Sunday, December 10, 2006

No principle trumps tribalism

I hate it when people in positions of trust betray that trust. I hate it as much as I hate hypocrisy... and I hate hypocrisy. I just finished watching the 60 Minutes segment about Joe Darby, the Army Reserve MP who turned in the pictures of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. The story described how Darby was so vilified in his home town that he and his wife had to be relocated elsewhere for his own safety. The part the really got to me was this one:
The commander of the local VFW post, Colin Engelbach, told 60 Minutes what people were calling Darby.

"He was a rat. He was a traitor. He let his unit down. He let his fellow soldiers down and the U.S. military. Basically he was no good," Engelbach says.

Asked if he agrees with that, Engelbach says, "I agree that his actions that he did were no good and borderline traitor, yes."

"What he says in his defense is 'Look. I’m an MP. And this is something which was illegal,'" Cooper remarks.

"Right. But do you put the enemy above your buddies? I wouldn’t," Engelbach replies. [emphasis is mine --bill]
It's this false choice, so popular among the war's supporters, that so offends me. If you're against me on any issue then you're on the side of the terrorists*. For these people, no principle trumps tribalism. They are classic examples of fundamentalists who define right and wrong actions by who is doing them, not the nature of the deed. They are so unprincipled that they unashamedly defend law-breaking because "our boys did it" and besides, the victims were just "terrorists*". What is so hard to understand about the idea that those hired to enforce the law (laws whose "goodness" is not in dispute) should enforce the law even if the law-breakers were their buddies. Where's the professionalism, the principled stand, the concern for the public good? As Darby concluded:
"We're Americans, we're not Saddam," Darby says. "We hold ourselves to a higher standard. Our soldiers hold themselves to a higher standard."

Asked if he'd do it again, Darby says, "Yes. They broke the law and they had to be punished."

"And it's that simple?" Cooper asks.

"It's that simple," he replies.
There is something all-to-common about this notion that, if it benefits me or mine, then it's OK and, if there isn't anything in it for me then it's not important. It's this complete lack of principles (except self-interest) and the lack of ethical consistency -- the hypocrisy, that disgusts me. If the shoe were on the other foot, then they would sing a completely different tune. When asked how they would respond if the "other" treated them the same way, they would say: oh, that's different... and they wouldn't even be ashamed.

* In Comments at The Liberal Journal, I've asked the ubiquitous anonymous what he means by "the terrorists".
It's just willfully dishonest or stupid to claim that liberals are defending terrorists. Once you prove that they are guilty of being terrorists, there are plenty of laws that provide for punishment that liberals will support. But some of us want to make sure that we've got the right guy before we punish him because it would be just plain wrong to punish someone when it hasn't been proved that they have broken a law... even if it was you... or me.


The people you seem to be calling "terrorists" are people who have not be convicted of anything. Someone has accused them of being terrorists, "the worst of the worst", yet there is plenty of evidence that many have been wrongfully accused (that's why we have trials).


You don't seem to understand that the shoe could be on the other foot. Someone could accuse you of being a terrorist. Wouldn't you want your day in court? an opportunity to defend yourself, to demand evidence?

Once they've been convicted, by all means, punish them according to the law. I believe, as did the framers of the constitution, that everyone should have the protection of the law but also be subject to the law.
He, and many others, throw the term "terrorist" around very loosely so as to mask the difference between someone who has been simply labeled a terrorist and someone who is in deed a terrorist. It's pathetic that I have to point out that, were I to call you a terrorist, that wouldn't make you a terrorist. But, for far too many, having GWB make the accusation is good enough for them... provided GWB didn't accuse them. I suppose that in that case... that would be different. *sigh*


Blogger The Ripper said...

Great post, thanks. Don't know if you've seen these two short videos from Iraq yet or not, but both show the US Military engaging in some very dubious actions. I have them up on my site at ..You have to wonder what these soldiers were thinking when videotaping this stuff...

3:05 PM  
Blogger Bill said...


Unfortunately I have seen those videos. I sent the links to a bunch of people with the Subject: Winning Hearts & Minds. My 19-year old was appalled, didn't know whether to swear or cry and did both.

Sadly, this is the logical consequence of sending in the military to do police work -- it's a different skill-set. The wrong training, no clear mission and a recruiting policy which no longer excludes the "let's get me some rag-heads" type, combined to give us stuff like this.

War is awful, not just because our guys can become victims but because they can become victimizers too. It's inevitable but must be resisted. I hate them for what they did... and I feel sorry for all of them in Iraq.

But I have no compassion for that despicable shit who sent them there. Impeach him!

12:48 AM  
Blogger liberal journal man said...

I watched the 60 Minutes report, and actually have seen Darby interviewed before. It makes me angry and sick to my stomach.

The 'either you're pro-Bush or pro-terrorist' line, like you said, is a false choice. How does irrational logic like this fly? There's the MSM which does a horrible job doing its job, the evil traitors who spew this nonsense on the Right, and the softy moderates on the Democratic side which are afraid of the attack machine.

Thank God for the liberal blogosphere, the last haven for those who want the best for America and the world and aren't afraid to say it.

1:35 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

Exactly! I wrote a post in Sept and said: "Let's hope that the Edward R. Murrow's of today are hard at work against these latest crazed fear & hate mongers".

Commenter Brad replied: "Bill, we are the Edward R. Murrows of today. It's up to us (broadly construed "us," of course.)"

As you said, it would all get swept away and forgotten by the next news cycle if it weren't for the blogosphere and our archives. I really do believe that that is a big part of what stands between us and Orwell's 1984.

Keep up the good fight!

2:47 AM  

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