The Long View 2004-05-04: Crimes & Mistakes

Institutional stupidity

Institutional stupidity

While John was a booster of the Iraq War and George W. Bush, he didn't waste any words condemning Abu Ghraib in 2004.

Crimes & Mistakes

Here is what Victor Davis Hanson had to say yesterday about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Graib Prison:

The guards' alleged crimes are not only repugnant but stupid as well. At a time when it is critical to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, a few renegade corrections officers have endangered the lives of thousands of their fellow soldiers in the field...Yet without minimizing the seriousness of these apparent transgressions, we need to take a breath, get a grip, and put the sordid incident in some perspective beyond its initial 24-hour news cycle.

No, let us not put it in perspective. This incident shows that, down in the sightless ooze where military police couple with military intelligence, it is taken for granted that the best way to prepare detainees for questioning is to put them through the hazing rituals of some nightmare fraternity. Maybe that is the best way, but I doubt it. More likely, what we have here is a manifestation of a deeply stupid institutional culture. Is it any wonder that US military intelligence fails and fails and fails?

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Speaking of stupidity, note today's feature article in Opinion Journal condemning Senator John Kerry's anti-war activism. Entitled "Unfit for Office," by another Vietnam veteran, one John O'Neill, who identifies himself thus:

Like John Kerry, I served in Vietnam as a Swift Boat commander. Ironically, John Kerry and I served much of our time, a full 12 months in my case and a controversial four months in his, commanding the exact same six-man boat, PCF-94, which I took over after he requested early departure.

The piece criticizes Kerry's record as an anti-war activist; O'Neill also criticized Kerry 30 years ago, when Kerry was the chief national spokesman for anti-war vets. Whatever merit O'Neill's accusations may have are immediately undermined by the subtitle for the article:

I was on Mr. Kerry's boat in Vietnam. He doesn't deserve to be commander in chief.

That sounds as if O'Neill had served with Kerry, but readers need only glance down to the body of the text to see that is not true. The Opinion Journal editors may be responsible for that. Editors can be even stupider than intelligence officers.

* * *

Here's a tip for real estate speculators who want to get in on the ground floor of an overlooked market:

Antarctica is likely to be the world's only habitable continent by the end of this century if global warming remains unchecked, the Government's chief scientist, Professor Sir David King, said last week...Sir David said that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - the main "green- house gas" causing climate change - were already 50 per cent higher than at any time in the past 420,000 years. The last time they were at this level - 379 parts per million - was 60 million years ago during a rapid period of global warming, he said. Levels soared to 1,000 parts per million, causing a massive reduction of life..."No ice was left on Earth. Antarctica was the best place for mammals to live, and the rest of the world would not sustain human life," he said...Sir David warned that if the world did not curb its burning of fossil fuels "we will reach that level by 2100."

Again, I'm as fascinated by climate change as the next guy: global warming is popular, in the sense that people find it intuitively plausible. Still, projections like this tend to discredit the whole subject.

* * *

As for discrediting things, a correspondent sends this link to a long essay by Lyle Burkhead, entitled squelch:

Mariane Pearl was widowed after terrorists likely linked to Al Qaeda murdered her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl, in February 2002...But unlike the thousands of family members of victims in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Pearl is ineligible for the funds set aside in the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund...Now she is taking her case to Capitol Hill, arguing that a new law should be passed so that she and her son Adam, 2, can receive compensation. Pearl is not alone as some families of victims of other terror attacks also make the case that the fund should be broader...Applications to the fund from families of non-Sept. 11 terrorism victims, including Pearl's, have been rejected. Families of victims in the USS Cole, Khobar Towers and Oklahoma City bombings have all asked about their eligibility.

The Victim Compensation Fund was created to preserve (1) the entire airline industry; (2) everyone who ever had anything to do with building or operating the World Trade Center; [3] the world's re-insurance market; and (4) the high-rise construction industry, which would have closed down if tall buildings could no longer be insured.

Yes, it was about money. The tort system had to be closed down, because the disaster was too big. The question of responsibility for the disaster is irrelevant.

Copyright © 2004 by John J. Reilly

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