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The New Transparency of War and Lethality of Hatred 591

Hugh Pickens writes "Robert Wright says that if you had asked him a few days ago — before news broke that American soldiers had urinated on Taliban corpses — if such a thing were possible, he would have said 'probably.' After all if you send 'young people into combat, people whose job is to kill the enemy and who watch as their friends are killed and maimed by the enemy, ... the chances are that signs of disrespect for the enemy will surface — and that every once in a while those signs will assume grotesque form.' War, presumably, has always been like this, but something has changed that amounts to a powerful new argument against starting wars in the first place. First, there's the new transparency of war as battlefield details get recorded, and everyone has the tools to broadcast these details, so 'it's just a matter of time before some outrageous image goes viral — pictures from Abu Ghraib, video from Afghanistan,' that will make you and your soldiers more hated by the enemy than ever. The second big change is that hatred is now a more dangerous thing. 'New information technologies make it easier for people who share a hatred to organize around it,' writes Wright. 'And once hateful groups are organized, they stand a better chance than a few decades ago of getting their hands on massively lethal technologies.' It used to be that national security consisted of making sure all foreign governments either liked you or feared you; now it requires that as few people as possible hate you. 'I think we should reflect on that before we start another war.'"
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The New Transparency of War and Lethality of Hatred

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 14, 2012 @01:41PM (#38698650)

    ...when I was studying history in college, I read some WW2 memiors about the fighting on the island of Peleliu, and some parts very disturbing. The only difference between then and now is that then, they didn't film it and post it to YouTube.

    'Humans who learn history learn that humans learn nothing from history'

  • Honor and War (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SuperCharlie ( 1068072 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @01:43PM (#38698664)
    There is no honor in being a mercenary for corporations and a corrupt government.

    I fully believe if soldiers were fighting against a foreign invasion they would not have the same mindset as Xi/Blackwater.
    • However I suspect you would probably see far more brutality as a desperate war where the stakes are high has less time to bother with PR and a big reason to want revenge, justified or not.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 14, 2012 @01:43PM (#38698670)

    US Marines routinely sent home Japanese skulls (they were photographed in LIFE). Someone sent Roosevelt a cigarette holder made from a Japanese femur. The Russians did crazy, unspeakable things to civilians on a large scale in Prussia and the Nazis were more than happy (desperate) to tell the world through even representatives of the Allied press.

    And, oh yeah, the Nazis... no real need to go there.

    And why stop with WWII? Vlad Dracul (yeah, that guy) made damn sure everyone knew why he was called "Vlad the Impaler" and he didn't even have a Facebook account.

    So, in short, no, nothing new here.

    • How about something more contemporary? This is how Afghans treat fellow Afghans corpses that are Taliban. Warning, EXTREMELY graphic. []

    • The only thing really new is the expectation that our soldiers are something other than human. Something, I guess, angelic.

      I don't believe anyone who understands the military or has ever been a soldier would seriously such beliefs, it's only the most naive of civilians (who seem often to be journalists and politicians) that would make such assertions.

      Let's remember that the enemy they're fighting is deliberately (due to the asymmetry of power involved) NOT fighting a 'stand up' fight. They are using weapo

  • by RLU486983 ( 1792220 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @01:44PM (#38698682)
    People today seem to think that this is something new. The only "new" in all of this is the instantaneous aspect of transmitting information. These types of acts have been perpetrated in other wars since man picked up his first sticks and stones. To be amazed that this actual happened is nothing more than the true disconnect that people; in general, have with reality as a whole.
  • Icing on the cake (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gmuslera ( 3436 ) *
    So is the right of US to not only invade the country, put their own government, kill a lot of people, send their childrens to guantanamo, but also to shit over the dead bodies of the ones that tried to resist and even joke over it? Put it in the other direction, what if US get successfully invaded, the government replaced, the resistence obliterated, people sent to be tortured in concentration camps and the invaders shit over the corpse of your fathers/friends/whatever, would you be a little outraged? Would
  • How can you tell a kid it is ok to kill the guy pointing a gun at you. But you need to respect the body of the guy who wanted you dead? While it is disgusting, i find the killing far more disgusting then the pissing on the body.
    • How can you tell a kid it is ok to kill the guy pointing a gun at you. But you need to respect the body of the guy who wanted you dead? While it is disgusting, i find the killing far more disgusting then the pissing on the body.

      Simple enough; the guy pointing a gun at you is a threat to your life. The dead body is not a threat to anyone. I realize that as a pacifist you don't believe that a threat to your life is worth killing over, but you still ought to be able to intellectually recognize the distinct

    • by sco08y ( 615665 )

      How can you tell a kid it is ok to kill the guy pointing a gun at you. But you need to respect the body of the guy who wanted you dead? While it is disgusting, i find the killing far more disgusting then the pissing on the body.

      In order for you to be able to shoot that guy, your weapon (it's generally a ship or tank pointing a gun at you :-) has to fire.

      So you have to maintain that weapon. You can thus be punished for not taking care of that weapon, even though neglecting to clean a rifle is a far lesser act than taking a human life.

      That is the basis for the idea of discipline and good order: A military can't conduct its primary mission to make war if it doesn't have it. Ergo, pissing on an enemy corpse, while individually a minor

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @01:51PM (#38698758)

    In the Vietnam war our press corps actually showed the atrocities of war, including burned children, dying soldiers and the execution of civilians. The squeaky-clean "live from the White House" war coverage began to happen after that. If only our major news sources engaged in transparency these days - instead we either get social-oriented pro-government cheerleaders (e.g., MSNBC) or military-oriented pro-government cheerleaders (e.g., FOX), but really nothing that provides insight into the plight of folks outside the power structure.

    there's the new transparency of war as battlefield details get recorded, and everyone has the tools to broadcast these details

    • "Everyone" may have the tools to broadcast details, but if the mainstream media do not bring it to attention of the masses and takedown notices can keep it out of the online limelight, then only the "fringe" will every hear about it - and so no meaningful political consequences. This latest news about urinating on dead Taliban smells like textbook spin to hide even worse news in its shadow []. Control of the news re: war is exactly why the government and pro-goverment media is coming down so hard on the foremo
  • by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @01:55PM (#38698788)

    > now it requires that as few people as possible hate you. 'I think we should reflect on that before we start another war.'

    lots of luck with that, it seems now that we are "pulling out" of Iraq, we're looking to start another war with Iran (OK, so we've been "at war" with them since 1979) but it seems they're (high level govt officials and many Americans) itching for a shooting war with them.

  • by nickmdf ( 216307 ) <> on Saturday January 14, 2012 @01:59PM (#38698842) Homepage

    I hope this is what they meant by Osama Bin Laden's "burial at sea" and that is why there are no pictures ;-)

  • by orphiuchus ( 1146483 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @02:01PM (#38698862)

    That's so much worse than living in an area where explosive amputations aren't a strange occurrence, or where having the front of your head blown through the back of your head is a potential outcome of both supporting the local warlord and not supporting him.

    Come the fuck on people. Its war. This is just like that Abu Ghraib bullshit. People die horribly all the time in these areas, and yet for some reason the thing that always outrages the moral cowards at home is when someone is humiliated. Its like the civilized mind cannot comprehend the atrocities of war, so they focus in on the level of wrong that they can identify with.

    R Kelly never used a orphan as a human bomb, blew the legs off of another rapper, then had to watch him drag his intestines behind him while he bled out. But that fucker did pee on someone. Peeing on someone we can be outraged about. Peeing on someone we can understand.

    You know what those guys who got peed on would really be upset about? Getting killed.

    • by joocemann ( 1273720 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @02:18PM (#38699040)

      A better explanation is that our taxes and representatives sent people abroad, on our behalf, to do things for us that re far far more heinous than urinating on a corpse. So heinous, in fact, that the psyche of our soldiers becomes a casualty, and their perspective and humanity dying with every horrid moment. Killing other human beings, and in the ways we do, has serious detrimental effects that can be directly blamed for pissing on bodies. Essentially, and as you stated prior, this is war. If we're going to pay close attention, expect far worse.

  • by ISoldat53 ( 977164 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @02:06PM (#38698906)
    Transparency can also lead to the good. The Arab Spring started because of the same transparency. Information technology helped overthrow tyrants. What you do with the information makes all the difference. If you are predisposed to hate, hate will be your response.
  • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @02:31PM (#38699172)

    So if an American soldier does something bad, gets recorded, the thing goes viral and cause an outrage it's transparency's fault for "sharing hatred" ? Holding soldiers to a standard is a bad thing?

  • by brokeninside ( 34168 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @03:05PM (#38699470)

    In the first century BC, Mithradates and his allies killed every single Roman citizen in Anatolia within a month's time. Historical estimates offer that somewhere between 80,000 and 150,000 Romans were killed across the Aegaen islands and Anatolia. This happened in a world without the Internet, without mass media, without high tech weapons, without gunpowder.

    Mithradates and his lieutenants were able to spread hatred of Rome entirely through word of mouth. They were able to coordinate their slaughter without the Internet. They were able to kills tens, if not hundreds of thousands, in practically the blink of an eye.

    It doesn't seem to me that much has changed with regards human capacity to spread hatred.

  • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @03:54PM (#38699846) Journal

    The first thing most people have to do to cope with killing as a matter of business, even for a just cause is to stop thinking of the enemy as people. War is just that its business. We are not talking about defending some property, yourself, or someone you have a personal attachment to; its killing in support of some abstract set of principles and because someone from the government told you to it.

    That is simply not the sort of motivation most decent people need to take a life. I do think war is often necessary and all of us back at home need to keep in mind what the military is really for and that is to kill people and break things.

    Its no surprise to me so many of our boys and girls are coming home with major damage to their mental state. We keep telling them to think of the people shooting at them as well 'people', who probably are in many ways like them with families back home, hobbies, hopes and dreams. We think we are being humane doing that but what we are doing is fatal to the humanity of our own troops. You can't kill 'people' like you and feel okay about it at the end of the day. Well I don't know personally but I don't think I could. What I think I could do is kill 'they enemy'.

    I think I could do that in a dispassionate professional way and not feel like I had to get revenge. I could view them like a dangerous animal or a hazardous machine to work around and just get the job done. Once the threat was removed I could be okay with it. Now if you make them 'people', and tell me I am there trying to help them, I expect I'd find it really allot harder not to take their shooting at me personally.

    Really we need to recognize that nation building does not work. We can't just go into a place with a completely different culture and liberate them. We need to choose our missions better. 'Take out Saddam and his government who we think are building weapons of mass destruction that could be used against us or our allies' is (if supported by real evidence) an example of a legitmate mission for America's army. 'Turn IRAQ and Afghanistan into democratic republics' is not.

  • by xepel ( 1573443 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @05:06PM (#38700486)
    I never quite understood why it is so abhorrent (by comparison) to do things to dead bodies (which cannot feel or be affected by such acts) while the actual act of killing those people (which obviously affects those people quite a bit...) doesn't get much mention. We don't care that these men were killed, we care that they were peed on afterward. Why the differing standards?
  • hypocritical... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schlachter ( 862210 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @06:25PM (#38701116)

    It's war. We tell our soldiers they are fighting for the survival of our country, or way of life. Go put a bullet through your enemies, head, the stomach, their back. Empty your clip. If they engage at close range, put a knife through their eye. Disembowel them. Waterboard the if you need information. Throw a grenade between them and blow them to bits. Push their bodies into a ravine so they won't be see along the trail. Piss on them, wait, no, definitely don't do that. This is morally wrong!! Once you kill them, leave them there to rot. This is the right thing to do.


God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker