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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

spinning on spin « Previous | |Next »
May 13, 2004

I've mentioned the spin adopted by the Howard Government senators that endeavours to disconnect Australia from the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Here is how it is being done in the US. The line is that Donald Rumsfeld was deeply committed to the Geneva Conventions protecting the rights of prisoners, that everyone knew it, and that any deviation had to come from "the command level."

In both countries the administration/government is determined to avoid taking any concrete steps that might convince the world it is serious about dealing with the underlying systemic roots of the scandal. So both Canberra and the White House continue to keep repeating how shocked, horrified and disgusted, etc etc. everyone is. They would never condone the torture.

That then is the Karl Rove strategy to deal with the problem—a political and public-relations disaster for the imperial presidency. Up to this point the general strategy to deal with the problem had been keep the issue quiet for the first months of this year and to restrict knowledge of what had happened to a small group.

The official chain of command flows from General Sanchez, in Iraq, to General John Abizaid, who is in charge of the Central Command, in Tampa, Florida, and on to Rumsfeld and President Bush. It was that chain of command which would have decided that the Army prisons to be first and foremost geared to interrogations, and the gathering of information needed for the war effort. Hence military-intelligence operatives were placed in control of the prison system, instead of the usual procedure of military-police units being in control.

It is to the credit of Robert Hill, the Defence Minister, that he refused to follow the Howard/Downer line, which qualifies their condemnation of the torture of prisoners by the US in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Howard's version of line says the torture commited by Saddam Hussein was far worse, so we need to keep a sense of perspective. Downer's version is that there are a lot of barbaric people in Iraq. In Downer's moral universe that makes the American's civilized. So what is civilized about sexual brutality and torture that is designed to humiliate another culture?

Hill, in contrast, rejected out of hand the argument that some torture was justified by the need to "soften up" prisoners for interrogation.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:32 AM | | Comments (12)


Easy for Hill to say. Nary a hair on the head of a single digger has been mussed in Iraq.

I wonder whether Gary is going to devote as much space to the decapitation of Nicholas Berg by Al Qaeda lieutenant Zarkawi.

Probably not. The killing of innocent westerners, Jews in particular, generally fails to rouse the ire of lefties of Gary's ilk.

Off with his head!... so sayeth the Queen of Hearts.

It's three tag team.
Howard does the soothing and the wedge in the House and on the radio; Downer does the public abuse and the distortion; Hill, who is based in the Senate, does the clever spin based on conceding a few untenable points.

They have their parts in the pantomine down pat.

the beheading of Nick Berg was mentioned in the next post--spinning out of control.

There is a difference. The US action is at odds with its values.The action of Al Qaeda is in accord with its values.

I did link to an account in the Sydney Morning Herald that said some Islamic groups--eg Hezbollah---condemned the beheading. And to a Juan Cole post that spelt out the condemnation throughout the Muslem world to the decapitation.

The reason the beheading of Nick Berg was only mentioned in passing in the next post was that I could not find the video online nor the still images online. When I found them I posted them at junk for code and public opinion.

I do have big concerns about the corporate media not showing these images.

Juan Cole, like so many academic Arabists, suffers from what I call "T.E. Lawrence syndrome" in that he emotionally identifies with subject matter to an excessive degree. He is one of the reasons why the U.S. Congress is considering legislation to establish an oversight board to monitor government funding of Middle East studies grants. Because all to many ME studies departments are run by unregenerate lefty radicals like Cole.

In late 2002 Cole was a charter signatory of a typical absurdity to emanate from Middle Eastern studies, an open letter suggesting that Israel might exploit a war against Saddam to engage in "ethnic cleansing" against Palestinians.

Are these people serious? The claim that Israel is plotting the mass explusion of Palestinians is one more lunatic-fringe conspiracy theory, hatched by Palestinian propagandists who want "international protection" as the wage for their two disastrous years of insurrection. Unfortunately for them, Israel has done nothing that constitutes a "crime against humanity," and so Palestinians have had to fabricate one that never happened (Jenin) and cry wolf over another one that won't happen (forced "transfer"). Let me not put too fine a point on it: anyone signing this letter, effectively condemning Israel in advance for something it has no intention of doing, is either an ignoramus or a propagandist.

On the question of the failure of Middle East Studies to confront the reality of terrorism and militant Islam, Cole has reacted with contradiction and denial. On the one hand, Cole claims, Middle East Studies is really about history. Asking MESA to hold panels on contemporary terrorism, says Cole, is rather like asking literary scholars to comment on the resignation of Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil. A little later, Cole reverses himself and claims that contemporary politics are relevant after all, and that MESA members have in fact studied terrorism and fundamentalism, "ad nauseam," for the last 25 years.

Gary, m'boy, if I were you I'd find another authority on affairs Middle Eastern to consult. Try Dan Pipes, for example.

I'm vaguely aware of the conflict in the US over Middle east studies. From where I sit it looks to be a political conflict to me.

Cole's blog does a good job in making available various texts and commentary for public readership that are not readily accessible.

His judgements on his blog are more fine grained and informed than what I read in the Australian media.

As far as I know Daniel Pipes does not have a blog. He appears to be more concerned with campus watch.

Do a google on Pipe's name... he has a website replete with articles he has written on a variety of mid east related issues.

'Gary, m'boy, if I were you I'd find another authority on affairs Middle Eastern to consult. Try Dan Pipes, for example.'

Yeah he'd be right up your alley wouldn't he? Same pigheaded Jewish exceptionalism, same ignoble prejudice against Arabs/Muslims, same relentless shower of one-sidedness, sophistry and spin, same pompous academic hauteur and condescension.

Are you Daniel Pipes?

There's more sense in a page of Cole than libraries full of Pipes' bile.

'Do a google on Pipe's name... he has a website replete with articles he has written on a variety of mid east related issues.'

His site is run for free by a grateful, and illegal settler.


VOS - a hypothetical - if Israel and Australia were to declare war, who would you fight for?

Hey VOS! Helloooo...

Sorry, Glenn... but I don't do hypotheticals, especially asinine ones like the perfervid product of your febrile brain.

Jeez that poor dictionary of yours is getting a work out, eh vos?


If I could be bothered, I'd trawl Gazza's archives for a few examples of your hypotheticals, of which I'm sure there are many. Partisans like you are forever indulging in them.

So indulge me just for a moment. You I assume are a fellow Australian citizen, one who has a passionate attachment to another country, one which is making life in this country more dangerous. It's really not all that hypothetical to imagine a situation in future where these two countries are at odds (I'm hoping for just this event).

In this case, where are you Vos? Are you on my side?

Or not?