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Monday, August 6, 2007

Parent Evil

posted by on August 6 at 11:23 AM

After Pfc. Jesse Spielman was convicted for the “March 12, 2006, rape and slaying of Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, 14, and the killings of her parents and sister” (Spielman did not actually rape or kill any of the victims but knowingly served as a lookout for the nightmare), his sister, Paige Gerlach, screamed:

“I hate the government. You people put him (in Iraq) and now, this happened.”

This declaration must not be rejected or understood as purely emotional. There is an amount of reason in her cry. The problem to begin with is the war itself. The war is evil in itself. And because evil is never isolated, never acts alone, or wants to act alone, but, like misery, needs company, needs to multiply, we have to see Spielman’s evil in the context of the wider evil, the whole war, the causes of the war, and those who made it possible on grounds that were not in themselves good. Bad begets bad. The road to this particular hell was paved with bad intentions. The rape and murder of the 14-year-old girl is not an orphan; it has a parent, a point of origin, a source (“you people”) that made it possible.

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I am amazed, Charles is actually makes sence.

Yeah, we are breading a whole new generation of terrorists everyday! And who says America doesn't make anything any more!!!

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | August 6, 2007 11:32 AM

While I feel her pain and return it with a renewed sense of outrage, the fact of the matter is that her brother helped his fellow soldiers rape a child and murder her family. No one made him join the military. No one made him help in this crime. No one prevented him from trying to stop it.

I wish I could live to see the day that GW Bush is convicted for war crimes but that's a dream that will never be realized.

Posted by monkey | August 6, 2007 11:34 AM

this is exactly the argument that al queda uses to hold american taxpayers responsible for the suffering of muslims, whether at the hands of israel or their own governments.

Posted by maxsolomon | August 6, 2007 11:55 AM

Both things exist at the same time: Spielman committed a crime for which he is responsible, and the the war produced the circumstances for him to do so. He would not have done it in the U.S., probably. We all have evil in us - it is a matter of circumstance whether it manifests or not. At the same time, we are utterly responsible for our actions or inactions.

I like your post, Charles.

Posted by Jude Fawley | August 6, 2007 11:55 AM

In my opinion.....If her brother didn't realize that the raping of a 14 year old and the killing of her family was a bad one then he has some serious issues and deserves what ever punishment he receives. The government as a whole is faulty, everyone knows that and as it is a influencing factor in many situations this one it is not.

Posted by JR Ewing of Seattle | August 6, 2007 11:58 AM

Charles, you should read Telford Taylor's book "Nuremberg and Vietnam." I recommend it often because Taylor, as Chief Counsel for the Prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials, is one of the only Americans qualified to offer a remotely authoritative view of international laws -- and the US's obligations arising from those laws -- regarding war and war crimes. His perspective is especially useful because he reviewed the conflict in Vietnam through the lens of Nuremberg which means, by extension, he expressed an opinion about the legal issues of pretty much every war the United States has been involved with since 1960.

The applicable idea here is Taylor's opinion that killing in war is always, technically, murder.

Posted by Judah | August 6, 2007 12:00 PM

Related issue: There is a great article in "The Nation" magazine in the current issue about soldiers coming back from Iraq talking about the atrocities they experienced against civilians. Should be required reading for all Sloggers.

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | August 6, 2007 12:03 PM

For once I completely agree with you, Charles. The most direct parent is the lowering of recruiting standards.

Posted by Gitai | August 6, 2007 12:08 PM

maxsolomon @ 3 - It is similar reasoning, yes. Does that make it wrong?

Posted by boyd main | August 6, 2007 12:10 PM

Wow, hopping back on SLOG, I'm reminded of the obsession with the misfortunes of youth.

Currently listening to:
Give Me Your Soul...Please
(A horror story about two children - bothers and sisters, who are viciously murdered by their father.)
by King Diamond

Posted by Garrett | August 6, 2007 12:15 PM

Like Joel Israel, Professional Shark Wrestler, says in the comment review,
"Be sure to listen all the way through, preferably in one sitting (the only proper way to listen to a King Diamond album)."

Re' the story,' the powers that be wrongly accuse the little boy of committing suicide and demand he go to hell. '

Posted by Garrett | August 6, 2007 12:28 PM

It is worth noting that even "good" wars (i.e. WWII) produce atrocities like this on all sides, though not necessarily in equal measure. But rape, pillage and murder have been synonymous with war since the beginning.

Posted by flamingbanjo | August 6, 2007 12:37 PM

@9 - no, it doesn't.

OBL's "letter to america" holds we the taxpayers explicitly responsible for the desecration of holy sites by infidels in SA (Whatev, fuck SA) & the suffering of the Palestinians.

the PURPOSE of 9/11 was to make us recognize & feel the suffering that the arab world feels is being done to them. that cannot excuse the crime.

in this case, the soldier is being punished for being more loyal to his platoon than to humanity. his sister is probably right; if the yahoo hadn't been put in that situation the crime would never have occurred.

and since the government IS us, we are responsible for allowing this, and all the other crimes done in the name of our "protection" or national interest.

this is why ward churchill said the WTC was filled with "little eichmans" - we fund these crimes, and consent to them because we do not collectively stop them.

Posted by maxsolomon | August 6, 2007 12:51 PM

what is the source that brought forth the war? the parent evil to this guy standing guard for his buddies while they commit violent crimes is the war in Iraq what is the parent evil to the war?

Posted by Audrey | August 6, 2007 12:54 PM

Must lie down. Agreeing with Mudede. Need air.

Posted by switzerblog | August 6, 2007 1:03 PM

Wow. A pseudo-intellectual and self important commentary by Charles that isn't trite. Though in this case it isn't original either. Moore picked up on this theme in F911.

Good job Charles!

(anyone know why Charles gets the most heckling?)

Posted by Ryan | August 6, 2007 1:09 PM

@16 - Charles gets the most heckling because he tends to use the right-half of his brain more than the typical Slogosphere crowd. Other poets are afraid to post for fear of getting flamed (or maybe they don't know how to use a computer). So, it's Charles vs. the left-brained smart-asses (myself included) who populate this board.

Posted by Mahtli69 | August 6, 2007 1:27 PM

Those soldiers would have committed the same crime here if they thought they could get away with it. There's only one parent evil in this case -- the cover that they thought they would have from the war and the military. I bet they were shocked when the military brass declined covering this up.

Posted by keshmeshi | August 6, 2007 1:49 PM

Anyway, just like any family member in denial, the sister will do anything to avoid admitting that her brother is a scumbag accomplice to gang rape and multiple homicide.

Posted by keshmeshi | August 6, 2007 1:51 PM

keshmeshi, I totally disagree. I think that war (which is the allowable killing of people when in normal civil society killing is murder) can cause someone's morals to go down a slippery slope. if it's okay to kill ... why not to do other things?

I am not saying this guy isn't responsible for his actions. But like Jude Fawley said, we all have evil in us. And I think it is very likely that this guy might never have raped, nor had a real inclination to do so, had he not gone to war.

Charles, this was a great post.

Posted by arduous | August 6, 2007 2:07 PM

charles, at the very least you should attempt an answer to my question... pontificate.

Posted by audrey | August 6, 2007 2:17 PM

audrey, the war is a dead lie. the reasons that started it are false. the lives used to fight it are nothing but wasted lives. the only hero that can come out of this war is one who refuses to fight it.

Posted by charles | August 6, 2007 2:29 PM

I'm amazed. Yes, the guy probably wouldn't have committed rape here (or even been an accomplice). But that doesnt' mean that this particular evil can be laid and Bush's feet. Some guys in his platoon decided to rape and kill. He decided not to turn them in, or even to ignore them. He decided to help them.
Keshmeshi had it right.

Posted by hattio | August 6, 2007 2:49 PM

i am wondering what you thought the parent evil to this dead lie is. the parent evil of the war is the culture of the bush/cheney echelon? i think my question is too heavy for you.

Posted by audrey | August 6, 2007 3:39 PM

@23 - It's different than if someone witnessed a rape/murder here and didn't report it. We're talking about the military here. The conflict between "doing the right thing" and "obeying superiors" does not exist in civilian life. The military is the ultimate in mob mentality (it's a matter of survival).

Look what happened to the guy who exposed Abu Graib. Was he considered a hero? No, he received death threats and had his name outed on national television by Donald Rumsfeld.

And, look at those who were punished for Abu Graib. They were the pawns. Would they have been punished for NOT following orders? You bet!

The parent evil is our thirst for oil. The world is running out, but our economy depends on it. We will do anything to quench our thirst.

Posted by Mahtli69 | August 6, 2007 3:56 PM

Congratulations, people. In your blind rage at our idiot man-child president and the incompetence with which he has waged war in Iraq, you have at least partially absolved blame from a soldier who helped rape and murder a child. What will you do for an encore?

This isn't about Bush. Or Rumsfeld. Or Ashcroft. It's about a few psychopaths who were unfortunately given guns and authority. They decided to do they and THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS.

ps- in WWII, we executed ~50 US troops for raping civilians in the European Theater. Rape is not a natural byproduct of war, nor is it condoned in democratic armies.

Posted by Big Sven | August 6, 2007 5:11 PM

Big Sven: So you know of some war where nothing like this happened? Name it. Grenada doesn't count.

Posted by flamingbanjo | August 6, 2007 5:29 PM

Any collection of hundreds of thousands of men in one location will unfortunately generate a certain number of rapes. Whether at war in Iraq or walking the streets of Seattle.

The point is that in war after war the US (and the UK, and Canada, etc etc) rape is *not* condoned and that offenders will get punished (and often executed). Rape is treated as a crime- JUST like in the civilian world.

Compare and contrast to the one to two MILLION rapes committed by the Russians against German women in 1944.

Posted by Big Sven | August 6, 2007 5:37 PM

Big Sven @26 et al:

In no way does acknowledging the underlying responsibility of our government absolve the soldiers here of anything.  Spielman stood lookout while his teammates committed rape and murder.  Suffer he should, and suffer he will.

Charles is right, though, to point out the co-responsibility of the leaders who created the conditions for the crime.  For an even clearer example, consider Abu Ghraib.  In the build up to and early days of the war, Rumsfeld and others took every opportunity to proclaim loudly that terrorists (i.e. anyone we care to capture) have no rights, that we are right to do anything we see fit to our prisoners.  The Bush administration displayed open contempt for the Geneva conventions and any other law of war, including our own.   With that message coming from the very top of our government, even if the vast majority of guards and interrogators stick to what they know is right, it was absolutely inevitable that someone somewhere would go way over the line.

Arduous @20, it's true that engaging in any war (even in the rare case it's justified) guarantees atrocities will occur.  Leaders can--and must!--act to make those atrocities the rare exception, though.  They do so by yelling loud and often that with the great power to kill in battle comes great responsibility.  Going to war makes the rules more strict, not less.  Leaders from the president down the greenest corporal must preach this, if we're to have any hope of not turning our soldiers into monsters.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their cohorts went the opposite way.  Hattio @23, you better believe we can lay these evils at their feet.

Posted by lostboy | August 6, 2007 5:53 PM

Lostboy, you and I are are half in agreement (that leaders must act to make atrocities the rare exception) and half not (that this is equivilent to Abu Ghraib).

Totally agree that Abu Ghraib was a direct result of Bush&Co's position that they were not bound by the rules of war as agreed since WWI. Clearly, at some level, Rumsfeld and the gang were *happy* that they jailers were beating the shit out of prisoners. I think that *does* mitigate some of the responsibility of the individual soldiers. "I was just following orders" sucks, but there is often some truth to it.

But does anyone think that Bush was stoked about his troops raping civilians? That in any way Bush would feel that it would contribute to a more successful outcome of the war?

I will reiterate my main point: everyone is so pissed off at Bush that they want everything to be his fault. This one's not his fault. And it's not the fault of War in general, as a concept- as I think you point out, lostboy. It's the fault of these psycho rapist fucks.

Posted by Big Sven | August 6, 2007 6:05 PM

Big Sven, we'll have to remain half in disagreement.

Of course Bush & co. aren't happy about the rape/murder and would not have wanted it to happen. That doesn't make them not responsible for it.  (Speaking of not absolving people...)

Sven, it seems like you may have missed my first point.  This is in no way about absolving or mitigating the responsibility of the attackers.  It's about acknowledging that Bush & co. also bear responsibility.  It's not a zero-sum assessment.

In fact, the idea of our leaders sharing responsibility is much the same as the thinking behind Private Spielman's guilt.  Spielman reportedly never touched any victims; he stood lookout.  For helping make the attack possible, though, we hold him accountable.

I've been a strong critic of leveling knee-jerk, bullshit charges in other threads.  This is not that.

Posted by lostboy | August 6, 2007 7:34 PM

Big Sven: I take Charles' point to be that, while the actions of these men are evil and ultimately the perpetrators are responsible for what they've done, those actions do not take place in a vacuum. The fact that atrocities are an inevitable consequence of war is one of the arguments against going to war in the first place. Certainly it's a strong argument against engaging in any avoidable war. (As far as I can tell, "pre-emptive" is another word for "avoidable," at least in its current usage.)

The public which likes to believe that there are "good wars" prefers to view incidents like this or My Lai as isolated incidents, but from my reading of history they are predictable side-effects of war.

This point is important to me because, inevitably, when the case is being made to get into the next war, we will again be told that it is a "good war."

The men who did this should be prosecuted. But it would be better that it never happened.

Posted by flamingbanjo | August 6, 2007 8:12 PM

Mr Muede, your talents are wasted here. For this is the dubest bunch of motherfuckers west of Texas. Even Joel Connelly could read \"The rape and murder of the 14-year-old girl is not an orphan; it has a parent, a point of origin, a source (“you people”) that made it possible.\" and immediately know that you are referring to the people (Christ you even put it in parenthesis) who created the circumstances for this atrocity to occur. In other words you dumb motherfuckers-the people who started the war! People like Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld; and in his own small way Dan Savage who wrote this:

\"In the meantime, invading and rebuilding Iraq will not only free the Iraqi people, it will also make the Saudis aware of the consequences they face if they continue to oppress their own people while exporting terrorism and terrorists. The War on Iraq will make it clear to our friends and enemies in the Middle East (and elsewhere) that we mean business: Free your people, reform your societies, liberalize, and democratize... or we\'re going to come over there, remove you from power, free your people, and reform your societies for ourselves\"

Posted by ... | August 6, 2007 9:30 PM

"But it would be better that it never happened."


Posted by Big Sven | August 6, 2007 9:55 PM

"and since the government IS us, we are responsible for allowing this, and all the other crimes done in the name of our "protection" or national interest"

I disagree. I didn't vote for the fuckers that started this war, marched against the war BEFORE it started and have generally tried to convince people I know who were for it, to turn against it.

I refuse to be responsible for Bush & Co's actions. I didn't allow anything, I've done everything I can. What more could I do? What more could any of us do? What are you doing?

Posted by K X One | August 6, 2007 11:12 PM

K X One, heres what you could have done...

won the fucking election.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | August 7, 2007 1:58 AM

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