|The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)|
Sunday, May 09, 2004
Assistant GM Paul DePodesta said "I hope not."
That is how I feel about the Abu Ghraib scandal, which is causing considerable anguish in Congress, in the editorial pages of newspapers, and in various weblogs. Many people act like soldiers' abuse of prisoners -- making them simulate various sex acts while naked -- will be among the worst crimes of the 21st century.
I hope so.
Here is Andrew Sullivan hyperventilating about Abu Ghraib:
I call bullshit. If this is the worst thing to come out of the Iraqi War, then America has done very well indeed.
Because this is a war. Remember war? Where people are bombed and shot and bayonetted? At the end of the Gulf War, the Iraqi army fled Kuwait City still clutching to their loot. They were met at a road junction by American A-6's which dropped cluster bombs on them. P.J. O'Rourke described the scene:
So if Abu Ghraib represents a "betrayal of our ideals," what about that kid who got his arms blown off at the start of the war? What about the people in the Fallujah mosque which was used as a shield by Baathists and was bombed by American forces? I don't know if Sullivan is overreacting, or if he's trying to impress us by trumpeting his nobility and sensitivity. In either case, he has pretty much turned his brain off for the duration and the result is gibberish. Just for writing drek like "these pictures strike at the very core of what it means to be America" Sullivan should, of his own volition, not pen anything for public consumption for a full year.
Sullivan is a supporter of the war, but he is participating in the same sort of dishonest passive-aggressive critique that so many war critics employ. They demand that everything be perfect. They score points off the American war effort when it stumbles, but don't feel the need to say what alternative action the United States should take.
This weekend the San Jose Mercury News published not one, not two, but three perfect examples of this inane sort of carping. Today's editorial was a fetid pile of insecure snivelling about how the world doesn't like us and we should stop being so uppity. The Merc writers complain about Iraq:
What solution is espoused by the Mercury News? You could probably guess, having seen the moaning about "frayed ties with traditional allies". What we need is right there on your keyboard -- two keys in the middle of the first and third rows of letters:
The Mercury News doesn't feel obliged to explain why the UN should be given control of Iraq after it exploited aid to that country for the gain of its own employees and some of its member countries. Or why UN or NATO peacekeeping in Iraq would be any more successful than those organizations' previous efforts in Lebanon, Africa, and the Balkans. And what "moderate Muslim countries" is the Merc talking about? The only countries that are both Muslim and at least moderately free are Turkey and Indonesia. That's a good one; the US cannot be trusted not to exploit Iraq for its own benefit, so we'll hand over Iraq to a country on whose behalf terrorists murdered a US envoy in Baghdad, and to a country who is fighting an insurgency by an ethnic group that makes up a third of Iraq.
But the intellectually lazy people who write editorials for the Mercury News see no need to explain any of this. It's all another day's work of check-your-intellectual-curiosity-at-the-door-and-grind-out-750-words-and-I'm-having-Thai-for-dinner.
Another example of how the Mercury News has no interest in doing anything other than scoring points: Yesterday it published an editorial demanding that Donald Rumsfeld resign. Because, you know, everything isn't perfect.
Because, you know, every other war was fought with no mistakes at all. It isn't enough that the Pentagon conquered Iraq in three weeks with practically no casualties on either side. Why, the Mercury News editorial writers could have done that in fifteen minutes! Rumsfeld did not forsee every potential problem, so he has to be fired.
The most vile slander against Rumsfeld is that he has made America one of the world's jailers. Here is a country that really is one of the world's jailer's: North Korea, because the whole country is a prison. If the Merc is going to complain about treatment of Arab prisoners by American soldiers, why does it not complain about the far worse treatment by other Arab countries?
Let us say that we do not wish Americans to be judged by the actions of barbaric dictatorships, but by the standards of the civilized world. The Mercury News abbreviates "civilized world" as "UN"; witness their calls in the other editorial for Iraq to be occupied by that body. Why then does the Merc not complain about the proclivities of UN functionaries to engage in underage prostitution and sex slavery in Kosovo:
or in Africa:
The Mercury News has not called upon Kofi Annan to resign because of these scandals. Nor have they called for his resignation due to the oil-for-food scandal. In fact, a search for "iraq AND oil AND food AND scandal" returns no results from past Mercury News articles.
So let me get this straight: Annan has done nothing about the oil for food scandal except to impede the progress of the investigation by telling key figures not to participate in questioning. Meanwhile Donald Rumsfeld has come clean, jailers at Abu Ghabi will be courtmartialed soon -- the first on May 19th -- and President Bush has apologized.
And it is Rumsfeld who needs to resign?
Normally I complain about the Merc's silliness in a lighthearted tone. But this really depresses me. We are at war with people who reject all the progress that the Western world has made in the past five hundred years. Featured prominently on that list are freedom of speech, sexual freedom, and most of all, the right not to have someone's religion imposed on you. These are all values that the Mercury News claims to support.
Yet the Merc editorial writers are not willing to move their gaze beyond the very narrow range of opinion that separates American liberals from American conservatives. The Merc is willing to criticize American law enforcement when they investigate what suspected terrorists read in libraries, but what are we to do about people who would lock the librarians and patrons in the library and burn it down? The Merc isn't interesed in anything more difficult than acquiring a cheap halo by knocking Republicans, so it has no answer.
Daniel Sneider, the Merc's foreign affairs correspondent, published a piece today that examined the background behind Abu Ghraib:
Now it is a bad thing when police abuse prisoners. When a suspect is picked up for shoplifting or drunk driving, he should not be abused or humiliated. But ... that suspect is not a member of a conspiracy whose aim is to eject American forces from occupied countries. He is not going to try to murder Westerners.
The Al Qaeda detainees are fellow soldiers of those nineteen terrorists who piloted planes into buildings -- presumably with a bone-chilling view as the Pentagon or World Trade Center approached the cockpit. Isn't it reasonable to fear such people, and to demand that they strip, that they are isolated, that they be tied up?
Sneider has no interest in examining the moral questions that are raised by America's war with Al Qaeda and Baathists. He quotes the Red Cross and then packs up his briefcase to go home. But the previous history of the US military's treatment of prisoners is not necessarily applicable. The Germans that America fought in World War I were ordinary folk who marched into war thinking that it would be a glorious parade, only to find that it was an abbatoir. The next generation of Germans that Americans captured were more or less civilized people whose country had gone temporarily insane. The Koreans and Chinese that we fought fifty years ago were brainwashed cannon fodder who were probably more scared of their leaders than they were of us. None of these people were jihadis.
The best historical analogy to our current enemies that can be gleaned from past wars is that of the Waffen SS and the Japanese Army. Both organizations were full of zealots willing to commit atrocities to further their ideology. I certainly wouldn't lose any sleep if while in captivity such a person were made to stand while naked.