Monday, October 22, 2007

On Truth, Violence, and Non-Truth

There's a very troubling report in The Observer of yesterday. The Observer is the sister newspaper of The Guardian, and its articles are to be found at the Guardian website, but my impression is that the Observer itself is a bit less vicious. Anyway, the report talks about brutality of Israeli soldiers in the 1990s (early? late?), based on interviews with 21 of them.

The acts themselves sound despicable. Do they reflect a norm? I think not, but we need to know far more about the facts, or additional investigations, and so on. One reason I rather doubt how normative these cases were is that back in the early 1990s there were a number of high profile court martials against high officers whose soldiers had committed such acts, and the officers (colonels) were punished - an indication that there were such cases but also that the military was acting against them.

Juan Cole gives the story a far more sinister spin, one not warranted by the facts, not even remotely:
The idea that these sorts of actions derive from 'lack of training' is absurd. They derive from hatred and from being able to act with impunity. They are a burden of the strong who have the opportunity to abuse the weak.

The US political elite and media that conceals the brutality of the Israeli occupation for sectional political gains are accomplices to this sadism, and their silence endangers the security of the United States. When we cannot understand why Arab audiences, who are perfectly aware of what the Israeli army has been doing to Palestinians for decades, are outraged, it leads us into policy mistakes in dealing with the Middle East. No one in the US media ever talks about Zionofascism, and the campus groups who yoke the word 'fascism' to other religions and peoples are most often trying to divert attention from their own authoritarianism and approval of brutality.
And the moral of the story? The moral of the first story is that preserving one's morality and that of one's society requires constant diligence. The moral of reading Cole's blog is that people who are informed by hatred can get along quite well even on a meager fare.

PS. At the bottom of Cole's rant there are a few comments. You might want to read the comment of Peter Attwood (who even has a blog, but I won't link to it), to see how perverse self hatred really can get. If you're interested in the extremes of human perversity, this is worth a glance.

1 comment:

Lydia McGrew said...

Those are horrible stories. Monster stories. 21 is a lot of guys, too, but do we have these guys' names? Do they stand to lose anything if they are lying? To gain anything? There has been a case recently here in the U.S. of a soldier publishing what appear to be made-up stories about brutality in Iraq, though nothing this bad.

It's interesting, too, that they don't appear to be getting such stories now from recruits. I think the "lack of training" phrase is weird an unconvincing, but it also seems questionable either a) that these things were happening all over the place in the 90's and even more so b) that they are happening much *at all* in the present.