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May 25, 2004



Now, compare the bit about the alleged lack of response to the Berg beheading (in Arabic) to all the conspiracy claims about all the mysterious calls for destruction of Israel made by various Arab leaders in Arabic.... It may be that Americans don't usually speak Arabic and don't follow Arab news, but it's just breathtaking how some people just attribute their prejudices/imaginations to whatever's on Arab media, or not on Arab media.

Melissa O

Atrocities committed by state power are more horrifying than atrocities committed by unhinged loonies, not because they are so much more personally violating or criminal or immoral or something like that, but because they are much more likely to become widespread, much more likely to happen to any given innocent person, and there's much less anyone can do about it. If I knew that an unhinged loony were torturing someone in a building down the street, I might be able to do something about it, or convince other people to do something about it. If I knew that the US Armed Forces were torturing someone in a building down the street, there would be very very very little that I or anyone else could do.

Then there's the fact that an unhinged loony can only torture one person at a time. Do we even yet know how many people were tortured and/or killed at Abu Graib?

That's why state-sponsored torture and killing gets the most outraged of all possible condemnations.

Good god, did I just use "state-sponsored torture and killing" with reference to the US Armed Forces?

Nell Lancaster

Abu A, do you have any estimates of how many speakers and/or students of Arabic are in the U.S.?

My father was the head of the foreign language department at a military school, and a big proponent of increasing the Army's internal language training. Unfortunately, by the time of his death things were going in the other direction; the language school out in Monterey narrowly escaped shutdown, etc. I've wondered whether any resources have been put into more Arabic instruction inside the military since the mid-1990s.

Incidentally, and not completely OT, one of Gen. Zinni's most admirable qualities was his decision to learn Arabic while commander of CentCom. As a result, he follows news on Iraq and the Middle East to this day on Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera (as well as the tamer channels) and as a result has a much-better-than-Washington average appreciation for how U.S. actions are seen in the region.

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