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Uday and Qusay: So Much Justice.

The brothers were tracked down after a tip-off from an Iraqi informant expected to get the two $15 million rewards offered for information leading to their death or capture.

They were holed up with a bodyguard and Qusay's teenage son, U.S. officials say. Armed only with AK-47 assault rifles, they wounded four American soldiers and held out for hours against a devastating array of U.S. firepower, including attack helicopters, heavy machine guns and grenades.

U.S. commanders said Uday, Qusay and the bodyguard were killed after the house was blasted with 10 anti-tank missiles. The teenager made a last stand but was shot as troops raced up the stairs after finally getting into the villa.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he was glad he had decided to release the photographs. They would help convince frightened Iraqis that Saddam's rule was over, a consideration that far outweighed any sensitivities over showing the corpses, he said.

"I feel it was the right decision and I'm glad I made it," Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news conference. "And no, these pictures do not violate the Geneva Conventions."

President Bush said, "The brothers have been brought to justice.

"And now," he continued, "the Iraqi people have seen clearly the intent of the United States to make sure that they are free..."

(and yes, emphasis is mine. so are the photo positions. and while i weep not for uday and qusay, i rather doubt that this is any form of justice. it is also convenient, i note that two fellows who could have pointed to saddam's whereabouts, and pointed to weapons of mass destruction, had the fuck blown out of them with ten anti-tank missiles.


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Jul. 24th, 2003 08:18 pm (UTC)
Some tree huggin hippy crap from J
I think this is, for me, the most barbaric moment in the war on Iraq. Not the death dealing fireworks of the S&A campaign, not the sudden silence of Iraqi bloggers, not the scenes of injured civilians nor destroyed infrastructure. But this.

I've been thinking about why the news reports of these deaths have been the most meaningful to my mind and I think it's the clarity of the event, the transparency of purpose.

Our acceptance of violent aggression as a tool of statecraft isn't a new theme in this event or any event in recorded history. But the response in the media that I've heard in regards to this sits between a collective sigh of relief to jubilation. I've found that strangely chilling.

As a community we have simply said: This is our response to difficult people. To kill is our way of solving problems. The death of these two men is unequivocally a good thing. With this we all agree.

Now I understand that describing these men as 'difficult' may be the understatement of the year. The reality of their crimes against the Iraqi people and nation are unfathomable to me. For that I am grateful. I dearly hope that I, nor anyone I know, directly experiences the horror of a dictatorial regime.

I'm not demanding that those people who were close enough to know that horror should be tree hugging hippies either. After all I may feel the same bloodthirsty hatred in that situation. I get pissed off just by having someone pull out in front of me whilst driving so we can probably guarantee I would be just as bad.

And that's where the horror lies. In this clear and distinct global satisfaction at the death of these men I am reminded that the earth is populated by animals, that we are all several small steps away from warring tribes of apes.

After laughing in history classes of the hubris of opposing nations going to war each with God on their side, we can now see that there are no good or bad guy nations. The irony is that our transcendence of this is to simply accept that it's ok for everyone to be the bad guys.

It is a reminder that no matter how long standing are our social institutions, our freedoms, our civility, love and respect for each other, they must always be carefully guarded with a kind of daily maintenance. My strivings to be more available to the people around me, to quiet my selfishness and avoid laziness of thought each moment are more than just self help lip service, they are humanity itself.

Jul. 25th, 2003 03:53 pm (UTC)
justice schmustice
Ben, I won't be shedding any tears for Uday and Qusay either. They lived lives that invited that kind of death. And if I were a relative of one of their victims, I dare say I'd be happy to see those photos.
But like you, I doubt that this is justice. It's the use - or misuse - of the word 'justice' by Bush that particularly worries me. Whoever gave the figure of Justice a sword as well as scales was a poor thinker. Justice, surely, is the rule of law - law derived from principles of fairness; and outcomes achieved by main force, as this certainly was, have nothing to do with fair law, or indeed any law at all.
Thinking of America's own mythology: the lawman in the white hat doesn't shoot the bad guy; he arrests him and sees that he is brought to trial. He may hang, but that's for the judge to decide. If the bad guy happens to get shot instead, that is seen as a less satisfactory outcome. Justice, as such, has not been done.
Maybe it would have been impossible to capture Saddam's sons; maybe it was a choice between killing them and taking a large risk of letting them escape. But whatever the case, this conflation of justice with retribution - with the military equivalent of a gangland hit - is disturbing. I don't think it's just a semantic quibble. The casual propagation of such a wrongheaded notion by the de facto leader of the free world moves us closer to losing a civilised idea of what justice is.

Jul. 25th, 2003 10:31 pm (UTC)
Re: justice schmustice
you know, i've been thinking of that american mythology of the lawman, and i might disagree with part of it. see, part of it is the mythology of the american criminal, who'd rather die standing and guns blazing than go to court. he (or she) knows that they are wrong. that they done bad, as they say, and when the lawman walks into town, they end up dueling to the death.

the lawman wins, naturally, and he always sighs, and says, 'jimmy, i did not want to kill 'im,' and the two walk off. but you see, i reckon that's a lie: because the death of the criminal, guns blazing, is always wanted, by the lawman (if only from a jury) and from the audience.

i reckon, in short, that in the myth, shooting the bad gun is, in fact fine. it is justice.

anyhow (i think i lost my train of thought now) but i've been thinking of the american army as a posse these days. gotten together to carve out some justice, no matter what the law'd say.

i better stop before i say ya'll.
Jul. 26th, 2003 12:23 am (UTC)
Re: justice schmustice
I guess shooting the bad guy in the myth is justice of the 'eye for an eye' sort. But it isn't justice meted out by the judiciary, and that's what scares me about the Bush mob's attitude.
When the lawman acts as executive, judiciary and military all combined, he's doing something that can be done by one person in a gunfight, when it's a matter of your own life and death, but shouldn't be done by governments. (I'm not saying they shouldn't have killed Uday and Qusay, only that they shouldn't have boasted about it as an act of justice. You're right, the lawman does lie; but it's a necessary lie, for the sake of good form; the relaxing of scrupulous good form is possibly the first step towards barbarism (maybe?))

I do think Uday and Qusay, as enemy combatants, died in a fair fight; and in terms of eye-for-an-eye justice, no doubt they got what was coming to them.
But we only know - or believe - they were vile people because the US government and its associates have told us they were. I don't think it was a lie. But still, having one bunch of people make the accusation and the same bunch of people go in and do the killing is something of a perversion of justice, and a step in a potentially very bad direction.

I agree that the American military - or the executive that directs it - is in posse mode. Maybe they've confused the mythical idea of justice - as delivered by a lawman who is essentially the hand of God or the Fates, because movie heroes can act in that capacity - with the kind of justice that actual, fallible human beings need to subscribe to. (The fact that they weren't invited into Iraq makes it even more problematic for them to say that they're delivering justice on behalf of the Iraqis...)

Anyhow, as you can probably tell, I'm thinking less about the rightness or wrongness of US actions than about the mythologies surrounding those actions.

Ah'm also losin' mah train of thought. Therefore Ah consulted mah Bible, openin' it at a random page, and these words of the Lord came to mah eyes:

'And what if the sword despises even the scepter?
The scepter shall be no more.'

Good old Ezekiel. (Chapter 21, 'Babylon, the Sword of God').

Jul. 26th, 2003 04:49 am (UTC)
Re: justice schmustice
i agree, that the forming of one body that metes out justice isn't what a government should do. i think it should bother us all that the kind of justice given out by bush and his posse isn't in accordance to any kind of justice beyond that of the most brutal and bloody form of an eye for an eye. i sometimes think all justice, reduced to it's base level, is just one form of that, but it can get kind simplistic if you do that for too long and i don't believe it. the problem is when people do, i guess. posses tend too.

i'm not sure if i agree uday and qusay died in a fair fight. four guys with ak47s against the u.s. army and their attack 'copters, anti tank missles, and god knows how many men there and at their disposal seems the odds are stacked a bit. not that i particularly care--as you say, everything we've heard from news outlets about uday and qusay have been rather unanimous in their knowledge over what bastards they were. but it seems to me that they needn't have died. that three men and a teenager could be taken without such a result, but i wasn't there, and, outside the cold logic, i don't think i'd be willing to spare anyone shooting at me with an ak47 if i had a anti-tank missle. still, you'd think they wouldn've been invaluable alive, don't you?

i don't think we've seent he end of the iraq thing. i don't think it was meant to be an end. the nods at syria, at iran, while conviently not going to countries with american ties who cry out for help, and while not pointing likewise to korea, these point to me that iraq was never about justice that fits with the american lawman. it fits more with the mythology of conquering, of securing nations for their own good, to liberate them, and ensure the safty of the motherland, to be enlightenment.

i wish it was the lawman myth. you could follow the line of it there, that it was one lawman, falling into the revenge narrative, that after seeing the perversion of justice, takes up sword and scale (or shotgun) and heads out. but it's one man verse one man, with an end. john wayne chased forever in the searchers, but in the end, he fought his one man, got the neice back, and returned home.

you know, i've gone on a completely different tangent and i am so all over the place. heh. oh well.
Jul. 26th, 2003 12:51 pm (UTC)
Re: justice schmustice
I'm horribly certain we haven't seen the end of the Iraq thing. Particularly, as you say, when the US hasn't gone to the aid of, for instance, Liberia. I think they're very wary of putting troops in places that aren't part of their big strategic picture right now.

And yeah, you would think that Uday and Qusay would have been invaluable alive. Not just for their knowledge, but for the media circus of the trials they would presumably have had. There's a lot of value in parading your enemies through the streets. But capturing them would have been very hard, I think, for an American commander trying to avoid any casualties on his/her own side. Had they surrendered, though, I think the US would have been happy to take them alive. Unless - getting paranoid here - there was some particular reason why they needed to be dead and silent.

And yeah, we're a long way from John Wayne. It's more like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, where the good guy is bad and the bad guy is ugly...

Jul. 27th, 2003 12:59 am (UTC)
Re: justice schmustice
there's another livejournal around here www.livejournal.com/users/rozk where she talks about how there has bee no mention of offering uday and qusay a chance to surrender. no white flag by them, or the military. she bases this of the fact that no one has mentioned it in the news, and i can see her point of view, as if it had been offered by the military, and the two brothers turned it down, surely it would have been reported?

(she also mentions that the teenage son was fourteen, a fact i didn't know.)

i don't know about how paranoid it does to get about it. it certainly won't do you or i much, as we lack the ability to do anything to a US government, but i do think it's interesting that i've not yet heard a bush soundbite that says, 'look, ya'll thin' we wanted to kill them boys? ya'll fools. they coulda shown us the bodies an' the weapons.'

as for out western comparison, the problem with the eastwood films is... well, i like them. i think eastwood is cool :)

maybe it's more like the movie shane, with jack palance, who chucks the gun at the farmer's feet, and then growls, 'pick it up.'

(bill hicks does a great joke about that. in fact, many of his gulf war jokes are entirely reusable for this little iraqi war.)
Jul. 26th, 2003 02:38 pm (UTC)
One huge problem that has been displayed in the last two years is this: how do you reconcile war and justice? (Not that this is a new problem, mind you -- just that the last two years, and especially the last two weeks, have made me spend a lot of time thinking about this.)

Back here in the U.S., the federal government decided to try the "20th hijacker" in open court, as a matter of fair justice. Not, perhaps, a bad idea, except for one major problem: the same federal government has realized that releasing the evidence needed for the trial is incompatible with military needs.

This means, as I understand it, that three things could happen:

1) The trial could be dismissed, and the "20th hijacker" released on a technicality. As an American I have extremely mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, yes, I want to make sure that everyone is treated absolutely fairly, and that we are all following correct legal proceedings. On the other hand, a part of me is freaked that a guy who was allegedly training for terrorist activities could get released solely on a technicality. And then again, logically, I realize that if the government denies someone else his legal 6th Amendment rights in a trial, then, logically, the government could also deny ME my legal 6th Amendment rights in another trial. And that is absolutely terrifying.

2) The federal government could stop pursuing this case in federal court and instead turn over the "20th hijacker" to a military court. In which case I'm still freaked, because this sets a precedent for later trials.

3) The case could still go to trial. He might be found innocent (although since the chief witness for the defense won't be testifying, I find that difficult to believe.) He might be found guilty, in which case he will almost certainly appeal. I have no idea what the results of that appeal will be.

My guess is that the U.S. military was looking at this "20th hijacker" case and deciding that they didn't want a repeat of this legal mess by putting these two on trial, wherever that trial might have been.

Jul. 27th, 2003 07:16 am (UTC)
the 20th hijacker thing is not something i've kept much up on, but every time i come across it, it's always appeared as if the actual evidence that they were publically putting out was a touch circumstanial. a lot of 'he did this' which the hijackers did, and so forth. so it's entirely possible, as you say, that a public trial will produce nothing more than this, which i don't think no man or woman should be convicted upon.

war and justice, however, are something that i've never been able to join together with any seamless quality. i find it hard to look at the pursuit of war criminals, many years after a war, to be a touch pointless, and more a show about 'justice' than about actually creating it. that's a very simple answer, naturally, and i don't believe it, but i find that it's a problematic system. and in the same breath, i also find that people who have absolute rights and wrongs to apply to war are somewhat flawed, as war, the act, really exists outside the law, and outside any real form of justice, except in a 'we fought back, got our land, lived happily' kind.

or maybe i'm just tired and this is all a very muddled, muddled post :)

Jul. 27th, 2003 08:59 am (UTC)
For centuries, various people have been arguing, with various degrees of success, that war ought to be fought following certain rules, following whatever dictated codes of honour happen to apply at the time. Right now we sort of have the Geneva Convention (to the extent that anybody on any side, and I include pretty much everybody in the Congo in this, is following it) which is the latest in a series of "How to Honorably Engage in War" things that we've had over the years.

The problem is, that war has another side to it, which is that frequently, in order to win, you have to surprise the other side. Obviously, if you are completely following the rules, most of your moves will be predictable, and you will lose.

I was just rereading the Narnia series, for example, and one thing that really struck me on this rereading was Lewis's insistence that war be fought "honorably" and "without cowardice" -- points he makes none too subtly in what is basically a series of children's books. Now, I'm all for children's books dealing with serious issues like war, and I approve of what Lewis is doing here in that respect.

But let's take a look at something like The Horse and His Boy where the bad guy comes up with a rather neat plan for conquering the good kingdoms of Narnia and Archenland. Now, of course from the kids' point of view we're against the bad guy because he wants to enslave all of the cute Talking Animals (when I was a kid my favorite part of the book was the Talking Horses) and force pretty Queen Susan to marry him and so on, and plus he kicks people.

But Lewis, Aslan and the various nobles are against him not for these things, but because he waged war "dishonorably" by planning a sneak attack. Ok, point for them -- except how did they hear about the sneak attack? From one of the bad guy's former subjects, a girl who was blatantly spying on said evil guy. If she hadn't been spying, and hadn't become a traitor to her own country, the bad guy would have won. And history, as they say, is usually written by the victors.

And instead of getting praised for a rather clever plan, the bad guy is turned into a donkey and called "ridiculous." Because, to Lewis, honor, however twisted, is more important than cleverness. He repeats this point in the other Narnia books as well.

Hmm. I didn't mean to turn this into a C.S. Lewis rant. Sorry.
Jul. 27th, 2003 10:11 pm (UTC)
i've never read the narnia series. indeed, as you might well know, i haven't read may of the often considered classic children's literature. or much children's books, classic or otherwise. i cheerfully blame my parents, for not reading to me or buying books for me to read when i learnt how. but i have read a lot of fantasy, and in dozens of books, more than i could count, really, there has always been this 'honourable' way to fight and so forth. it's always bothered me, not because it's there, but because like you, it's always praised, always looked up favourably.
Jul. 28th, 2003 05:14 am (UTC)
Fantasy tends to follow tradition, though, and fantasy tradition, for the most part, reeks of this. I will say that in Tolkien, at least, while everybody (everybody with the good guys) is honorable and so on, nobody is really chatting about "Well, at least we get to die honorably" and all that stuff -- it's more that they are fighting because they have to.

But I think that a lot of fantasy, particularly the heroic fantasy subgenre, feels that it has to follow the "we shall fight honorably" routine, even in the post-Vietnam era, largely because it's embedded in the subgenre, and why break a successful mold?
Jul. 28th, 2003 05:23 am (UTC)
you know, i actually don't think this is something that's a problem with the heroic fantasy genre. (which, of course, doesn't mean that i think it's not. it is there and it is nasty that it keeps running back.) but, also, there are still plenty things out there of warriors, urban or otherwise, boldly going forward to meet their fear, even if they die, or of dying with your buddies, for your buddies, and with your boots on.

there are many examples of this: crime films, war films, sci-fi films--all post vietnam. perhaps the one waving its biggest flag for me right now is SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, where, knowing they're fourteen guys against the approaching german *army* they stay, to die together, cause private ryan won't leave his buddies.
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