Saturday, May 07, 2005

Errors of fact and errors of logic

Curious, what can trigger the right wing chorus of smears. Except in this case smear is not exactly the right word--"ridicule and nitpicking that misses the point" would be more exact.
A couple of days ago I read a Bob Herbert column in the New York Times about Aidan Delgado, a soldier who returned from Iraq, who had been stationed at Abu Ghraib for part of his tour, who came back with photos of dead and injured Iraqis which Delgado said had been circulated among the troops in his unit "like trophies."

Here is what Herbert said of this:
There are pictures of children who were wounded and barely clinging to life, and some who appeared to be dead. There was a close-up of a soldier who was holding someone's severed leg. There were photos of Iraqis with the deathlike stare of shock, stunned by the fact that something previously unimaginable had just happened to them. There were photos of G.I.'s happily posing with the bodies of dead Iraqis.
This is what happens in war. It's the sickening reality that is seldom seen in the censored, sanitized version of the conflict that Americans typically get from the government and the media.

As far I can tell from Herbert's commentary, Delgado did not try to implicate all American troops as being involved in such behavior. In any case, Herbert's obvious and explicit point was that we are getting a "sanitized version" of the war. Who can disagree with that? Who would want to?

Well, predictably, the right wing blogosphere. Plus Michelle Malkin. She, and various bloggers swing into action to...find fault with Herbert's actual point? No. Not at all. Rather, they begin digging around trying to discredit Delgado in some way. In any way possible. Of course. (See Polipundit for an example.) Now, what Delgado alleged was relatively trivial compared with the torture and prisoner abuse we _know_ happened at Abu Ghraib. OK, never mind that. But if they can disallow any part of Delgado's story, then...umm, what? Well, that's logically unclear.

Delgado has said that he personally believed it was immoral for Abu Ghraib guards to open fire on a bunch of prisoners who were rioting and throwing rocks at guards inside an open compound ringed with barbed wire.

Delgado, in an interview with Amy Goodwin that I watched, said that five prisoners had been killed. As far as I can tell, this is his only error of fact. According to the official report, four were killed.

excerpts from official report

...the US Military Police Guard Force at Abu Ghurayb/Baghdad Correctional Facility, (BCF), shot and killed 4 (four) detainees that were aggressively contributing to a prison riot. The prisoners would not comply with ordered commands from guard force personnel to cease and desist, and were threatening to affect a breach of the containment perimeter....Many of the guards in the towers had stated that "the sky was black with rocks" and "I feared for my life and was afraid of a mass breakout."

"The sky was black with rocks." The guards, armed with machine guns, on the other side of the barbed wire, feared for their lives. Hmm. I'm not quite willing to suspend disbelief on that, myself. But let's say for the sake of the argument that they _did_ fear for their lives. What about the rest of what Delgado was saying?

Delgado made it clear in the interview that I heard that the main thing that troubled him was the way our troops dehumanized Iraqis in general. He talked about how the dead had been treated disrespectfully, and how troops in his unit circulated photos of corpses as trophies. And he has the photos. So, unless the photos are faked, it seems to me that his errors of fact, including his error, if it was one, in failing to note that the guards were endangered by a sky black with rocks, do not invalidate the important part of what he is saying--much less Herbert's point about our getting only a sanitized version of the war, back here at home.

What am I missing, here?

No comments: