my pissant two cents

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

the outrage gap

the news keeps getting worse and worse, and america is worried about "the biggest loser," and just screaming for the next season of "american idol." i've got news for you, folks: america's idol is a dolt with a messianic complex, and the biggest loser is you.

i'll tell you why. the united states is a pariah nation, if not merely on the fast track to becoming one. not unlike libya, pol pot's cambodia, and that abandoned oil platform in the north atlnatic a family claimed sovereignty for. but much worse. unlike the others, the u.s. claims the moral high ground-- in fact, claiming divine provinence-- in its war on terror that has claimed thousands of innocent victims, and made torturers of us all.

remember the germans who willfully believed the jews were sent to the east for their own safety? we're sort of like them, but unlike them we can't claim any level of ignorance of the truth. we've been bombarded with the truth, but choose to ignore it. the photos that leaked out of abu graibh, showing sexual humiliation, real and threatened violence and inhuman conditions, remove the veil of plausible deniability. and the news keeps getting worse and worse.

the aclu, the center for constitutional rights, veterans for peace and other organizations released documents that they finally received under a freedom of information act request that describe, in no uncertain terms, torture. not highjinx, not fraternity-style hazing, but torture. the accusers? not weepy, birkenstock-wearing, patchouli-smelling granola munchers, but the federal bureau of investigation.

the house that j. edgar built is claiming, through a set of e-mails uncovered in the foia request, that "interrogators" from the department of defense are torturing inmates for information. that's hardly news. what is interesting is that the defense department spooks are doing so under the guise of f.b.i. investigation. the reason is so they will be able to deny their involvement, the d.o.d. can claim ignorance, and the f.b.i. can honestly say they had nothing to do with it. one e-mail states, "if this detainee is ever released or his story made public in any way, dod interrogators will not be held accountable because these torture techniques were done [by] the 'fbi' interrogators. the fbi will [be] left holding the bag before the public."

nice little gimmick, huh?

there's more. another e-mail describes detainees chained wrist-to-ankle in the fetal position for up to 24 hours, many of whom had urinated or defecated on themselves. Another recounts an episode wherein a detainee was kept in an unventilated room "probably well over 100 degrees" where he was found "almost unconscious on the floor with a pile of hair next to him. he had apparently been pulling his own hair out throughout the night."

at least one of the agents responsible for the e-mails said that he or she had documented the abuse only to protect the bureau if and when the information became public.

there were more reports. threatened executions. the firing of weapons from point-blank range aimed just past the victims. savage beatings of cuffed and shackled victims. unexplained deaths while in custody of seemingly healthy detainees. rapes of male juveniles.

pentagon and white house officials were quick to deny culpability. bush apologists were quick to point to the prosecutions of a handful of low-level soldiers in connection with the abu graibh investigation as evidence of official reprobation.

this ignores the obvious fact: someone, maybe rumsfeld, maybe bush, knows about this and has at least tacitly approved it. this is obvious. this is undoubted. this is unacceptable.

america, where is your outrage?

this is not about getting the bad guys. everybody from the red cross/red crescent to the department of defense has acknowledged that the round ups have netted mostly innocent bystanders, the hapless people who find themselves looking down the business end of an m-16, saying the arabic equivalent of "what the fuck?"

it is also not about preventing another 9/11. everybody, including the f.b.i. and c.i.a., acknowledges that torture does not render reliable information. one of the e-mails specifically notes that normal investigative techniques would deliver far more useful information.

no, this is about instilling fear. if you cavort with somebody who may be a terrorist or insurgent, this could be you. hey falluja, uncle sam don't take no guff from towelheads, so watch your step. if there's a lesson coming from falluja, it's that no one is safe while an insurgent is free. falluja wasn't destroyed in order to save it, but to make an example. like the heads on spikes at a medieval village gates, the warning is there for all to see.

the suicide bomber in mosul who took the lives of 22 americans-- and allah only knows how many iraqis-- has brought a hellbroth of hurt down on his countrymen and -women. there is a bloodlust afoot, and it will be quenched. like the nazi commissars who took ten lives for every german soldier killed by "insurgents" in occupied europe, the american occupation will exact its revenge. in one sense or another, blood will be spilled in a grisly quid pro quo.

and we are all to blame. when we do nothing, we acquiesce. when we make excuses, we condone. when we call for bloody justice, we approve.

but when we express our national shame and outrage, we save our souls. there is still time. we must save our souls.


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