June 04, 2006
AUSTIN BAY looks at Haditha diplomacy.
It all goes down to what Peter Beinart said in our interview the other day (beginning about 12:00 in):
The way we show the world that we mean what we say about democracy and human rights is by acting well. That means on a thing like Haditha by not trying to cover up, by being absolutely open and saying 'We are capable of being barbaric like other peoples are, under conditions of extreme stress and without legal restraint. But what makes us different from them is the way re respond to that.' We use it as an opportunity to show that we're different from our enemies because we bring our own people to justice.
That's right, and I note that it has been the pattern of the U.S. military in this war. Compare this to the record of, say, the United Nations where troop misbehavior is concerned.
Not that the critics will do so.
UPDATE: Here, by the way, is an oped by Beinart in today's L.A. Times.
Also, reader Kern Parker asks: "I'm interested in your thoughts on how Abu Ghraib fits in to this pattern."
Well, in a word -- perfectly. In fact, though media folks took credit for "breaking" the story, it was already under investigation by the Pentagon. See this timeline of events from The Mudville Gazette. In fact, if I recall correctly, the Pentagon had even issued a press release about the investigation, which was ignored, before the story "broke."
It was then carpet-bombed by the press, which chose to treat it as emblematic of the entire war effort, with much mutual back-patting for the coverage, while barely admitting that the matter had been under investigation already.
I don't claim that the military is perfect, of course. I just think that those who claim that anything less than perfection constitutes a pandemic of evil are being dishonest and unfair.
MORE STILL: Hmm. Speaking of the United Nations:
THE United Nations has ordered staff in East Timor not to co-operate with Australian Federal Police investigating the massacre of 12 unarmed Timorese officers by renegade soldiers, prompting allegations of a cover-up.
An email from the UN's deputy representative in Timor, Pakistani General Anis Bajwa, had been circulated to all staff, including employees evacuated to Australia, directing them not to assist AFP detectives investigating the worst atrocity since the violence of 1999.
A copy of the email had been passed to Australia's Embassy in Dili, outraged diplomats and AFP sources confirmed to AAP.
Earlier today the UN denied the email existed, but UN spokesman Bob Sullivan tonight contacted AAP and admitted a directive had been sent out in an email to all staff.
I eagerly await an outraged editorial from the Times.