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An American Martyr
November 2, 2006 7:51 AM   Subscribe

She would rather die than become a torturer.
posted by empath (133 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
"But, much as a good hunter trains his hounds to bring the game to him rather than eating it, a good ruler has to restrain his henchmen from devouring the prey lest he be left empty-handed. Investigation is a subtle process, requiring patience and fine analytical ability, as well as a skill in cultivating one's sources. When torture is condoned, these rare talented people leave the service, having been outstripped by less gifted colleagues with their quick-fix methods, and the service itself degenerates into a playground for sadists"
posted by empath at 7:59 AM on November 2, 2006


I suppose I would caution against drawing the conclusion that she died instead of tortured, one does not necessarily lead to the other, does it? Nothing in that article led me to believe that this was the case, nor, I think, did the article intend to draw that conclusion. American martyr? I'm thinking not so much.
posted by msali at 7:59 AM on November 2, 2006


That was a poor choice.
posted by smackfu at 8:01 AM on November 2, 2006


It absolutely does lead to that conclusion. Her colleagues all talked about her problems with 'interrogation techniques'.

I'm sure it was about more than that, it always is. But the conclusion I drew is that she believed in the military and believed in America and that she couldn't find a way to square the circle between what she saw her colleagues doing and her personal morality.
posted by empath at 8:03 AM on November 2, 2006


Actually, from what the story says, he suicidal feelings were directly tied to an inability to separate her personal feelings from her professional experience. It sounds as though the link is pretty explicit.

And utterly horrifying. What have we become?
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:05 AM on November 2, 2006


“Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed….”

She was was then assigned to the base gate, where she monitored Iraqi guards, and sent to suicide prevention training. “But on the night of September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle,” the documents disclose.


I don't see how you read it any other way. She was devastated by what she saw in 'the cage', the Army re-assigned her and put her through suicide prevention training, but she killed herself anyway.
posted by empath at 8:05 AM on November 2, 2006


jesus christ
posted by matteo at 8:09 AM on November 2, 2006


.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:09 AM on November 2, 2006


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posted by Mikey-San at 8:10 AM on November 2, 2006


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posted by Anything at 8:14 AM on November 2, 2006


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posted by loquacious at 8:14 AM on November 2, 2006


.

America. Fuck, yeah.
posted by you just lost the game at 8:17 AM on November 2, 2006


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posted by Mister_A at 8:18 AM on November 2, 2006


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posted by hal9k at 8:21 AM on November 2, 2006


damned shame.
posted by jonmc at 8:23 AM on November 2, 2006


.
posted by melt away at 8:23 AM on November 2, 2006


dots suck.
posted by smackfu at 8:24 AM on November 2, 2006


Maybe she should have gone public, risked a court martial, all that. Maybe she should have gone AWOL, requested a transfer, who knows what. Maybe she should just have accepted all the horrors being done around her.

But she certainly shouldn't be judged. Unlike her commanding officers, who should see a war crimes tribunal from the dock.
posted by imperium at 8:26 AM on November 2, 2006


"American martyr? I'm thinking not so much."

"That was a poor choice."


Frightening how callous we can be.

.
posted by knave at 8:29 AM on November 2, 2006


. My god, what have we become?
posted by verveonica at 8:30 AM on November 2, 2006


.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:31 AM on November 2, 2006


Here is the KNAU broadcast (mp3) by Kevin Elston. General Sanchez retired yesterday.
posted by taosbat at 8:43 AM on November 2, 2006


What have we become? We have become a nation stained with the blood of innocents. We have willingly marched into an abyss of torture and murder and evil.

We have draped ourselves with the banners of the righteous, and gone forth as modern crusaders, spreading death and destruction in our path.

What Rumsfeld orders, Cheney plans and Bush promotes, they do in our name. We are responsible. This is our regime, and either we change the regime, and try to make amends...or we embrace the evil and prepare to to suffer the fallout of our outrageous crusade.

For the evil we unleash will return to us in a crashing wave. We need to change the tide.

Rest in peace Alyssa Peterson. I light a candle in your memory, and curse the darkness that claimed you.
posted by dejah420 at 8:43 AM on November 2, 2006 [11 favorites]


I suppose I would caution against drawing the conclusion that she died instead of tortured, one does not necessarily lead to the other, does it? Nothing in that article led me to believe that this was the case, nor, I think, did the article intend to draw that conclusion. American martyr? I'm thinking not so much.
posted by msali


Is there another conclusion that one can reasonably draw? (Besides the obvious one that the military is once again covering up.)
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:45 AM on November 2, 2006


Er, how do we know she wasn't fragged for threatening to go public? Just saying...
posted by kid ichorous at 8:48 AM on November 2, 2006


Is it better that she might have been fragged for threatening to do the legal thing and go public than that she might have killed herself (partially) because she had deep and unresolvable differences with the "interrogation" methods the United States is using?

Somehow, to me, neither possibility is really palatable or defensible. Are they to you, kid ichorous?
posted by kalessin at 8:51 AM on November 2, 2006


A terribly sad passing. May her soul be in peace.

And dejah420, you're exactly right.
posted by dbiedny at 8:53 AM on November 2, 2006


She should have stayed alive and told everyone exactly what she saw.

Or maybe that was her plan, but they killed her and made it look like a suicide in order to keep her from doing it... and they forced her to take suicide prevention classes in order to make it more plausible. *blink*. Would people who already gave up their humanity stoop to that level to cover up their crimes? I think maybe. I mean at this point anything the government says is open to suspicion. They destroyed the records and what was inside her mind was just as much a "record" as was written down.

Not something I wanted to be thinking about, but yeah. If she did kill herself it's tragic. What a shame.
posted by delmoi at 8:54 AM on November 2, 2006


Is there another conclusion that one can reasonably draw?

She killed herself not as an act of heroism in the face of an impossible moral dilemma but rather because, like many people who kill themselves, she was mentally ill.
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:56 AM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Truly, it was not my intention to sound callous. I feel tremendous empathy for this woman and her loved ones. But I simply cannot agree, Empath, that this soldier killed herself BECAUSE she objected to torture and the horrors she was exposed to. Experience shows that there are a multitude of different factors that can lead to one's decision to end their life. I object to simple 'if/then' conclusions on something complex like suicide. As such, I would have a hard time calling her a martyr, that's all.
posted by msali at 8:58 AM on November 2, 2006


"Somehow, to me, neither possibility is really palatable or defensible. Are they to you, kid ichorous?"

Where in hell did I imply that? I'm raising the (admittedly faint) possibility that a crime is being covered for here.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:59 AM on November 2, 2006


I object to simple 'if/then' conclusions on something complex like suicide.

...like many people who kill themselves, she was mentally ill.

Wow. Yeah. 2+2=π?
posted by prostyle at 9:02 AM on November 2, 2006


Yeah, this really sucks. I've actually thought a lot about this as a young college-aged American who managed to hit double zero and get born into a family that can handle my education without the millitary's help. What would I do in a situation like that? Does anyone here think they could handle what they'd see in a place called The fucking Cage? I don't know if I could handle it. They've got a serious mind-fuck machine going on in the military. You're told time and time again that you live and die by the tough sons (and daughters) of bitches that you stand next to every day, and you believe it because it's fucking true. But then what do you do when they start doing shit that you can clearly see is evil and horrible and disgusting? Are you gonna stand up against the very people who are your lifeline and your only hope of seeing your mom/dad/kids/husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/hometown/dog ever again? In this place where the vast majority of the original inhabitants would just as soon do to you what you're friends and bosses are doing to those guys in The Cage? Or do you think that it's pretty much hopeless and you've got nowhere left to go? I can't answer that, but it's just a peek into the way I see the war. There but for the grace of the kickass sonuvabitch I must have been in a past life go I.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 9:02 AM on November 2, 2006


Fallen Heroes of Operation Iraqi Freedom: Army Spc. Alyssa R. Peterson.
posted by ericb at 9:05 AM on November 2, 2006


I'm unclear on what "suicide prevention class" might be. Is this training to prevent the student from committing suicide, or training to assist the student with preventing prisoners from committing suicide?
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:07 AM on November 2, 2006


...like many people who kill themselves, she was mentally ill.

Wow. Yeah. 2+2=π?


That is an example of another conclusion that one can reasonably draw. I don't mean to imply it's the only possible conclusion.
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:12 AM on November 2, 2006


.
.-- .... .- - .... .- - .... --. --- -.. .-- .-. --- ..- --. .... -
posted by klangklangston at 9:14 AM on November 2, 2006


On further reflection: I am a bit uncomfortable of making a martyr out of Spc. Peterson. In the face of torture there may have been options other than suicide. In this case, her suicide achieved little more than more death - as I'm sure that the actions to which she objected continue.

I'm not saying this isn't a tragedy, but perhaps this isn't heroism either. It's a sad choice made by a person who felt trapped in some situation. A person who is, and will be, missed dearly.
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:15 AM on November 2, 2006


"...As for individual guards or interrogators, whenever they are encouraged or ordered to use torture, two war crimes are committed: one against the torturer and the other against the prisoner. The torturer and the tortured are both victims, unless the torturer is a sadist or a loose cannon who needs to be court-martialed. This violation of conscience is sure to breed self-hatred, shame and mental torment for a lifetime to come..."

Kermit D. Johnson is a chaplain and major general in the U.S. Army (retired).
posted by taosbat at 9:19 AM on November 2, 2006 [3 favorites]


From the article: "Alyssa Peterson, a devout Mormon, had graduated from Flagstaff High School and earned a psychology degree from Northern Arizona University"

Her suicide over this tells me that maybe I should be less dismissive of adult Mormons.

But I still can't imagine a $cientologist refusing to torture anybody; in fact I picture an Elronite spending a few thousand on "auditing" to overcome being yucked out by a prisoner's gangrene.
posted by davy at 9:20 AM on November 2, 2006


Of course suicide is always "more than" the events that immediately precede the event. People who commit suicide generally have depression, are often young, and have access to the means (e.g. guns, drugs). That does not change the fact that people (with and without depression) who commit suicide have often experienced a recent trauma or precipitating event (there are a zillion articles for this obvious point, I've just grabbed the first two I found). It is also the case that people with depression may be more susceptible to trauma, becoming more depressed and more likely to attempt suicide.

I don't understand how anyone could suggest that because suicide by definition has multiple factors, that somehow the very important factor of the preceding trauma here does not matter.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:22 AM on November 2, 2006


I'm extremely dismissive of the Mormon faith, but I've learned not to be dismissive of Mormon's themselves. To a person, the devout Mormon's I've come into contact with have been the most fundamentally _decent_ people I've ever known, even though they aren't exactly the type of folks I'd spend very much time with.
posted by empath at 9:23 AM on November 2, 2006


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posted by Surfurrus at 9:28 AM on November 2, 2006


I hope, desperately hope that in as little time as possible we will can start recovering from this mess. Individually many of us now look at it and think "What the hell is wrong with us?" But some of us don't. Some of us think "Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do."

I hope soon those people saying 'we gotta do' will look back and think to themselves "What the hell was wrong with me? What the hell was wrong with us?"
posted by smallerdemon at 9:29 AM on November 2, 2006


elwoodwiles : I'm unclear on what "suicide prevention class" might be. Is this training to prevent the student from committing suicide, or training to assist the student with preventing prisoners from committing suicide?

I was wondering that as well. Though either way, it probably put the concept of suicide at the forefront of her thinking. Perhaps the FOIA on her note will come through and answer these questions.
posted by quin at 9:29 AM on November 2, 2006


Great article, taosbat.
posted by leftcoastbob at 9:32 AM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm absolutely certain if I was in Iraq, sent to torture people, and had access to a gun, I'd be dead by my own hand. I cannot imagine how terrifying it must be to be in a foreign land, surrounded by people who hate you, and told that you must allow and encourage torture by your entire social support system.
posted by 235w103 at 9:32 AM on November 2, 2006


Very sad, I wish she didn't "choose" to die or she will be there telling us what happened.

Which suggests me she "was suicided" ..even if she pulled the trigger herself, there are pits of depression and desperation from which one person can hardly come out , expecially if they are leaded to think there is no way out, no way out, no other choice except some quick way to end their misery.

That's convenient..no witness, only allegations.

Remember how you believed war in Iraq was a necessary evil and ultimately good ? The girl really believed the propaganda and god knows how many others soldiers still do and will do ; expecially the more callous ones are very subject to a well devised propaganda, expecially if they think no propaganda will ever convince them of anything.

Tough as iron..ahaha ridicolous, you are no iron.
posted by elpapacito at 9:35 AM on November 2, 2006


.
posted by Skwirl at 9:36 AM on November 2, 2006


Yeah, this really sucks. I've actually thought a lot about this as a young college-aged American who managed to hit double zero and get born into a family that can handle my education without the millitary's help.

It's not a question of no collage vs. millitary, it's a question of student loans vs. millitary. It's not like you can't go to school if you're poor and don't want to join the army.
posted by delmoi at 9:43 AM on November 2, 2006


Thanks, leftcoastbob. This story is any soldier's family's worst fear come true. I just emailed this set of links to someone who recently told me they thought we just shouldn't have mentioned torture at all and let the back-room types do what they needed to do to 'make the world safe for democracy.'
posted by taosbat at 9:51 AM on November 2, 2006


Just when I thought I was suffering outrage fatigue.
posted by Richard Daly at 9:52 AM on November 2, 2006


I'm unclear on what "suicide prevention class" might be. Is this training to prevent the student from committing suicide, or training to assist the student with preventing prisoners from committing suicide?

No need to overthink it. Here's the Navy manual for suicide prevention training. I will say that it appears to be less a kind of group therapy than it is a sort of "awareness" thing -- how to see the signs in others. My own experience with depression tells me that someone in a deep depression can externalize all their empathy, leaving none for themselves. It's not hard to conclude that going to suicide prevention class made her feel less hopeful.

I'm not entirely certain what could be meant by her suicide note saying it showed her how to commit suicide. It's not like she needed any additional weapons training, for example. She could have meant it showed her how to conceal her feelings better. On the other hand, a thoughtless instructor could have been telling third-hand tales about other suicides. That is, there's probably a high likelihood that the instructor for the suicide prevention class was just a fellow soldier with only the slimmest of training for that role.
posted by dhartung at 9:54 AM on November 2, 2006


Don't forget to vote motherfuckers.
posted by Mister_A at 9:57 AM on November 2, 2006


We have become a nation stained with the blood of innocents.

Yeah, because, you know, our hands were clean before 2003.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:59 AM on November 2, 2006


I can think of a few people I'd like to see attend that funeral.
posted by pax digita at 10:05 AM on November 2, 2006


...like many people who kill themselves, she was mentally ill.

Yup--like those crazies who attempted suicide in Guantanamo. It had to be mental illness rather than circumstances, right?
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:16 AM on November 2, 2006


Her suicide over this tells me that maybe I should be less dismissive of adult Mormons.

Most adult Mormons have to work as a missionary usually sometime in their early twenties. Since much of this missionary work is in non-English-speaking parts of the world, many of them have to learn a foreign language beforehand. For some Mormons among this group, they pick up foreign languages quite easily and learn an appreciation for the culture of other countries. (This is why Mormons are often disproportionately represented among linguists in both the military and civilian world.) Miss Peterson would definitely fit in that category. It was her knowledge of Dutch, obtained while on mission, that led her to get trained by the military in Arabic.
posted by jonp72 at 10:18 AM on November 2, 2006


I hope soon those people saying 'we gotta do' will look back and think to themselves "What the hell was wrong with me? What the hell was wrong with us?"

I just had a strong flashback to that scene at the end of The Tin Drum (the movie) where the father, as the Russian troops approach the city, takes a picture of Hitler out of its frame and replaces it with one of Beethoven. "Beethoven," he says. "Now there was a genius."

I hope all the people whose blogs I've been reading (in an act of some kind of fascinated masochism) over at Red State have their own Beethoven moment one day.
posted by jokeefe at 10:21 AM on November 2, 2006


I'm not entirely certain what could be meant by her suicide note saying it showed her how to commit suicide.

It's actually very easy to shoot yourself in the face and survive, if you don't do it properly.
posted by empath at 10:23 AM on November 2, 2006


On a related note...
posted by dbiedny at 10:24 AM on November 2, 2006


"It's actually very easy to shoot yourself in the face and survive, if you don't do it properly."

That's why I'd want a shotgun. How would you miss the right spot with 00 buck?

Incidentally, when I was a teenager I learned how to shoot myself by reading a Lawrence Sanders novel, I think The First Deadly Sin.

("I am Joe's ____.")
posted by davy at 11:02 AM on November 2, 2006


My stomach is in knots after reading these links, and particularly this comment:
...like many people who kill themselves, she was mentally ill.
I think it's possible that a truely sane person can break under deeply un-sane conditions, don't you? Especially someone bright enough to comprehend just how unhinged the system is that they're partaking in? Just read empath's link in that first comment to get a feel for our very possible future. Jesus christ, this cycle we've started... goddam this administration and what we've allowed it to do to us

.
posted by maryh at 11:07 AM on November 2, 2006


inability to separate her personal feelings from her professional experience ...

Translation: too sane to be of further use
posted by Twang at 11:17 AM on November 2, 2006 [2 favorites]


To kill oneself rather than actively oppose injustice is a great act of cowardice. To know the right thing to do, but forgo it in favor of suicide is not evidence of mental illness, but rather of a weak will. This is a hero, and a better martyr for such a cause.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:18 AM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


"Voluntarily balance the motives for and against, and then on the basis of the advice decide for life or death, that is the decision of a great soul"- Pliny

In 1307, about the time the Divina Commedia was published the attitude toward suicide in the west was that people who killed themselves were condemned to the forests in the seventh circle of hell (the violent - in this case, against themselves) never to find rest. It was a sin of waste as well and there was no forgiveness no matter the circumstances.

But an exception in the Divine Comedy was made for Cato the Younger.

The term “martyr” is debatable. I would call Peterson a paladin however. And she acted honorably in defiance of despicable acts whether she was killed or committed suicide. Her resistance alone is the sign of a great soul. Rest in peace soldier.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:27 AM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


My stomach is in knots after reading these links...

Let's remember that thirteenkiller didn't come to the conclusion that she was mentally ill, just that mental illness is a reasonable explanation for suicide.
posted by sexymofo at 11:32 AM on November 2, 2006


"To kill oneself rather than actively oppose injustice is a great act of cowardice."

Have you read the fucking article, fool? What do you think Peterson could have done that would have been effective against the injustice? How do you think she could have gotten out of this assignment and worked to end it? Imagine being alone, in hostile territory, in the power of evil monsters bent on making you as evil as them. You think maybe she should have gone on Geraldo, maybe after hitchhiking to Abu Dhabi and working her passage home on a freighter?

I think she did an honorable thing by refusing to participate. I don't really know if she really WAS trapped, but in any case she went to her God like a soldier -- not a torturer. (Me, I'd want to frag a few officers first.) And yes, I'm assuming she did kill herself, but even if she didn't I still think her rather palatudinous.
posted by davy at 11:34 AM on November 2, 2006


.
posted by amberglow at 11:37 AM on November 2, 2006


anotherpanacea: you're no better than any of the 101st fighting keyboarders. You don't know what you would do were you in her place.
posted by empath at 11:44 AM on November 2, 2006


...cowardice.
Damn, tough crowd.
How about this, then? - perhaps she hoped that her suicide, sure to gain media attention in the U.S., would lead to an investigation that would bring the interrogation techniques to light. Perhaps she was trapped and had nowhere to turn, and envisioned that one day people would find out the circumstances of her death and think "What have we become?"
posted by zoinks at 11:46 AM on November 2, 2006


Suicide rates are higher among combat troops than the civilian population. PTSD is a very real thing. I have no problem believing that her mental issues were extraordinarily exacerbated by being in combat and made even worse by witnessing torture.

Guys get back from wars and kill them selves rather than sleep and DREAM about their experiences.

So yeah. She likely killed herself rather than torture.

Ohs noes! I just called our troops suicidal and mentally ill! Bush is gonna be all over me. Maybe if I phrase this post as a joke punch line it will sound better?

Did you hear the one about the three soldiers who were water boarding an eleven year old girl in Iraq?

One blew her brains out...


Hmmm. Not funny at all. Gotta work on that delivery.
posted by tkchrist at 11:48 AM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


I think she did an honorable thing by refusing to participate.

I agree that she did well in refusing to partecipate, I don't know about "honor"

I don't really know if she really WAS trapped, but in any case she went to her God like a soldier -- not a torturer.

What is better : to make God happy that you were brave or to rat out these psycopaths who happen to be your colleagues ? That requires a lot more courage , a lot more determination and quite a strong ability to withstand fear of retaliation without giving up. That, to me, is a lot harder then just shooting yourself, God can wait forever.

Yet I understand she did what she did because, probably, she felt she was the only one sane, but hopeless, in a sea of psycopaths. When one feels so alone I guess there is an enormous failure in society, that extends to us all.
posted by elpapacito at 11:48 AM on November 2, 2006


To know the right thing to do, but forgo it in favor of suicide is not evidence of mental illness, but rather of a weak will.

It's too bad she couldn't live up to your lofty ideals, anotherpanacea. I guess she wasn't the Übermensch you're looking for.
posted by gigawhat? at 11:53 AM on November 2, 2006


To kill oneself rather than actively oppose injustice is a great act of cowardice.

Oh Jeez. Mr. Compassion, there.

Suicide is an irreversable symptom of illness. You think people who have an illness are weak willed? You and Limbaugh.

"Hey, you, the guy spazzing out over there! Don't give me any shit about it being Parkinsons! You WEAK WILLED motherfucker!"
posted by tkchrist at 11:54 AM on November 2, 2006


anotherpanacea: To kill oneself rather than actively oppose injustice is a great act of cowardice. To know the right thing to do, but forgo it in favor of suicide is not evidence of mental illness, but rather of a weak will.

We ask our soldiers to do many unpalatable things, and they expect themselves and each other to be able to do them. What if she believed that these "interrogation techniques" that her "weak will" could not tolerate were vital to the war effort? What if she thought she was a burden to the unit? Few people who commit suicide are trying to make a political statement, but many believe that the world is better off without them.
posted by zennie at 11:55 AM on November 2, 2006


zennie is right.

People who carry a great deal of shame, that they feel they can't escape from, see suicide as an honorable out. She still felt bonded to her fellow soldiers but her conscience just couldn't rationalize their actions. The shame and conflict from all sides must have been terrible.
posted by tkchrist at 12:01 PM on November 2, 2006


I think that war in-of-itself is an act of mental illness, so it is no surprise that in every war we see large numbers of people fall victim to mental illness of some form. An act of cowardice might have been to retreat in oneself and blindly follow orders refusing to acknowledge the atrocities that happen until way after the fact.
We all have choices, and it is impossible to sit back and with any accuracy either raise to sainthood, or condemn as weak the actions of another in terribly difficult situations. It is sad she killed herself, and the whole situation is remarkably sad and tragic. No one except her family and friends will remember her name a year from now, or even the event two years from now... not even us who write about it.
This is what war is, this is what the real struggle should be about. War is such a terrible event that it drives people mad, and causes untold amount of suffering, but it is also something that societies-in-general pathologically seem to accept as natural. It is sad, and it is something we need to grow out of.
posted by edgeways at 12:13 PM on November 2, 2006 [3 favorites]


There may have been other reasons for her wanting an out. Remember she was a female soldier, subject to sexual harassment as well as this bullshit. There have been documented cases of soldiers dying of dehydration because they wouldn't drink in the afternoon, to avoid going to the latrine after dark.
posted by lysdexic at 12:18 PM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


To kill oneself rather than actively oppose injustice is a great act of cowardice.
posted by anotherpanacea

An act of cowardice might have been to retreat in oneself and blindly follow orders refusing to acknowledge the atrocities that happen until way after the fact.
posted by edgeways


I agree with edgeways. The cowardly, dishonorable thing to do would be the "just doing my job" defense. To call her cowardly is just wrong. The cowards are the ones who know that what they are doing is wrong and yet they continue to do it.
posted by leftcoastbob at 12:40 PM on November 2, 2006


.

And what zennie said.
posted by languagehat at 12:44 PM on November 2, 2006


elwoodwiles : I'm unclear on what "suicide prevention class" might be. Is this training to prevent the student from committing suicide, or training to assist the student with preventing prisoners from committing suicide?

I'm with you. I read it to mean that she was sent to a training to learn how to prevent suicide among those she was interrogating. Those kinds of trainings do exist.

If she was sent to suicide prevention class for herself, I'd be very interested to read/hear what lead up to that - whose idea was it and how did she react to that? I wouldn't be at all surprised if she was set-up/fragged if she opposed the torture and especially if she threatened to expose it.

If she did kill herself over this, I do think it's honorable, although it would have been better to publicize the problem. None of us lived her life, though, so obviously we can't say what she should have done.
posted by Amizu at 12:45 PM on November 2, 2006


“I agree that she did well in refusing to partecipate, I don't know about "honor" “

Well, we agree on the first bit. That’s enough.
To explain what I mean about honor (which I do know about) - there are eastern and western traditions of the warrior’s path. In both traditions there are methods of atonement, bravery and victory in defeat. In the eastern tradition, seppuku is well known. Seppuku was used to prevent one from falling into enemy hands.
What is not generally known is that there has been a western tradition of suicide to prevent falling into enemy hands as well.
Roman soldiers ambushed by Gauls under Sabinus committed suicide. At the Battle of Teutoburg Forest Quintillius Varus fell on his own sword.
The Gauls had a similar tradition as did the Dacians, the Gallic, most of the “barbarians” did as well (the Jews at Masada come to mind).
The philosophy of death before dishonor typically covers one’s country. That one would rather die than allow one’s own failings disgrace God, Country, Corps (or unit).
When defeat is certain, it is better to die than submit and be forced to become something other than what you are.
It robs the enemy of their power by depriving them of the ability to choose your destiny for you - whether death, imprisonment, or slavery.
By removing that power, one denies the enemy total victory and one can maintain the integrity of one’s own legacy.

That can be at times immoral, wrong, unproducttive, unjust - any number of other things, and indeed it’s not always noble, but it is honorable. As honorable as following orders that mean your death or someone elses. It’s the ultimate tribute of one’s life to one’s country.

In this case, if Petersen has indeed killed herself - she has inverted that tradition - much as Cato did - to indict her country.
To point out their disgrace, their betrayal to God, Country and Corps and what those are supposed to stand for.
To revoke her connection to it.
To deprive us of her life and her commitment to those ideals, rather than break them or allow them to be disgraced by the acts of those around her.


“It is possible to live on earth as you mean to live hereafter. But if men will not let you, then quit the house of life...
Nevertheless, so long as nothing of the kind obliges me to depart, I remain, my own master, and none shall hinder me from doing what I choose.”
- Marcus Aurelius

“At such a time we must not disgrace ourselves: hitherto we have never submitted to slavery, even when it brought no danger with it. And I think it is God who has given us this privilege, that we can die noble and as free men...Let our wives die unabused, our children without the knowledge of slavery.” - Eleazar Ben Ya'ir at Masada

There are differences in the suicide of Cato the Younger - who refused to live in a world led by Julius Caesar and indeed negated his power over him by killing himself (which is why I compare her to Cato) - and those of Thich Quang Duc, (or Jan Palach for that matter) and say Bobby Sands (or Thomas Ashe even) or the folks in Gitmo. The latter were/are held in the power of the enemy.

There’s a difference in the act when it’s in the midst of one’s own.

But all that concerns the term “honor.”

The effectivness of such acts, their inherent good, what might have been better to do and other such things are debatable.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:56 PM on November 2, 2006 [3 favorites]


And yet the fucking press worries about what the fuck John Kerry says.
posted by UseyurBrain at 2:29 PM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Suicide is an irreversable symptom of illness. You think people who have an illness are weak willed? You and Limbaugh.

"Hey, you, the guy spazzing out over there! Don't give me any shit about it being Parkinsons! You WEAK WILLED motherfucker!"


Ack! How judgmental of me. Thank you for showing me the error of my ways... I never really thought about it like that before. I totally see how termors and putting a shotgun in your mouth are EXACTLY IDENTICAL.

I've had friends who committed suicide, and friends with Parkinson's... and I stand by my initial statements. Clinical depression is completely different than taking the easy way out of a moral dilemma.

What if she believed that these "interrogation techniques" that her "weak will" could not tolerate were vital to the war effort?

In that case, she was weak and stupid.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:29 PM on November 2, 2006


http://www.iraqwarheroes.com/peterson.htm
posted by jam_pony at 2:34 PM on November 2, 2006


.
posted by russilwvong at 2:34 PM on November 2, 2006


I feel terrible about what this woman had to go through, and I don't doubt that her experience with torture contributed in some way to her suicide.

But I think phrasing it as 'she would rather die than become a torturer' is misleading. After she refused to work as an interrogator, she was transfered to another duty. She was not being forced to torture people.
posted by bookish at 2:44 PM on November 2, 2006


U.S. citizen alleges he was tortured in U.S. custody inside the U.S.
posted by homunculus at 3:00 PM on November 2, 2006


smedleyman, quite an impressive explanation, thanks !

When defeat is certain, it is better to die than submit and be forced to become something other than what you are.

That is something I can't really conceive : if somebody is forcing me to do something by using physical violence on me or by breaking me physically and/or psycologically, my will remains the same ,NOT supporting their intentions, even if my actions could tell another story.

Being forced to do something doesn't change my identity a bit. Doing what they want me to do under menace doesn't change ME, it changes my behavior, they are not the same.

Consider for instance the soldiers of 2nd world war that claimed they obeyed hideous orders under the threat of violence or death. Some proclaimed their innocence to cover up their adhesion to the orders, others actually were scared silly : both are responsible of their acts, no doubt about that, but the latter ones didn't want to and possibly attempted to resist.

I don't think they were supposed to commit suicide ; I would rather have them survive and try to sabotage the orders as that doesn't conflict with self conservation instinct.

To deprive us of her life and her commitment to those ideals, rather than break them or allow them to be disgraced by the acts of those around her.

Well in a way she was unique and irreplaceable, that is sure and she shouldn't have died and probably was mobbed into thinking death was the only possible way.

That is more then despicable and must be fought, but one can't fight after death ; she gave an example of will, courage and belief in human values when she decided to face the repercussion of saying "NO", but when she pulled the trigger (if she did) she just showed she become a broken human, unable to keep on fighting.

I sympathize with her weakness and her pain, but she is NOT an example to follow , imho, because death may seem to solve problems, but it doesn't.
posted by elpapacito at 3:15 PM on November 2, 2006


And thank God that there is still at least one journalist around who had the guts and the perseverence to get this news out.
posted by donfactor at 3:34 PM on November 2, 2006


Clinical depression is completely different than taking the easy way out of a moral dilemma.

Yes. Yes it is. And it's likey she suffered from clinical depression, PTSD, AND faced a moral dilemma. Though I'm not her doctor, it's a reasonable guess. I don't know all the facts. And niether do you.

You admit suicide is often a sympton of clinical depression. Yet you stand by your statements? Well. I pity your supposed "friends."
posted by tkchrist at 3:43 PM on November 2, 2006


.
posted by furtive at 4:03 PM on November 2, 2006


anotherpanacea: I totally see how termors and putting a shotgun in your mouth are EXACTLY IDENTICAL.

actually it was her service rifle, if you bothered to RTFA

(fuck off and die)
posted by radiosig at 4:46 PM on November 2, 2006


This woman's death isn't evidence for or against any government policy other than the military's suicide prevention efforts. People kill themselves all the time for dumb causes, and the fact that she may have been distraught over our interrogation policies at the time she killed herself says nothing about our interrogation policies. She's neither a martyr nor a coward, just a dead 27-year-old girl who was failed by her friends.
posted by gsteff at 4:58 PM on November 2, 2006


Assuming that it was suicide.

.
posted by gsteff at 5:04 PM on November 2, 2006


Mormonism is key, but in the role of her ecclesiastical leader, because he has everything to do with it. Mormons confess everything, and often kill themselves when they can't live with the stupid go-along advice they get.
posted by Brian B. at 5:07 PM on November 2, 2006


In that case, she was weak and stupid.

It must have been another anotherpanacea, a much, much less hypocritical anotherpanacea who Asked:

Should I lie about being an atheist in order to get a job?
May 8, 2006 7:26 AM


Have you written up your sterling actions in that situation for your new version of Profiles in Courage, anotherpanacea? That would make some mighty amusing reading, in light of what you've written here, I think.
posted by jamjam at 5:10 PM on November 2, 2006


Some cold-hearted motherf***ers in here.

You'll learn, eventually. And it won't be pleasant, not at all.

For Alyssa:

.

For you arrogant, spineless, whining cold-ass bastards:

*spit*
posted by zoogleplex at 5:10 PM on November 2, 2006


I'm with you zoogle.

*spit**spit*
(ooh. it stuck to my chin. i hate that)
posted by tkchrist at 6:34 PM on November 2, 2006


KNAU has issued a correction to this story.

...while the army investigation does state she objected to interrogation techniques used on detainees, it does not conclude that those objections were related to her suicide.
posted by whir at 7:56 PM on November 2, 2006


anotherpanacea: In that case, she was weak and stupid.

I hope that time brings you a more nuanced understanding of human fallibility.
posted by zennie at 7:59 PM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


(Not that that means the two things weren't related, of course, just that the army report didn't say so.)
posted by whir at 8:09 PM on November 2, 2006


The Army report of her 2003 death was probably produced before abuses at Abu Ghraib was even a rumor. Any missing details of this in an Army report would be in the Army's interest, and it just fuels suspicion of foul play.
posted by Brian B. at 8:27 PM on November 2, 2006


Bad aim.
posted by wobh at 8:39 PM on November 2, 2006


Mormons confess everything, and often kill themselves when they can't live with the stupid go-along advice they get.
Care to document either assertion?

As a lifelong 'Mormon' I have never heard any doctrine of confessing everything to an ecclesiastical leader. If you have something to repent of, you confess to yourself and to God; then, if it's something that affects the rest of the church, they deserve to know; or if you are likely to require exceptional support and counsel, you go to your bishop for that. That's a far cry from 'confess everything.'

And 'often kill themselves' is, erm, kind of a strong claim as well.

.
posted by eritain at 1:30 AM on November 3, 2006


"...As for individual guards or interrogators, whenever they are encouraged or ordered to use torture, two war crimes are committed: one against the torturer and the other against the prisoner. The torturer and the tortured are both victims, unless the torturer is a sadist or a loose cannon who needs to be court-martialed. This violation of conscience is sure to breed self-hatred, shame and mental torment for a lifetime to come..."

Kermit D. Johnson is a chaplain and major general in the U.S. Army (retired).
posted by taosbat at 5:19 PM GMT on November 2


My husband has read a great deal about war crimes in the second world war, and he says that this is true: former concentration camp guards didn't just go away and live happy lives - most felt extreme stress while in the camps, and many committed suicide after the war.
posted by jb at 4:04 AM on November 3, 2006


Everyone knows Burke's line, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Yet many seem to think that swallowing a sidearm is sufficient action. It's not; it's the equivalent of emigrating when you grow tired of your nation's policies. I myself have only occasionally been in tough moral situations, and I have acted the coward more often than not. (Though managed to live to tell about it.) Yet this does not change the fact that whistleblowers are braver than suicides; they face what others flee. No one knows for sure whether Alyssa Peterson died by her own hand or was murdered by her fellow soldiers... but if she did know the horror of our torture techniques and didn't report them to her superiors and then to the media, then she is complicit in that evil. The fact that she chose to kill herself doesn't change that... it just shows that she -had- a moral sense, which is more than we can say for many of the interrogators who the military and intelligence services have trained and set upon the world.

The depth of disgust some of you feel at this judgment of mine indicates that you are not treating this woman as a moral agent, but rather as a victim. Personally, I find that disgusting; had she been a German SS officer in Auschwitz, you would agree that her responsibility was greater than simply ending herself, that it was incumbent on her to aid the Jews whose murder had caused her guilt. Why do you withhold your judgment here? Is it because she's a woman, and thus automatically a victim, incapable of acting and fighting for the right and the good? Somehow, that seems worse than simply commenting that some suicides are motivated by cowardice.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:52 AM on November 3, 2006


Abu Ghraib Abuser Returns to Iraq
Former Army Dog Handler Convicted of Abuse Returns to Iraq With Military Police...

posted by taosbat at 6:50 AM on November 3, 2006


RAF doctor Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith argued that the illegality of Britain’s participation in the invasion of Iraq required him to refuse an order to deploy to Basra, after serving two tours of duty in Iraq. Kendall-Smith was found guilty on five charges of disobeying orders, and sentenced to a penalty of eight months in prison. As well as the jail sentence, which he serves in a civilian prison, Kendall-Smith was ordered to pay £20,000 towards his defence costs.

See the difference?
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:53 AM on November 3, 2006


As a lifelong 'Mormon' I have never heard any doctrine of confessing everything to an ecclesiastical leader. If you have something to repent of, you confess to yourself and to God; then, if it's something that affects the rest of the church, they deserve to know; or if you are likely to require exceptional support and counsel, you go to your bishop for that. That's a far cry from 'confess everything.'

It depends. Mormons have mandatory interviews that ask everything too, especially the masturbation habits of teenagers in private sessions with middle-aged men. Also, I've never heard of your methods before. For you to prove your "doctrinal" claims, you would need to link the secret handbook that deals with these non-quotable "doctrines" and trigger a lawsuit.

And 'often kill themselves' is, erm, kind of a strong claim as well. Indeed it is. Mormons apologize for the embarrassing trend by citing Mormon studies that show that "good" Mormons are least likely to kill themselves.
posted by Brian B. at 10:26 AM on November 3, 2006


“Being forced to do something doesn't change my identity a bit. Doing what they want me to do under menace doesn't change ME, it changes my behavior, they are not the same.”

Certainly, from that perspective. However the honorable thing to do is to rob the enemy of that chance to force you to do anything. It is not “you” we’re talking about. It’s a legionnaire, it’s a samurai (and modern equivalents). And if you are one, than that is you - despite your wife, kids, interests, what have you - your identity is “samurai” nothing else. And it is that identity you die for. Not the decent guy who’s good with his kids, likes chess, enjoys history and eating omlettes, etc - that identity, no they can’t change. But they can disgrace the samurai by making him eat shit and such. To a large degree it’s image, both self and public. Symbolic.
The Immortals for example, were for all intents and purposes, actually immortal, because none of them ever died. They’d go into battle at a certain number. Their ranks would be replaced and they would maintain the exact same number of troops. Not one of the “Immortals” ever died. Of course, that’s pure symbolism, but every army fears those last ditch warriors nevertheless, because however you label them, they’re more willing to die than surrender.

“I sympathize with her weakness and her pain, but she is NOT an example to follow , imho, because death may seem to solve problems, but it doesn't.” -posted by elpapacito

Again, matter of perspective here. Some people take “God” very seriously and will kill for him. Some people - who take “God” as - if not more - seriously will give their entire lives to helping their fellow man. Whether “God” exists or not, those effects are there.
Same thing with honor.
I don’t know what she felt. I have no idea what her motives were. I’m not interested in debating your opinion because one’s opinion is so subjective.
(Is Led Zepplin better than the Beatles?)
It can be a direct confrontation, not an avoidance of problems.
Now I agree with you that it’s a waste. But I don’t know that she was trying to solve any problems. (Indeed, none of us have all the facts)
But the one fact of the matter is she was a soldier.
Suicide as a civilian and this kind of suicide as a soldier are two very different things.
Doesn’t invalidate your opinion of sucide as a whole, just differentiates the context.
And perhaps not an example to follow in civilian life, but there’s a lot of things appropriate to certain settings that are inappropriate elsewhere.

“Personally, I find that disgusting; had she been a German SS officer in Auschwitz, you would agree that her responsibility was greater than simply ending herself, that it was incumbent on her to aid the Jews whose murder had caused her guilt. Why do you withhold your judgment here?”

Overwhelming force. Which, again, in the face of which there is a tradition of suicide.
If she fought, they could have court martialed her, or done any number of things. Perhaps she thought she might falter and recant.
Perhaps she thought - whatever it is she might have thought.
In this case however, whatever she thought or meant isn’t relevent. She wasn’t some officer in Auschwitz, she wasn’t a leader, she was an enlisted intelligence specialist.
She was a soldier. The fact that she killed herself as a soldier stripped those powers from her potential accusers.
Certainly her death means her actual voice won’t be heard in condemnation of torture. But the act has been heard.
And in acting she has silenced the voices which would deny or distort the truth of what she had to say. Not the subject entire. We cannot demand she suddenly be a great human like Ghandi - that happens in the movies maybe, not in real life.
In the same way I’ve illustrated above - in the face of a superior power which can do any number of things to you, present any number of things publically, make you say things you do not mean, brainwash you, etc. etc. - you deny them that power by taking your life.
Your suicide as a soldier maintains intact your integrity and your position. They cannot brainwash you. They can’t make you recant your position. They can do nothing but prop up your corpse as proof that they are more powerful than you and they can kill you.
But that also proves that you were not defeated. You refused to yield and chose death instead.
Of course, much of that is speculative. Perhaps it was solely dispair. Perhaps she should have done something else. But that might have meant disgracing or fighting other soldiers, itself a dishonorable act. Maybe that would have been better. Maybe not. It certainly wouldn’t have changed any minds or gained any adherants to her cause.
I myself am not without resources and it’s been a Sisyphean task to make any headway at all on this. We’re not all MLK or Ghandi. If I was rich, didn’t have a family to support, was a genius or a magnificent public speaker maybe I could do more. Unfortunately what more I could do would be to raise hell and create havoc, which is where my real talents lie, but I think that would be very counterproductive (I suspect that’s what the Fed is currently waiting for with baited breath) So I’m fighting with my hands tied.
But we all do what we can. This is what she could do, and did. (If in fact that was her motivation). It’s one of the traditional options for military personnel. The final act of resistance.
And I recognize it as the act of a soldier, and I can’t take that away from her. No one can. That’s the point.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:32 AM on November 3, 2006


had she been a German SS officer in Auschwitz, you would agree that her responsibility was greater than simply ending herself, that it was incumbent on her to aid the Jews whose murder had caused her guilt.

No, that doesn't really map, because the SS officer is even more powerless in that situation, and any dissent there was extremely likely to be suicide anyway. So no, I wouldn't condemn the SS for "just" killing herself. The American, she had more power in her situation. She may not have realized it. Or perhaps she did know how effectively other soldiers who have spoken out against the war have been attacked, in the media and at home, and felt forced to try a different method... who knows?
posted by furiousthought at 10:40 AM on November 3, 2006


Smedleyman- You are eloquently defending a position which does not apply to Peterson's case. I acknowledge it as a good defense of the Gauntanamo Bay internees that committed suicide, however. The difference between "Death before Dishonor" and "suicide as a political act" is clearly one of intent. Detained without trial or hope of one, tormented by American soldiers who specialized in cruelty, the intent of the suicidal prisoner is exactly as you describe: to wrest some form of action from a system that would make them a victim. Peterson had relatively easy access to friends and family, could have smuggled documents and testimony to the media, and yet apparently decided to allow the threat of dishonor to deter her.

Of course, it is entirely possible that further inquiries will reveal that she was murdered, or that she had simply grown tired of life, or that the interrogation assignment was merely happenstance and her real problem was a jilted lover or somesuch. But everything I've read suggests that she allowed her fellow soldiers to continue to dishonor themselves and the US military through their unethical and probably unlawful torture techniques. That's not a choice between death and dishonor; it's not either/or. She chose of death AND dishonor. In that sense, she was literally stupid: she made a simple moral calculation in error, allowing a failure of foresight and imagination to do tremendous damage to herself, her family, and her country.

furiousthought- there are documented examples of SS guards and German soldiers helping out the Jewish resistance. things are rarely as impossible as they seem.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:11 AM on November 3, 2006


things are rarely as impossible as they seem.

...it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity....
posted by zennie at 11:53 AM on November 3, 2006


many seem to think that swallowing a sidearm is sufficient action.

Or. Many seem to think swallowing a side arm is a tragic fucking waste.
posted by tkchrist at 2:19 PM on November 3, 2006


An Abu Ghraib Offender's Return to Iraq Is Stopped
posted by taosbat at 2:49 PM on November 3, 2006


Does the Military Send Sick Soldiers to War?
posted by homunculus at 7:44 PM on November 3, 2006


Brian B., I don't want to continue a derail, but I can't let some things go unrebutted. Gentle public, this post will be my last on the subject. OK, that's quite enough derail outta me. If you choose to reply, I shall most likely read, but the thread is about Alyssa Peterson after all. You've made your claim, I've said my piece at appalling length, maybe you'll repeat your claim, who will stop the rain?
posted by eritain at 4:53 AM on November 4, 2006


U.S. Fights Detainee Access to Attorney

By MATT APUZZO
The Associated Press
Saturday, November 4, 2006; 12:38 AM

WASHINGTON -- A suspected terrorist who spent years in a secret CIA prison should not be allowed to speak to a civilian attorney, the Bush administration argues, because he could reveal the agency's closely guarded interrogation techniques...
posted by taosbat at 6:26 AM on November 4, 2006



“Smedleyman- You are eloquently defending a position which does not apply to Peterson's case.”

I appreciate the compliment. I think we’re defending two - not necessarily mutually exclusive points of view. I concede to yours, which if I understand correctly boils down to there are better more ethical things she could have done. I agree.
My essential point is that honor does not necessarily serve the highest ethic. If I’m ordered to kill the next group that comes over the hill and it’s a family with a couple of kids - if I kill them, that is an honorable act.
That point might require some explanation.
My superiors might have intelligence, for example, that says this group was actually suicide bombers wired with explosives moving in some civilians or our barracks, etc. I’m not in that loop, but I am honor bound to follow the orders of my superiors.
On the other hand they might be innocent civilians themselves, in which case my course of action is to determine whether my superior was acting alone in delivering this illegal order or if it goes higher up the chain. If, as this young soldier might well have discovered, it’s so far up the chain as to be policy, there is little from within the command structure she can do.
A German soldier serving the Nazi regime for example could surrender, refuse to fight, etc. - those are dishonorable acts, however morally correct they are. “Dishonorable” has become somewhat watered down to be a generally pejorative term. I don’t mean it in that sense.
Indeed, her fellow soldiers are not acting dishonorably in that they are following the orders of their superiors - (not everyone sees torturing an enemy as wrong). They are not acting honorably however, since they are not serving the best interests of their country or their fellows.
It’s a tough point to explain to someone who hasn’t lived and is willing to die by it. I am still willing to give my life over a matter of honor. One can argue - quite justifiably - that I should not, because I have a wife, kids, family that depend on me. The higher moral imperative would be to serve them and honor be damned. But it is part of who I am. I would, if I could figure out how, die to free those being tortured, or risk torture myself. Not because I’m such a great guy or I have more empathy for those people or anything else, but because I believe in and serve certain ideals - one of which is honor. Even if it means my death and my family maybe going hungry. You can’t live on honor.
And again we can argue effectiveness, and certainly what was more right to do - this was not, for example, an act of compassion or an ethical act, and it’s morally questionable in a number of different ways. But it is within the sphere of honor. She did not betray her country, her fellows, her oath. And she ended her service in the most extreme manner possible, negating any possibility of reconciliation.
Of course, whether that was by design or not determines whether it was indeed an honorable act. So, again, I concede the points you make. I’m more forgiving certainly, but that’s not relevant for debate purposes. And my argument is based on several assumptions that might not be true, so I can only really clarify what I mean by honor. Whether it applies or not I dunno.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:59 AM on November 6, 2006


Hi, Smedleyman, may I call your attention to this link posted by homunculus (re: our earlier conversation about Mother Courage)?
posted by taosbat at 5:39 PM on November 6, 2006


Thanks taosbat. Much appreciated. (I’ll re-link an e-mail acct. at some point. Right now I’m keeping my cards close to my chest)
posted by Smedleyman at 9:58 AM on November 7, 2006


I'm just glad you saw the link. ;)
posted by taosbat at 1:03 PM on November 7, 2006


Interview with Kevin Elston.
posted by homunculus at 2:55 PM on November 7, 2006


Thanks homunculus
“AMY GOODMAN: And her parents, her family, her brother, do they want more information?
KEVIN ELSTON: No, they definitely don't.”

See, I get where anotherpanacea et.al are coming from, but sometimes it’s just too much. We’re not all heroes. Sometimes it just breaks you. This is a grieving family. If it were my sister or daughter I’d be in a pretty bad place too. I suspect given my natural disposition I’d be delivering some serious pain in looking for an answer. But that’s me. And that’s not always the best thing to do. Not even mostly.
Reminds me of that firefighter who said he didn’t want to think too deeply about 9/11 because then he’d have to do something about it. Wounds to the psyche are the worst. People stereotype returning soldiers as emotionally scarred and such, but rarely do they think about why.
“Yeah, he lost a buddy.”
Ever thought about what that means day by day? You see his family. Maybe some uncle doesn’t like you. Maybe some cousin of his doesn’t like the war. Maybe his wife blames you for not pulling him out or something. And there are his friends at home. And the guys back in your unit. The whole process. And life just rolls on everywhere else without stopping.
There are reasons that for example after the death of a child a couple sometimes breaks up. There are reasons some otherwise sane, capable people are homeless. That emotional trauma affects you the rest of your life.
And that’s not even the big picture stuff. And then there’s something like this where it’s your buddy seriously hurting some guy.
99 times out of 100 a hero is a person with no other options. And even if they are the best of the best, they’re often reviled in their time. MLK. Lincoln. People hated them so much they assassinated them. Hell, they crucified Jesus. What, was that a fluke? No one charged the Roman legions to take him down? Of course not. Sometimes the best you can do is just dodge the juggernaut, take your wounds and grief and take care of yourself and your family.
If it were me, I’d want answers why my daughter or sister killed herself. I’d want to know what it is she saw. But I can’t say knowing would do any better. But I’d want to bear witness. I’d want to at least do that. So maybe some day I could tell someone - hey look, this happened. Like a concentration camp survivor.
But there are reasons there aren’t many concentration camp survivors.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:19 PM on November 7, 2006


sometimes it’s just too much. We’re not all heroes. Sometimes it just breaks you.... I’d want to bear witness. I’d want to at least do that. So maybe some day I could tell someone - hey look, this happened. Like a concentration camp survivor.

This is exactly the way I feel about the fact that my government tortures people. And this is one of the reasons that many people who survived the camps survived: they felt they had to live and speak as witnesses to the horrors they had behelf. (Black sites and interrogation units are just new words for concentration camp.) It reminds me of what Primo Levi wrote about his experiences in The Drowned and the Saved: "Certainly, I could have killed myself or got myself killed; but I wanted to survive, to avenge myself and bear witness.... We, the survivors are not the true witnesses... we survivors are not only an exiguous but also anomalous minority. We… did not touch bottom. Those who did so, who saw the Gorgon, have not returned to tell about it or have returned mute, but they are... the submerged, the complete witnesses...."
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:12 PM on November 7, 2006


behelf = beheld
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:19 PM on November 7, 2006


It reminds me of what Primo Levi wrote

I suppose you must realize that Levi is believed to have committed suicide, but did not leave a note, so that his many admirers around the world are still confused as to the meaning and circumstances of his death, unlike Alyssa Peterson, whose death could only be stripped of its meaning by a deliberate conspiracy of the US government-- and people like you, anotherpanacea, who cooperate with them, however inadvertently, by belittling her sacrifice.
posted by jamjam at 6:40 PM on November 8, 2006


I assume you mean "sacrifice, n."

4. a. The destruction or surrender of something valued or desired for the sake of something having, or regarded as having, a higher or a more pressing claim; the loss entailed by devotion to some other interest; also, the thing so devoted or surrendered.

But perhaps it is:

5. a. A loss incurred in selling something below its value for the sake of getting rid of it. Hence, an article sold ‘at a sacrifice’.


Are you really incapable of differentiating the suicidal death of a torturer and the suicidal death of a torture victim? Didn't the Wiesel quote you link to tip you off? ("Primo Levi died at Auschwitz forty years later.") More to the point, does accusing Peterson of complicity in torture, as I have done here, really constitute belittling? She may be falsely accused, but she's certainly not being taken lightly. Are you even paying attention, jamjam? You're usually sharper than this.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:11 PM on November 8, 2006


Support the Troops: Treatment Instead of Jail for Returning Vets
posted by homunculus at 1:59 PM on November 9, 2006


Support the Troops: Oppose Their Actions
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:59 PM on November 9, 2006


Torture, the Geneva Conventions and the School of the Americas
posted by homunculus at 7:37 PM on December 1, 2006


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