Saturday, November 04, 2006
To the Memory of Alyssa Peterson
"He has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable or dangerous to do so."
And then we have the cases like Alyssa Peterson and Ted Westhusing. I am far from convinced that either of these cases is a suicide. But in both we have soldiers who held fast to the concept of honor, and for that both merit our respect. More than this, Peterson and Westhusing are the two of the most clear-cut American heroes to fall in this conflict...
Americans who want to restore the nation's honor can take a first step by remembering Ted Westhusing and Alyssa Peterson when they enter the voting booth on Election Day. This is about our country and the integrity of those who serve it.
There is nothing honorable about suicide. It is the ultimate form of quitting.
Moreover, there is even less honor exploiting the suicide of two soldiers to rustle up votes in an election. Indeed, such crass exploitation is reprehensible.
You have no idea why these service members committed suicide and are injecting your own motives for purely political reasons.
In one of the most wretched political seasons in memory, this is a new low.
If I remember anything when I vote, it will be that power always corrupts, and it should be granted to any one group or individual not for very long. The more power someone wants, it seems, the more corrupt it is likely they are.
Great piece, and thanks for it. Sad that your point will be wasted on many who purport to represent absolute values, but its value for us alleged "moral relativists" is absolute---and immense. Blessings.
You make a perfectly reasonable point about the emotional cost to our soldiers from enhanced interrogation techniques
But, it's hard to trust your credibility when you make seemingly wild and unsubstantiated accusations - insinuating that those two were murdered.
Do you have ANYTHING (aside from random letters from uninformed readers) to back that up? Aside from you own conjecture.
I mean seriously, you come across as crazy. Please calm my doubts.
Dear Humble Law Student,
Both of these individuals died from bullet wounds, which is not a natural cause of death. The case of Col Westhusing was, as noted in the linked piece, investigated and reported in an extensive feature in the Los Angeles Times. The Times writer quoted a number of sources who cast doubt on the assessment of the case as a suicide, and the piece itself comes off as extremely skeptical. This is not to say that there is a specific suspect or alternative theory, only that the claim that the case is a suicide is subject to severe doubt. Col Westhusing was aggressively pressing a claim of corruption against a contractor. With his death, it appears that this claim went away. That also is unsettling. The totality of evidence in the Alyssa Peterson case is, at this point, far weaker, and the military has still failed to turn over much of what was requested in the FOIA, including a supposed suicide notes. Suicides are faked to cover homicides with some frequency - this is not just a matter of murder mysteries. And beyond this it is extremely difficult to conduct sound investigations in a war setting of this sort. This adds to the circumstance of doubt. However, my view is one of doubt, not certainty. The posture adopted by DOD does not inspire confidence, but rather just the opposite - namely a sense that something definitely is not right here.
Dear Bart DePalma,
To the contrary, I would say that disparaging deceased service personnel in Iraq, as you do here, is "a new low." Enjoy election night. I am sure you're looking forward to it.
I appreciated the post from 12/05, especially the Waldron article (now published; cited by Dahlia Lithwick of Slate in a recent column), which I found very powerful.
SH clarified his noises as to the fact the two "suicides" were controversial. This is helpful, since the matter did raise a red flag. I'd note the E&P piece might have pointed to doubts, but the two part piece doesn't focus on them.
I'm not sure tossing them in really adds to your post, especially w/o the added clarification you now made.
Anyway, it is tragic that two people like these felt compelled to kill themself, if that is what happened.
There is no LA Times link in the post above. You do have a link to the LA Times in a post that this post links to, but that link has expired. I'm guessing I'll have to go to lexis to drudge it up. Unless, you can point me somewhere else?
For the Alyssa Peterson case, the evidence you pointed seems really weak. Especially, when you take into account how the military is almost always draggings its feet regarding deaths that put it in a bad light. Of course, if she was murdered they would have an even greater incentive to drag their feet/ cover it up. But for better or worse, this is their usually MO and hardly supportive of your claims.
I don't think Professor Horton would write something like this unless he had good reason to think it was true. He's taking a risk with this piece if the evidence turns out the other way. And it's not like there's a shortage of eminently verifiable things to criticize (though "verifable" is a relative term, as Bart and "The Dog" continuously remind us).
The possibility that she was murdered left me speechless for more than a minute. But given what we know about Ian Fishback, Fallujah, Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, Alberto Mora, and Abu Ghraib, maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised.
I'm going to stick with criticisms I consider more credible (i.e. those that have been verified), but I'm glad others are plumbing the depths of what human beings are capable of.
I am a little puzzled by your comments but you seem so troubled that I will follow up a bit. I am not leveling a charge against anyone connected with the death of Alyssa Peterson.
Bart DePalma says "there is nothing honorable about suicide." I agree with him. (Of course, Seneca, Socrates and other greater thinkers of antiquity would have a very different take on the issue). Because the conclusion of "suicide" entails a degree of stigmatization of a person who honorably served his or her country in conflict (it may, just for instance, lead to refusal of permission for burial in consecrated grounds), I believe it is unseemly to jump to this conclusion. It is only appropriate where the evidence for this conclusion is clear and convincing. In Col Westhusing's case it certainly isn't. If you send me your email address I will get you the LA Times piece - for copyright reasons I can't post it. In Alyssa Peterson's case, all the information is inconclusive, mostly because the DOD has now made a series of inconsistent statements about what happened and has - still - failed to give a comprehensive account. There is no question of why: her case is tied closely to the introduction of highly coercive techniques which were war crimes. They are extremely anxious not to have any of these facts explored or documented. Indeed, they tell us the records have been destroyed. This is not a circumstance in which stigmatization of a fallen soldier with a tag of suicide is appropriate. My interest here is defense of a deceased person, not accusations against an unknown assailant.
Bart Depalma is a perfect example of the 'whatever my side says" mindset that deserves intellectual waterboarding, if not an actual one.
With no frame of knowledge beyond a law degree, you quickly denounce ("..no idea why these two service members committed suicide..") two persons whose mortal fate was, at the very least, HUGELY compromised by the most sinister undermining of their ethical and moral beliefs by leaders with no such ethical compass whatsoever.
I viscerally doubt the validity of the suicide claims, and fully expect the further exploration of these cases to yield countless irregularities in the manner in which the "official investigation" was conducted, and the motives applied to the deceased individuals by a demonstratively deceptive power structure.
In what qualifies for your version of "honor", bart, is there a great reservoir of that attribute in believing whatever is announced by your leadership, no matter your own inability to know what transpired with two service people who showed vast levels of pure honor and character right up to the last minutes of their lives?
Their legacy should not be left, frankly, to the rulings of those whose pronouncements impugn their honor.
Has anyone asked, or explained, why the records of the interrogations were destroyed? Either this is standard operating procedure, or someone had something to hide and should be charged with (at a minimum) obstruction of justice. Any suggestion that the records destruction was "accidental" would not be credible.
even if it is suicide, it was homocide. how long will we allow these evil men to murder our children? To rape and murder and torture? When will they be called to justice?
There is nothing honorable about suicide. It is the ultimate form of quitting.
What an absolutely despicable human being you are, Mr. Depalma. Absolutely despicable. Whether it was or wasn't suicide, the last thing you have a right to do is judge Alyssa Peterson in her final moment. Shame on you.
["Bart" DePalma]: Oh please...
["Bart" DePalma]: There is nothing honorable about suicide. It is the ultimate form of quitting.
[Thomas Nephew]: What an absolutely despicable human being you are, Mr. Depalma. Absolutely despicable. Whether it was or wasn't suicide, the last thing you have a right to do is judge Alyssa Peterson in her final moment. Shame on you.
"Bart" (as is usual) misses the point. Scott was suggesting that the "suicides" were rather curious, considering that these people were people of honour and principle, and that they would have neither the reason (having refused to engage in the abuse) nor the inclination (being people of principle) to commit suicide themselves.
But even if they did feel that they had "failed" in some way, and that drove them to such desperate acts, suicide is hardly dishonourable. In Japanese culture, this is the atonement some people make themselves if they had a position of authority and something bad happened on their watch. That concept of "responsibility" is lost on those that support the maladministration, needless to say.
As a veteran interrogator who came into some contact with the world of strategic politics, 'other government organizations', and the great disparity between truth and the press release, I would not be surprised at all to learn that Mr. Horton's conjectures about faked suicides were accurate.
Mr Depalma's post is bothersome. It's the kind of thing you want to take apart piece by piece, but when you sit down to do it, you become so damn frustrated that all you can do is spit and count on the hope that everyone else already gets it.
In any case, suicide or not, the deaths of these two (and all) service men and women in Iraq should definitely be considered before voting.
Step 1: download and install greasemonkey (https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/748/
Step 2: download this trollblocker
Step 3: open balkinisation and use the kill or hide function
Step 4: change the code to have fun. In my world I reduced Bart to always saying "I like pie". From now on Bart, I agree with you!
# posted by Anne : 7:38 PM
If the parents and/or fellow church members of Alyssa read this -- then let me thank you and acknowledge you for the developmaent of Alyssa's character to the degree that she could not take part in an activity totally contradictory to her values as a follower of the Lord Jesus. Alyssa, you are a heroine wherever you are. Thank you for sying No in the most recognizable way you could. See you in the Celestial Kingdom.
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