Monday, April 18, 2005

What Baghdadis Believe

Arthur Chrenkoff has a report and commentary on a recent poll taken of 778 Baghdad residents. The results were published in the April 18 edition of Iraqi Arabic newspaper Almidhar. Baghdadis were asked:

Do you support the pull out of foreign troops?

At once - 12.56%

According to a future timetable - 81.80%

Do not know - 5.64%

Has the security situation improved since the start of the new government?

Yes - 55%

No - 35%

No change - 10%

Chrenkoff's associate Haider Ajina writes:

"Most of us read, heard and saw the media report of the April 9th demonstrations in Baghdad. Most of the U.S. media portrayed it as a massive anti American demonstration in the streets of Iraq. I noticed, however, from Iraqi Arabic newspapers that most the demonstrations were against terrorism and calling for Saddam's trial and hanging (all these signs were in Arabic).

I called my father in Baghdad to confirm this and he confirmed it. My father then confirmed that Al Sadr had asked his followers to demonstrate for the withdrawal of foreign troops, he also said that this group was very small and almost insignificant compared to the rest who were calling for Saddam's trial and hanging and those against terrorism.

My father said the Iraqi media reported the number like this 'about 200,000 demonstrators of which 8,000-10,000 were Al-Sadr and Sunni supporters' (strange bed fellows). He also said that when he listened to the Iraqi elected officials (on live T.V.) in the assembly, that every one (every one including those Sunnis initially opposed to the elections), every man and woman assembly member, reiterated the importance of foreign and specifically U.S. troops staying in Iraq till Iraq is ready to take over its own security. Most of them expressed their thanks for the troops being there and freeing Iraqis from Saddam. This I did not read, hear or see in any U.S. mainstream media outlet.

"These are the people Iraq elected, asking us to stay and thanking us. The poll shows only 12% want us to leave at once. This makes a complete mockery of the mainstream media coverage of the demonstrations. As my wife told me when she heard the coverage on CNN: 'Haider you are going to get mad when you hear this', and I am still mad. Forgive me for rehashing this point. I feel it really needs pointing out. Iraqis are grateful for what we did and continue to be grateful for us being there."

The lesson here is, of course, that we should be skeptical of everything we see or hear in the MSM. They've a profound interest in discrediting Bush's Iraq policy and have demonstrated that they're not going to make him look good by publishing and broadcasting news from Iraq that shows that policy to be succeeding. The news must be unfavorable or it simply gets spiked. And they wonder why they're losing audience.

Thanks to Instapundit for the tip.

A Few Good Men

Go here to read a fascinating account of how a couple of Pennsylvania Marines thwarted the attack on Camp Gannon in Iraq last week in which 21 insurgents were killed and no Americans were seriously injured.

Speaking About the Unspeakable

Richard John Neuhaus asks good questions in a piece on torture called Speaking About the Unspeakable in the March issue of First Things. He writes:

Sanford Levinson who teaches law at the University of Texas has edited a book from Oxford University Press, Torture, with sixteen reflections on the subject. They range from the don't-talk-about-it school to the talk-about-it-only-to-condemn-it view, to a variety of discussions of when torture is permissible and impermissible....Among the more interesting contributions is one by Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. Posner notes that "torture" lacks a clear definition in international agreements and American law. "Almost all official interrogation is coercive, yet not all coercive interrogation would be called 'torture' by any competent user of the English language, so that what is involved in using the word is picking out the point along a continuum at which the observer's queasiness turns to revulsion."

There is ... a continuum of circumstances in which most people, rightly or wrongly, would make an exception to the general prohibition of torture. The most commonly cited exception is that of "the ticking bomb" in which there is reason to believe that a suspect knows the location of a nuclear weapon planted in a large city which, if it explodes, will kill thousands of people. In this book and elsewhere, almost all the parties to this discussion feel compelled to address "the ticking bomb" circumstance. Posner says he agrees with (Alan) Dershowitz that "if the stakes are high enough, torture is permissible." He adds, "No one who doubts that should be in a position of responsibility."

The assumption held by many, however, is that torture is intrinsically evil and is therefore absolutely wrong. Even moral subjectivists will sometimes argue that torture is absolutely wrong until they realize the logical awkwardness of their position. In any event, causing pain is not intrinsically evil. If it were then the surgeon who performs a painful operation would be malevolent. What makes torture wrong is not the pain it inflicts but rather the motive or reason for inflicting it.

Torture carried out for amusement, for its own sake, or for punishment is a great evil and should be banished from the earth, but torture to save lives is of a different moral order altogether. Just as all killing isn't of the same moral quality, neither is all causing of pain the same. Just as some killing may be morally justified, so, too, may some instances of causing pain. The justification lies in the purpose for the act.

Neuhaus goes on to say that:

In all this, I am struck by the paucity of serious discussions by Christian moral theologians and ethicists. In these pages I have said, "We dare not trust ourselves to torture." I believe that but acknowledge that it is not sufficient. How do we address these questions of what in fact is happening in circumstances in which conscientious Christians seek moral guidance, and how can we do this without falling into the pits of relativism, proportionalism, consequentialism, and related errors? In the ticking bomb instance, does the duty to protect thousands of innocents override the duty not to torture?

The answer to Neuhaus' question, I think, has to be "yes". Not only in cases where thousands of lives are at stake but also in cases where only a single life hangs in the balance. Consider this entirely plausible scenario: A young girl has been kidnapped and imprisoned in a torture chamber or buried alive by her captor who is subsequently caught. He acknowledges that he is the girl's abductor but will not tell police where she is. He will tell them only that she has just a few days of food, air, and water left before she dies. If this were your daughter would you fault the police if they tortured the man to get the information from him needed to save the girl's life? Indeed, if this were your daughter would you refuse to let the police use such methods on her behalf if they came to you and asked for your assent? If so, why? Is the comfort of a child molester and killer more important than saving your daughter's life?

Most of us don't like to ask ourselves such questions. They make us feel too uncomfortable. Yet unless we do ask them our opinions on this subject remain inchoate. We may well find ourselves thrust into a real ticking bomb scenario in the not too distant future. The bomb may be a nuclear device in a major city. We'd be wise to have done some thinking about this issue before that day arrives.