Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Banality of Evil

There's a scene from the series Band of Brothers where the 101st Airborne stumbles on a concentration camp at the edge of whispering pine woods. The scene is especially effective because the audience never expects to find what it finds in a quiet forest. Michael Yon tells a story from a Baqubah, a town from which the al-Qaeda has recetnly been driven:

Speaking through an American interpreter, Lieutenant David Wallach who is a native Arabic speaker, the Iraqi official related how al Qaeda united these gangs who then became absorbed into “al Qaeda.” They recruited boys born during the years 1991, 92 and 93 who were each given weapons, including pistols, a bicycle and a phone (with phone cards paid) and a salary of $100 per month, all courtesy of al Qaeda. These boys were used for kidnapping, torturing and murdering people.

At first, he said, they would only target Shia, but over time the new al Qaeda directed attacks against Sunni, and then anyone who thought differently. The official reported that on a couple of occasions in Baqubah, al Qaeda invited to lunch families they wanted to convert to their way of thinking. In each instance, the family had a boy, he said, who was about 11 years old. As LT David Wallach interpreted the man’s words, I saw Wallach go blank and silent. He stopped interpreting for a moment. I asked Wallach, “What did he say?” Wallach said that at these luncheons, the families were sat down to eat. And then their boy was brought in with his mouth stuffed. The boy had been baked. Al Qaeda served the boy to his family.

One of the reasons Armies were invented, with their uniforms, insignia and badges; with their elaborate rituals and insistence on discipline is not, as some have ignorantly argued, to gratify some fantasy to play out a boy's adventure story. This machinery was created from the necessity to keep armed young men, recruited from all walks of life, often far from direct supervision, inured to violence and frequently stressed beyond normal endurance from going off the deep end. Yon's story reminds me of one I have frequently told. I met a veteran of the Second World War who told me that he entered the Bayview Hotel on TM Kalaw Street in Manila just after the US Army had driven the Japanese from it. This hotel was about three hundred yards from the location of the current US Embassy. And in it, the Filipino veteran found the walls smeared with the jelly of hundreds of human eyeballs. As a child my uncles had told me about how the Japanese, in the last extremity of despair had kidnapped thousands of young women and gang-raped them before killing them horribly. What the veteran described was one of the places it had happened, at the Bayview Hotel. I had no reason to doubt it. Three of my uncles fought in the Second War. Two in the Death March. One in the ETO. My aunts had fled the bayonets of the Japanese. One had seen her husband bayonetted. My grandfather, a guerilla, had been taken to a dungeon in Fort Santiago and tortured. Not hooded like those suspects in Abu Ghraib. I mean hung upside down and burned with cigarettes and beaten with canoe paddles. He was saved only because one of the Japanese officers turned out to have been a pre-war acquaintance, working as a mining engineer in a company he dealt with. My mother recalls how she slept with my grandfathers old shirts, so that she could convince himself he was alive. And about the knock that came on the door some days after he was arrested, and my grandfather standing at the door, burned, beaten but not broken. Other family acquaintances who served as USAFFE guerillas related how they were lined up, questioned. How men next to them were sliced to pieces with swords and never talked. I had no doubts whatsoever about the Bayview Hotel story. And even though I don't know for a fact whether the al-Qaeda baked an 11 year old boy and served the carcass to his family, I have no doubt that it could happen. If the Japanese can do it, the Arab can. There but for discipline, culture and force of habit can go anyone at all. Yon adds:

Like many things in Iraq, the question of whether or not the murderers were al Qaeda is flawed from beginning. Al Qaeda is not a union, it doesn’t issue passports. What is al Qaeda but the collection of people who claim to be al Qaeda? Those responsible for murdering and burying those bodies in al Ahamir (or al Hamira) had the markers of al Qaeda, the same al Qaeda that had boastfully installed itself as the shadow government of Baqubah. The al Qaeda who committed atrocities in Afghanistan, New York . . . the list is long. As for al Ahamir, the massacre “walks like a duck.” It happened in duck headquarters. The people here say the duck did it. The duck laughs.

It fashionable today no longer to restrict the protections of the Geneva Conventions to men under discipline but to any thug or maniac with a gun who claims he is fighting for a cause. Even if that cause is to destroy the very civilization which drafted the Conventions. But in degrading the advantages of wearing uniform, observing discipline and adhering to standards, those "modern advocates" have returned not humanity, but restored barbarism to the battlefield.

I should add, perhaps unnecessarily, that while 100,000 civilians died in the Battle for Manila in 1945 there were nearly no Japanese survivors from its garrison.


Blogger buck smith said...


Like you I have big problem with the devaluation of militaries which wear uniforms by gratning Geneva convention privileges to fighters who hide among the civilians. Some people are going to point out that uniforms did not stop Japanese barbarism in WWII. How would you respond?

7/08/2007 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

Uniforms do NOT stop the barbarism, but they DO clarify who is and who is NOT a combatant.

Hundreds of years, developing this code of conduct for combat and combatants, so the GOOD people in combat could strive for moral clarity...

Americans (Aussies, Brits, others) not wanting to subjugate, dominate or kill, struggled for a way to protect themselves in WWII, without becoming what/who they were fighting against.

The same is with us now: Decent people struggle to protect ourselves from those who would DOMINATE, CONVERT or KILL us (while lying, obfuscating and dissembling) and think they are REALLY CLEVER to hide among non-combatant civilians...

until those civilians suddenly grow backbones and turn them in to Allied forces...

7/08/2007 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

In World War 2 the Japanese, though uniformed, essentially operated outside the convention. Nazis held allied airmen and treated them somewhat decently and in return the Allies kept the Luftwaffe prisoners in decent shape too. Germans often did surrender in World War 2. My uncle in the ETO was an interrogator, having lived on the Continent in his youth, he had French, German and Spanish. And he used to regale us with stories about how the Germans would quiver in fear when he entered the room because they thought the US Army had imported some kind of Mongolian interrogator to get things out of them. Imagine their surprise when he spoke German.

But I digress. Japanese prisoners were practically never taken. The numbers of prisoners seized in the Pacific war were pathetically small until nearly the very end. In marked contrast, the War on Terror has the highest ratio of prisoners to enemy KIA ever seen, something like 10 prisoners to every enemy KIA. And every one of those prisoners would be given the full Miranda and Geneva convention protection if the ACLU had the chance. But one must ask oneself. What is the incentive for the enemy to regularize his behavior if he gets the red carpet treatment whatever he does?

Ok one could argue that like the Japanese, the al-Qaeda are operating outside the rules of War. And maybe we should machinegun them in the water the way the World War 2 guys did the Japanese. I don't advocate that. But clearly they are having fun at our expense. And were I the father who had his son baked and the ACLU should show up to "protect" the SOB who baked the boy, I would get real mad. Maybe we should restore the firing squad in these cases and if we find guys like this, well no torture. Just a cheap cigarette, a stake and a squad. It's better than they deserve.

7/08/2007 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

Wretchard --

If you look at the reasons WHY the ACLU and others offer Miranda/Geneva protections, it's the "moral" reason. Which boils down to moral superiority being the most important priority of those who argue for it.

Or put it another way, status.

7/08/2007 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger Hope Muntz said...

Execution takes its toll, too. In the 30's during the Stalinist purges even hardened NKVD executioners in the firing squads had to stay dead drunk most of the time in order to fulfill their duties. The thinking behind Western liberal practices on the subject (which weren't always so liberal, as witness the French & Indian Wars) is that we don't want to train young psychotics who will eventually return to our own streets. The heat of battle is another matter. I would recommend merely taking no prisoners at all among enemy combatants out of uniform. This not only was common practice even after the signing of the Geneva Convention, but would also have spared us years of future terror attacks at the start of the Iraq war.

7/08/2007 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

I should add that grandfather well understood the fate he would suffer at the hands of the Japanese Army should be captured. And yet he engaged in no atrocity. When he killed a Japanese soldier later in the Battle, he spent the rest of the afternoon caring for the mortally wounded boy. After all the Japanese soldier was to all intents and purposes, defending his country, as gramps was defending his. But brutal individuals like these al-Qaeda fighters pose a challenge to the way we fight war.

7/08/2007 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Aunty Belle said...

thanks for this reminder of what we all know in our marrow: the concept of moral war conduct is not only not understood in some cultures, it is seen as a sign of weakness.

It is our strength, however--as Karridine noted, " Americans "struggled for a way to protect themselves in WWII, without becoming what/who they were fighting against."

7/08/2007 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

Wretchard --

The battle is not perhaps on the plains and mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iraq. But outside London Nightclubs, inside hospitals, and in airport terminals.

We won't have soldiers, but baggage handlers, EMTs, and ordinary cabbies as the front line combatants.

Lost in all the hubbub was the utter failure of the Glasgow police to subdue the flaming jihadis. It took a baggage handler and cabbie to kick him in the balls so hard (he tore a tendon) and "set about ye" to make him stop.

What the Doctor's Plot shows is:

*The police and security services are inept and fatally compromised with jihadis (they can't even fire their open jihadis).
*Only constant watching can keep the Muslim next to you from blowing you up. And nice, middle class doctors might drive up into the airport terminal on fire yelling Allah! Allah!

Dalyrimple wrote that mistrust of Muslims is going to rise, and people will sort things out themselves since the government left them to it.

So, given the failure of government, what happens the next time a jihadi is caught, this time with bodies to his account? Will he simply be beaten to death? Highly likely I think. There seems to be no surrender any more.

Because uniforms, boundaries, etc. are meaningless when the morning commute turns into a fight for survival.

7/08/2007 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger Aunty Belle said...

For another take on the banality of evil, and how it infects whatever it touches, check out this You Tube critique of The Sopranos

7/08/2007 08:18:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Carson said...

Wretchard --

I presume prisoners are designated either enemy combatants or illegal enemy combatants soon after captured.

I'm either ignored as a nut or collect the usual nuke'm replies from kooks that miss the point whenever I suggest this… I'd like to see a few “foreign fighters” quickly tried and dropped alive from 10,000 feet on their home nation's government buildings. I think it would be perfect PR jujitsu. I'd like to hear the opposition press howls that result from that, that we're cruel to suicide bombers or that we're illegally invading terrorist states’ air space to return them. Their complaints would just work against them. The louder they wailed, the more it would highlight each terrorist regime’s responsibility and lampoon their weakness to stop us. I would demonstrate our extreme discrimination in use of force and our moral certitude to use it to the extreme. And it would make would-be terrorists second guess whether that free bike, pistol and phone are worth the ride.

7/08/2007 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger Eric Norris said...

As always, an excellent thought-provking post, Wretchard.

I am not sure how much I can offer to the discussion of Evil, or its banality, but here is a personal anecdote that might be tangentially relevant.

I am 38, I am gay, and my boyfriend is Japanese. He is 39. Normally, I am pretty shy about divulging this sort of information, but it seems relevant here.

One night, after having dinner at a Thai restaurant on Lexington Avenue in Kips Bay, in New York City, we found ourselves chatting offhandedly in the elevator, going back up to his apartment on the 24th floor. It was Saturday night. I was a little tipsy and tired. It was summer. It had been a long, hot humid week.

We were talking about our parents. I mentioned that my father had been a Marine and had been stationed in Okinawa in the early 60s. He yawned and nodded. He mentioned that his father had been in the Airforce.

The Airforce? It was early in our relationship and I knew very little about him or his family. I asked him when his father had been in the Airforce, "In the 60s?" I said, "Vietnam?" "No," he said, "During World War Second."

I was flabbergasted. I could actually feel my eyebrows creeping to the back of my skull with incredulity. The Japanese Airforce? I said, "Just how old is your Dad?"

"He is in his 80s.” he said. He paused to let the elevator door open, and the information sink in. We proceeded in silence for a moment down the corridor. "He was supposed to go be pilot in September, but he did not have to go to be pilot."

September, I thought, running the understated numbers. What kind of pilot? "Why not?”

"Well," he said, "You dropped Bomb, so he did not have to go and be pilot."

I carefully considered that pronoun--'You.' I thought about his dad. I thought about my uncle Ed floating out on a destroyer in the Pacific, in 1945. My uncle Ed died of diabetes in 1984. My boyfriend’s father probably retired from the Tokyo Metro around the same time.

When we had reached the end of this particular corridor, he inserted his key into his door and he added with a shrug, "If you hadn't dropped bomb, I would not exist."


We have been seeing each other for three years.

Of course, we argue from time to time, and we exasperate each other to no end, but no matter what our relatives did to each other 60 years ago, we are happy. I have a pretty vivid imagination, I guess, but I can't picture my life without him. It's kind of strange. Still, each of us has his little quirks...

Once, when we arguing about something or other, while we were doing the dishes, I told him that I thought he was crazy. And, as if to emphasize the accuracy of my observation, I watched him--to my complete astonishment--very deliberately pick a plate from the dishrack and smash it. His favorite one. It had a cat on it.

Even after we swept it up, and apologized to one another, there were invisible fragments of it everywhere. We each had the opportunity to step on at least one sliver over the next few weeks…

And yet, inspite of the plate, the hideous past, and everything else, I am pretty grateful for his existence.

7/08/2007 09:13:00 PM  
Blogger mouse said...

I don't at all believe the Michael Yon story, I do believe Michael Yon. In this instance that means that the interpreter did go blank and silent, and it does mean that the man speaking did say: "The boy had been baked. Al Qaeda served the boy to his family."

I don't believe it because it's too Persian, I've heard that story in one form or another too often. But I do believe it was a story that was told, so the question is who started the story and why?

To us in the West it's a story that indicates Al Qaeda is hideous and evil, but what does it mean to the Iraqi? What does it mean to Al Qaeda? Was it a story invented and told by the enemies of Al Qaeda? or was it a story invented and told by Al Qaeda?

Of course I can't know but I presume the later. It has force and utility because it is beyond good and evil; more significantly, it establishes that Al Qaeda is determinant of what is good and evil. "There is one God who is God, and Mohammed is his prophet." Allah we have always with us, but Mohammed has been dead a long time. If fourteen hundred years ago Muhammad could state the will of Allah, who says Al Qaeda can't do it now? Of course they can't contradict Muhammad, but they can certainly express Allah's will, and if it is Allah's will that a boy be baked and served to his parents, well then that certainly gives Al Qaeda moral force. They can do anything. This would terrorize those who would oppose them; more importantly, it would substantiate to them that they were godlike, not constrained by the moral sensitivities of lesser beings. That has to be rather satisfying, if you get your kicks from imposing your will on others.

7/08/2007 10:52:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Because all the Japanese I've ever met have been wonderful people, it seemed incomprehensible that wartime stories about them could be true. Yet they apparently were. During a short visit to Japan I noticed a kind of dark side to them or perhaps I should say an incomprehensible side, but nothing that would set the alarm bells ringing, at least to a casual observer.

I think I finally understood how the Japanese could get that way during my time in the underground. It's like a doorway to a corridor with no end to it. Once you break free of the social norms you find that there is nothing that physically prevents you from going further and further into depths which you could not have conceived of in the old life. It comes as a surprise that lightning does not strike you down for what you have done or that the earth doesn't gape to receive you for what you have though. You become a law unto yourself. And down the path goes.

Personally, the only thing that saved me -- as believed it saved many others -- was a kind of unreasoning belief in the God of our childhood. There was something in us that said: past here you may not trespass. This you may not scorn. And those who laughed at those restrictions and trod on down, were I believe nearly all lost. They became clever, cunning monsters. And whether they remained men God will judge.

In later life I came to understand that that was probably what Hell was like. The damned were addicted to evil and they needed stronger and stronger doses to maintain the counterfeit of a spark from a husk from which all light had in fact expired. And at first the way back was visible, some vestigial glow marked the way. But by and by it was possible to descend to such depths that only darkness remained. And for those there can be only the momentary stimulus of ever greater measures of evil. Malice has its own aethetic. It is dirty, convuluted, sickening and addictive. God does not torture souls in Hell; the damned choose it as the source of their eternal fix.

The hallmark of true evil -- not the violence of passion -- is the delight it takes in torturing the innocent. Pets, children, the helpless. All must be hurt and heard to beg. Evil has no purpose but cruelty. It begins with a plausible reason, but finally it exists only for itself. It's a terrible place and those who have lived as sinners have seen this dark place from afar; like a terrible country crowned with lightnings in the distance and some have been lucky enough to tell of their escape.

But for most of us, the place to be is in the sunny meadow. And pray to God you have the wisdom to stay there. Beware the caverns. In them there may be demons beyond your strength.

7/08/2007 11:10:00 PM  
Blogger Pascal said...

God does not torture souls in Hell; the damned choose it as the source of their eternal fix.

Sounds like you've been deeply influenced by C.S. Lewis's "The Great Divorce."

Your uncle and my Dad's path may have crossed in ETO. Dad was head non-com of a unit of guys like your uncle.

Sad that I haven't your skill to tell his stories.

7/08/2007 11:18:00 PM  
Blogger mouse said...

"Because all the Japanese I've ever met have been wonderful people...etc."

Splendidly well expressed, there are a dozen lines that could be studied, but I particularly like the admonition to stay to the sunny meadows. --I avoid experience, I have too much of it thrust on me anyway; and I know my own strength and I know it is not great and I know it is terrifying to live in a world where there are not very many well directed lightning bolts. In fact none. That means I'm on my own, and that's scary. There is my society, but that isn't always there, and there is that inner voice...

Love pets, love children, be mindful and energetic toward the helpless... and talk with one's Canary. My Canary, Mr. Ralph Peebo by name, feels quite superior to me. Somehow that makes me a stronger man.

7/09/2007 01:23:00 AM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Michael Yon badly damaged his reputation for credibity with his uncritical acceptance of the "baked children fed to families" story.

It's simply an old Persian fable of the delay - but always inevitabilty of revenge to satisfy honor with penalty meted out to tribe, not individuals. The tale, and its variants, well predate Islamic culture. An individual who badly offended the ruler fled, but was invited back in with amnesty - only to find his sons were baked, castrated, blinded...or his women enslaved and used as prostitutes... or his tribal name was changed to the Farso equivalent of dog or swine.

AQ cannot get away with doing things all Muslims would consider putting them on an unforgivable path to Islamic Hell as willing servants of Satan, and in heretical defiance of the Qu'ran and Sharia Law. Forced cannibalism qualifies as such, of a very few transgressions, that would be a mortal breach of Islamic Faith.

The story is crap. No one picked it up from Yon...just a few of the "Nuke Mecca!" crowd. Same folks who have learned little in the last 6 years, who yammer about Bush as Churchill and this is WWII all over and the Muslims are Nazis. Same folks still saber-rattling away about how urgent the obligation is for the American lesser-educated, trailer park people should join the Army and invade Iran to "save our Special Friend"...

7/09/2007 01:50:00 AM  
Blogger Barry Meislin said...

Saudi Arabia, of course.

7/09/2007 02:46:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Re: offal.

Perhaps not. Hussein forgave his sons-in-law for telling the truth about his WMDs, said "come home, all is forgiven" then murdered them within a week.

Why the strong reaction to cannibalism? Is it a step too far? Something that would be too black and white? That we wouldn't even accuse our own people of? That would require picking sides and acting?

Forced cannibalism, murdering children in front of their parents, amputating the arms of Vietnamese children who had just been immunized by the American soldiers are either equally horrific (a denial of humanity) or not worthy of note depending on the meme and where you stand.

Curious that we will believe the worst of our own people yet not the enemy. Denying evil in the world forgives the bad and leads to the truly horrific. How else can we explain our tolerance of a the actions of dictators like Mugabe, Hussein, Franco, Hitler, Castro or Stalin? Those of us who stand by, do nothing, we modern day Pontius Pilates cannot scrub off the offal staining our souls.

7/09/2007 03:00:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

I also think the baked boy story a little too fantastic to believe but as to the moral lesson of the story - that supposedly normal people can divorce from reality and conscience - that is certainly true. We have the real-time example of Cedarford to guide the path.

7/09/2007 03:03:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Mein Kampf:447 "The Jews slyly dupe the stupid goyim into creating a Palestinian State. But they have no intention of building a Jewish state, so that they might inhabit it. They only want a refuge for convicted rascals, international cheating, and a high school for future rogues."

Ishaq:245 "Do you love Jews and their religion, you liver-hearted ass, and not Muhammad? Their religion will never march with ours.... Jews make false professions about Islam. So Allah sent down: 'Satan wishes to lead them astray."

Ishaq:248 "Allah increases their sickness. A tormented doom awaits the Jews. Allah said, 'They are mischief makers. They are fools. The Jews deny the truth and contradict what the Apostle has brought. I will mock them and let them continue to wander blindly.'"

Any Cedarford post: ---

Sometimes the heart of darkness is a local call.

7/09/2007 03:40:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 07/09/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

7/09/2007 08:02:00 AM  
Blogger Insufficiently Sensitive said...

Michael Yon's credibility is intact. His photographs of the dead villagers and animals stand for themselves. He directly reported a story that another man told him - if that was a false story, Yon isn't the author. He's reporting, not playing Cronkite nor a smug NPR type.

And Whiskey_199 has hit on something related to that NPR culture. "If you look at the reasons WHY the ACLU and others offer Miranda/Geneva protections, it's the "moral" reason. Which boils down to moral superiority being the most important priority of those who argue for it."

As with the ACLU, so with NPR. They are liberals: that is, they consider their job to be the discovery and pointing out of various problems, such as mass murderers hiding among civilians. It's the job of other lesser beings to go out and fix the flaws - of course subject to further brilliant criticism from the liberals when the methods used in the fixing don't rise to the liberals' standard of perfection.

Nothing describes that liberal standard better than 'holier-than-thou'.

7/09/2007 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

Wretchard writes: "What is the incentive for the enemy to regularize his behavior if he gets the red carpet treatment whatever he does?"

Precisely. That ancient battlefield traditions which formed the basis of the Geneva Conventions were intended as quid pro quo -- behave and you will treated with mercy -- is lost in the hubris of today's intellectual classes, who are quick to re-make or discard so many of civilization's institutions, built painstakingly over eaons of experience, trial and error.

In their arrogance and naivete, they are removing any incentive to behave professionally on a battlefield from which they have removed the boundaries.

7/09/2007 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Let us not forget what the Japanese Defense Minister said so recently – and was forced to resign as a result.

He said that the dropping of the atomic bombs was probably necessary to end the war. He could have added to that “...without the extermination of the Japanese people” but that likely would have just gotten everyone even more upset.

And by the way, as brutal as the Germans were, they were significantly less brutal to U.S. and British POWs compared to those of countries that held none of their own soldiers. A friend of mine was Polish POW and he assured me of that.

In contrast to our current enemies, consider a story I heard from Vietnam. An American pilot equipped himself with two handguns, the both standard issue .38 and his own .357. When he had to eject one day, he came down to find himself covered by two armed Vietnamese. He pulled out the .38, threw it away, and when his two captors lowered their guns and came over to grab him, he pulled out the .357 and killed both of them. He told this story during the helicopter ride home and was court martialed as a result.

7/09/2007 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger Andrewdb said...

I find this story somewhat fantastic and, I hope, unbeleivable.

That said, I beleive Michael Yon heard this story.

What is important is that it is a story told of AQ - I hope this is a sign that popular opinion is turning against them.


7/09/2007 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

The climate change fetish, Gordon Brown's announcement that Islamism isn't proper for polite company, and all the other head-in-the-sand idiocy we see around us strike me as increasingly desperate forms of denial.

paco posted the link below over at Tim Blair's. Compare what Islamists are saying (and doing) with the tepid responses -- encouraged, as always, by our watchdogs in the media.

7/09/2007 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger PresbyPoet said...

Concerning Japan in WWII, while we hear of suicide planes at the end of the war, this was nothing new. At Pearl Harbor, two man subs were launched on suicide attacks. They expected not to return. Deliberate suicide attack was part of Japan's plan from the start. On islands where Japanese defenders faced defeat, a suicidal banzai attack (where they would charge the American line), to kill or be killed, would end the battle.

Death before dishonor was how Japanese lived. Surrendrr was dishonorable. When we captured a midget sub sailor, the Japanese blotted him from pictures of the attackers. He dishonored the Emperor by living. An American POW would be considered shameful for not fighting to the death, and not a worthy adversary. Since he was not worthy of honor, it was all right to "mistreat" him.

Japan is a shame culture. The Christian God has little influence. There isn't a god who knows what you do in secret, but a culture that drives down a nail that sticks up.

Japan has honor, but very different honor than western values. Islam has honor, but also very different than western ideas. We must know our enemy if we are to win.

7/09/2007 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Peter Boston -

A people widely disliked will of course question the motives of the dislikers rather than figure out why they are disliked. Even invent a panopoly of psychological reasons why they are disliked. You envy us! You hate us! You are mentally abnormal! Rather than wonder if they have correctable conditions they can address related to duplicitous morals, predatory practices, manipulation, greed, being perceived as a threat to sovereignity or just being meddling pain in the asses.

No one gets a permanent immunity from criticism amulet. Events of victimhood three generations ago in WWII have little "carrying over power" to the present. Not for the heirs of the Soviet dead, not for the Gypsy, Vietnamese, Jewish, French, Chinese "heirs" either. Nor do Arabs have immunity from harsh criticism because of their victimhood from the Crusades, Mongols. Nor do the blacks due to slavery, Armenians and Greeks die to Turkish slaughter..and so on.

The alienation from others goodwill only increases when people not only claim a victimhood amulet of immunity but also insist to other parties that "you owe us" - and "owe" the aggrieved group deference, money, compliance with other demands as they emerge, and the conference of higher moral authority due to "victimhood". Especially when you are a 3rd Party having nothing to do with their victimization. We "owe" the Jews and Israel special deference & privileges like the Chinese "owe" the blacks reparations for Arab-Euro slavers or the Peruvians "owe" us from saving the French from the Nazis, and the French for being victims.

In short, Boston, piss off.


All but receded on the past. Few alive now that were around then as fighters or claimants to victimhood.

Various groups have long past milked it for all it was worth as a future entitlement of deference.

Want friends? Then act as friends to others - not as illegitimate denouncers, meddlers in other's business, or as bill collectors attempting to collect on fraud.

7/09/2007 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger cathyf said...

I responded immediately to the story of the baked boy with the question, “why would the Iraqi official lie?” The answer is just as obvious — the jihadis are trying to manipulate American public opinion to get us to leave, why should we be surprised if an Iraqi official decided to do his little part to manipulate American public opinion to get us to stay?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Americans are feckless and incontinent, but simultaneously we are fiercely sentimental and easily manipulated by stories accusing people of atrocities.

As others have pointed out, the Persian/Babylonian “urban legend” of being fed the cooked child is at least as old as Herodotus. Here is a link Notice the part of the story where Harpagus helped Cyrus to seize his grandfather's throne as revenge for his son's death.

7/09/2007 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger buck smith said...

Michael Yon comments on the baked boy story here.

He notes that he did not represent that the story was true, just that it reported. But he has seen beheaded children just outside Baqubah, Al-Qaeda's headquarters in Diyala. Whether the baked boy story is true does not matter; Al Qaeda are assholes, they are in Iraq and we need to fight them there.

7/09/2007 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Japan has honor, but very different honor than western values. Islam has honor, but also very different than western ideas. We must know our enemy if we are to win.

Who at the time "knew" or cared about the Japanese concept of honor or the bushido ethos? Certainly not the American people; almost certainly not most soldiers, sailors, and airmen in the armed forces; and probably few American leaders, at that. No. The Japanese enemy was not generally regarded as honorable warriors in their own fashion, but rather as the devilish, monkey-like Nips. Not incompetents; not fools; not cowards; but something both dangerous and other-than-human, nonetheless. We won but it was not because we "knew" the enemy. We won because we had the will and the means to kill all of them without pause.

7/09/2007 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Given reports from Polynesia about human flesh's flavor being similar to pork (to the extent that a human was referred to as a "long pig"), this meme from Middle Eastern political history does a great deal to explain why the Torah would prohibit the eating of pork and why Jews would religiously refrain from eating that forbidden flesh.

This also explains the historic popularity of pork in Mexico after the Conquista.

7/09/2007 05:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wretchard, here is the vicar's statement at the end of the movie Mrs. Miniver:

The homes of many of us have been destroyed, and the lives of young and old have been taken. There is scarcely a household that hasn't been struck to the heart. And why? Surely you must have asked yourself this question. Why in all conscience should these be the ones to suffer? Children, old people, a young girl at the height of her loveliness. Why these? Are these our soldiers? Are these our fighters? Why should they be sacrificed? I shall tell you why. Because this is not only a war of soldiers in uniform. It is a war of the people, of all the people, and it must be fought not only on the battlefield, but in the cities and in the villages, in the factories and on the farms, in the home, and in the heart of every man, woman, and child who loves freedom! Well, we have buried our dead, but we shall not forget them. Instead they will inspire us with an unbreakable determination to free ourselves and those who come after us from the tyranny and terror that threaten to strike us down. This is the people's war! It is our war! We are the fighters! Fight it then! Fight it with all that is in us, and may God defend the right.

7/09/2007 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...


This will be the only post I will ever make to your directly. I will never, however, let your antisemitism skate.

I consider you a contemptible person beneath my dignity. Were you within arm's reach I would slap your face and challenge you to respond so that I could increase your humiliation.

7/09/2007 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

Cedarford --

I would place you in the Upper Class Liberal section that Kevin occupies. You both betray an obsession with status and "being liked."

What do I care if Arabs and Muslims "like us?" I could care less if Europeans or Latin Americans or the Japanese like America or not. I will leave those obsessions to those so rich and sheltered that the only thing that matters is status.

What matters to me, and I think most ordinary people, is how well the government secures public safety. How well it deals with threats from abroad and at home to kill ordinary people like me.

You may seek the endless approval of those with higher social status. I care not.

7/09/2007 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Easy boys. Let's not get into personal challenges and conflicts. This is not the place for it.

7/09/2007 06:42:00 PM  

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