pol Pot's killing fields:

In the real world, the grim images coming out of Iraq -- the beheadings by Iraqi insurgents and the Abu Ghraib tortures, complete with preening guards -- suggest how much further people can go when they feel justified.

In Nazi prisoner camps, as during purges in Kosovo and Cambodia, historians found that clerks, teachers, bureaucrats and other normally peaceable citizens committed some of the gruesome violence, apparently swept along in the kind of collective thoughtlessness that the philosopher Hannah Arendt described as the banality of evil.
Carey's casual inclusion of frat house hazing-style abuse on a list of humanity's worst atrocities is breathtaking.

It's Carey's knowingly dishonest rhetoric, not the actions of a few misguided troops, that really shows "how much further people can go when they feel justified."


Anonymous said...

Oh, dear. He's another opportunity for FastEddie's & my flamewar about torture and what Abu Ghraib really means. I'm going to be a bit contrarian on this post, however, and focus on the positive in my best 'Pollyanna' style!

No, really. This is a good sign.

What we're seeing in newspaper posts like this is the last desperate, dying salvos of The Left. With Howard Dean's ascendancy to the DNC throne (and I mean every ounce of sarcasm you detect therein), the not-so-looney liberals are ditching the Far Left in greater numbers than are being absorbed into the lunatic fringe. Trust me. My sister's seeing the light more and more every day, thanks to moi.

Any person with a couple of working brain cells, and no previous knowledge of the Holocaust (sadly, I must admit these people exist) need only spend about one minute at the US Holocaust Museum to realize the dubious nature of Benedict Carey's assertion. One need spend only 5 minutes reading about Saddam Hussein's torture cells and what went on there to realize that Abu Ghraib is no "atrocity". Why then does Mr. Carey think that he'll win converts with this argument? Again, that's not his concern. The point of Op-Ed essays like this is to rage.

In allowing crackpot's like Carey to rage in the absense of moral or common sense, papers like The Times threaten the integrity of words like torture, atrocity, and genocide. When they assign the examples of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and Gaza (in that order) to those terms, they diminish their argument in the eyes of sensible people. Abu Ghraib is a sad thing, but its' no Hanoi Hilton. But again, their doing such is a sign that they recognize the Gig is up, and that their holy triumverate of "Viet Nam, JFK and The 60's" are no longer the touchstones by which the rest of the country judges the actions of their government.

Puts a smile on my face! 

Posted by Sharon

Anonymous said...

you might be missing the point of the essay, and the paragraphs you quoted from it are a prime example.

the essay catalouges how the common person, can become evil. It goes into how experts don't like using the word evil, but that he feels, despite the moral implications, the word should be used, that there is no other explaination.

we all, or at least I agree, beheadings are worse then the "abuse" that happened at Abu Ghraib. But that's not the point of the essay at all.

this paragraph:"In the real world, the grim images coming out of Iraq -- the beheadings by Iraqi insurgents and the Abu Ghraib tortures, complete with preening guards -- suggest how much further people can go when they feel justified" doesn't make the point the U.S. guards actions were worse, it points out how far people can go.

Sharon, not to be flamey, : ) but you and I agree on the Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge, even the Hanoi Hilton were far worse then Gitmo, and A.G. still did you read the essay? I don't compare Abu Ghraib to anything, just itself, and I don't think it is treatment that we should not stand for. G.B. consistantly defends the actions of the sadist being paid by us that abused prisoners. He keeps bringing it up and dismissing it as almost harmless what has happened. In Afghanistan someone died after being abused and interogated. Honestly I don't know all the details it could have been after a severe tickling, or shock at being forced to watch Animal House against his will, I don't know.

What I do know is if we are right, our philosophy would not to allow abuses, torture, sexual teasing, no really. We say it's not a religious war going on, if that's true you don't dishonor someone's religious belief's by sexually abusive interogations.

G.B. I honestly think that you fit the catergory of someone who would make a good Nazi. Yeah you think I'm being provacative? I mean it sincerely. You would kill all those who don't beleive the same way as you, if it really comes down to it. It's clear that if the U.S. became a facist-right wing state, that G.B. would say it's justified to send the Palestinians, the Muslims, to the ovens. He would turn a blind eye and say it's justified. Banality of evil, I mean it, I believe it. I've read enough of his sadistic attitude, his poor reasoning, his attacking imagined "liberal conspiracy" liberal sometimes just means having a heart, and being tolerant. opposite but the same as the hate monger, who supports the insurgents in Iraq: Raed in the middle. check out that guy's constant bending of the truth. You think that is a inflamatory statement? well prove it G.B. I think your words equate your actions. You would have been one of the guards, abusing prisoners. If you were in that situation, your turned off conscience, would have done the Lyndie England thing, I'm sure of it. You equate what happened as "frat house hazing-style abuse" you are a sadist with a cold heart, and maybe a closed mind. What this essays says I apply to you G.B. "historians found that clerks, teachers, bureaucrats and other normally peaceable citizens committed some of the gruesome violence, apparently swept along in the kind of collective thoughtlessness" They justified their actions, just as you excuse crimmnal U.S. guards, and interogator's actions. Crimminal in a court of law, but still you constantly defend. Your conscience is turned off.

now I said all that heated stuff, but I wish you best regards, because someday you may change, and grow a heart bigger then the Grinch heart you have now. God bless, and try to learn to forgive. 

Posted by fasteddie

Anonymous said...

fucking hell, where's the edit? I mean I stand firmly against mistreatment of prisoners. and you dear biker are an asshole, but that's okay,God can forgive me for calling you out, and forgive you for being a sadist. 

Posted by fasteddie

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't go as far as fasteddie, but this post is just plain wrong. (Note to fasteddie: insulting people, especially comparing them to Nazis, is not a very effective way to bring them around to your way of thinking. GB is a decent person and you might want to apologize if you have any interest in further dialog.)

First off, Carey isn't "equating" anything--he's listing examples of evil. He didn't say or even imply that the degree of evil was the same.

If you don't think what happened at Abu Ghraib was evil, you're either seriously misinformed about what happened there, or your moral compass is broken.
The pictures are what is famous, but people were also beaten to death and others were anally raped with various objects, and many, possibly even the majority, of the prisoners there were innocent--not terrorists, not insurgents, just people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even if it weren't for the deaths and permanent maimings, surely you believe that abuse of innocents is an evil thing, don't you?
What went on there was most definitely evil, and can't be flippantly dimsissed as "frat house hazing-style abuse". Mentioning the evils of Abu Ghraib in a list of recent memorable evils, in an article about evil, is perfectly natural. There's certainly nothing "dishonest" about it.

I'm actually kind of surprised to see the "frat house hazing" spin coming from you, since I consider you an honest and intelligent person. Frat hazing is something people consent to going through, so comparing those abuses to it is exactly the same as comparing consensual sex to rape. 

Posted by Big Ben

Anonymous said...

GB and Sharon, did both of you read the entire article? There was no equating the AB torture to the Holcaust or even other deeds, the article was about studying evil. Are you saying that what happened at AB wan't even a little bit mean spirited if you don't consider it even a little bit evil? Are we supposed to turn a blind eye to AB and keep deluding ourselves that it was just a bunch of rouge rednecks having some fun? I think it was total bullshit that that prison guard got 10 years for what he did at AB, he and his fellow gaurds were ordered to do those things... he's just the scapegoat so that those in charge can walk away unscathed. One of the main points of the article was to show that everyday good people do have the capacity to do bad things especially when they are encouraged to do so by people in postions of power and authority.  

Posted by Jim



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