Someone commented on my recent post "Support our troops? How about listening to them?" and asked a question that needs an answer: how can you tell these soldiers are telling the truth, and not just bad-mouthing the US. More generally, how can you see through the bias of any writer and know you're not being lied to?
First of all, bias or bad faith is in itself no reason to dismiss a story. The Gestapo were not nice people, and they could certainly lie. But they were telling the truth in 1943 when they said they had found the corpses of 20,000 Polish officers shot by Stalin in the Katyn Forest in 1939.
This question about the veracity of soldiers recounting atrocities reminds me of how Communists denied the testimony of 200,000 refugees fleeing Hungary in November 1956. These "patriots" want to support soldiers until those soldiers threaten their illusions. As soon as that happens, they want to find some reason to blow off their testimony - but consider how ridiculous that is. Look at all the accounts by so many, the routine torture now more covered up than in 2004, but clearly still happening.
Are soldiers in any army quick to tell such stories unless they're true? They can hardly be persuaded to talk about them when they are. These "patriots" who are so eager to disbelieve these men they so lately brayed about supporting show that they don't want to "support our troops" but rather to support their own illusions. And when those troops don't support them too, far from supporting them they want to find a way to call them liars.
Only those determined not to know can doubt these men. Look at all the supporting evidence. Consider how the Iraqi people are routinely called ragheads, hajis, and such like. You don't call people names like that except to license yourself to treat them like non-humans. When peoiple have called you names like that in your life, what did they do next?
I know moreover that these accounts are truthful because all occupation armies act like this. The theological truth that makes it inevitable is simply given by the apostle Peter: "Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or an overseer of the business of others."
It turns out that these four are one; if you do one, you will always do them all. That's why overseeing the affairs of others is so insidious. It looks the most benign, and therefore draws you in, where you soon find yourself in the other three, which you would never have started with.
Colonial wars like Iraq are always in their nature about overseeing the affairs of the lesser breeds. This inherent arrogance is why they're all about murder, theft, and evildoing, no matter who does them. This is nothing new: American soldiers behaved just as abominably in their colonial wars in the Philippines and Vietnam - just like Frenchmen, British, Germans, and all other colonial occupiers in their turn.
Consider the remarks of Pierre Leuillette, a French paratrooper who wrote of what he saw in Algeria:
Whatever the outcome of this Algerian war, it is certain that fifty, a hundred years from now, the Algerians will still remember, and will still be telling their children, about this year 1957: when the Casbah, the symbol of all they had most deeply in common, was day and night in a state of siege, when terror was absolute master, when every one of its inhabitants could every moment say to himself: "Within an hour, men will perhaps be knocking at my door to take me away forever."
Make no mistake. That is exactly the reality that the US occupation has brought to the neighborhoods of Iraq, both at the hands of American soldiers themselves and the militias and death squads the occupation authorities have sponsored. 4 million in a population of 30 million are not driven from their homes by anything less. All occupiers act like this. If they did not, they would not have to call the occupied slopes, gooks, ragheads, niggers, hajis, and ragheads. As the Bible says, "Your speech betrays you."
Despite strict orders, I escape to Algiers as often as I possibly can. I have been silent among jailers so long I feel myself becoming vile, and what is more serious, I feel that in my mind the scandal of all these crimes that make up our day-to-day war is daily losing a little of its virulence. To civilians capable of talking calmly about the army - there aren't many, but they do exist even in Algiers in 1957 - I tell about what I see every day. They have always had a lofty idea of the greatness of France. They listen politely. But I sense their disbelief. They are thinking: "This isn't possible. We'd have known about it." Will they ever know about it? The German people, after the war, never stopped saying, and it was probably true: "We didn't know . . ." Have they ever really believed in the crimes of Dachau and of Auschwitz? Have they ever realized that not knowing is also a way of being guilty?
They wouldn't believe Pierre Leuillette about the French Army, and they won't believe Philip Crystal about the American Army. "Support our troops" until they tell us the truth. Then, because they rebuke our willful blindness and complicity in evil, they're self-hating Americans.
If you value your soul, take Pierre Leuillette's warning so that you too do not become vile. See. Hear. Do not be silent. And do not be intimidated by the Americans imitating the "good Germans" that didn't see or believe Dachau, and the Frenchmen that blew off Pierre Leuillette when he told them the truth in Algiers.