« On Fat ... | Main | On Boycotts … »

January 12, 2005

On Ted Rall …

I like Ted Rall. A lot. I like his weekly column, I like his three-times-a-week editorial cartoons (both to be found at http://www.tedrall.com/), and I like him personally. Not that we hang out or he’d recognize me if I sat on his face; we’ve chatted at MoCCA and such places on a couple occasions.

Now, this is where people usually say, “but…” Well, there’s no but. I don’t agree with him all the time (I don’t agree with me all the time), but I certainly respect his sheer naked courage in expressing his point of view. For people who think that sometimes I get a little extreme, well, think about this: I look up to Ted Rall. Often from afar, as I’m concerned that some right wing lunatic full of the fear of his or her god will Larry Flynt him. And that’s a genuine concern.

All this is an introduction and a plug. His column this week points out one of those all-too-obvious observations that only seem all-too-obvious after somebody like Rall points it out. Mr. Rall sez:

As Congress prepared to rubberstamp the nomination of torture aficionado Alberto Gonzales as the nation's chief prosecutor, the Washington Post broke news that would have torn a saner nation apart. The Bush Administration, the paper reported January 2, is no longer planning to keep hundreds of Muslim prisoners currently rotting away in U.S. concentration camps at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram merely "indefinitely." The Defense Department and CIA are now planning "a more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions" for these innocents.

We're locking them up forever. Without due process.

I’d like to direct your attention to a single phrase: U.S. concentration camps at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram. Republicans and liberals hate it when you compare Bush to Hitler. They feel that’s inappropriate, and they’ve got a point. Hitler was lawfully elected by a majority of the voters. And Bush’s body count is higher than Hitler’s was when he was only four years in office. And Rove would stop Goebbels cold in shock and awe … and professional admiration. But, to be fair, George has the advantage of a stronger economy and better technology.

If you look at what’s going on at Guantánamo and you look at the laws Bush has rammed through an all-too-willing Congress and you look at his two Attorneys General, it’s hard for a rational person to deny it: these are concentration camps. Not in the “gas all the Jews, homosexuals, and Gypsies” sense, but certainly in the textbook sense.

Well, at least not “gas all the Jews and Gypsies.”

Posted by Mike Gold at January 12, 2005 05:13 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


I dislike Bush heavily, and disagree with his policies towards prisoners, but I have to disagree with some of that.

1. If I recall correctly, Hitler wasn't elected by a majority; the German Parliament at the time appointe him thinking they could control him, and then he dissovled them.

2. I was going to argue the concentration camp point, but a dictionary search stopped me cold. It's not a death camp, but it is an interment camp.

I'd love to know what I can do about it. Voting didn't change things, sending email to Congressionals gets some things done, but very little, and I have no idea whazt could cause this administration to change its mind or listen to other points of view.

Posted by: Jon at January 12, 2005 10:41 PM

It takes a Ted Rall to point out that when a certain footballer quits to fight in Iraq and dies in friendly fire, he is not automatically a hero. It was hard for him to say, I'm sure, and he got lots of hate mail (as I understand it), but he was right. (No hate mail, please.) And as for "concentration camps" -- we really can't use that phrase after WW2; let's find something else. That's too powerful a euphemism to use as an actual description (like making anti-Semitism about more than just hating Jews -- it may be semantically correct, but that's not what it *means*).

Posted by: Isaac B2 at January 13, 2005 12:41 AM

Sure it is. No one ethnic group can coopt the language; we can't retire or modify a phrase because it has acquired an additional meaning. These days we define ourselves by our links -- no matter how vague -- by our alledged oppression. It quickly becomes an excuse to avoid dealing with the issue. IWW organizer Joe Hill, in one of my favorite quotes ever, said "don't mourn: organize." The 21st century update: "stop whining: organize."

And why is it when people talk about the Nazi concentration camps we only refer to the six million slaughtered Jews? An equal number of others were slaughtered as well -- homosexuals, communists and socialists, political dissenters, people with deformaties and genetic diseases. Damn near the entire Gypsy race was wiped out.

Posted by: Mike Gold at January 13, 2005 10:51 AM

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.

The first residents/victims of the Nazi concentration camps were Hitler's political opponents. Sound familiar? It's not much of a stretch to claim that the "detainees" at Gitmo are basically political prisoners. These are people that we kidnapped in foreign countries, which we had invaded without being invited to do so by any of the local residents. They resisted our invasion and were therefore dubbed "enemy combatants."

Posted by: Rick Oliver at January 13, 2005 05:10 PM

Jon wrote: "It takes a Ted Rall to point out that when a certain footballer quits to fight in Iraq and dies in friendly fire, he is not automatically a hero. It was hard for him to say, I'm sure, and he got lots of hate mail (as I understand it), but he was right."

No, he wasn't right at all, in my opinion.

At the time Rall's strip was published, everyone thought Pat Tillman was killed by enemy fire. Historically, when that happens, it is usually referred to as heroism by the general U.S. populace.

Second, Rall put words in the mouth of a person who was no longer around to defend himself, depicting that person as a racist when there is absolutely no evidence of it.

Third, Rall depicted Tillman as a dunce, when, in reality, Tillman was described by friends and peers as an unusually intelligent and thoughtful person.

Are people supposed to feel bad for Rall because he was vehemently criticized for this, and other tasteless cartoons he's drawn?

Rall may have a right to freedom of expression, but those who disagree with his most sensationalistic works have an equal right to voice their criticisms. If Rall can't take criticism, he should get out of the criticism business.

Posted by: R. Maheras at January 13, 2005 05:12 PM

I apologize for attributing "It takes a Ted Rall..." to Jon -- it was actually posted by IsaacB2

Posted by: R. Maheras at January 13, 2005 05:14 PM

The comparison to the Gitmo detainees as "political prisoners" is absurd. Most of these bozos were captured, under fire, while fighting for Al Quaeda in Afghanistan. These were not people using verbal or written arguments to sway people against America, but using armed conflict. You can draw a paralell to WWII camps if you want, but to me it's the worst kind of relativistic thinking.

Posted by: Rob Thornton at January 13, 2005 05:26 PM

A couple points in response to Rob Thornton:

1. We don't actually know who "most of these bozos" are because we rely almost entirely on their captors to tell us who they are.

2. They were captured "under fire...while fighting for Al Quaeda in Afghanistan". Even if true (which, once again, we don't actually know), the main point is that they were captured "in Afghanistan," not New York or Des Moines. And they weren't exactly unprovoked. We invaded the country and started shooting first. Many of them could very well be the same people we armed and encouraged when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

At Abu Ghraib, most of the detainees are Iraqi citizens, and many (most?) of them weren't even grabbed during combat operations.

3. You're right, they're not political prisoners; they're prisoners of war. But our government doesn't want to treat them as prisoners of war -- because of their politics.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at January 14, 2005 09:46 AM


1: I'm perfectly willing to grant you your argument, although I accept "security reasons" as a valid excuse for not knowing who they are.

2: Yes, we invaded and shot first. Do you remember what exactly took place in Sept 2001 that led us to make that decision?

3. They're not even prisoners of war. That's a term used for "uniformed" soldiers in a standing army - these are guerrilla fighters, plain and simple. But because the US is looked at under a microscope, we have to treat them above and beyond the the status accorded them by the Geneva Convetion - which, for all intents and purposes, is no status.

Should something be done with them? Yes - but these have no exactly been model prisoners, either, by all reports. Should they be released now, there's little doubt what they would be doing in a few weeks time.

Posted by: Rob Thornton at January 14, 2005 10:58 AM

On the Daily Show last night, they pretty much distilled the essence of the White House 9/11 argument:

Sept. 11 + x = Shut up

where x = anything we say

Do I remember what happened Sept. 11, 2001? Well, yeah, a bunch of Saudis crashed a couple planes into the World Trade center. What sanctions have we imposed against Saudi Arabia? Or Pakistan, where many of those terrorists we chased around Afganistan were trained?

Do you remember Osama bin Laden? Has indefinitely detaining hundreds of people in conditions bordering on torture gotten us one step closer to capturing him? Has it reduced the size of the Al Queda network?

If you treat people like animals, they will eventually behave like animals; so I'm not really buying the "model prisoners" argument. And the "no uniforms" argument isn't too persuasive either since there wasn't much of an Afgan army to speak of. Using your logic, if we decide to invade any poverty-stricken third-world country, are we entitled to relegate anyone who fights back to some dark, legal limbo simply because they couldn't afford uniforms?

We should either treat them as POWs or common criminals. Either way, they should have the basic rights afforded one of those groups.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at January 14, 2005 01:06 PM

The Red Cross estimates that somewhere upward of 80% of those detained at Guantanamo (based on the small number they've actually been permitted to talk with) are innocent of anything except being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In Abu Ghraib and Bagnam, it's closer to 90% - people arrested for being suspected of complicity with a plot to connive, and similar nonsense.

And, as has been pointed out above, these mass long-term internments, whatever name you may apply to them, have done nothing to improve the security situation in Afghanistan and Iraq. They haven't stopped a single terrorist (believe me, had they done so, Bush and his cronies would have been singing it from the rooftops), they haven't saved a single serviceman, they haven't brought us a single step closer to finding bin Laden. All they've done is earn us the distrust of people in the region who had once been "on the fence". And now, they're serving as the first steps down that slippery slope to fascist dictatorship. We've already seen the first signs; in the last Presidential campaign, one of the biggest themes flogged in this region by the Republican party was, "We can't change presidents in the middle of a war!" (I submit that this did us no harm in WWII...) I do wonder if/when the campaign will begin to repeal presidential term limits, with the argument that "we have to give Bush more time to acheive our safety!"

Remember the wise words of Benjamin Franklin - "Those who would surrender essential freedoms, in order to purchase a little temporary security, deserve neither freedom nor security."

Posted by: Jonathan (the other one) at January 16, 2005 04:11 PM

I saw Mark Donner on CSPAN today (Sunday, 1/16/05)
Like Ted Rall, he actually travels to Afghanistan and other horrible places, and seeks to inform us what he's actually seen and heard.
He reprts that our government's illegal and horrifying treatment of foreign prisoners is turning our whole country into something that is loathed and feared. (That means you and me, boys & girls!)
In response to questions, he repeated statistics from reports filed by both the Red Cross, and an investigating American general which state that about 90% of the detainees held in our internment camps have "no intelligence value."
The administration's stated objective of holding these prisoners indefinitely, without honest investigations, much less legal trials, is completly evil, especially when the reason it is done is simply to facillitate abuse and torture.
(These degrading acts do not yield reliable information anyway -- practicing them is just perversion.)
These actions contravene 200-plus years of US laws and practices, according to Mr. Donner, and I agree with him. The citizens of our country have an obligation to demand a complete end to this sanctioned sadism.
I will start with a request to my own Senator to stand against Albero Gonzales -- he would not refute his torture-enabling memo, while claiming to reject torture, and further avoided committing himself to defining what it was. (If he actually witnessed someone held under water until he lost consciousness, he might think differently.)
I'll remind my senator that all these contradictions in his testimony mean that he was lying to the senate, and that confirming a liar is a shameful thing to do to -- the liar has demonstrated his lack of respect to Congess, and the law, and deserves nothing in return, much less the highest position in Federal law enforcement.

Posted by: Michael Evans at January 17, 2005 12:15 AM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)