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20 May 2004 02:00:29 Daniel Hellerstein.

Subject: Iraq war    
Pre-emptive Revenge

The Alu Gharib scandals demand explanation. From the left, Sy Hersh has advanced a theory that starts with black-op specialists and their refined use of brink-of-torture techniques on Al Queda partisans. That these techniques were imported into Iraq to deal with day-to-day detainees. And that these were passed on to a collection of "amateurs" -- to people (such as reservists) who just couldn't keep a cool head in the matter. With willing blindness by higher ranks both civilian and military, this resulted in a toxic mix of sadeo homoerotic humiliation, casual placement of detainees in high stress positions, more-then-occasional beatings, and the occassional "accidental death".

This has shocked and angered substantial number of Americans, who would like to think that we are above that. That, especially if our prescence in Iraq is meant to liberate an oppressed people, and lead them to the light of democracy, such treatment is unacceptable.

Yet other Americans are not bothered. In fact, there is a collective wisdom that we are fighting a dirty enemy. One that does not hesitate to humiliate the dead bodies of the 4 American contractors (in April Fallujah), or behead the freelance electrician Berg.

These heinous acts deserve revenge!

Let us set aside the morality of revenge, especially against individuals who probably had nothing to do with these acts. Let us instead focus on a more cogent problem: that the heinous acts occurred well after the Alu Gharib tortures.

Again, let us be generous and set-aside the possiblity that these heinous acts were a result of the tortures. That those eventually released from the gulag would let their treatment be known. That knowledge, or even direct experience, of this treatment would motivate harsh retaliation by Iraqi partisans. Instead, let us cotton to the idea of revenge as a reasonable American behavior. However, in this case it's a special kind of revenge: pre-emptive revenge.

Pre-emptive revenge -- simply put, taking revenge for an act that may happen in the future. Why not? If one can have pre-emptive war to stop what a ne'er do well society might do in the future, why not pre-emptive revenge against what this society actually might succeed at in the future. And why stop with a little bit of minor torture. Why not anticipate some kind of mass death terrorist event in the next 50 years (say, 20k dead from dirty bomb in downtown Chicago), and nuke some representative & recalcitrant Arab city today?

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