The Unremitting Stupidity of 21st Century "Civilized" Man

Thank you. I have worked with survivors of torture for about 4 years now. For the first 3 years, most of them came from Iraq. So I heard first hand what was happening in this hell. I had the privilege of sharing the toppling of Saddam's statue in Baghdad and other fantastic events with survivors who never thought they would see such things in their lifetimes. There are no words for such suffering or for even the witnessing of such suffering. It tears at my heart and, even more, at my gut, as I write. If only everyone could be made to understand.

Posted by Barbara Spalding at May 21, 2005 9:00 PM

Bravo, Gerard. Exactly.

Where you cited the Rubicon, I found myself thinking of another river of legend: the one that wraps around Hades, whose waters extinguish memory and leave the damned unable to recall what weaknesses and cruelties brought them to their terminus: Lethe.

Posted by Francis W. Porretto at May 22, 2005 2:22 AM

I'm mostly but not entirely with you on this one, Vanderleun. In my view the problem with the picture is that it's a violation of our obligations under the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of prisoners of war.

I believe that we should either adhere rigidly to the terms of the treaties in which we engage or abrogate them completely. Now, I think that we engage in treaties without sufficient consideration and I believe that we should not engage in such treaties at all when they govern the behavior of private individuals, organizations, or companies. The only treaties I believe we should engage in restrict government behavior.

But honor the treaties or abrogate.

Posted by Dave Schuler at May 22, 2005 6:35 AM

I've posted over at Porretto's about this, and here goes again: The military, the guards, whomever has a camera on Saddam has violated nothing. Watching someone who is most certainly on suicide watch is no violation. The only violation here is publication, and for that you'll have to take it up with The Sun. Of course, they're never in error.

Posted by ed in texas at May 22, 2005 7:55 AM

I'm afraid I disagree with you, Ed in Texas. Consider this:

From Section I, Article 13: “Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.”

From Section I, Article 14: “Prisoners of war are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honour.”

Let me repeat my point: we should comply with the provisions of our treaties or abrogate them.

Posted by Dave Schuler at May 22, 2005 11:45 AM

"Should" should be King of the World. Alas, it is not. We shall neither abide by our treaties or abrogate them except where it suits our interest.

That's not a cynical view but simply how the world rolls along on its square wheels.

I also note that you leave out some of the criteria for determining exactly who is a "Prisoner of War" -- to wit:
"2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:

(a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

(b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

(c) That of carrying arms openly;

(d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war."

I would submit that just showing up in a Zoot Suit with a car bomb doesn't quite map to this form, but hey, it's a whole new world out there, isn't it?

I also note that the same conventions that you link to prohibit:
"To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."

Now I know that some will mutter "Abu Gharib" until the last ding dong of doom, but somehow I still get the small, tiny, infinitesimal difference between building a pyramid of naked men and smiling over them and the severing of a head and placing it on the torso of that man you cut it off of.

That sort of ups the ante in the degradation and humiliation sweepstakes, I think. But again, your milage may vary.

I seem to recall the habit of getting a supply of people with heads to cut off by taking hostages, especially those of clear and present non-combatants, or just stringing them up on bridges and hacking away at them with whatever blade of ax happens to come to hand. Oh, yes, don't forget to put some gasoline on them and light them up before they die. Adds to the thrill of the kill.

Don't worry about the "courts" though since in the court of the Koran all infidels are guilty so why bother to go through the motions.

All in all, I'd say whatever is happening or not happening to those unfortunates in American hands, it is just pudding compared to the other sides habits and hobbies.

Posted by Gerard Van Der Leun at May 22, 2005 6:25 PM


I think it's a non sequitor to compare the two photos and what they represent. Sorry.

I don't object to the Saddam pic out of some idea of chivalry toward the Butcher of Baghdad, but because our own rules and alleged sense of decency (meaning the military's). Selling this type of photo is an unethical act for some member of our military.

Also, if it's bad for Newsweek to inflame the Muslim world, it's bad for all those involved in publicizing this photo also.

Posted by Juliette at May 22, 2005 10:12 PM

If we weren't protecting him, I believe Saddam would have soon found himself hanging from a lamppost in Baghdad, the quick victim of his own former victims.

I would suppose he might prefer the indignities of continuing to draw breath, the right to counsel, and a fair and public trial by his former victims, with benefit of some of the worlds most brilliant bleeding heart liberal lawyers,... following which, it is to be hoped, he will be shot, or hanged from something more substantial than a lamppost, and his corpse buried with pig entrails...or perhaps he may be run through a plastic shredder (as some of his victims were) and mixed into some pork sausages with real pig intestine casings before burial...that would be entirely appropriate.

Pardon my cultural feelings were slightly hurt by the crushing and burning of three thousand innocent souls in the WTC, the Pentagon and a particular airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania, the shooting-burning-mutilation-hanging-from-a-bridge of the Blackwater security guards, the beheading of helpless prisoners by Zarqawi's unclean two-legged beasts chanting "god is great", and a few other recent events.

Posted by Doug in Colorado at May 23, 2005 9:25 AM

As we near our goal of liberating a nation...
we get penalized fifteen yards (again) for illegal use of underwear.

Posted by DougM at May 23, 2005 5:27 PM

Folks: it's a picture of a guy in his BVDs, for cryin' out loud! Some of you are acting like this matters, in some bizarre way. Look, if he had a feather duster up his bum, it would be much funnier, but arguably unprofessional and unethical...but a guy in his freaking BVDs? What kind of a universe have you imagined for yourselves where anyone would be upset about this?

Also, a question: does not the Geneva Convention only bind parties who have signed up to and agreed to its terms? Was Hussein's regime such a party? Honest questions; I'd like a simple clarification (please don't quote the dang document!)

Posted by Paul Dirac at May 25, 2005 8:31 AM

if they wanted to humiliate saddam by photographing him in his underware.they should just take a couple of pictures of him when he is taking a shower.thats if they have already photographed him showering and send the pictures home.if there are any photos of saddam nude show them. then whe can see saddam in all his glory.

Posted by darryl mendez at June 29, 2006 2:37 AM

boy poor saddam he can`t even go to the rest-room without cameras on him.i hope when he is going to lay a dump or shower that the men who are watching him turn away and give him some privacey.what men would want cameras on him when he wipes his ass or want a camera on him when he showers.something happens to men when water hits there privates some experiance growth others shrinkage.

Posted by darryl mendez at June 29, 2006 3:20 PM

talking with some of my male&female friends about saddam in his underware. we all agreed that sooner or later a picture of saddam naked will appear. if someone has a full frontal photo of a nude saddam. showing his weapon of mass destruction please let everyone see it.who would not like to see how big his weapon of mass destruction is .

Posted by darryl mendez at July 2, 2006 5:22 PM