Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Rusty Sawblades? Pfah!

Recently, I came across a post on the World of Warcraft forum for non-WoW issues about how anyone with flagging support for the war on terror should view these public beheadings and how such monsters must pay.

The first fallacy made, of course, is that this is an appeal solely to pathos, and a wholly counterproductive one. Let me explain by way of analogy. Were I to say "Look at these burn victims! Look at how awful what happened to them is!", you would probably agree. Were I to then say we should throw oil on a burning fire to stop further actions, you would probably call me insane.

In other words: The only way the "Rusty Sawblade" argument would make any sense would be if the current strategy actually reduced terrorism. (You will hear this Rusty Sawblade argument in everything from debates on Iraq to justifications for Israeli occupation and apartheid to general statements of our superiority). But, of course, this begs the question because everyone from Chomsky to Kerry is alleging that the Bush administration's strategy increases terrorism. In short, people who make this argument are just not paying attention. It is a laughable and useless distraction, and worse, it is wholly disingenuous because such professed concern for the victims will only lead to more such victims.

In further discussion, this initial poster said that he hardly thought that turning down the AC and smacking around detainees at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib was the same as a decapitation. But again, this begs numerous questions. Are these things justified even if they're not as bad? Do they help or hurt in the war on terror? Do they violate the Geneva Conventions and international law? Is it really that, or is the humiliation and torture in fact as bad or worse (which, of course, it often is)? And, most importantly, isn't this response simply laughable apologetics for horrible crimes using a self-righteous American attitude?

But let's take him at his word. Fair enough. So what about the landmines and bombies that the US leaves behind in most areas, undermining the Ottawa Convention against Landmines? Those things tear off arms and legs, killing and maiming children and innocents years after the conflict has subsided. The US refuses to help clean them up. Is that not a comparable crime? What of the defoliation campaigns against Columbia and Vietnam, using chemicals and biological agents that cause horrific birth defects? And the Depleted Uranium that has irradiated and poisoned Iraq, causing children to be born with internal organs on the outside? Isn't condemning all of those innocents (possibly in the millions given the residual nature of the toxins) to an entire lifetime of debilitation and pain worse than a rusty decapitation? And the napalm we use?

And what of the torture practiced by US clients like Israel and Turkey? As just one example: http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/311/7016/1323/a

To be historical, what about the treatment of Native Americans and blacks? What about the French in Algeria, burning people with blowtorches?

Of course such atrocities are awful. But compare them to the general pattern of torture, violence and terror practiced by the colonial powers and one gets a different story that not all the references to bloody decapitations in the world could cover up.


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