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Rationalization: it's a defence mechanism - Nobody wears a white coat any more... — LiveJournal
...a tribute to becoming a doctor.
Rationalization: it's a defence mechanism
I'm sitting in the medical student lounge, playing World of Warcraft, letting my mind begin to vegetate, when my attention filters in the conversation behind me. Three of my fellow MS-3's, students I know, whose clinical abilities I respect, who are intelligent and have performed well in objective measures of learning, cognition, and intellect. They are discussing the Iraqi situation with Machiavellian nonchalance.
"It doesn't matter what stupid reasons we went into Iraq, we're going to get a good outcome."
"Sure, I mean they've done some bad stuff in the prisons, but at least they're not cutting people's heads off."
"It looks horrible when we see the pictures, but we don't know what kind of information they were trying to get out of them."

I spoke once, was rebuffed with a snort. "Amnesty International and the Red Cross? They're so full of bullshit, you can't believe anything they say." I retreated; unwilling to engage in a debate I was sure to lose. Because my fellow students have rationalized. Every statement is a statement of fact followed by "but".

"Bush may not be the smartest guy we've got there, but it takes intelligence to become president."

Do they not understand, O Best Beloved, that there is no "but"?
Our soldiers, chosen representatives of our country, have transgressed on moral territory and we have been shamed. Our people have sinned, if you will. We are culpable. And to insist that the degree of our sin, visited upon an unknown number of victims, is somehow relevant to our moral stance is simply wrong.
We have claimed that our mission is humane and moral, that we bring peace, prosperity, and freedom to Iraq. We cannot make that statement and act in defiance of those self-same ideals.
We have done wrong. If we are repentant for that wrongdoing, we must face the consequences and attempt to make reparations. There is no but.

now feeling:: angry angry

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goddesspsyche From: goddesspsyche Date: May 21st, 2004 06:07 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
So let us shun the entire country, our government and every single member of the military because of the misjudgement of a few soldiers? Funny, I saw you as better than that.
ayradyss From: ayradyss Date: May 21st, 2004 06:21 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
I have no intention of shunning the country, the government, or the military. My heart is with the men and women in Iraq, believe me. I have friends and loved ones there.
But I'm tired of the attitude of "it wasn't that bad, because look, see, they did worse things." I'm tired of every apology coming with a "but". Mistakes were made, sins were committed, and why do we feel the need to justify, explain, and pass responsibility? Why can't we just say "We screwed up. How can we make amends in the eyes of the world?"
That's what frustrates me. I want there to be an impartial investigation into the affair. I want to know that we're treating American soldiers exactly as we would anyone who committed a violation of human rights of this nature.

I don't understand what's wrong with saying "Some Americans did bad things. Some Iraqis did bad things. Both parties were in the wrong, and should be brought fully to justice." Maybe it didn't come through in what I was quoting, but the gist of the conversation was essentially that the whole scandal of Abu Ghraib was being blown totally out of proportion and that anything was justified when there were so much more horrible things going on by terrorists.
goddesspsyche From: goddesspsyche Date: May 21st, 2004 06:28 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
But why should we feel the needs to make amends here? No matter what we do we're in the wrong, and Americans on the whole should not be forced to suffer humiliation and disdain because of the mistakes of a few. What attitude would you prefer them to take? That they can't trust the safety of their country and military? At this point in time, for people like those, it's probably safer to allow them to think what they will, for ignorance is bliss and you cannot force people to see clearly when they dont' want to, and further more in some cases you shouldn't. What good will come of them fearing for their lives, and should they even? No. They should NOT feel like they have to apologize for what occurred, because they didn't do it, nor did they have anything to do with it. Do you see my point here? No one in their right minds is saying that the prison guards were in the right, but if it makes them able to sleep to justify it in some way, then let them. Is Bush a good public speaker? No. Has he made mistakes? Yes. But he hasn't made them on his own and he isn't stupid. To think so is complete and totally idiocy and close mindedness. You do not know everything our government does, you do not know the whole situation. None of us do. So we need to trust that things will be taken care of in the best way possible because that is how a democracy works.
lakos From: lakos Date: May 21st, 2004 07:06 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
That's not how a chain of command works, though. If a ship at sea fires at a civilian cruise ship, the captian of the ship can't just say "I'm sorry, but the gunner was bored and saw something and did this all on his own". It just doesn't work that way. The captain takes responsibility for the crew of his ship, plain and simple. Does that mean he's equally cupable? No. But he should appoligize. And third parties shouldn't invent asanine ideas about why it happened and justify it as being not as bad as some other things. They're doing more than just comparing it. They're saying the actions are ok and defensible because their not as bad as the actions someone else did to other people. That's like saying locking the Japanese away in internment camps like we did in WWII is ok because at least we didn't gas them like Hitler gassed the Jews.

They are representing us, that's why we have to speak up on this issue. By not speaking out, we lend our silent support of the actions. It's not to try to dissuade someone from their beliefs, but rather to state our own stance on this.
goddesspsyche From: goddesspsyche Date: May 21st, 2004 09:18 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
I'm not saying that at all. I think I understand the chain of command, my father is a Colonel in the United States Marine Corps. No one in the US gov't is saying "Oh they did it worse." Honestly if your support for what "americans" are saying is quoting Rush Limbaugh I think you need to reevalutate the citizens of this country.
lakos From: lakos Date: May 21st, 2004 09:22 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
Rush is an American and so are the medical students. My father, too, is a Colonel, though in the Air Force. No, most of government isn't saying that, but there are American, very loud ones, who are saying it. And people are listening and believing these statements and justifying something that has no justification.
goddesspsyche From: goddesspsyche Date: May 21st, 2004 09:27 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
And there are an equal amount of persons, those within the government system, speaking out against these deplorable actions. 1) George W Bush, our 'stupid' President, who had things kept from him. 2) JOHN MCCAIN, a Senator who was a Vietnam POW and a Republican, who ALSO, like the rest of Congress, had things kept from him.

These are only a few of many.

You see, in the United States we have this idea of Freedom of Speech, which allows people to say what they want, and believe what they want. So Rush Limbaugh can go on TV and radio and say that 'they did it first' and we can't do jack shit about it, nor should we try to stop him. And if the American people in general are listening it's their fault. But for each person saying it, there are at least two more saying just the opposite.
lakos From: lakos Date: May 21st, 2004 09:37 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
Sure, he can say it all he wants. But that doesn't mean he's right. And when he's not, he should be corrected.

Why did Bush have things kept from him? Did he call for an investigation into why the reports weren't forwarded? Rumsfeld had a report issued to him in January and he apparently didn't read it or didn't care enough then to forward it on or to take action.

Why didn't Congress know? The Administration is supposed to keep Congress informed on these things, but they're not.

We have conflicting reports from different levels of the chain of command. There are orders allowing in cague terms the "softening up" of prisoners that Bush, Rumsfeld and other upper level people approved and then we have statements by them saying the Geneva Conventions apply and always will apply. Which is it?
goddesspsyche From: goddesspsyche Date: May 21st, 2004 09:41 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
Yes! Congress and the President have demanded Rumsfeld explain what was going on and why. The belief right now is that Rumsfeld knew and was trying to cover it up. Whether that is true or not, who knows. And people HAVE stated that Limbaugh is wrong, and that those people like the ones Nykki ran across today are wrong. But that STILL doesn't mean that we, as normal American Citizens, have the responsibility of 'cleaning up' after our country, and especially not after those few who made a wrong decision.
lakos From: lakos Date: May 21st, 2004 09:44 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
Then who does the clean up? What if I don't think it's enough?
goddesspsyche From: goddesspsyche Date: May 21st, 2004 09:47 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
The people ARE doing the cleanup but they are NOT about to spread every single thing all over the news and the media. They can't point fingers at people that may be innocent because it's not right. How do you know if it's enough or not? You don't, you dont' have privaleges to view classified information, nor do you have the technology and resources those doing the investigations have. Who does the cleanup are those people representing our country on an international level.
ayradyss From: ayradyss Date: May 21st, 2004 09:47 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
All right, apparently there's a pretty significant misunderstanding. Let me try and clear up what I'm saying.

My anger is directed at the attitude I perceived, not at the people, not even at the soldiers who made the mistakes. The two tenets that I heard expressed repeatedly by my classmates were:
1) No matter what means we used to achieve an end, the end would be sufficient justification for those means. They excused the actions of the soldiers by saying that it was all right for them to torture prisoners, as long as they had a good end in mind.
Especially in medicine, I find Machiavellian ideals disturbing. It leads to (and I have heard this expressed by medical professionals) What does it matter what pain and suffering you go through in the process, if I can cure your disease? The end is all that matters.

2) (And this, I feel is similar to the first) Because our soldiers' actions were not as horrific as the beheading, and because they had information-gathering in mind, there is no reason to make such a fuss about them. That is essentially the viewpoint that was expressed.

Those are the attitudes I took exception to. And these are people who will become ideological and moral leaders, whether they want to or not. Physicians have prestige and voice in our society by virtue of their profession - they can lose it, but I have seen it myself, many times already. We must take that responsibility seriously.

I don't believe that my colleagues, myself, or you should be apologizing for the events of Abu Ghraib, and I'm sorry if you perceived that as my point. I believe that the "average American", and certainly one who is working in a field as morally and ethically challenging as medicine, should be able to accept that some things simply are inexcusable, no matter what human being perpetrates them.
goddesspsyche From: goddesspsyche Date: May 21st, 2004 09:51 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
We are fighting a war. We are fighting against a culture that most in this country do not understand. And in trying to wrap their minds around it, things are getting jumbled and confused.

On top of that...to get the big picture we aren't just fighting Iraq and Hussein, we're fighting an IDEA and it's an idea we're not sure how to combat. You can't just destroy an idea by kicking out a nasty regime.
ayradyss From: ayradyss Date: May 21st, 2004 09:54 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
Agreed, on both your points.
From: clypheous Date: May 21st, 2004 10:40 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
I don't like all the politicians saying things like "See? They killed Nick Berg and beheaded him, that's far worse than what we do in the prisons" Just because we don't kill people by beheading them doesn't make them any less dead. Personally this is one instance where the ends really are about the most important thing. Beaten to death and beheaded really aren't that much different. There's actually a strong argument to be made that being beheaded would be less painful than being beaten to death as some of the Iraqi prisoners appear to have been.

I would like to be able to take some moral high ground and be able to say that what America is doing is justified...But...I don't think that we are holding any kind of a high ground anymore. Which is truly sad, we had such a roll going there for the last five or so decades. People might not always think we were right, but at least a lot of them respected us. Now the world just sees us as a bully, and one who's none too bright at that. We're better than that, we're better than all these scandals. We need to do something about these problems and we need to fix them fast. Every day that we go around saying that beating and killing prisoners in Iraq isn't a problem is another hundred recruits for Al Qaida and another 10 American soldiers killed and another billion dollars spent for nothing.

The soldiers aren't the entire problem. I don't believe they came up with all this stuff on their own. I think the entire chain of command is responsible, but in typical fashion not a single person is willing to come forward and take any responsibility for their actions. Bush says it's not his fault, but it is. He's the reason we're over there in the first place. Rumsfeld it's not his fault either, but he's known about this longer than anyone and has been trying to cover it up. Bremer has known about it for a while too and also was trying to cover it up.

It's very sad. All this death and destruction for nothing is simply criminal. And the most sad thing is that the criminals either don't think they are doing anything wrong, or don't care. I'm not even sure which scares me over.
missysedai From: missysedai Date: May 22nd, 2004 12:12 am (UTC) (etched in stone)
but if it makes them able to sleep to justify it in some way, then let them.

You're kidding, right?
goddesspsyche From: goddesspsyche Date: May 22nd, 2004 12:41 am (UTC) (etched in stone)
No, I'm not. Not in the least. Why should the common person have to worry about what's going on across the world that was the fault of a small segregated group of people?
missysedai From: missysedai Date: May 22nd, 2004 01:02 am (UTC) (etched in stone)
I think you're missing the point entirely.

I don't particularly care whether "the common person" can sleep at night. If he's incapable of saying "Holy hell, that was WRONG", without trying to justify it, then I submit he doesn't deserve to sleep at night. There is NO justification for what happened. NONE. EVER.

At risk of invoking Godwin here, the common person should damn well worry about what a small group of people are doing - on their dime, no less - halfway across the world because it only takes a small group of people to bring that horror home. Final Solution, much?
goddesspsyche From: goddesspsyche Date: May 22nd, 2004 02:05 am (UTC) (etched in stone)
I think you've misinterpreted what I'm saying. And the long and short of it is this: In America people can say and believe whatever they want to. It's their right as citizens of this country. Am I saying what happened isnt' wrong? No. I think it's one of the most horrible things to have happened since I've been alive. But will I force other people to stare something in the eyes that they will never understand? No. Yes, it is a justification, but it isnt' a good one and I never said it was.
missysedai From: missysedai Date: May 22nd, 2004 02:20 am (UTC) (etched in stone)
I really dislike the weak "Well, it's a free country and we can say and think whatever we want!" argument. Yeah, I'll defend people's right to have a stupid opinion, but I'll also defend MY right te tell them that their opinion is stupid.

"It's a free country!" works both ways.

But will I force other people to stare something in the eyes that they will never understand?

What's to understand? Wrong is wrong is wrong is wrong. Even my 8 year-old knows that. It's not all that hard a concept to grasp.
goddesspsyche From: goddesspsyche Date: May 22nd, 2004 01:57 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
Plain and simple, it is a free country, the end. That IS the argument and it will ALWAYS be the argument because it is THAT that sets the United States apart.

Yes, it is wrong, yes it should be obvious it's wrong. I'm not discussing that, for never have I said it wasnt. But NONE OF US can wholly understand why those people did what they did, because our minds aren't supposed to work the same way as the sadistic people who tortured others. Does that make any more sense?
missysedai From: missysedai Date: May 22nd, 2004 03:11 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
It's a stupid</> argument. It's easily one of the most moronic arguments extant, and bespeaks a distinct lack of thought on the part of the person making the argument. If the best you (or anyone else) can do is "It's a free country and we can say what we want!", please stop wasting the time of the people who HAVE thought about it.

I'm not interested in "understanding" WHY these people did what they did. Neither, from what I've read here, is Nykki or anyone else who has posted here. What people want to know is why it's so goddamned hard for their apologists to just say "These people should be punished, there is never any excuse for this behavior.", instead of saying "Well, they still didn't do anything as bad as what the Iraqis did."

It doesn't MATTER why they did it. What matters is that people stop trying to rationalize it away to make themselves feel better, and start acknowledging that it was wrong and inhuman and unjust and done in the name of freedom and democracy, done in the name of the citizens of the United States.

Nykki had the right of it. "There is no but." That's the whole entire point of this discussion. "There is no but."
goddesspsyche From: goddesspsyche Date: May 22nd, 2004 03:44 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
It's not 'the best I can do' it's the truth. Everyday people work and fight to give us that freedom. Let them talk, for that is their right.
lakos From: lakos Date: May 21st, 2004 06:32 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
The problem she's (and I) addressing isn't that. It's that Rush L. and the others like him are saying "It's not as bad as what they did." They're making excuses and not placing blame, which needs to happen. And she's saying that the actions of those soldiers have tarnished our name more than a lot of the other things that have happened recently. She's not dragging America through the mud, the soldiers that did this are, because they are the face, hands, and feet of America to those in the prisons and to the Arab world.

We need to find out what happened. We need to know if it was just the soldiers or if they were ordered to do it. And if they were "just following orders", we need to know how high up the chain of command those orders came from. And we need to hold these people accountable or else all of our claims to stand for truth, justice and the American way amount to precisely jack, because they in Iraq and the rest of the Arab world, if not the entire world, will see us as arrogant and as if we believe we're above the laws and rules we apply to all others in the world. And we can't be a beacon of truth, justice, and democracy if the world doesn't see us as truthful, just or democratic.
amasashi From: amasashi Date: May 22nd, 2004 04:47 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
Lots of comments, lots of comments, most of which seem to be just ping-ponging back and forth between two points which cannot be understood or reconciled.

But I wholeheartedly agree with you when you say that "there is no but". It's okay to make mistakes. What's not okay is to not admit to them and instead find some kind of justification for why they should be tolerated. I think that damages America's moral ground more than anything else. Sometimes we just have to stop being so cocky and arrogant and just say "I screwed up. I was wrong. There is excuse for what I did, and I'm sorry."
25 whispers echo . o O ( ... ) O o . whisper a word