FROM AN IRAQ WAR ALUM

An email examines the objective dehumanization of “the enemy”:

I am a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and an increasingly liberal defector from the GOP, and like you I have been confused by the GOP’s simultaneous promotion of a ‘culture of life’ and of torture.
I was in Iraq in 03-04 and was really disheartened when Abu Ghraib broke in the media; I didnx92t think the war was justified, ex ante, and the revelations of what was happening at the prison really made me feel like a Nazi. I employed a number of Iraqi laborers, and after the Arab media showed the photographs it was very difficult to look those guys in the eye.
As to balancing the seeming contradiction between torture and life, the only conclusion I can reach is that the pro-torture lobby has taken the rhetorical construction of ‘The Terrorists’ that was the centerpiece of administration pronouncements from 2001-2003 to its logical extreme x96 ‘They’ (that is, ‘The Terrorists’) are unworthy of life because ‘They’ donx92t respect life. ‘They’ behead people, while all we do is beat them to death. ‘They’ hate us for ‘what we are,’ while we hate them for x96 well, I guess because of ‘what They are.’ But because we are a Benign Force, it’s different.
In class, I compared the construction of The Terrorists to the construction of Japanese identity during World War II, assigning the John Dower book, “War Without Mercy.” The enemy is so alien that he has abandoned any consideration as a human being. Consequently, exterminating him is appropriate.

Or torturing him for that matter. Wars are dangerous things. They corrupt us unless we remain vigilant. And one real worry is that because the president sincerely believes that his motives are good, he can find ways to dismiss or ignore or even condone things that are objectively wrong. This is especially a danger for those who believe their actions are sanctioned by their own God. If their motives are pure, they can do no wrong …

THE P.C. LEFT AND SCIENCE: Some readers have written in to say that John Derbyshire’s description of the editors of ScienceWeek as “intellectual Left-fascists” is overblown. I have to agree in this instance. There is a snooty liberal snobbism in the editorial, but it does not oppose unfettered research into the evolution of the human brain. Money quote:

There is certainly no reason to believe that the human brain has stopped evolving, and certainly brain size is a biological parameter that may indeed be changing, but we don’t think this work is of much particular anthropological significance. We would say the work needs to be done (and supported), but we are not at the point yet of making important conclusions from such studies.

There are, however, many on the left who object to any study of human genetic differences as inherently racist or sexist or bigoted. Science can be none of those things. Either the data exist and support conclusions, or they don’t. That, I think, is Derbyshire’s broader point, even if he’s off-base in this particular example.

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