No “Dispassionate Analysis” Here

dispassionate: not influenced by strong feeling

The Huffington Post published today a short piece by Jack Mirkinson (its Senior Media Editor) titled,

Geraldo Rivera Thinks The US Should ‘Behead’ ISIS Beheaders

The author was, apparently, taken aback by Geraldo Rivera’s reaction to the beheading of journalist Steven Sotloff:

geraldo rivera tweetsI guess I should say that I stand second to nobody in my distaste for Mr. Rivera, a regular on Fox “News.” And I suppose I should say that it is obviously not acceptable that any U.S. policy involve beheading even “the ISIS butchers.” Of course that is ridiculous. But the HuffPo piece ended with this advice:

Anyone looking for dispassionate analysis would be wise to look elsewhere.

I thought about that for a minute. Two American journalists have had their heads crudely and savagely sawed off by a psychopathic Islamist terrorist, who then posted the acts on the Internet with mocking commentary and threats of killing more Americans, and the suggestion is that there is something wrong with an analysis that includes a little passion, a little emotion? Huh?

And just what would “dispassionate analysis” look like in this context? How is it possible to analyze this situation without accounting for the brutality of the acts? Without having strong feelings about them?

A leftish commenter wrote in, remarking on my last piece on the murder of Steven Sotloff, to say:

Here in America, our barbarians use drones and planes.

Talk about a dispassionate analysis. Is that what some on the left think of their own country? That our leaders are on the same moral plane with people who do such things as were done to James Foley and Steven Sotloff and thousands of others in both Syria and Iraq? Surely it matters what motivation was-is behind the use of those American drones and planes, doesn’t it? And surely it matters that those ISIL killers couldn’t care less about the civilian population of any country, much less make huge efforts to avoid civilian casualties, as the U.S. does in its fight against terrorist groups like ISIL?  And surely it matters that there is a glaring qualitative difference between psychopaths and those trying to bring the psychopaths to justice, right? Should I even have to write that sentence?

Obviously we want those who are planning the attacks on ISIL in Syria (we are already attacking ISIL in Iraq) to analyze the situation carefully, thoughtfully, deliberately. Nobody is saying that the U.S. military should just start carpet bombing the entire region out of some kind of collective anger or national pride or simply frustration. But I, for one, hope like hell the civilian and military planners are also doing their planning with strong feelings that what they are doing is the right thing, is part of what it means to bring justice to psychopathic killers. Passion and planning don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Finally, I hope President Obama has strong feelings about what he is certainly thinking about doing, and, more than that, I hope he expresses those subjective feelings to the American people, as well as the objective purpose of any actions. It is proper, even necessary in times like these, to do both.  This isn’t a time for the President to play it cool in public or worry about whether it looks like the terrorists got under his skin. Goddammit, if this doesn’t get under his skin then it is hard to see what would. All of us, especially our leaders, ought to be passionate, damn passionate, about justice, especially when we have it in our power—deliberatively applied power—to provide it in this case.



  1. King Beauregard

     /  September 3, 2014

    Let’s look at the box scores.

    Pakistan: drone campaign goes after al Qaeda and affiliated groups for a decade; may have killed up to 600 civilians, but has also made it impossible for al Qaeda and affiliated groups to function in Pakistan.

    Iraq: no drone campaign; al Qaeda and affiliated groups killed 7800 civilians last year alone, and are on the march, putting thousands and thousands of civilians at risk.

    If you genuinely care about civilians — if you actually want to see more civilians prosper and fewer civilians suffer — at a certain point you start looking at the arithmetic and you begin to think that, perhaps, a drone campaign does more good than harm.

    “But I saw a news story about a Pakistani granny who got killed!” That’s swell. But what about all the Iraqi grannies who got killed in marketplace bombings? That’s the difference (or at least the most obvious difference) between the US and ISIS: the US tries to avoid killing civilians, while ISIS makes a point of it.


    • Exactly. 

      I appreciate the fact that for those who can’t see the obvious moral differences between those who try “to avoid killing civilians” and those who make a sport of it, perhaps your lesson in arithmetic will do the trick.

      However, somehow I doubt it.



  2. Stalin once said that the death of one person is a tragedy, but the death of a thousand is a statistic. ISIS is playing off of that thought. And Geraldo fell into the trap.

    Methinks we are a bit of the proverbial pot calling the proverbial kettle black. Remember the pictures from Abu Ghraib?, the video of U.S. solders pissing on the Koran?, the guy that went wacko, going house to house in Afghanistan murdering women and children?, the two marines who shot and killed 24 Iraqis in the Haditha massacre (and were court marshaled for it)?, the voice recordings of our helicopter pilots saying “Hahaha. I hit ’em” and “oh yeah, look at those dead bastards” as they mowed down civilians in Iraq?, the torture of Gitmo prisoners, some of which resulted in the death of at least three?, the officers who handcuffed and then murdered four Iraq prisoners (and later confessed to it)?, the drone strikes made after the targets had already left the area, but the wedding party hadn’t? I could go on but you get my point.

    It’s hard to say how many recruits the various terrorist organizations got from these actions, but my guess is in the tens of thousands.

    But keep in mind that some of our allies in the region are just as bad as ISIS. According to Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia averages two beheadings a week. This, under Sharia law, which also allows for stoning, caning, and the ever popular lash. Almost all of the states in the Middle East use Sharia law to a greater of lesser extent.

    While I’m thinking about it, the Mexican drug cartels could teach ISIS a thing or two about atrocities. Beheadings are commonplace. But the drug lords go further — they put the heads on a spike as a warning to others. Mass executions are also common. Then there are the dismemberments with chainsaws. Ouch!

    According to Wikipedia, since 2006, when the Mexican government started its war against the cartels, 58 reporters have been killed, along with 511 American civilians, 1,000 children, and more than 4,000 federal, state and local law enforcement officers. In total. An estimated 111,000 people have been killed since 2006, and 1.6 million people have been displaced. These numbers almost exactly parallel those from the Iraq war.

    So, yes, the horrific killings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff are angering, offensive and worse. But lets keep it in context. This is a region of the world were such atrocities are common. ISIS knows full well that these incidents will offend the West. And if we let them, we will continue the hypocrisies of dealing with our “partners” in that part of the world. How much more blood and treasure should we throw at this problem?

    It was Will Rogers, I’m pretty sure, who said, “When you find yourself in a hole . . QUIT DIGGING!” (My emphasis.)

    Obama finds himself in a no win situation. Anything he does is bad. And as is usual in these situations, it’s a search for the least worst decision. I’m glad I don’t have to make it.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. As I mentioned in comment on your previous post, I too think President Obama ought be more passionate about this, if for no other reason than to bolster the Democratic Party’s brand. However, I must admit that my opinion of the public’s capacity for human compassion has been on the wane of late. On the evening news the other night we saw the first episode in a series on first responders in the U.S. It seems that response times have been getting longer rather than shorter, and the EMT’s are sure they know the two reasons why. One, of course, traffic is worse. But two, people increasingly will not yield to the siren and flashing lights. They are driving distracted, noses in devices, and that’s part of it. But there are repeated and consistent instances of just plain obstinacy. I think we as a nation are becoming more narcissistic. Where will it end?


  4. ansonburlingame

     /  September 4, 2014

    Our whole country became very passionate after 9/11 and look what it has gotten us so far. 13 years of unsuccessful war is not the “American Way”.

    The last time we actually pulled out all the stops in fighting we could have cared less for the civilian population of the enemy. The center of gravity of Germany and Japan was the military power of those two countries and the “military-industrial complex” providing the technology for the Axis Powers to fight. We bombed countless “complexes” and if civilians happened to be there, well so be it. We did not target civilians as such, other than with two nuclear weapons, but ………. OK carpet bombing Tokyo with fire bombs was the same as using two nukes in terms of dead civilians. I suppose that was a strategy of “break their spirit” which worked, in the end.

    No way will America or the rest of the West “break the spirit” of fanatics. Carpet bombing ISIS is a ridiculous thought along with beheading captured enemies. One cannot carpet bomb a damned desert and using naplam on villages is crazy as well.

    Where does the manpower for “terror” come from. Well metaphorically cut off the head of Wahhabism is a good start. That Saudi based fanatical segment of Islam breeds fighters against us all over the world. But that alone won’t work as we cannot bomb a religion or use “boots on the ground” against it as well.

    Petrodollars funds terror (fanatics if you don’t like to use the word “terror”).

    Drones and bombs are simply tactics to implement a strategy. We lack a UNITED (at least within America) strategy to “attack the enemy”.

    I will let the reader take it from there.


    PS: Refering once again to Daniel Sliva’s books, he stated (in book 10) that when confronted with “problems” America digs a huge hole around the problem and throws lots of money and technolgy into the hole to fix it. How I wonder would America really protect America if we were not the richest nation in history, but fail to use our money wisely, at least in the views of others, and me to a certain extent.


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