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Murder of Steven Vincent:

OpinionJournal's Best of the Web writes:

The Scotsman has an explanation for the murder in Iraq of journalist Steven Vincent. See if you can finish this sentence:

An American journalist who was shot dead in Basra last week was executed by Shiite extremists who . . .

. . . had been worn down by grinding poverty?

. . . were angry over Israel's treatment of Palestinian Arabs?

. . . resented the presence in their country of foreign troops?

. . . sought to avenge the abuses at Abu Ghraib?

If you said any of the above, you're wrong. Here's the full sentence:

An American journalist who was shot dead in Basra last week was executed by Shiite extremists who knew he was intending to marry his Muslim interpreter, it has emerged.

That's right, Steven Vincent was killed to prevent him from intermarrying. Those Westerners who side with the "Iraqi resistance" against America and its allies are defending the equivalent of the murder of Emmett Till.

UPDATE: Some people interpreted the OpinionJournal item, and this one, as criticizing all opponents of the Iraq War. That's an interpretation that's in the mind of the interpreters -- I see no support for it in the text of the post.

The item is quite clearly a criticism of those Westerners who do endorse the Iraqi "resistance," or at least explain its actions in ways that lessen or eliminate the killers' culpability (poverty, supposed desire for "self-determination," supposedly justifiable anger at various American, Israeli, or other Western sins). That's the group the item identifies. It's the group against which the item's argument makes sense. The item doesn't criticize any broader group of Iraq War opponents.

Fortunately, the group being criticized is not a vast group. So? They're still worth condemning.

Steve:
Despite the Scotsman's compelling support for this claim - actually, there is no support, just the phrase "it has emerged" - I am going to withhold judgment.

Steven Vincent was married for 13 years. His widow posted a touching memorial outside their house, just a few short blocks from me. While I don't know a thing about their personal lives, the accusation that he was going to divorce her and marry his Iraqi translator is a hell of a thing to say about a dead man, if it turns out to be unfounded.
8.11.2005 8:46pm
Glenn Bridgman (mail):
Look, I pretty much despise people who support the iraqi resistence, but they most certainly do not defend the equivilent of Emmett Till's murder. It is entirely possible to advocate the opposition of armed occupying forces(also wrong, but a seperate wrong) and oppose the murder of children and shit like this.

At the very least, this claim neccesitates similar questions about U.S. ties with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and the terrible things that happen in those countries.

That said, it is hard to think of a more horrid reason to kill a person. I simply don't understand how someone could think like that.
8.11.2005 8:53pm
DelVerSiSogna:
Uh, yeah. The Best of the Web post, and Prof. Volokh's implicit endorsement of it, is wrong for about the same reasons that the NARAL ad against John Roberts is. Defending or supporting some group of people in one way does not constitute an endorsement or defense of everything that group does.

The tone and thrust of the post are mystifying, really. Does the Wall St. Journal, or Prof. Volokh, really believe that any significant portion of the American left views this sort of action by "Shiite extremists" favorably?
8.11.2005 9:18pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Those Westerners who side with the "Iraqi resistance" against America and its allies

Who are these people, exactly? Any Democrats? I am always puzzled by these vague references.
8.11.2005 9:38pm
Dreck Jr. (mail):
Killing somebody because they plan on marrying somebody of your religion? Talk about striving for a Homogeneous society. I wonder what would happen if Catholics took up this view...
8.11.2005 9:41pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
Apart from the points already made about who the hell in America actually supports the insurgents, since when are all insurgents coming from the same motivations? If anything the insurgency seems like a hodge podge of different groups each with different motivations. I doubt a Sunni insurgent in Tikrit would see himself as an ally of the Shiite's in Basra who murdered Steven Vincent. Heck, if this was just a racist murder can you even call the people who did this insurgents? They aren't fighing the occupation.
8.11.2005 9:52pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Volokh sinks to new lows by endorsing this disgusting post.
8.11.2005 10:31pm
arthur (mail):
A whole lot of factual and logical errors in a short post. There isn't much support for the theory about the motives of the murderers; "Westerners who side with the 'Iraqi resistance' against America" is essentially an empty set; and finally, if the murderers were motivated by irrational hatred of intermarriage, then they weren't part of the "Iraqi resistance," at least not for that murder.
8.11.2005 10:47pm
JohnAnnArbor:
"Westerners who side with the 'Iraqi resistance' against America" is essentially an empty set

Really? Michael Moore and his friends call them the equivalent of our Minutemen.
8.11.2005 11:00pm
Al Maviva (mail):
Apart from the points already made about who the hell in America actually supports the insurgents,

Um, Michael Moore, who call's them "minutemen," Noam Chomsky, Barbara Olshansky... should I keep going?
8.11.2005 11:03pm
Peter Swanson (mail):
Just today I was defending this blog to a friend, saying that although most of the contributors were thoughtless hacks (most of the time), at least Volokh was okay.

I was wrong.

Prof. Volokh, you should apologize.
8.11.2005 11:19pm
Glenn Bridgman (mail):
Well, first of all, as I pointed out above, one can distinguish between attacks against military forces and attacks against nonmilitary targets. The Iraqi Resistance is not a monolithic organization. Attacks against military forces, while we certainly oppose them, are, in a sense legit and could be discribed as the acts of freedom fighters. Attacks against children or attacks such as this, on the other hand are certainly atrocities. These two things are seperable.

Secondly, the "West" is a big place, and the human cesspool is of astonishing depth, so finding examples like Chomsky don't really count for much.
8.11.2005 11:23pm
DelVerSiSogna:
Again, it is ridiculous to suggest that Noam Chomsky (or just about anyone else within the part of the left that opposes the war in Iraq) supports or favors Shiite extremists' killing someone because he plans to marry a Muslim.
8.11.2005 11:25pm
John Jenkins (mail):
DelVerSiSogna, you misunderstand the Roberts issue entirely. It is implied by NARAL that he endorsed the actions of murderous abortion protestors when his actual position was that a certain federal law did not apply but that they certainly violated state law. That is neither supporting nor defending them at all, but it is being characterized as such. If you don't think some people actually defend the murder of Mr. Vincent (specifically arguing that he deserved what he got) then you don't read Prof. Cole enough... (which is probably not a bad thing as such now that I think about it).

Swanson, because you disagree with people doesn't make them thoughtless hacks (in fact, very little posted on this site could ever be criticized as thoughtless). That you believe disagreement equals thoughtlesness speaks more of you than your barbs' targets.
8.11.2005 11:31pm
Glenn Bridgman (mail):
John Jenkins, speaking of thoughtless attacks, I went to Juan Cole's site and searched for Vincent. The only thing I found was this:

"Was American journalist Steve Vincent killed in Basra as part of an honor killing? He was romantically involved with his Iraqi interpreter, who was shot 4 times. If her clan thought she was shaming them by appearing to be having an affair outside wedlock with an American male, they might well have decided to end it. In Mediterranean culture, a man's honor tends to be wrought up with his ability to protect his womenfolk from seduction by strange men. Where a woman of the family sleeps around, it brings enormous shame on her father, brothers and cousins, and it is not unknown for them to kill her. These sentiments and this sort of behavior tend to be rural and to hold among the uneducated, but are not unknown in urban areas. Vincent did not know anything serious about Middle Eastern culture and was aggressive about criticizing what he could see of it on the surface, and if he was behaving in the way the Telegraph article describes, he was acting in an extremely dangerous manner."

While perhaps a little callous, this doesn't even come close to claiming Vincent deserved to get murdered. Pointing out that a taboo exists and that breaking said taboo is extremly perilous is not the same as saying that the person deserves to get murdered. Your attack on Cole(who generally speaking, I am not a fan of) is unwarrented.
8.11.2005 11:44pm
frank cross (mail):
I read opinionjournal. But I think it is odd to take something from that source and assume it is an incontrovertible fact. Perhaps you did additional research.
8.12.2005 12:04am
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Greedy:

What exactly is disgusting about the Best of the Web post and how do you claim Eugene endorsed it? He just noted it and quoted from it. Mighty critical for a clerk it seems to me.

Peter:

What is the evidence you would point to to conclude Prof. Volokh is a "hack"? Something tells me you couldn't carry his attache' case. Or his laptop.
8.12.2005 12:08am
dbadba:
I too have long been a fan of this blog, despite disagreeing with almost everything written on it, because of the reasonableness and good taste of the most frequent posters, including Mr. Volokh. The thoughtless analogy to Emmitt Till changes my mind. You can call the murder despicable and reprehensible without making an incendiary and intellectually dishonest comparison, sir.
8.12.2005 12:11am
Glenn Bridgman (mail):
"how do you claim Eugene endorsed it? He just noted it and quoted from it."

You can not be serious. Are you willfully obtuse or is it something else?
8.12.2005 12:15am
Salaryman (mail):
I think DelVerSiSogna's analogy to the Roberts case is a reasonably fair one (not perfect, but what analogy is?), except (as John J points out) as it relates to the case of Juan Cole.

To be more specific about what Prof. Cole said about Vincent: I don't think he "defends" the murder but he "explains" it in a way that is disturbingly similar to possible exculpatory "explanations" of why Till's murderers killed him.

Essentially, what Cole said about Vincent's murder that (1) He was romantically involved with his female Iraqi interpreter, (2) Where an Iraqi woman sleeps around (especially with an American), it brings enormous shame on her family and in such cases honor killing is "not unknown" [nice understatement]. He concludes that "Vincent did not know anything serious about Middle Eastern culture" and that "if he was behaving in the way the Telegraph article describes, he was acting in an extremely dangerous manner."

All true, I am willing to grant (except as to allegation "1" about which I agree with Steve's comment). However, Cole's statement is only true in the same way that assertions that "if Emmett Till was acting in the way described [i.e., chatting up a white woman], he was acting in an extremely dangerous manner," evidencing that he "did not know anything serious about Southern culture" -- i.e., he should have known that his behavior would "bring enormous shame on her family" -- heck, on the entire racist community! -- and, besides, lynchings were "not unknown" in such cases.

In short, Cole's view on the Vincent affair strikes me as morally obtuse in a way that bears legitimate comparison to justifications of 1950s racism (again, let's stress that no analogy is perfect). I also find Cole's academic snobbery -- sniffing that Vincent didn't know anything "serious" about the Middle East, as though he were critiquing an unworthy tenure candidate rather than describing the victim of a vicious murder -- extremely unappealing.

I nonetheless agree with the majority of comments arguing that it is unfair to accuse all opponents of the Iraq war of support for honor killings, if that's what Vincent's murder was, just as it's unfair to characterize every proponent of limited federal government of being a "state's rights" segregationist and every criminal defense attorney of enthusiastic support for murder, rape and grand larceny.
8.12.2005 12:52am
Salaryman (mail):
I think DelVerSiSogna's analogy to the Roberts case is a reasonably fair one (not perfect, but what analogy is?), except (as John J points out) as it relates to the case of Juan Cole.

To be more specific about what Prof. Cole said about Vincent: I don't think he "defends" the murder but he "explains" it in a way that is disturbingly similar to possible exculpatory "explanations" of why Till's murderers killed him.

Essentially, what Cole said about Vincent's murder that (1) He was romantically involved with his female Iraqi interpreter, (2) Where an Iraqi woman sleeps around (especially with an American), it brings enormous shame on her family and in such cases honor killing is "not unknown" [nice understatement]. He concludes that "Vincent did not know anything serious about Middle Eastern culture" and that "if he was behaving in the way the Telegraph article describes, he was acting in an extremely dangerous manner."

All true, I am willing to grant (except as to allegation "1" about which I agree with Steve's comment). However, Cole's statement is only true in the same way that assertions that "if Emmett Till was acting in the way described [i.e., chatting up a white woman], he was acting in an extremely dangerous manner," evidencing that he "did not know anything serious about Southern culture" -- i.e., he should have known that his behavior would "bring enormous shame on her family" -- heck, on the entire racist community! -- and, besides, lynchings were "not unknown" in such cases.

In short, Cole's view on the Vincent affair strikes me as morally obtuse in a way that bears legitimate comparison to justifications of 1950s racism (again, let's stress that no analogy is perfect). I also find Cole's academic snobbery -- sniffing that Vincent didn't know anything "serious" about the Middle East, as though he were critiquing an unworthy tenure candidate rather than describing the victim of a vicious murder -- extremely unappealing.

I nonetheless agree with the majority of comments arguing that it is unfair to accuse all opponents of the Iraq war of support for honor killings, if that's what Vincent's murder was, just as it's unfair to characterize every proponent of limited federal government of being a "state's rights" segregationist and every criminal defense attorney of enthusiastic support for murder, rape and grand larceny.
8.12.2005 12:52am
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Glenn:

You sound like John McEnroe after he thought the chair made a bad call. I am serious, and I am not willfully obtuse. I guess it must be something else. But I AM too obtuse to know what that could be. Since you are so clearly acute, perhaps you could enlighten me?

Could it be that I think neither you nor Peter nor the greedy one are particularly penetrating critics of Eugene's excellent work on this blog.

Had you looked at the link, or read the post accurately, you could see that the entire post is a quote. There is no editorial comment whatever. From where I sit, that is a post without comment, certainly not an express endorsement. Whether it is an endorsement by implication merely because it is linked and quoted is not clear either. I think the endorsement is entirely in the imagination of the reader.

It appears that Delversi and dbadba have made the same assumption. It was Taranto, not Volokh that made the comparison with Emmett Till.
8.12.2005 12:57am
dbadba:
Oops. Jim Rhoads is of course correct. I was confused by the formatting. My apologies.
8.12.2005 1:05am
Justin (mail):
Sadly (and having the privilige of meeting you, I'm not sure why you wrote this) those who say you probably owe half your readers an apology are asking for the least that you owe. Supporting such a terrible, slanderous indictment on the more than half the people in America who currently oppose the Iraqi war is stunning for someone of even modest, much less your superior, intellect.

Neither is Jim Rhodes' defense of yours even remotely useful. Unless you are obliged to post certain things of the Wall Street Journal (which is *highly* unlikely) the custom, particularly your custom of posting arguments of other people (without comment) is an implict but direct support of it. That you could have cut out the last paragraph and still made a point is an even bigger indictment that you need to repudiate (honestly) your argument that those opposed to the Iraqi "invasion" are murderers or support the concept of murder.
8.12.2005 1:28am
Glenn Bridgman (mail):
Err, when one quotes something on their blog with no editorial comment, it is by default read as an endorsement. It isn't as if Volokh makes a habit of quoting Taranto, so quoting a post wholesale with nothing to indicate disagreement is a prima facia endorsement. Why else would he post it?
8.12.2005 2:16am
Budding Screenwriter?:
I'm very dubious about the facts on this one. A large number of news sources are reporting that Mr. Vincent was married, and that his wife is in mourning. See, e.g., here and here.
8.12.2005 2:47am
Phil (mail):
Of course, even if Mr. Vincent was happily married, he may have been killed because the killers possessed false beliefs about his intentions. I do not have enough info to have an opinion one way or the other.
8.12.2005 6:58am
Public_Defender:
Can anyone provide a link to a quote from any prominent American "who side[s] with the 'Iraqi resistance' against America. . ."?

I agree with several other posters: Professor Volokh needs to back up the assertion, denounce the message that he chose to highlight by placing it on his blog, or take a hit to his credibility (as well as to the level of dialog on his blog).

People on the Left "side with the 'Iraqi resistance' against America" as much as John Roberts and professor Volokh support anti-abortion terrorists.

If professor Volokh's post was fair, NARAL's anti-Roberts ad was right on target.
8.12.2005 8:17am
John Jenkins (mail):
PD, read the post again. Pay attention to the attribution.

G. Bridgman, Look at Cole's implication.

X did Y.
If X were (Smarter/more educated/like me) X would have known not do do Y.
X was killed because of Y.

Tell me how that doesn't mean that X deserved what was coming to him because he was not (smarter/more educated/like me).

Do you think Cole would have written that if Vincent had been a critic of the war? I don't, but maybe he would have. Maybe you interpret it differently, but that doesn't make me thoughtless in the least.

Once again, thoughtlessness is not equal to "disagrees with me." I shall now be burned as a heretic, I'm sure.
8.12.2005 8:36am
Public_Defender:
Assuming that that Cole's remarks have not been taken out of context, they are obtuse and insensitive. But they are no where near "sid[ing] with the 'Iraqi resistance' against America. . . ."

I agree with Steve that there had better be some darned good evidence backing up the claim that the dead man was 1) having an affair; and 2) planned to divorce his wife.

It's reckless, tasteless, and shameless for the WSJ and professor Volokh to repeat the assertion when it appears to have no sourcing. Imagine how these stories are affecting his widow.

This post is out of character for Volokh and his blog. My guess is that we'll see an apology and an explanation by the end of the day.
8.12.2005 9:06am
Adam (www):
Just to add one more data point, the Michael Moore post in which he refers to the Iraqi resistence as "minutemen" does not suggest that he *wants* them to win, only that he thinks they will.
8.12.2005 9:17am
Public_Defender:
I was wrong to say "no sourcing." I should have said that the assertion had only unreliable, biased sourcing. The accusation that Vincent was going to leave his wife was ulimately attributed to the Basra police. Didn't Vincent say that the police were in league with the terrorists?

Absent some independent sourcing (say, journalists who crossed paths with Vincent in Iraq), the WSJ should not have linked to or positively commented on the article.

This just shows how low the WSJ is willing to go to smear people on the Left. Does that paper have no pride?

In order to make a broad, unsubstantiated smear against unnamed war critics, the WSJ decided to slime the name of a dead conservative journalist and rub salt in the wounds of his widow. Good folks, those people at the WSJ.
8.12.2005 9:31am
Dread Justice Roberts:
Havng read Michael Moore's post, I am not convinced he sides with the Iraqi resistance. The post demonstrates that Moore thinks that the occupation is doomed to fail, which is different from siding with the resistance. I am prepared to be convinced on Noam Chomsky or Barbara Olshansky, so please point me to evidence that they or any other westerners "side" with the insurgents.
8.12.2005 9:38am
Lawbot2000:
The post does not accuse those who are anti-war as defending the equivalent of the murder of Emmett Till. There is a distinct difference between 'opposing the war' and 'supporting the Iraqi resistance'.

If you oppose the war, I think that is a legitimate and choice. If you support the Iraqi resistance than you support the senseless murder of Americans, because that is the goal of the foreigners who are pouring into Iraq to blow themselves up in the name of Islam and the "Iraqi resistance". It is Orwellian doublespeak to claim that you support the resistance but not killing American soldiers.
8.12.2005 10:13am
Public_Defender:
I guess I shouldn't expect anything better from the WSJ. They took a dishonest lawyer and turned him into a regular columnist. Today, Miranda writes:

Readers of this Web site will recall last year's pseudoscandal, involving yours truly, over the reading of Democratic memos left unprotected on the Senate Judiciary Committee's shared network through the negligence of Democratic staff. From the start, I admitted to the grave crime of, er, reading.

Imagine if he had written:

Readers of this Web site will recall last year's pseudoscandal, involving yours truly, over the reading of Democratic memos negligently left unprotected in a folder on the desk of a Senate Judiciary Committee's shared network staffer through the negligence of Democratic staff. From the start, I admitted to the grave crime of, er, reading papers in a folder on the desk of my political opponent..

I thought the WSJ was supposed to be a respectable paper. Sliming dead journalists to try to score a dishonest political point seems par for the course at the WSJ.
8.12.2005 10:16am
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Glenn:

Nice save. But I think one can also reasonable infer that this post was meant to draw attention to a controversial matter uniquely presented which warrants some interest and critical discussion.

Those who use the Socratic method as a teaching tool often are masters of this techinque, aren't they? The case method in law school generally does not involve the study only of cases the teacher endorses. Certainly not in my law school experience (admittedly many years ago).

Whether my observation is accurate or not, critical discussion of the Taranto article was exactly what the post drew. I do not believe Eugene will apologize, nor do I believe he should.
8.12.2005 10:34am
cfw (mail):
Below usual standards of EV. But no one is perfect. Strike 1.
8.12.2005 10:35am
Jim Rhoads (mail):
"reasonable" = "reasonably". Sorry.
8.12.2005 10:36am
DK:
I'd like to take issue with a different aspect of the quote in the post: are the people who killed Vincent really "Iraqi resistance"?

Most of what I have heard, including this article and others that don't accept the honor-killing theory, suggests that Vincent's killers were Basra Shiites, possibly linked with the police and other parts of the Basra government. Vincent himself was writing a book on the presence of dubious/violent/extreme/criminal groups in the Basra government, funding their dangerous activities with money embezzled from American reconstruction contracts. (See his op-ed in the NYT the week of his death.)

In other words, these particular killers are no more "insurgents" or "resistance" than the El Salvadoran death squads from the 80's were "resistance." The Shia groups that Vincent attacked in his writing are bitter enemies of both the Sunni Iraqi nationalists and the Sunni foreign fighters that make up the Iraqi resistance.

Note carefully, flamers, that I am not defending either the Iraqi resistance or the Shiite death squads. I am trying to defend Vincent's life work -- he was dedicated to telling the world that in Iraq there are bad, dangerous, violent people in the government as well as in the anti-government resistance.

IMHO, the Best of the Web comment is completely wrong, but not because Emmitt Till is a bad analogy -- it is wrong in the same sense that it would be wrong to blame Hollywood liberals for supporting El Salvadoran death squads in the '80s. Wrong side, people. Check your facts and try again.

And as far as the motive for the murder goes -- I am dubious that a man who wrote in the New York Times that the Basra police were involved in death squads and assassination-for-hire rings would just coincidentally be killed a few days later for sleeping with an Iraqi woman. If a journalist in 1920's Chicago was murdered after publishing an expose on Al Capone, would you believe that he was shot by a jealous husband?
8.12.2005 10:38am
Public_Defender:

If a journalist in 1920's Chicago was murdered after publishing an expose on Al Capone, would you believe that he was shot by a jealous husband?

Apparently, the WSJ would, as long as it would help slime a political opponent.

As to the comments about whether Volokh meant to endorse the post or not, I think posting it without comment was an implicit endorsement. Maybe it was an unintentional implicit endorsement, but I'll let Volokh chime in for himself on that question.
8.12.2005 10:47am
Daniel Davies (mail) (www):
DK above is absolutely correct that this post is ignorant as well as unpleasant. The Shi'ite gangs who killed Steven Vincent are not part of "the resistance"; they are operating to institute Iranian-style sharia law under the eyes of the British troops which control (in the loosest sense of "control") the city of Basra. Furthermore, this fact was the main theme of Vincent's journalism and his blog. I have no idea how anyone could possibly not know this, unless of course they had never read a word Vincent wrote and did not care about him at all except as a subject for a blog post that might make a useful smear on anti-war opinion.
8.12.2005 11:07am
Nancy Grace (mail):
Hey that's fascinating and just in time I've run out of grizzly sex murderers to talk about and who knows if it's true maybe they can turn it into an episode of Law &Order, and CSI, and American Justice, and and and.
8.12.2005 11:39am
Vish Subramanian (mail):
DK and Daniel Davies - quit supporting our enemies you traitors! Its not like knowledge of who we are fighting - or who is benefiting by our fighting (Iranian mullahs, in this case) - are going to help us win the war on terror.
8.12.2005 11:41am
devil's advocate (mail):
opposing the war (from the beginning) means it should have never happended and there would be no "insurgents" besides the ones engaging against saddam (and i think those groups, like SCIRI, were in camps across the border supported by our good friend Iran).

Now that the war is a reality, 99.999999999% of americans who opposed the war do not want the "insurgents" to "win". they wish the whole never happened and they have a right to be bitter. where is the press conference announcing the seized WMD? you know the pentagon would love to have one, but they haven't. Does David Kay want the insurgents to win? we either made a huge intelligence error, or intelligence was manufactured (see Chalabi) to please the political bosses, or they knowingly lied to the american people to get into a war they thought was necessary but knew the country would not support unless in fear of a mushroom cloud.

the last reason seems most likely, and is completely defenseable. maybe this war is worth more to Volokh than telling the truth about war to the public in a democracy. some national security things arguably are best kept secret, but the accusing people who think differently of rooting for the "insurgents" killing americans shows the cowardice of one who runs from their convictions.

perhaps volokh knew that WMD wasnt the real reason to invade iraq, but that's what the country was told. the al queda ties arent a great case either. a shadowy network like that is similar to the kevin bacon game--anyone can be connected. we could probably use one intermediary and connect al queda to UCLA, perhaps even the law school there.

i absolutely believe many of the "insurgents" are horrible theofascist brainwashed sociopaths. but the point is why are we there fighting them? are we supposed to take the POTUS seriously at the state of the union? or are the educated classes to snicker over our martinis when we know it is empty rhetoric fashioned to trick mechanics in ohio into supporting a war that their children, and few, if any, children of people who write or read this blog.

i for one am of enlistable age. i do not want to risk my life unless i am being told what is going on or can see it for myself. I cannot see the purpose of this war. i dont support the insurgents but that doesnt mean i have to say bush is a saint. he and his people lied to start a war. it is pretty obvious, and those who cannot realize it are stuck in the clutches of cognitive dissonance (it doesnt mean your war is wrong, defend the lies, just try).
8.12.2005 11:46am
Lawbot2000:
"99.999999999% of americans who opposed the war do not want the 'insurgents' to 'win'".

I take issue with this statement. I don't think the Average anti-war American wants them to win, but a good deal of liberal ideologues would love to see the insurgents not only win, but completely massacre the American troops. They want to see it not because they want American soldiers to die, but they would just LOVE to use it as a tool against Republicans in future elections.

I get the impression they would much rather have the insurgents kill ten thousand American soldiers before '08 than have peace come to Iraq. After all, if peace came it might be good for the Republicans.
It's pretty much the same mindset of liberals here in NY before the '04 elections. They were hoping the economy would crash so it would hurt Bush. Who cares what the ill-effects of the crashing economy would be on the every day worker as long as it put a liberal in the White House?
8.12.2005 11:56am
alkali (mail):
"99.999999999% of americans who opposed the war do not want the 'insurgents' to 'win'".

I take issue with this statement. I don't think the Average anti-war American wants them to win, but a good deal of liberal ideologues would love to see the insurgents not only win, but completely massacre the American troops. They want to see it not because they want American soldiers to die, but they would just LOVE to use it as a tool against Republicans in future elections.

FYI: in rational discourse, the ordinary way of "taking issue" with a proposition is not to simply state that the proposition is false, but actually to present some evidence to that effect.
8.12.2005 12:00pm
Sad Citizen (mail):
As a citizen I am very sad about this. The Radicals have tuned this Dolchstoss nonsense to a fine pitch, and it resonates strongly with the average American. The Radicals have set up a "heads-I-win, tails-you lose" argument that no one (even John McCain) can effectively counter. Any attempt to discuss what is actually happening in Iraq, and the quality of the decisions the Bush Administration has made there, is immediately shut down with this type of counterattack; anyone proposing such a discussion is destroyed.

We know what happened the last time this meme got firmly implanted in a superpower's citizenry. Can those Republicans who remain assure me that they can keep their Radicals under control? I doubt it, myself.
8.12.2005 12:11pm
Public_Defender:

I get the impression they would much rather have the insurgents kill ten thousand American soldiers before '08 than have peace come to Iraq.

From where? There have to be a few homicidal loons out there, but I haven't heard even one American liberal say that he or she hopes that more American soldiers die.

I regret my earlier attacks on Volokh. The WSJ post doesn't say that Vincent was married, so I think it's clear that Volokh, unlike the WSJ, was not intentionally slandering a dead man to make a political point. But in the future, I hope he becomes more skeptical about what he picks up from the WSJ.

(For the record, I remain a skeptical supporter of the war because replacing a murderous thug like Saddam with a democracy would do wonders for the region. But even many conservatives now admit that W has bungled the effort. I think that W's strategy very well might make matters worse in Iraq, but I hope events prove me wrong.)
8.12.2005 12:13pm
Lawbot2000:
Alkali, Many people wanted to see the economy crash and burn before the November '04 elections so that it would hurt Republicans, regardless of the consequences on the working class. My evidence for that is that I heard a great number of people say out loud that they hoped it would happen. They went so far as to posit that perhaps they could organize strikes on American goods so as to hurt further hurt the economy. They probably thought I would be a sympathetic liberal ear because I go to an ivy law school. All I am doing is analogizing from A) the hope for a crashing economy to B) wishing for another disastrous situation to help their political chances.
8.12.2005 12:15pm
A.S.:
It is quite interesting to see so many commenters leap to the defense of "Westerners who side with the 'Iraqi resistance' against America and its allies"! It's almost like these commenters sympathize with that position.

As has been pointed out, "Westerners who side with the 'Iraqi resistance' against America and its allies" is not the same thing as "Westerners who oppose the war". Indeed, they are likely only a small subset of "Westerners who oppose the war". (It is clear to me that Michael Moore IS one of the Westerners who side with the Iraqi resistance, though. His "Minuteman" remark makes that point rather vivdly, since "Minutemen" has such a positive connotation; if he wanted to make the point that the Iraqi resistance was a bad group that, nevertheless would likely win, he could have chosen plenty of examples - such as, oh, the Viet Cong - without the positive connotation associated with "Minutemen".) But I guess if you feel the need to defend the honor of "Westerners who side with the 'Iraqi resistance' against America and its allies", more power to you.

As to the substance of the Taranto post, I agree with the commenters above that the killers of Mr. Vincent are most likely NOT associated with "the Iraqi resistance", since the killers were likely Basra Shiites and not Sunnis (who make up the vast majority of the resistance). Accordingly, the Taranto post itself is mistaken.
8.12.2005 12:17pm
Sad Citizen (mail):
> Many people wanted to see the economy crash and burn before
> the November '04 elections so that it would hurt
> Republicans, regardless of the consequences on the working
> class. My evidence for that is that I heard a great number
> of people say out loud that they hoped it would happen.

And I have heard "many" people say they vote Republican so that "niggers" [their term] can be put in their place and segregation restored. Where 'many' is a few dozen, anyway. Is that an official position of the Republican party? If I claim that it is an unspoken belief of a substantial percentage of the Republican base, would you disagree? How would you prove that? If it isn't, why aren't Republican candidates (such as the late Jesse Helms) repudiating such thoughts in loud, firm, and proud language (with no code words and no Confederate flag in the background)?
8.12.2005 12:21pm
alkali (mail):
Lawbot2000 writes:

Alkali, Many people wanted to see the economy crash and burn before the November '04 elections so that it would hurt Republicans, regardless of the consequences on the working class. My evidence for that is that I heard a great number of people say out loud that they hoped it would happen.

I'll take your word that you heard that, though I heard no such thing. Have you actually heard anyone say that they support the Iraqi insurgency and hope a lot of American soldiers are killed?

A.S. writes:

It is clear to me that Michael Moore IS one of the Westerners who side with the Iraqi resistance, though. His "Minuteman" remark makes that point rather vivdly, since "Minutemen" has such a positive connotation; if he wanted to make the point that the Iraqi resistance was a bad group that, nevertheless would likely win, he could have chosen plenty of examples - such as, oh, the Viet Cong - without the positive connotation associated with "Minutemen".

I think that is a strong inference from one arguably poor word choice, given that Moore made a film that was mostly about why he thought the Iraq war was bad because it unnecessarily put U.S. troops in danger.
8.12.2005 12:23pm
Lawbot2000:
Sad Citizen: Have you really heard dozens of people say that? Or are you making it up? Maybe you saw it on a T.V. show...
8.12.2005 12:25pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
This post has drawn more comment and reasoned discussion than the vast majority of posts on this site. I rest my case. Bravo Volokh!!!!!
8.12.2005 12:29pm
Sad Citizen (mail):
> Sad Citizen: Have you really heard dozens of people say
> that? Or are you making it up? Maybe you saw it on a T.V.
> show...

Seriously? No. I have heard a few hundred. But I spend a lot of time working in rural manufacturing facilities, and after a while the dudes there forget I am a city boy and talk to me openly. Dozens is the percentage of those hundreds I think are fairly serious (not just blowing smoke).
8.12.2005 12:33pm
Glenn Bridgman (mail):
John Jenkins, let us suppose an alien came to earth who, completely innoculously, had a uniform that looked like a KKK suit. Said alien then landed in Harlem or LA. When the alien gets beaten up/killed, it certainly could be said that if the alien had been [Smarter/more educated/like me] it wouldn't have happened, without imparting blame.

Jim Rhoads, it wasn't as if this was simply a piece of information, or a hypothetical. It was a political post, and given that Volokh made no comment after quoting it, the reasonable thing to do would be to assume he is endorsing it. There are a bunch of political viewpoints and selecting one to quote without comment is an obvious endorsement.
8.12.2005 12:36pm
Lawbot2000:
Alright, I believe you SadCitizen. I questioned you because I have heard others say the same thing and then admit that they have never actually heard anyone say anything like that, they just assume people say those things.

All I am saying is that there are Americans that want us to fail miserably in Iraq, and it's more than .001% of them. I don't think any mainstream liberals or mainstream Democrats feel that way, and it's by no means the official platform of the Democratic party. I'm sorry if my post could be taken to imply that.
However, I do think it's likely that many of the "Michael Moore liberal" types probably think that way. Those types of liberals are far from the mainstream and outside of the Democratic party, but there are plenty of them in this country, including some that have posted comments on this website.

I feel that I am just repeating myself over and over, so I'm not going to further post on this subject so as not to hijack the thread or spam too much.
8.12.2005 12:41pm
SimonD (mail):
Where on earth did it become a rule that by posting something on your blog you tacitly endorse it? I have, on occaision posted, uncommented, links to speeches by Justice Breyer where he defends using foreign law, and links to speeches by Justice Scalia where he castigates it. Clearly I can't be tacitly endorsing two completely antithetical views, so what's going on? Could it be that posting something on a blog can sometimes merely offer to the readers of that blog information, to do with as they will? Surely not! The "Justice Breyer is wrong" part is silent, and assumed. ;)

Usually, of course, you add some editorializing, but this is of course the point of a blog. But like posting an article on a message board, it doesn't constitute any endorsement, it constiutes "hey, this is interesting, read this".
8.12.2005 12:43pm
Public_Defender:
Volokh writes:

Fortunately, the group being criticized is not a vast group. So? They're still worth condemning.

I condemn Republicans who drink puppy blood with breakfast. Fortunately, this is not a vast group. So? They're still worth condemning.
8.12.2005 12:57pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
The sad thing here is that "Lawbot 2000" and others, intelligent people, do indeed believe that large numbers of "liberal ideologues" would like to see 1000's of American soldiers die in order to advance their liberal-ideologue politics.

This belief is almost certainly false, since even anti-war liberals like me see our options as (1) win or (2) get out, either way preferably with the lowest casualties possible.

But I point this out because the "liberals" one hears excoriated are typically fantasy-figures, about as real as "the Jews" in Weimar Germany (probably less so, even). 48% of the country voted for Kerry---are they rooting for American deaths in battle?

I would caution those of good will to hesitate before discussing "liberals" or "conservatives" who "root for the insurgents" or "drink puppy blood," and ask, "can I think of any actual members of the set I'm describing?" You could even then go on to ask "if so, are they representative?" (In other words, we don't assume you're all in agreement with Pat Buchanan, and you don't assume we all agree with Michael Moore.)
8.12.2005 1:25pm
Jimbeaux (mail):
Pat Buchanan and Michael Moore? That's an interesting comparison since on this issue they're probably in lockstep with each other.
8.12.2005 1:33pm
Vish Subramanian (mail):
I dont think Mr. Volokh has even understood that those who killed Steven Vincent arent even part of the Iraqi resistance.
They are close to the people who deposed the Baghdad mayor and
who are now installing in power - but lets not get facts in the way of a nice argument, shall we?
8.12.2005 1:36pm
Public_Defender:
The amended post still doesn't address why it's OK to slime a dead journalist's reputation on such scant "evidence." The Basra police were the ultimate source of the "fact" that Vincent was having an affair. Because of Vincent's reporting, the Basra police had every reason to lie about his reputation.

The WSJ post was reckless as to the facts and insensitive to the family of the deceased.

Worse, by smearing Vincent after his death, the WSJ helped the murdering terrorists achieve their goals--to kill Vincent and smear his reputation.
8.12.2005 1:52pm
Azael (www):
It's also quite clear that not only does he not know who killed Vincent, it's evident from Volokh's update that he does, in fact, support the WSJ's BOTW piece - contrary to the cries of defense in some of the comments.
8.12.2005 1:59pm
Ckrisz (mail):
What a weird post this is. Why, exactly, does Taranto seem to believe that the SCOTSMAN is endorsing the murder of Vincent? The Vincent-marrying-interpreter story has been included in a few British tabs already before this one. The SCOTSMAN story adds a bit of info to this by noting the $2,500 dowry payment, if true.

This Telegraph story written before has the soruce for the marriage story being Nour Weidi herself.

Telegraph story

How is any of this remotely connected to sympathy for the insurgency?

Telegraph story
8.12.2005 2:04pm
DanHardie (mail):
I)This angle, or smear, ('Vincent was killed because of his closeness to and possible affair with his Iraqi translator') was first aired, that I'm aware of, in the 'Sunday Times' of 7th August. Newsflash for hermits living in Himalayan caves: The Sunday Times is owned by a pro-war individual named Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox News and keeps the tightest editorial control on all his outlets. This smear was therefore not repeat NOT started by 'antiwar' writers.

II)This killing is an embarrassment for the British Government in general and the British Army in particular because a) Vincent was murdered 'on their watch' and b) he had just made detailed and angry criticisms of the British administration in Basra, notably that the British were permitting Iraqi police forces to be infiltrated by Shi'ite radicals, who were then killing political opponents- and Vincent himself appears to have been murdered by men in Iraqi police uniform.

Who, then, has a motive to smear the late Steven Vincent? To spell it out for the morons on the Right: the British Government. Given that the Scotsman and the Sunday Times, one anti-war and one pro, have run near-identical stories on Vincent, I would guess that press officers in either (or both) the Ministry of Defence or the Foreign Office have been 'briefing' that 'that dumb Yank was shagging his translator and that's why he got shot'. That's how the British Civil Service (and senior military) play things: tough and, if need be, dirty.
8.12.2005 2:05pm
DanHardie (mail):
I)This angle, or smear, ('Vincent was killed because of his closeness to and possible affair with his Iraqi translator') was first aired, that I'm aware of, in the 'Sunday Times' of 7th August. Newsflash for hermits living in Himalayan caves: The Sunday Times is owned by a pro-war individual named Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox News and keeps the tightest editorial control on all his outlets. This smear was therefore not repeat NOT started by 'antiwar' writers.

II)This killing is an embarrassment for the British Government in general and the British Army in particular because a) Vincent was murdered 'on their watch' and b) he had just made detailed and angry criticisms of the British administration in Basra, notably that the British were permitting Iraqi police forces to be infiltrated by Shi'ite radicals, who were then killing political opponents- and Vincent himself appears to have been murdered by men in Iraqi police uniform.

Who, then, has a motive to smear the late Steven Vincent? To spell it out for the morons on the Right: the British Government. Given that the Scotsman and the Sunday Times, one anti-war and one pro, have run near-identical stories on Vincent, I would guess that press officers in either (or both) the Ministry of Defence or the Foreign Office have been 'briefing' that 'that dumb Yank was shagging his translator and that's why he got shot'. That's how the British Civil Service (and senior military) play things: tough and, if need be, dirty.
8.12.2005 2:05pm
Justin (mail):
Public Defender's point is correct. Just because you, after being attacked for saying something outrageous, can sort of defend it by limiting the argument to a group of people whose numbers approach or equal zero, does not mean you weren't imply otherwise. If you're willing to admit that this may be a "small group", the deception is even worse, because you are trying to make people believe an argument that you KNOW to be false.

Furthermore, "me people interpreted the OpinionJournal item, and this one, as criticizing all opponents of the Iraq War. That's an interpretation that's in the mind of the interpreters -- I see no support for it in the text of the post."

is a variation of the "I didn't mean that, but if the shoe fits...". It ignores the fact that such is the obvious reading, that such grouping of the rebels and their "supporters" (a group of people who have been labeled as such includes Senator Dick Durbin, Senator John Kerry, Senator Byrd, Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan (whose sun died in the war) and others.

Glenn Reynolds declared that "many" democrats were "actively rooting for the other side"

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4703309/

Hindenracker, who has called Dick Durbin and Jimmy Carter TRAITORS, famously made the same claim, as did Hugh Hewitt (who cowardly tried to say he only meant liberals, and that's really not that many people, same argument you seem to be making).

But the active (if uncoordinated) campaign of grouping those against the war with support of terrorists is clearly the purpose of the disputed quote, and arguing otherwise is at best an insincere defense and at worst an unapologetic furtherance of the lie.
8.12.2005 2:19pm
devil's advocate (mail):
so now we debate the difference between people who were against the war, but want to "win" and people who are against the war, and want the US to "lose" and sympathize with the insurgents because they are so anti-war. i doubt there are any of second types these really, but "i told you so" sounds so burning to the pro-war side, that they take the grim satisfaction of being right on a pessimistic prediction as a cheer for illiberal "insurgents" who kill americans. remember the real anti-war argument is that NO ONE WOULD HAVE DIED, if the US govt hadnt provided false reasons for war--ie WMD.

you cant blame anti-war types for not having a good solution, because we cant turn back time. the pro-war side won the fight to start the war, but it is not going how they planned (think about everything cheney has ever said). the anti-war side has the right to say "i told you so" if they were right, right? or are we expected to shut up in the interest of protecting a false US self image (the outside image is shot, read the polls), and the reputations of those who call us traitors?

war is hell, and for the people who are fighting they arent really "winners" or "losers" they either survive, get killed, or get wounded. you could want the nazis to lose WWII, but still feel terrible about Dresden. Has anyone read "All Quiet on the Western Front". I believe it was written by a frenchman, who certainly did not want the German protagonists to "win" the WWI, but beautifully makes the reader sympathize with the german soldiers who do kill many frenchmen. that's what separates a good work of literature from a shouting match in a chat room.

there is a good chris rock joke about OJ. OJ came home to find his wife at the house he bought, driving the ferrari he bought, with a younger man who she was obviously cheating on him with. the joke is: "i don't think he should have done it, but i UNDERSTAND." OJ is more then likely a murderer (so says a civil court verdict). i dont support murder of cheating spouses, but clearly it is more "understandable" than a random shooting, like the Ohio highway sniper.

i dont "support" or "sympathize" with the organized leadership behind the insurgency in Iraq, and I doubt Michael Moore does either. But I understand why this insurgency exists, and I understand, and even sympathize with (not support) the human beings who are drawn into the insurgency by the wretchedness of their condition--pseudo religious brainwashing, need for money (they get paid), the young-stupid-invincible feeling that all young men have, and the fact that many have had relatives killed in the conflict. (remember we started the conflict based on very public lies--Colin Powell at UN for example--what was in those buildings after all, huh?).

after all bush said in 2002 and 2003, who expects iraqis to believe we invaded to bring them democracy as we now say? maybe bush would invade based only on his belief that democracy in the ME will beat al queda, regardless of WMD, but that's not what he said at the time. thanks to him, our credibility is hurt, in the objective sense.

so, let's recap, bush gives false reason for war. we invade a country, killing thousands of innocent civilians. it is understandable that they are not taking this too kindly, given their own perspective, nationalism (think about how you feel about america, some iraqis think they are the greatest too, they are human), and cultrual sense of honor and pride.

so i understand why lots of messed up iraqi kids are fighting, and in a way i sympathize in that i see many of them as sad (not evil) and wish they weren't fighting and this debacle had never happened. i still want them to miss when they aim at a US soldier. war is hell, and there is no good position now, since our leadership screwed up so badly.

But Volokh and others attacking liberal "sympathizers" seem like they are trying to lay the blame for the mess at those who did not support it in the first place. if liberals had just clapped lounder instead given comfort to the enemy by the exercise of their democratic rights of speecha and debate, we would have won--which means spreading "democracy" ironically enough!

if we do "lose" this war like we lost vietnam, michael moore wont be happy that americans died, but he probably will say "i told you so" because he did. he doesnt have to care about conservative's feelings. and i think all of us know there is some satisfaction at being right, even if you made a pessimistic prediction, especially when you are attacked so severely for that prediction. when conservative intellectuals attack some do-gooder govt regulation for being counterproductive, they dont want the air to get dirtier, or kids to get sicker, but if they turn out to be right, they have a right to crow about it, right?
8.12.2005 2:32pm
Glenn Bridgman (mail):
In one sense Volokh is obviously right. Those who "support the Iraqi resistance" deserve to be condemned, and it that was all that was going on here, that would be that. However, there are a whole lot of groups that deserve to be condemned; there is plenty of sewage in all parts of the political spectrum. In five minutes I could go to DU or FreeRepublic or what have you and dig up plenty of quotes worthy of condemnation. Yet, this one reprehensible set--one of many--attracts an astonishingly disproportionate amount of the condemnations, when there are plenty of other group that deserve it just as badly. Why? Because, for all the protestations that attacks against the subset aren't attacks against the whole, they often are. Intentional or not, they tar those reprehensible groups with a messy brush and spillover is inevitable. Why do you think democratic operatives spend so much time attacking the fraction of the republican party which is racist, even though there are plenty of republicans who ar certainly not racist? Because they want to stain the whole party with the sins of the few. It is the commentariats equivilent of push polling: theoretically ok, but in practice a terrible smear. Push polling isn't ok, and neither is this.
8.12.2005 2:41pm
Public_Defender:
The Telegraph article included a lot of nuance that the WSJ missed. Allegations of infidelity against a dead man should be treated much care. The WSJ doesn't seem to get that.
8.12.2005 3:13pm
mrkmyr (mail):
"objectively pro-saddam"
Many people, including the WSJ, have previously (fallaciously) linked the anti-war position with a pro-saddam or pro-insurgent position.

Just as "some people" in President Bush's speeches during the campaign meant "John Kerry," "Those Westerners" in the WSJ means people who think it was a foolish mistake to go to war in Iraq over a non-existant threat.

Eugene Volokh "see[s] no support for [equating "those Westerners" with those who are anti-war] in the text of the post."
While Volokh's statement is true, as any good law professor should know, you may use parole evidence to define the terms of a document. Here, prior writtings by the WSJ crew demonstrate "those westerners" includes most people who are anti-war.
8.12.2005 5:17pm
PQuincy (mail):
There's several important and genuine issues at stake here, from the rhetorical significance of reproducing without comment a statement like the WSJ's report, to the politics of those who want to celebrate or smear Vincent's actions, to the internal politics of Basra under US and British occupation.

At the risk of drawing some flames and saying something a bit uncomfortable, I want to mention something else: the current anxiety about the verb "to explain".

To wit: in his subsequent clarification, Volokh notes that he is only criticizing those who "explain [the Iraqui resistance's] actions in ways that lessen or eliminate the killers' culpability (poverty, supposed desire for "self-determination," supposedly justifiable anger at various American, Israeli, or other Western sins)."

I'm reminded of the meme that circulated in late 2001 and 2002 that any effort to "explain" the actions of those who committed the atrocity at the World Trade Center would in effect be a kind of justification...only condemnation was appropriate.

Now, Volokh does not go quite so far, here: he only condemns those who "explain...in ways that lessen...". So far, I can only agree. After all, an "explanation" that lessens anyone's culpability for murder, terrorism, etc., is reprehensible. But then, Volokh continues by specifying the kind of "explanations" that might fit his category. For example, an explanation pointing to the insurgents' "supposed desire for self-determination" must be excluded.

Let's leave aside the adjective "supposed", which I think is primarily a rhetorical dodge. Is there any doubt that those engaged in the Iraqi resistance, those who use its murderous techniques (aimed mostly at other Iraqis, n.b.), want self-determination? That is, they want to determine what happens to Iraq...not Americans, not Iraqis who disagree with them, certainly not Kurds or Shiites (for the most part). So their desire for self-determination is real enough; the problem is that it is not legitimate, because it rejects other Iraqis' equal desire and right, because it seeks to establish their power to determine that all Iraqis must follow a repressive anti-modern version of Islam, etc.

But I'd like to go a step further: as far as I'm concerned, no "explanation" that looks at why certain people act in certain ways can bear, ultimately, on whether we judge their methods to be reprehensible or not. If you murder someone for the best of motives, I believe it is still murder according to law, right? The ends, according to most moral theories that I am familiar with, do no justify the means. The explanation of why someone behaves in a certain way should not have any relevance for our judgment of their actions, as a moral and legal question. However, it may well have an influence on how we respond, and how we act to forestall future acts of a similar kind.

Would Volokh really have us ignore the motivations of the Iraqi insurgents, or of Al-Quada associates worldwide? To treat them as blank slates whose intentions and circumstances are irrelevant to combatting them? That's simply absurd. We very much need to know why some Iraqis are willing to blow themselves up, and why some non-Iraqis are willing to travel to Iraq to fight against the American and other occupying forces, don't we? If we don't know why they are doing it, we're just cutting off our nose to spite our face.

So, we had better damn well look for "explanations", and these must be nature include any possible evidence, including poverty (though the evidence suggests that it's affluence in relation to poverty that matters, here), including the "desire for self-determination" (especially in illegitimate forms that deny the self-determinatin of others, such as women, liberal Iraqis, etc.), including anger at Israel and the United States (again, whether such anger could be justified is an entirely different and, in this context, largely irrelevant question), and so forth.

Again: examining ANY of these possible causes, or any others, DOES NOT LESSEN ANYONE's CULPABILITY. I'll be the first to condemn those (and they do exist) who say it does. But we can't "explain" at all unless we are willing to open our eyes and look at the evidence.

What I want to argue against, therefore, is Volokh's apparent presumption that _any_ "explanation" of the Iraqi insurgents that referred to the issues that he has unilaterally decided are illegitimate ipso facto lessens the insurgents' culpability.

There's a real, and difficult issue at stake here, and Volokh is justified in asking those who seek explanations to be very very careful -- something that has not always been the case. The field of inquiry that has done the most to illuminate the tensions and the anguish involved is Holocaust studies, where it is by now clear that efforts to "explain"--on the basis of empirical conditions or on the basis of the perceptions and understandings of the various perpetrators--are NOT justifications or excuses. A similar struggle about studies of Stalinism is still going on, I have the impression (though I am happy to be corrected). Volok's warning is fair insofar as anyone who does serious thinking based on the evidence about those cases--or about the one at stake here, where equally heinous crimes, though thankfully on a smaller scale, are being justfied by their perpetrators in terms of some higher good--has to wrestle with the genuine danger that "explanations" can leak over into "exuses." That is something all of us must guard against.

At the same time, simply declaring certain kinds of "explanations" off-limits is equally unhelpful, and that's what I think Volokh's statement implies.

To explain is not to excuse. A few -- but still too many -- commentators about the Iraqi situation on various fringes act as though it does. Volokh, by effectively endorsing their mistake in the process of capitalizing on it rhetorically, is not constructive in his 'defense' of his posting from the WSJ.
8.14.2005 12:43pm
Jeremy (mail) (www):
Stephen Vincent went to Iraq to report and had Little Green Footballs on his blogroll. That should make you all think for a moment about the sort of person he was.

He then went to Iraq and wrote what terrible people the Iraqi men were because of their attitude to women... all the while banging his translator while his wife remained at home.

Given some of his writings where he threatens to punch Iraqi men for being rude to his translator is is hardly remarkable in the wild and lawless place the US invasion has created, an invasion he so actively supported, that he was killed.
8.14.2005 3:19pm
NR:
PQuincy: Well said! My thoughts exactly, only more eloquently stated.
8.14.2005 9:59pm
Sean Smith (mail):
I think most of the people on the far Left (or, by the way, the extreme Right) who do in fact hope for an "insurgent" victory are too smart to say so.
8.15.2005 2:21am