Saturday, February 05, 2005

The BBC and Moral Stupidity

Yesterday I was listening to NPR on my drive home and heard an interview by Melissa Block of the BBC's Frances Harrison about the reaction in Tehran to statements made by Secretary Rice. One of the things Rice had mentioned was that the human rights record of the Iranian regime was abysmal. Ms Block then asked Ms. Harrison about the Iranian response. Ms. Harrison may have answered this way due to not having heard any response yet from the Iranians, but I am speculating here. The point is that she speculated herself on what the general response might be. She replied to the question by saying that she thought the general response would be: Who is the United States to criticize us? Look at their abuses at Abu Ghraib, or Guantanimo etc. Now, this is fine as far as it goes since she is only speculating on what the Iranians would say. She should have followed up though by pointing out how ridiculous their saying such a thing would be. Why should she have followed up with such a disclaimer? Two reasons: One, a reporter should point out when an argument is made which is clearly nonsensical. Two, such a statement as she made is in fact, clearly nonsensical. I fully admit and apologize to my readers here who find all of this rather obvious, but my point is that a veteran reportrix from the BBC doesn't find it so. Let us lay it out very simply: Abuses were committed at Abu Ghraib. These abuses were committed by criminals who have in due course been prosecuted. Here is how The Scotsman put it:
A SOLDIER convicted in connection with the Iraqi abuse court martial was described at the trial yesterday as "a bit of a nutter" who loved violence so much that he was ordered to undergo psychiatric counseling.
I have heard of no abuses at Guantanimo Bay, but have full faith that if crimes come to light they will be similarly pursued. Now let us compare the case of Iran with a couple of cases: First, the case of
Atefeh Rajabi who was acting about like an average American teen. as described by the Women's Freedom Forum
A 16 year old girl hanged in public in the city center of Neka, North of Tehran. The teenage victim had no access to a lawyer at any stage. In court, she told the religious judge that he should punish those who force women into adultery, not the victims
Second, the case of Kaveh Habibi-Nejad from Indymedia.

14-year-old boy ‘flogged to death’ in Iran

Iran Focus News 26 Nov 2004 00:22 GMT
Another child allowed to be 'punished' to death.
14-year-old boy ‘flogged to death’ in Iran: Thursday 25 Nov 2004 Tehran - New information has come to light over the sudden death of a 14-year-old schoolboy in western Iran, who died after being flogged for “eating in public” during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan. Kaveh Habibi-Nejad died Nov. 12 and was buried in the cemetery of the Kurdish city of Sanadaj on Nov. 13, according to his death certificate.
Both of these outrages are typical in Iran. Also typical is that they were done by the authorities. The perpetrators of these acts are not considered criminals by the government of Iran, they are in fact part of the government of Iran. What kind of moral idiot compares the criminals of one country with the officials of another and looks for equivalence between the two? The BBC's Frances Harrison, for one. Who Else? I don't think it would be hard to find more. dbp

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The consequences of being vague...

I should say right from the start that this post will look at a strategy employed by both Senator Kerry and Saddam Hussein and is no attempt to equate their political philosophies. Both men attempted to achieve an end by being vague about some central question: Hussein wanted the USA and other groups to think he had WMD. He wanted at the same time to give no irrefutable evidence of it. The idea would be that without hard evidence, we would be prevented from attacking him. At the same time, the feeling that he had these weapons would be a deterrent to an attack. Instead, what happened is that we figured that if he was acting like he was hiding something then he probably was hiding something. After 9/11 we were in no mood to play 'footsie' with one of the only world leaders to applaud the terrorist attack on us. I have little doubt that if Hussein's regime had cooperated fully with inspectors, he would be hanging out in one of his palaces right now. In the case of John Kerry, I don't know if he would have done any better with clarity: Senator Kerry wanted moderate and conservative swing voters to think that he would continue the effort in Iraq--just do things in a smarter and better way. At the same time, he wanted the hard-core 'bushitler' crowd to think that he would pull a Zapatero. He really had to do things this way. If he went hard left, he would unify them and go down to McGovern-like defeat. If he openly proposed the 'stay the course, only smarter' path (to the point where everybody believed him) then the hard left would go heavy for Nader and again, McGovernville. In any case, it was a fairly close election--it came down to a little more than 100,000 votes in a fairly large state. Before the advent of blogs, Kerry probably could have carried it off. The major networks and newspapers no longer have a monopoly on what people hear about. Without blogs, the SwiftVets would have never been heard of. By the same token, the Texas ANG documents would not (until safely after the election) have been revealed as the obvious fakes they were. There are no earth-shattering lessons here: Just that when you want one set of people to believe A and another to believe B, it might not work out as planned. dbp