The Corner

Algeria V. Iraq

From a reader:

Jonah,

The other major problem with the Algeria example beyond the Frenchification (and

what people couldn’t be expected to resist that fate to its dying breath?) is

that the French turned large areas of the country into a free fire zone that

killed 100,000s of Algerians, AND the large number of European colonists there

engaged in vigilante justice/death squad activity. In its brutality, length and

body count Algeria is simply orders of magnitude greater than a dozen or two

American guards behaving criminally. While these pictures and the reality they

represent are doing us grave damage, it seems to me that we have to insist on

the proper context and comparisons to Abu Gharaib just as you quite rightly

slapped down the person who attempted to compare these photos with those of

death camps.

The distinctions here are crucial and must be maintained not primarily for any

political advantage we derive here, but rather to maintain the possibility of

ever being to engage in military intervention with forces that are not composed

of gene-spliced Alan Aldas and Arnold Schwarzeneggers who to the last man

and woman will always and at all times be able to kick ass and cuddle puppies

with equal gusto. By pointing out how most other countries have

conducted themselves much worse when attempting to suppress insurgencies that we will be able to assess Abu Garaib correctly and remember that the perhaps maybe several thousand Iraquis who have endured very rough handling are part of a larger story of not only the millions who’ve been liberated but even the tens of thousands who would have died (not just been scared, humiliated and

intimidated) if Sadaam had still been in power .

The link goes to a very good article by a died in the hair shirt liberal about

the research in the Secret Police archives by Iraqis she knows who claim that

this last year Sadaam would have killed 70,000 people – not to give Iraq a

better future but simply to make things more secure for him and his sons)

If tens of thousands of deaths under Saddam (or in the case of My Lai – dozens of deaths and even more so in Algeria – hundreds of thousands) is allowed to represent a significant move of the scale versus maybe hundreds (and worst case) up to a few thousand treated badly in detention then we might as well throw in the towel and say we will never try to engage in any intervention again.

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