Just a couple of quick observations on the Susan Sontag New York Times Magazine essay on the Abu Ghraib photos. She talks as if the photos were exclusively private pics that soldiers were passing around, and relates the activity to webcams, internet p0rn, school hazings, etc. Some of that's valid pop-sociological speculation, but it's also been reported that the picture-taking was officially encouraged, used to humiliate and blackmail the sexually prim Iraqis. ("What do you want from me?" "Ve vant...ze information. Do you want ze family to see zese pictures?") Her "soldiers running amuck with cameras" argument plays into the government propaganda that a few unsupervised crazies were behind the prison torture. Also, she talks about our "quite justified" invasion of Afghanistan, something lefties love to throw as a sop to the right to make complaints about Iraq seem reasonable. Justifed how? By not catching Bin Laden? By jumpstarting the heroin trade over there again? Killing and bombing for women's rights? That war wasn't the right response to 9/11 any more than Iraq was. It was just to make the majority of Americans feel better after the government failed them on 9/11, by bombing some Muslims.

- tom moody 5-25-2004 8:40 pm

And part of the photo/video effort was the banality of record keeping.
- mark 5-25-2004 9:52 pm

that line about "quite justified" surprised me. wasnt she the poster girl for all that was wrong with america after 9/11? wasnt she a blame america firster? i would have thought that sontag, at least initially, was against the sort of response that we undertook.
- dave 5-25-2004 10:13 pm

My read is she was stung by being the poster woman for "blame America" after that New Yorker piece and now recites this centrist cant. For me it was never Blame America, always Blame Bush. Cut out the cancer in your own body politic before presuming to excise it elsewhere. How can it be justified if Bush, Rumsfeld, and Cheney did it?

- tom moody 5-25-2004 10:36 pm

On first reading of your posting that ends with the statement: "It was just to make the majority of Americans feel better after the government failed them on 9/11, by bombing some Muslims." My response was, initially, that I wouldn't be as quick to say that myself.

But on second thought, my initial response demands that I live in an alternative universe where there is no such thing as a Bush White House.

That said, there is one fact that does support your conclusion. There was an interesting report a few years ago, (probably in Jane's Defense Weekly or else in Stratfor) that listed the type of armament used in Afghanistan in comparison to those used, previously, in the Balkans. The immediate impression was that 'smart' (ha!) bombs were appropriate for use in a heavily populated European setting where target accuracy was important, but Afghanistan and Iraq presented an opportunity to use up that inventory of cluster bombs and other sloppy devices that would prove hazardous to civilian populations after the fighting was finished. I recognize that in the larger picture the distinctions between these weapons are idiotic, however, it does point to political/logistic/financial /PR decisions that were made about the relative value of civilians.

As for Sontag's essay, there are some interesting rebuttals in the May 25th & 26th UK Guardian that you might want to check out.
- LM (guest) 5-25-2004 11:48 pm

"...the distinctions between these weapons are idiotic..." naw I don't think so. Those cluster bombs are incredibly nasty.
- sally mckay 5-26-2004 12:33 am

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