Monday, September 13, 2004

Excuses, Excuses

In a desperate attempt to keep from being held responsible for the actions of his department, Donald Rumsfeld trotted out the following nonsense:

"American abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib were terrible, but they are not crimes on par with beheadings and other acts carried out by terrorists, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said [Sept. 11, 2004].

"Has it been harmful to our country? Yes. Is it something that has to be corrected? Yes," he said. "Does it rank up there with chopping off someone's head off on television? It doesn't. It doesn't..."

The frame here:

  • Beheading is horrible, and we didn't do beheading. Since beheading is worse than what we did, we're good.

  • The horrid abuses we committed are not major violations of human rights, or abrogation of a treaty to which we are a signatory, but a minor oops - something "harmful," like a paper cut, something that needs to be "corrected," like a typo.

For the first frame: Bad logic! No donut!

There are two problems.

  1. We killed prisoners, too. From the prisoner's perspective, I'd wager that being in the process of being beaten to death is at least as terrifying and painful as being beheaded - it just takes longer.

  2. Skipping the words altogether, break the statement down into the logical assumption it makes: if A is bad and we do not do A, we are good.

That kind of argument might have saved Mr. Rumsfeld from a detention in elementary school, but it just doesn't cut it for the Secretary of Defense of the world's only remaining superpower. However, if that's truly the extent of his reasoning ability, we get a much clearer understanding of how he and Bush, et al. waltzed us into a war against a country that posed no threat, and was not about to pose one any time soon.

What's wrong with the logic? To see how it's false, let's say we do B instead, but B is also bad. Does our not doing A make our having done B any less bad? No. Both the perpetrators of A and B are bad, just for different reasons.

For the second frame:

When the United States ratifies a treaty, we are bound to uphold that treaty - not only in international law, but by our own constitution!

Article VI, Clause 2
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land...

The abuses at Abu Ghraib violate the Geneva convention - a treaty made under the authority of the United States. Violating the signed treaty violates our constitution. All of the people in the chain of command failed to uphold the constitution.

My Response

How would I frame the response to this hooey?

Killing prisoners slowly and painfully is no better than killing them swiftly and painfully. Both are inexcusable.

Correction is inadequate - those who allowed it to happen need wholesale replacement. The first step is to fire the guy in charge - that's you Mr. Rumsfeld - for failing to perform your sworn duty to uphold the constitution of the United States. The second step is for the new guy to show us the proof that our constitution is being upheld and will continue to be upheld going forward.


Blogger Jessica said...

It goes along with the Repub's (and the country's) Good vs. Evil mentality.

We are Good. They are evil.

God Bless America, but not them because they are evil.

They are the axis of evil.

Democracy is good, dictatorship is evil, so we must overthrow their gov.

It's similar to our win or lose society. If you win the Superbowl, you're the best team, but if you lose, you're chopped liver (even though you're the second best team). This mentality is taught early in school sports and academic competitions, and carries right on into our 2 party political system.

Therefor, in order for us to be good, they must be evil. Some people need to hold onto this to make themselves feel like they are part of the "winning team", like in highschool when you want to be part of the popular crowd.

9:12 AM  

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