October 2005


In an op-ed column in today’s (October 27, 2005) in New York Times, classicist and Hoover Institute commentator Victor Davis Hanson tries to put the reaching of 2,000 American military casualties in Iraq “in context.” “Compared with Iraq,” he argues, “America lost almost 17 times more dead in Korea, and 29 times more again in Vietnam – in neither case defeating our enemies nor establishing democracy in a communist north.” For those of us who think 2,000 is 2,000 too many, Hanson suggests we remember the 400,000 dead in World War II. “If our enemies similarly believed in the obsolescence of war that so heartlessly has taken 2,000 of our best young men and women, then we could find solace in our growing intolerance of any battlefield losses. But until the nature of man himself changes, there will be wars that take our youth, and we will be increasingly vexed to explain why we should let them.”

But why stop with World War II? (more…)

Reports have recently surfaced that a few frustrated American soldiers in Afghanistan may have desecrated the bodies of two dead Taliban fighters by burning them. Beyond this they are accused of taunting nearby villagers to be “lady boys” (which I take to be a militarized cognate of Arnold’s conventional “girly men”) for not coming out to retrieve fellow Muslim bodies purposely set on fire facing the West. Perhaps the soldiers doing this thought it silly that Afghan men do not wear Western pants and at the same time believe in resurrection of the dead.

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The headline of the October 20, 2005 New York Times says a lot: “Defiant Hussein, Lashing out at U.S., Goes on Trial.” Everyone involved in this scene, from the defiant defendants to the many victims under Saddam’s brutal dictatorship, knows what the verdict will be. We are trying Saddam Hussein in a televised court of legal process not to determine if he is guilty but to remind the world of his crimes against humanity. There is no innocence to presume. Nor is there a Johnny Cochran waiting in the wings with too-tight, blood-stained gloves.

All indications are that this trial will be an ordeal. (more…)

In an editorial in Wednesday’s New York Times (“Silence and Suicide.” October 12, 2005, p. A23), op-ed columnist Thomas Friedman vents about “Sunni Muslim insurgents” who are said to have “no respect for the sanctity of Muslim lives, Muslim houses of worship or Muslim holy days…” He continues, “… and no one from their own wider Sunni community really moves to restrain or censure them.” What does this mean for Sunni Muslims? “If the Sunni Muslim world does not act to halt this genocidal ethnic-cleansing campaign against the Shiites of Iraq… the Sunni world will eventually be consumed by this very violence. A civilization that tolerates suicide bombing is itself committing suicide,” he concludes.

The rhetorical traps in this piece are a good example of how not to report the obviously problematic issue of suicide bombings in the name of a major world religion. (more…)