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Candide's Latest: Monday, August 21, 2006
It’s Not Just a Job, It’s a Rape

What a sniper in Iraq left behind

Is the US military in Iraq preventing a civil war or enabling it? Between sniper attacks and the latest mosque bombing, Baghdad Burning reports on the forced cleansing of neighborhoods sect by sect, which isn't news anymore, but this is: "Other areas are being overrun by armed Islamists. The Americans have absolutely no control in these areas. Or maybe they simply don’t want to control the areas because when there’s a clash between Sadr’s militia and another militia in a residential neighborhood, they surround the area and watch things happen." The emphasis is mine. The situation is identical to how Ariel Sharon's Israeli army surrounded the Sabra and Shatila camps in 1982 and let Christian militias loose on Palestinians inside, resulting in those infamous massacres, except that in Lebanon the damage was limited (if that word is even applicable) to those two camps. In Iraq, the massacres are daily affairs, resulting in a death toll now running at an astounding annualized rate of more than 40,000, if July's figures are any indication. (The question ought no longer be whether Iraq is in a civil war, but whether it's in a genocidal war, or approaching one.) That implicates the US military's role in Iraq well beyond passively enabling the war. Once again, where's the reporting? Embedded up some US Army tank's rear, to be sure, but there are not6able exceptions. There is this from Jeffrey Fleishman in Sunday's LA Times, but without touching on Baghdad Burning's allegation: "Baghdad has become a sinister parlor game of unmasking affiliations with subtle and not so subtle questions: Where does your family come from, north or south? Who is your uncle? What tribe do you belong to? It is a place where death squads call the family of someone they've kidnapped and ask: Is he a Shiite, or a Sunni? A wrong answer can mean a trip to the morgue to identify a body streaked with acid burns and drill holes.”

In the heart of darkness, only evil thrives: Imprisoning innocent children in Iraq: “Children who have never been charged with a crime are being held in juvenile prisons in Iraq,” the Washington times reports, citing a State Department official. “Some of the children are in the detention centers simply because there is no one to pick them up and take them home, said Marshall Adame, an official with the National Coordination Team based out of Camp Victory in Iraq. […]He added that there had been reports of ‘physical and other abuse’ in the detention centers but that the U.S.-led coalition considered the issue ‘not our urgent business.’” I recall this line from Elie Wiesel’s Night, describing the Auschwitz guards’ “affection” for young children: “Our tent leader was a German. An assassin’s face, fleshy lips, hands resembling a wolf’s paws. The camp’s food had agreed with him; he could hardly move, he was so fat. Like the head of the camp, he liked children. Immediately after our arrival, he had bread brought for them, some soup and margarine. (In fact, this affection was not entirely altruistic; there existed here a veritable traffic of children among homosexuals, I learned later.)”

An Army of Rapists: "More than 100 young women who expressed an interest in joining the military in the past year were preyed upon sexually by their recruiters," an Associated Press investigation reveals. "They were raped on recruiting office couches, assaulted in government cars and groped en route to entrance exams. A six-month Associated Press investigation found that more than 80 military recruiters were disciplined last year for sexual misconduct with potential recruits. The cases occurred across all branches of the military and in all regions of the country.[...] More than 100 young women who expressed an interest in joining the military in the past year were preyed upon sexually by their recruiters.They were raped on recruiting office couches, assaulted in government cars and groped en route to entrance exams. A six-month Associated Press investigation found that more than 80 military recruiters were disciplined last year for sexual misconduct with potential recruits. The cases occurred across all branches of the military and in all regions of the country." There's plenty more.

Missile Secrecy, Pathological Secrecy, Offensive Secrecy : "The Bush administration has begun designating as secret some information that the government long provided even to its enemy the former Soviet Union: the numbers of strategic weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during the Cold War," The Washington Post reports. "The Pentagon and the Department of Energy are treating as national security secrets the historical totals of Minuteman, Titan II and other missiles, blacking out the information on previously public documents, according to a new report by the National Security Archive. The archive is a nonprofit research library housed at George Washington University. "It would be difficult to find more dramatic examples of unjustifiable secrecy than these decisions to classify the numbers of U.S. strategic weapons," wrote William Burr, a senior analyst at the archive who compiled the report. " . . . The Pentagon is now trying to keep secret numbers of strategic weapons that have never been classified before.""

In Other Worlds

James Wolcott in his latest piece for Vanity Fair takes down “The Fox Literary Salon” and its “vast” right-wing literary theories—Michelle Malkin (“Imelda Marcos of the Fox News Nation”), John Gibson (“The rest of the world can go to hell. It wasn’t attacked. We were.”), Sean Hannity (“What is there to say about Sean Hannity that Hannity hasnb;t already said about himself many times over with a smug self-esteem that would be the envy of Donald Trump had Trump not already beaten him to the beautician’s mirror?”), Bill O’Reilly (“The undisputed heavyweight champ (at least in his own mind)”), and so on. The piece isn’t online, but here are its “seven sacred rules of the Fox News literary fight club,” or how to get a book between hard-covers: “Organize your book around a specious thesis… Pose with an American flag on the cover… Memorialize 9/11, the day Everything Changed, early and often… Establish what a regular guy (or gal) you are, not like those liberal elitists weaned on Woody Allen movies and incapable of opening a pickle jar without asking some big strong lesbian for help…. Negatively name-drop… Even if you never attend religious services, because they conflict with your golf game, make sure you get humble nods to the big guy in the sky and distinguish yourself from the heathens at The New York Times and CNN…. Be sure to thank Judith Regan at Regan Books.”

Günter Grass, the SS and Damage Control: Good to see columns coming to the defense of Grass following revelations that he’d been drafted into the SS when he was 17 — and kept the secret all these years, until revealing it in an interview, in advance of his newest book. The wonderful Peter Gay, in a Times column, concedes that it’s almost irresistible to join the predictable attack: “So this scourge of hypocrites has shown himself a hypocrite, too!” But let old saws be old saws. “Fortunately,” Gay writes, “some commentators have been less hysterical. Most notably Ralph Giordano, a German writer and, by the way, a Jew, has noted that Mr. Grass was only 6 when Adolf Hitler was invited to become Germany’s chancellor. […] And Mr. Giordano has asked, reasonably enough, “What else could he have done during that time in the face of the Nazis’ all-powerful propaganda apparatus?” And answers his own question: “Nothing.” […] The uncomfortable question that remains for Mr. Grass is this: Why did he keep this interlude as a servant of the regime so tight a secret? If, as we are told, his wife was the only other person whom he informed, then the Grasses made a huge mistake. If he had come out of the Nazi closet earlier, say, in 1959 with his triumphant novel just published, people would have understood, and his own life would have been easier. I am not Mr. Grass’s analyst, nor have I ever met him. But it seems to me that he failed to come forward all these years simply because he was too ashamed. And if I am right, the affair will have a useful consequence: it will be a reminder, more than 60 years later, that his country had a great deal to be ashamed of.”

Daniel Kehlmann, a very young, up-and-coming German novelist and occasional magical realist (he’s 31, his Die Vermessung der Welt last year was the biggest seller in 20 years of German fiction), makes equally compelling points in “A Prisoner of the Nobel,” a Times column of his own: “Ambitious like most good writers, Mr. Grass must have had his eye on the Nobel Prize from early on. He knew he deserved it. The question of why he remained silent for so long about his past is in fact easy to answer: one visit with the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was sufficient for Borges never to receive the prize. Would someone who had served in the SS stand a chance? […] Mr. Grass did the only thing he could to pre-empt the loss of his reputation. He went public, choosing not to leave the destruction of his moral authority to the professional revealers, but rather to assume the task himself.” Kehlmann, born in 1975, also cautions us judges and juries of the plush Sunday recliners: “When even the most outspoken German moralist wore the uniform of murderers, one might ask whether there is a single guiltless German in this generation.”

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