A reader quotes me:
This feels like an academic debate. But it isn’t. I have blood on my hands. However many times I try to wash them, the blood will not come off.
Can you and all your fellow pundits spare us the self-flagellation about Iraq? I say this as a former Army officer who served in west Baghdad just after the civil war there cooled off. We get it. We know what a charlie-foxtrot it was. We also know we need to constructively talk about the lessons learned and strategic and policy failures. Folks like Tom Ricks and Rajiv Chandresekaran are doing that quite well right now. I would much rather have Paul Wolfowitz (see Bacevich) come to terms with Iraq than you give us your very own “hathos alert”.
Another piles on:
Let your self-importance go already! Blame the blamable, not the lemmings. You are a blog writer. You comment. You don’t wage wars. You fell for their BS. Nothing more.
Another takes issue with the visual part of the post:
Once again with the pictures of dead children. Was it absolutely necessary to post one of a child with his scalp tearing forward and a pacifier in his grandfather’s hand? I paid up my $20 to get my regular dose of the Dish, but I cannot stand it when you post these pictures of dead children. What is the purpose? Sensationalism? Trying to make the point that the war in Iraq was wrong? You can do that with the many essays you have written, without including the broken bodies of dead children. Please. The next time you think you will … don’t.
Another doesn’t go quite that far:
I’ve emailed about this on a number of occasions and I know you have a very “if you don’t like it, stop reading my blog” attitude sometimes but, as you are a clearly a very empathetic person, I would like you to try to put yourself in the shoes of parents with young children. As a father of two young kids, unexpectedly seeing something as horrifying as what you have posted today can be more traumatic that you realize. And I don’t expect anyone who isn’t a parent to truly understand what I’m talking about because having children literally changes your brain. And no, having dogs doesn’t fucking count.
Before having kids (I have a six and two year-old) I could see a photo like that and feel an appropriate amount of pain/empathy without it fucking up my brain for an extended period of time. Not so anymore. For example, just hearing Rachel Maddow talk about Sandy Hook again the other day almost had me in tears and made me depressed/distracted for most of the day. Am I hyper-sensitive relative to many others about this stuff? YES… because I have little kids. But I’m also a big jock of a guy and can tell you that my reaction is not half as severe as what most mothers would experience if they saw what you posted today.
I very much understand why you show these pictures. I actually applaud you for putting them out there because most Americans don’t see the horror of war, and we need to. In fact, I’ve threatened to send pictures of dead children to my father because he can be very callous about the murders we’re committing overseas in the name of “The War on Terror.” I’ve threatened to do this because I want him to see pictures and think about those dead kids as if they were HIS grandchildren. But ultimately I don’t send them because I’m not an asshole who will traumatize someone just to make a point.
So, PLEASE put photos like that below Read On with a warning of graphic images. This will at least allow your readers to choose what they are seeing and give them the opportunity to prepare themselves. That can make a huge difference.
I think that the photo you posted is the most disturbing and graphic photo you’ve ever posted on your blog. I wasn’t sure that I was really seeing what I thought I was seeing until I made the photo larger. I imagine you will get some complaints about it. But I’m glad you posted it. We can’t be reminded often enough of the real consequences of any war.
I feel no satisfaction that I was 100% opposed to the war from the very beginning. The very idea of it was devastating to me. It made no sense to me at all, and I was appalled that the America I loved was going to start a war under circumstances that I considered unjustified. It felt like a betrayal of the principles I strongly believed in and thought were absolutely sacrosanct. I hated that people around the world hated us and saw us as bullies.
Shortly before the war started, I went with my husband and baby son to Spain for a vacation. I was saddened by the hatred I felt from many people simply because I was American. We had an encounter with an airline employee at the airport in Madrid that left me shaken for days. Despite being an employee in a service position dealing with international travelers, she did not even attempt to hide her contempt for my little family, simply because we were American. She took pleasure in saying “Americans are terrible people.” I wanted to report her to her boss. I wanted to explain to her that I didn’t support the war, that a lot of Americans didn’t support the war, that I didn’t vote for Bush, that the America that would do this was not my America. But I love my country, and I respect the office of the President, even if I didn’t respect the President, and I suffered mostly in silence. She’d made her mind up, anyway.
I’m glad I didn’t read you then. I don’t think I would have stuck with you. But I don’t think you have blood on your hands. In my America, you are always allowed to say what you feel, to give your opinion, which is all you did, even if you were wrong.
George Bush and Dick Cheney are the ones with blood on their hands.
I do not mean to exaggerate my infinitesimal influence on decisions made by others. I was trying to express as clearly as possible how sorry I am. As for the graphic photos: this is the blood on my hands. I posted it not for shock value, but as a reality check against precisely the kind of solipsism one can fall into in this kind of thing. I also see one of the defining qualities of the Dish is that we will publish photos other mainstream outlets will not, for the reasons articulated by readers.
Someone, in my view, needs to get some of the brilliant but sometimes disturbing photography of some of the world’s best photo-journalists out there. If you can’t put them on your own blog, who will ever see them? And who will see them in their minds the next time we entertain something like invading a Middle East country.