Goodbye to a miserable year

There have been worse years in recent history than 2004, but not many. The Bam earthquake came just before the beginning of the year, and the tsunami disaster at the end. But man-made catastrophes were probably equally devastating in terms of lives lost, and much worse in terms of the behavior they’ve involved. Just thinking of names like Abu Ghraib, Beslan, Darfur and Fallujah is a reminder of how terrible a year it was.

The standards supposedly upheld by the civilised world have been comprehensively betrayed at places like Abu Ghraib. And whatever evil has been done in our names, our terrorist enemies have shown, in Beslan and in the kidnappings and horrible beheadings that have now become routine, that they can and will do far worse. A few of those directly involved in these crimes have paid, a price, but the leaders who ordered them have not.

The news hasn’t all been bad, and I’ll try to do a post soon pointing to some more hopeful events. But not just now.

27 thoughts on “Goodbye to a miserable year

  1. Boy, you must be mighty hung over to see the world so darkly.

    What about the world economy – it went really well (I know, I know, sooner or later this party too will end in a helluva hangover – but let’s enjoy it while it lasts). Not only that, but the growth was widespread across both developed and developing world; literally billions of ordinary people are better off.

    Things have gone much better than we could expect in the Ukraine, and in eastern Europe generally. There is a real prospect that Turkey could join the EU,which apart from being good for Turkey is a far surer way of spreading democracy through a demonstration effect than by the neocon’s fantasies. And terrible as things are in Iraq, that mess has put an end to all further thoughts of adventures by the US, and made them deal sensibly with Iran.

  2. DD, I agree with everything you say, and it will be the core of my “good news” post. But I don’t think that’s enough to make 2004 count as anything but miserable.

  3. DD, JQ, there’s a flaw in your thinking about Turkey joining would help show democracy by eaxample.

    It’s actually the same problem as the one the neocons had, leaving out the alternative. What if Turkey ends up a bad example?

    I can easily see it happening, if Europe insists on the forms of democracy up to and including tolerance for the intolerant. At the moment Turkey is something of a fake democracy, in order to achieve a liberal (19th century sense) society. It represses extremists, secessionists, etc., while not overdoing it so much that most of the people get put off side. It does this through occasional military interventions, the threat of which keeps the politicians from working the system.

    Now suppose that the European approach to democracy takes hold, the democratic deficit one that elevates politicians. Suppose also that extremists are allowed to flourish but still antagonised by the Brussels hypocrisy. Suppose further that people come to expect that the military can never intervene again, and leave them out of the calculations.

    Is all that so very unlikely, if not short term? Is that not a long term explosive mix, likely to lead to huge trouble in parts away from the notional centres?

  4. Good points PM – I also think theres alot of danger in the path to membership that the EU has given Turkey. turkey has invested so much emotiona energy in joining that I think its likely to be disappointed when it discovers that membership isnt an automatic pass to development. And that disappointment could spill over into real anger.

  5. The standards supposedly upheld by the civilised world have been comprehensively betrayed at places like Abu Ghraib.

    ss lack of perspective, and smacks of ideological axe grinding, to put Abu Ghraib – a crime which involved non-homicidal prisoner – in the same league as Breslan & Dafur. In the Abu Gharib case some members of the US executive did “betray civilised standards”, but the system as a whole was eventually able to live up to these standards. The perpetrators at AG were being investigated and some senior officials (non-Rumsfeld) have been punished by the responsbile agency (the US Army). Thhe Chechen rebels and Sudanese govt are not, by contrast, administering justice to their criminal officers.
    The US admin as a whole has certainly betrayed civilised standards in invading Iraq and terrorising Fallujah. The US may make some restitution if it can succeed, for the first time in history, in holding democratic elections in Iraq. This tremendous possibility should be put in the credit balance by crtics engaged in the critique of US operations in Fallujah.

  6. Beslan was nothing more than the Chechnyans ongoing fight with Russia – no news there other than the obvious that it was a monumental disaster.

    Abu Ghraib – its allegedly war, torture happens in war, it is a part of war. No news there either other than the obvious breach of conventions.

    All in all its pretty normal if you ask me.

  7. Oh for God’s sake. Abu Ghraib was significant only in the usefull propaganda amunition it gave the Islamist head-choppers and their Western enablers in the leftist press. Some prisoners were stripped and a white-trash girl laughed at their dicks. HORROR. The officers responsible have subsequently been charged.

    And this is Abu Ghraib, Saddam’s most notorious prison and torture centre, where for decades tens of thousands of people were mutilated and put to death to the complete indifference of our wonderful compassionate intelligencia, untill a certain moronic cowboy too simplistic to listen to his intellectual betters put a stop to it.

    You people are pathetic, and the willing, witless tools of evil. Freedom will come to Iraq, and twenty years from now, when it’s a thriving democratic state, you’ll be able to proudly tell your grand children, “See the Middle East? It’s free now, I was against it at the time, and when nobody listened to me I sat on the sidelines and whined and complained while others worked and suffered to make it a reality.”

    Every age has it’s challenge, some rise to it, others fail. In Iraq, Iraqi election workers, national guard and US soldiers and reconstruction workers are labouring in the face of medieval Islamic barbarism to build something. All you can do is bitch and moan. Screw you.

  8. I would thought that the standards upheld by the civilised world was betrayed at places like Abu Ghraib before Saddam and his nationalist socialist Sunni party were removed.

    The leaders who ordered those crimes will be put to trial, if they are still alive.

    The US incident was one of bad taste only, and corrective action was taken.

  9. Amos, please let us know what you were doing to agitate for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein before circa early 2002.

    I suppose you’re aware that the period of Saddam’s greatest excesses – the Iran-Iraq war – was the time when he was receiving the strongest physical and diplomatic support from the US. Are you aware of this? Are you? Or have you just ignored it so it doesn’t impede the sorry flow of cliches, half-truths, straw men, non sequiters and absursidities that passes for ‘thought’ among your kind?

    Oh, and by the way, Iraqi prisoners died in Abu Ghraib. Is that a HORROR, or not really because it was just a few nice white boys and girls (‘trash’) gone bad, not like those evil, evil Islamist head-choppers?

    (Apologies, John, for descending into abuse. Pls feel free to delete.)

  10. anthony — 3/1/2005 @ 1:50 am totally misses the point and engages in standard defamatory debating practice (ie implicitly accusing me of being an apologist for torture):

    Thanks Jack and all for putting that bar just a little bit lower. Onwards and downwards eh.

    lower the bar” on inhibiting torture, and only a stupid, dishonest or mischievous person could suggest otherwise. I have not suggested that the US should be exempt from civilised standards (ie lowered bar) in dealing with enemy POW’s.
    I am saying that Pr Q falsely accused the US system as a whole of “betraying” those standards. A singular breach of standards does not imply a systemic betrayal of standards, especially given the subsequent steps taken by the US Army to rectify, restitute and retribute the breach.
    I think that Pr Q showed a distorted moral perspective to suggest that the generally venal crimes & misdemeanours at Abu Gharib are morally equivalent to the mortal atrocities at Breslan et al. (whatever the political fall-out).
    Critical intellectuals should make critical intellectual distinctions. And commnetators should not waste peoples time and energy retailing scurrilous defamations.

  11. But Jack, there is ample evidence that the culture that permitted torture to take place at Abu Ghraib came right from the very top – from the White House. The US system as a whole did betray civilised standards, and the fact that a few lower-ranked officers are being punished doesn’t change that. You yourself note that Rumsfeld has escaped sanction. He’s even been re-appointed. The White House counsel who drafted a set of loopholes permitting torture in certain circumstances has been promoted to Attorney-General.

    Torture = ‘generally venal crimes and misdemeanours’. Can I nominate this as an early entrant for euphemism of the year?

  12. There was no realistic possibility of crushing Saddam between the Gulf War I and 2002, once that option arose I was an enthusiastic supporter of it, just as I’d love to see Castro eat a cruise missile or the filth that run Burma strung up like a bunch of Asian Mussolinis. I love to see a tyrant topple, that, Warbo, is the fundimental difference between me and YOUR kind.

    The Islamic Caliphate will be put on the ash heap of history along side the Glorious Workers Paradise and the 1000 year Reich. The people who put it there will be the same men who stood on the beach of Normandy- allied soldiers with guns in their hands, not a subpoena from the world court or an indignant editorial to the NY Times.

    Thanks for all your help, jackass. Go have a cry for the poor little terrorists of Abu Ghraib, you delicate flower, and keep living in the peace other men have fought for and are fighting for still. You people make me sick.

  13. Warbo — 3/1/2005 @ 12:43 pm continues the practice of misrepresentation and defamation that has become standard on this thread:

    Torture = ‘generally venal crimes and misdemeanours’. Can I nominate this as an early entrant for euphemism of the year?

    The construction I used was nothing more or less than a statement of the literal truth, a concept which seems alien to some commentators on this thread.
    Most of the instances of prisoner abuse at Abu Gharib rated well below the common understanding of torture ie invasive violence – which makes the equivalencing Abu Gharib with democdidal crimes at Breslan and Dafur wrong-headed, if not mischievous.
    Some instances of torture did occur at Abu Gharib, a fact that I have never denied and have implicitly acknowledged by using the adverbial qualifier “generally” in regard to the adjective “venal”. These instances have been, and should be, met with retribution and restitution by civil and criminal law.
    I have explicitly indicated (“non-Rumsfeld”) that I am not satisfied with the accountability by high ranking US officials so far. But it is ludicrous to imply that there has been no effective accountability by the US system when the US military has launched multi-investigations, the US press has been all over it, officers have been stood down and courtmartialled, the abusive practices have been curtailed and the prison itself has been demolished. Anyone who glosses over these facts if obviously grinding ideological axes at the expense of intellectual honesty.
    The US’s general political and martial practices in Iraq have been bad and below par by civilised standards alright. Why dont critics of the US policy in Iraq simply state that case truthfully instead of indulging in a transparent attempt to score political points using inflated rhetoric? Massive overstatement of the indictment will lead, as in a normal court of law, to all charges being dropped by the jury of peers. That would be stupid.

  14. “The US’s general political and martial practices in Iraq have been bad and below par by civilised standards alright.”

    Obviously I agree with you Jack, although I think you considerably overstate the extent to which these crimes are being redressed, and I see nothing in the conduct of the present US administration that suggests it even regards them as serious human rights abuses rather than a propaganda lapse.

    The point is surely, that no halfway-decent human would regard atrocities such as Beslan as anything other than the vilest evil. It should go without saying, but perhaps doesn’t.

    On the other hand, a large – perhaps majority – body of opinion in the US seems to regard any criticism of the occupation of Iraq as equivalent to support for Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, the Burmese junta and any other tyranny Amos can think of (though not, oddly enough, figures such as Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov. Wonder why?)

    That actually seems to me to be a bigger problem for the world.

  15. “I love to see a tyrant topple, that, Warbo, is the fundimental difference between me and YOUR kind.”
    No, Amos the difference between Warbo’s kind and you is that Warbo et al know that a tyrant has to be replaced by something; they know that merely toppling a tyrant does not a functioning nation make; and they also know that a military solution is not always the best (or even a viable) solution.

    In answer to Warbo’s question about what you did to help overthrow Saddam before 2002 you answered with nothing, but stated that once the US was going in you enthusiastically supported them.
    So, how is your band-wagon jumping any different, in real terms, to Warbo’s bitching and moaning?

    “There was no realistic possibility of crushing Saddam between the Gulf War I and 2002”
    Why so? How was Saddam militarily any weaker in 1994 than in 2002?

  16. The tyrant is going to be replaced by something; Democracy. That thing that self-indulgent western leftist take for granted because other men died to procure it for them. They’re having a vote soon in Iraq, I wonder why? Maybe Saddam has called for a vote and volentarily stepped down, maybe Kofi Anan had a quiet word with him and he recoginsed the error of his ways, is that what happened, comrades?

    Elections in Iraq, but I guess you don’t give a shit about that, right? No more Kurd gassing, the Marsh arabs are returning to their homes, over a hundred thousand Iraqi refugees have returned from the camps in Syria, don’t care do you? You people don’t give a shit about freedom, or respect the price that has always to be paid to throw down a tyrant. You people are like children, and disgusting apologists for slavery and opression.

    I’ve said it befor, you people make me sick.

  17. I really don’t like people who get virtuous at other people’s expense, whether they are from the right or from the left. Ignorance and misunderstanding can be cured, but not wilful blindness, so there are degrees in this.

  18. I agree murph, it was a bummer that the election in no way changed how the country has been divided up by the warlords to run as their personal fiefdoms.
    The way Osama bin Laden and much of Al Qaeda got away was a bit of a bummer too.
    The way two-thirds of Afghanistans economy is now due to opium is a bit of a bummer. For the first time they are refining some of it into heroin before sending it into Pakistan all through the region where it passes through Al Qaeda hands so that they get a cut of the proceeds. That’s a bit of a bummer.

  19. “our terrorist enemies have shown, in Beslan and in the kidnappings and horrible beheadings that have now become routine, that they can and will do far worse.”

    Is that really JQ saying this? Congratulations, John. This has to be the first recognition by a leftist that the islamofascists are in fact performing worse atrocities than the US.

  20. “There was no realistic possibility of crushing Saddam between the Gulf War I and 2002, once that option arose I was an enthusiastic supporter of it, just as I’d love to see Castro eat a cruise missile or the filth that run Burma strung up like a bunch of Asian Mussolinis. I love to see a tyrant topple, that, Warbo, is the fundimental difference between me and YOUR kind.”

    Amos, I take it you’ll be pleased at the prospect of seeing Pinochet in the dock, and would welcome a similar fate for his tyrannical accomplices in Operation Condor, and for the mass murderer Suharto.

Comments are closed.