Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Cowards And Monsters

It seems as though I should write something about the events in Boston yesterday. How could I not have an opinion? Yet I seem to have few strongly held ones this time.

I feel sorry for the injured, for the people who lost someone, and for the people who were nearby and will likely see that scene in their nightmares for years. I feel sad that things like this keep happening.

Beyond that, though, I don't feel much. I'm told that the folks who did this are monsters and cowards, but the people telling me that know nothing about how they did it or why, so why should I believe that? Just because people do things that are awful doesn't make them monsters. Doing things that we don't see until it's too late doesn't make them cowards. Those are complexities that most folks seem to be able to avoid considering, but I can't seem to.

But then, I also feel sorry for these folks:

The New York Times this morning deserves credit for publishing one of the most powerful Op-Eds you will ever read. I urge you to read it in its entirety: it's by Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, a Yemeni national who has been imprisoned at Guantánamo without charges of any kind for more than 11 years. He's one of the detainees participating in the escalating hunger strike to protest both horrible conditions and, particularly, the supreme injustice of being locked in a cage indefinitely without any evidence of wrongdoing presented or any opportunity to contest the accusations that have been made. The hunger strike escalated over the weekend when guards shot rubber bullets at some of the detainees and forced them into single cells.


I've written many times before why this claim, though grounded in some truth, is misleading in the extreme. I won't repeat all of that here; click the links and read the documentation proving its truth. In sum, Obama sought not to close Guantánamo but simply to re-locate it to Illinois, and in doing so, to preserve what makes it such a travesty of justice: its system of indefinite detention. The detainees there are not protesting in desperation because of their geographical location: we want to be in Illinois rather than a Cuban island. They are sacrificing their health and their lives in response to being locked in a cage for more than a decade without charges: a system Obama, independent of what Congress did, intended to preserve.

Obama, Guantánamo, and the enduring national shame

[links from original]

So, I ask you, what kind of cowards keep people imprisoned because they're afraid of the possible political consequences, or maybe the faint chance they'll manage to be involved in some future act of terrorism? What kind of monsters justify, or perform, the act of imprisoning these people and torturing them? Read this Twitter conversation between Glenn Greenwald and people who seem to think that this is perfectly OK, because someone somewhere in the military or the intelligence establishment decided we should do it without having to justify it to anyone. When Greenwald provides proof their objections are nonsense, they instantly grasp onto some other excuse.

What kind of monsters shoot rubber bullets at prisoners on hunger strikes, when those prisoners shouldn't be there in the first place? What sort of cowards order them to, or repeatedly vote for the people giving those orders?

When you can answer those questions intelligently and without contradicting yourself, maybe I'll consider you calling the folks who planted the bombs in Boston cowards and monsters something other than absurd.

Meanwhile, I'll tell you the other thing I'm feeling. Envy. For the dead. Not for the pain and fear they went through, because that must have been terrible. I envy them, though, because they no longer need to see what a dreadful, hopeless place their country is becoming, and don't have to hear the screaming half-wits determined never to learn anything who are making it that way.

I'm almost hoping the next one that happens, I'll be unaware that I'm sitting on top of a big stack of C-4. Yes, I'm now really sick of this.

Afterword: Bruce Schneier sums things up pretty well:

If it's hard for us to keep this in perspective, it will be even harder for our leaders. They'll be afraid that by speaking honestly about the impossibility of attaining absolute security or the inevitability of terrorism -- or that some American ideals are worth maintaining even in the face of adversity -- they will be branded as "soft on terror." And they'll be afraid that Americans might vote them out of office. Perhaps they're right, but where are the leaders who aren't afraid? What has happened to "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"?

The Boston Marathon Bombing: Keep Calm and Carry On

Those leaders are gone, I'm afraid, along with the tough-minded people who elected them. Now, we're just supposed to be afraid and angry all the time, a duty we're performing remarkably well.

UPDATE: Taylor Marsh has some wise words as well: "Boston Terrorist Attack Now Turns to Wallpaper". When you make things like this the wallpaper of your life, you are in danger of becoming what you behold.

UPDATE 2: While seeking out my favorite music video for times like this, I ran across this quote of mine:

To those who keep declaring that the world changed on 9/11 - no, it didn't. The world was like that already. Vietnam happened, so did Cambodia, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Sarajevo, Tianamen Square, Persian Gulf, and scores of other slaughters that I've simply forgotten about, and that's just since I was born. Some America had a hand in, many we didn't. There were terrorist attacks, too. It's like that because, often as not, it's run by cold-hearted selfish bastards who are perfectly willing to climb to the top of the heap by making a ramp of the bodies they've created.

If you think the world changed, it was because you finally noticed what was going on in the rest of the world, after it finally happened here.

What changed was us. We changed, because we obsessed about what happened when we should have been thinking about so many other things, and because we were afraid. We didn't change for the better. People who obsess about things never do.

Don't tell me to remember. Tell me when you're ready to move on.

Wake Me Up...

So, moving on...


One Fly said...


I will just add there were no car bombings or drone kills prior to the invasion of Iraq.

Toughest words yet from you Cujo and what people won't be able to get is how right you are.

We bred this and there's more coming.

Cujo359 said...

It remains to be seen what motivated this, I think. We have certainly sown enough pointless misery in the world, though, that it's hard not to wonder if it's come back to haunt us.

One Fly said...

It it's one from "over there" it will get even worse here.

Cujo359 said...

Yes, it quite possibly will. To tell you the truth, though, I don't think it would have to be from "over there" for that to happen. There appear to be "right" answers to this sort of thing as far as our rulers are concerned, no matter what the origin or methods.