Thursday, May 13, 2004

The ramifications around the Nicholas Berg murder are huge. Is it relevant for example that he was a practicing Jew? His strange arrest and detention by the Iraqi police before his murder is explained (according to an acquaintance) because he had Israeli stamps in his passport and they thought he might be a spy. There is no doubt that racism and Antisemitism are part of the mix here.

On Moslem condemnations of the Berg Murder (which do not as cited deal with his Jewish Identity) see Juan Cole.

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Monday, May 10, 2004

The sobering fact about the Torture business is that we dont have to have moral monsters to get this kind of situation.

A good discussion By James Benjamin on a diary in Daily Kos .. Basically horrifying things can be done by very ordinary people if they are placed in certain circumstances. The basic studies are by Stanley Milgram (of the Obedience Experiments fame) and Phil Zimbardo (of Stanford Prison Experiment fame).

You can get at this site a .PDF of a paper by Phil Zimbardo "Situationist Perspective on the Psychology of Evil: Understanding How Good People Are Transformed Into Perpetrators".

Erwin James ( a lifer in an UK prison' has a critical take on this one... its still teh people who make the prison.

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Saturday, May 08, 2004

Absolutely excellent post by Norman the Good (as I can't help reading his name, 'Geras' being the Lithuanian for 'Good') on the Iraq detainee torture atrocities. Yes the UK and the USA should not be held to a 'higher' standard than anyone else but to the 'highest' standard along with everyone else. My respect for Norman, who takes often different positions to me, is very high.

He says (amongst other wise things)
"The practice of torture, just as such, is an unmixed and inexcusable evil; it is an abomination. Correspondingly, the prohibition of torture should be a moral absolute in any civilized national polity, as it has over time become within the law of the community of nations. Along with the prohibitions of other core crimes against humanity - genocide amongst them - the prohibition of torture comes under the doctrine of jus cogens: it is a peremptory norm binding all states, and from which none may opt out; it protects a right from which derogation is not allowed even in war or national emergency. "

Norman Geras may also agree ( reluctantly, as he doesn't respect The Guardian that much) with this article by Ariel Dorfman discussing the torture issue with a mediation of a theme from the 'Brothers Karamazov'.

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Tuesday, May 04, 2004

The number of lessons from the Iraq torture pictures are legion.

One is that in keeping people in detention in secret and without proper humanitarian access any sort of story false or otherwise can gain credibility. The foolishness of the 'Camp Delta' mindest is almost beyond belief.

But the real obscenity here is war and the psychological underpinning of war - the treament of another human being as an object is simply an extension of the treatment of people as legitimate targets, not as individuals. A veteran in last nights D-Day TV programme talked about the psychological trick of shooting at uniforms not at 'people'. Precisely.

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