Such Misuse of Strong Terms
Thursday, May 13, 2004
by Dan Stansbury
What have we come to? The photos of the prisoners of war/detainees resemble more of fraternity hazing than, now how did you put it? Oh yes: brutal, shocking, horrifying, revolting, sickening, depraved, denigrating, disgusting, abusive, pained, debased, wrongful, and despicable. Yet, in your September 18, 2001 Commentary, you only used the word despicable to characterize the events of September 11, 2001. Now, in your Commentary of May 11, 2004 you fail to use near as many negative terms to describe an out and out war crime. I submit to you that you capture the exact problem with the American political scene with your blatant and shameful misuse of adjectives to describe events. It appears to me that We the People are allowing media mush heads to define what is ghastly. I am one American who is not fooled by this devilish confounding of the English language and inflammatory rhetoric.
You do not speak for this American regarding the prison issue. This American views that as just what it is. Photos of potential and/or verifiable enemies of our nation being humiliated. In contrast, the video of Mr. Berg's murder is an out and out war crime that does rise to the level an atrocity equal in deed, though not quantity, as the gassing of civilians in Nazi Germany. Murder is murder, killing happens in war, humiliation happens in war. Thanks to commentary such as yours, and the exaggerated misuse of negative terms such as the media deluge the airwaves with, we now have so expended the meaning of the words that there are no words left to describe a truly heinous and abhorrent action such as a beheading of a civilian by an enemy with which we are at war. You and those who abuse such terms have in my view been duped into aiding and comforting the enemies of our Nation during a time of war. I am of the view that you, and others who abuse and overuse such terms, are at the least abusing a public trust and at worst seditious. I further hold that those who abuse the public trust must be held to account for their abuses.
Freedom, Liberty, and our unalienable Rights come with high degree of responsibility. You, some on the Senate Armed Services Committee and mostly the Fourth Estate, have- in my view- shouted "fire" in a crowded theater. So who holds the aforementioned to account? Here they are- in order as I see it: no one, the voters of a given Senator's state, and no one. What sanctions would serve to admonish you? Doubtful that any blow hard Senator is going to get tossed out of their office over extreme rhetoric. And, no one in the Fourth Estate is going to ever get sacked for doing what they were guided to do.
It is up to We The People. We must not allow this misuse and exaggeration sway our common sense.
Mr. Berg-Andersson responds:
First off, I was not aware that I have ever claimed to speak for any or all Americans in either my Commentaries or my responses to 'vox Populi' from those who peruse 'The Green Papers'. In my writings, I only speak for myself. Thus, I hope it was understood that I wasn't at all attempting to speak for you or for anyone else (even Mr. Roza, the other half of 'The Green Papers', has disagreed with at least some of what I have written!)
Now, on to the "meat" of that which you have written:
You accuse me of "blatant and shameful misuse of adjectives", but then I read where you accuse me (along with, apparently, other writers- unknown to me- with whom you evidently strongly disagree on these matters) of "at the least abusing a public trust and at worst seditious".
Talk about the proverbial "pot calling the kettle black"!... SEDITIOUS??!!
Let's review the definition of the term "sedition", shall we? According to at least one dictionary in my possession, the word means: "incitement of rebellion against a government or any speech or writing promoting such rebellion". I presume that, if you think my words (and that of others with whom you might disagree) be seditious, you are- in fact- suggesting my possibly inciting rebellion against the United States of America.
Is that of which you are accusing me? Rebellion??
I can't speak for anyone else in the Fourth Estate with whom you might have a "beef" but, as for myself, have you ever perused the pages of 'The Green Papers'?! What true rebel against this country would so waste his time describing the arcana of Major Party National Convention delegate selection methodology (something the mainstream Media, and even the Parties themselves, don't feel they have to necessarily share with the citizenry ["we're only nominating the two persons who, of moment, are most likely to be Leader of the Free World for the next four years... but, please... don't worry your pretty little heads about that!"])? or so painstakingly recounting- in no little detail, mind you- the history behind the adoption of the Constitutions of each of the 50 States of this Union? or, for that matter, creating and developing- or, at least, helping to create and develop- any other of the many databases to be found on this website?
But there is so much more to this charge of sedition. A noted authority on English Constitutional Law has been quoted as noting that, as to sedition, "[i]t is evident that the vagueness of the charge is a danger to the liberty of the subject, especially if the Courts of Justice can be induced to take a view favourable to the Government". Change the word "subject" to "citizen" in this quotation and this is no less true of American Constitutional Law.
Let me see here... what have I done?... hmmm... the military establishment of the United States of America is directly responsible to civilian bureaucrats and politicians (of both the Executive branch which gives the orders and the Legislative branch that oversees and regulates the Armed Forces) who, in turn, are responsible- directly (if elected) and indirectly (if appointed) to the citizenry, of whom I am one... Oh, my Goodness!... I, an American citizen, might actually have (pause for a deep intake of breath in true shock) openly criticized the policies of my own Government!!... HEAVEN FORFEND!!!... and to think I also happened to make note of my anger at the butchering of Mr. Berg, too!!!!
But, of course, I could not recite any due mea culpas without here first noting that I am so glad to see that, while America is so deeply devoted to the establishment of Republican Democracy in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan, so many of my fellow citizens- including Mr. Stansbury, apparently- want us all to forget about what makes a Democracy within a Republic here at home...
as well as, perhaps, overseas!...
for you also wrote: "This American views that as just what it is. Photos of potential and/or verifiable enemies of our nation being humiliated. In contrast, the video of Mr. Berg's murder is an out and out war crime that does rise to the level an atrocity equal in deed, though not quantity, as the gassing of civilians in Nazi Germany. Murder is murder, killing happens in war, humiliation happens in war."... I repeat your phraseology, if only for emphasis..."humiliation happens in war"... I suppose here is where we all are supposed to sadly, yet gravely and purposefully, turn our heads away while the music wells up and the credits roll... might even make a good bumper sticker slogan:
Is that your final answer, Mr. Stansbury?
*I* seem to recall that the American Pledge of Allegiance ends with the words "Liberty and Justice for all"... I repeat this phraseology, if only for emphasis: "Liberty and Justice for ALL"!--- not just some, not only a few, not even for most-- but "for all"!!... and, yes, "all" includes prisoners- even the most heinous, the most disreputable, the most devious, the most despicable, the most nefarious (just wanted to make sure I got in enough "not misused" adjectives in there, by the way) in our custody-- even in wartime... or would you actually want what is said about America by Osama bin Laden and others of his ilk (including those savages who unceremoniously and wrongfully and mercilessly and brutally [enough adjectives for you here as well, by any chance?] murdered an American citizen and then gleefully showed off their bloody deed to the world via videotape and the Internet) to come closer the truth after all?-- do you really like the fact that we are being referred to by these Islamist nutcases as vile, barbarous, licentious, ungodly creatures who talk a good game about Liberty and Justice and Unalienable Rights but can't possibly execute the plays, except perhaps to misuse them for the benefit of ourselves and to the detriment of others?...
at least that is what al-Qa'eda thinks of us... but is that truly how you want us to be seen?
Then again, I wonder if Mr. Stansbury is altogether happy that a female soldier was having sex with more than one male member of her unit in front of Muslims so easily offended by such displays... but, wait a minute!... such activity is the essence of America, right?... after all, this is merely what might happen at any good ol' American fraternity party-- and fraternity parties are the very epitome of American morality and decency-- aren't they, now?
You say that I am among those who have "been duped into aiding and comforting the enemies of our Nation during a time of war". Putting aside the fact that I very much doubt the enemies of our Nation care one single iota about what might appear on 'The Green Papers', I also very much doubt that I have been the least bit "duped". I am an educated person of above average intelligence who has spent over three decades studying- admittedly as a hobby- Comparative Politics and Law (Nation vs. Nation worldwide, Federal vs. State vs. Local here in the United States)... I'm not saying this merely in a fit of the most abject Egoism, nor am I claiming that I'm an expert or that I know everything there is to know about the subject or that I am always right (certainly you, Mr. Stansbury, don't think I'm right!), but I know that I know a pretty fair piece about that of which I write. Furthermore, it is my attitude (as well as my responsibility as a citizen of this great country) that, if I'm going to be living under this here Constitution, I'm bloody well going to talk about what I think of it-- as well as those who might exercise Power and Authority under it... and, where I disagree with them, I'm certainly going to say so!
You, of course, are certainly free to disagree with me, as you have in your 'vox Populi' quoted above. You ask "What sanctions would serve to admonish you?"... well... you can always write a 'Letter to the Editor', as you have in this case, making your disagreement clear. So long as your disagreement is of reasonable bent (which, in this case, it surely was-- I may have taken no little umbrage with at least some of what you have written [just as you so obviously took much umbrage at what I wrote in the Commentaries of mine you cited], but nothing you wrote in your 'vox Populi' was the least bit unfit for publication), a responsible commentator should certainly acknowledge such disagreement of a reader with what that commentator has written. If you are so unhappy with what I wrote that you might no longer wish to avail yourself of the databases found on 'The Green Papers', it is- of course- your right and privilege to no longer make use of the website.
But, if we Americans truly believe in Free Speech and a Free Press, both fundamental cornerstones of Liberty, then that is as far as any sanction should go (absent a reporter purposely telegraphing troop movements, or some such). The ability of Americans to criticize their government, even in wartime, is a strength of this country- not a weakness! When Saddam Hussein tortured and murdered in that same Abu Ghraib Prison (and, yes, Mr. Stansbury is correct, things of this nature are a whole lot worse than what Americans might have done in that building lately... but I myself said as much in the recent Commentaries Mr. Stansbury cited in his 'vox Populi'), *I* don't recall there being any inquest by the Iraqi National Assembly of that era (oh... wait a minute... some of those tortured and murdered by Saddam were members of that same National Assembly!); on the other hand, we Americans are free to have our Congress hold just such an inquest precisely because we are free.
Oh, by the way- if only for the record, no one "guided" me to write any of this... then again, no one guides me to write anything I have written, or may yet write... except, perhaps, my own common sense... and sense of conscience.