Sunday, May 16, 2004

Abu Ghraib

I was tempted to ask you this via your comments section, but I decided it wouldn't be appropriate, and might be interpreted by some people as being a hostile question. Of course it isn't. Basically, you talk a lot on your blog about the American soldiers, but haven't mentioned the torture issue yet. How come?

It's not taken as a hostile question, and thanks for engaging me. Here's the answer, if I have one: I didn't know that I talked 'a lot' about American soldiers. But I have, several times. I recently posted about how I really, really want to see the current administration turned out in November, and I was thinking in part about the torture when I posted that. I wasn't trying to get people to infer anything, but I guess I assumed they would think I was reacting in part to Abu Ghraib. Seymour Hersh (a fine American) has done the reporting which indicates that Rumsfeld approved this kind of treatment (read, torture) for selected 'high-value' subjects during the start of the Afghan campaign, but that they let it spread and spread until US national guard troops were torturing average Iraqis who were collected in these ill-informed sweeps that (as the Red Cross noted), collected 90% innocent people. And now the Pentagon denies it. But with a program that's this secret (a) you wouldn't know and (b) you'd have to deny it if you did know.

I guess I see my blog as a way for me to ramble and brag and vent, but not a place where I have responsibility to deal with the issues of the day.

I didn't mean to leave anything out.

Just in case you are wondering where I come down on Iraq (and remember, I do have a son who in 14 years will be eligible for the draft which will be coming soon to deal with the endless parade of wars on the horizon), it goes like this: The idea of the nations of the world getting together to liberate a people from a murderous dictator is a good one, however, the Bush administration did its best to destroy the links that bind the international community, and unilaterally invaded Iraq with a childish, Hollywood-style view of how events would unfold. Those who opposed the war did so on grounds I often found perverse and cynical, and those who promoted the war did so on grounds that were usually completely false, deceitful, and cynical. The invasion of Iraq at a time when there was a real war to fight (the one against terrorism) made the Iraq invasion a poor choice and a distraction which made the world more vulnerable to terrorism. And let me add that the 'war' against terrorism will be a failure if it is thought of only in military terms. Peace and benevolence, communication, and the rise of an effective world structure for caring and the relief of suffering will be the effective tool against terror. But for now, the presence of all that oil once again made the motives of the Iraq war seem suspect. The conduct of the occupation was amateurish, unsophisticated, and hateful. We played directly into the hands of the resistance, fueling local anger with our stupid house searches and our focus on oil rather than restoring services such as electricity. Meanwhile the true terrorists such as OBL really didn't need to commit any resources to Iraq, since from their perspective, the Iraqis were handling things quite well on their own, and things were going swimmingly.

Rumsfeld's policy of torture spread like wildfire in Iraq, and the photos came out, and now what little credibility among Arabs the US had is for all functional purposes completely lost. Rumsfeld is more than a criminal, he is an incompetent. And Bush has betrayed his country and the values it stands for.

But meanwhile I have affection for the American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I have (only twice now) sent them magazines I had lying around, via I can't explain it, but having been a young American once myself, I feel bonded to them, and think I know that they would appreciate the gesture. Also, having hung out with young American guys, I know how stupid and mean a group of guys can be. Like a pack of dogs. But I am picturing a group of kind, cool guys when I send my magazine, because we all know that young people can be supremely good and caring.

I have also located an organization that supports Iraqi schools, and emailed them to see if I can help.

And shifting gears here a bit, I'll toss in that, while there is much to criticize about the US, I have rarely seen it done well, particularly from Europeans. I am not saying that you can't understand us if you are not one of us, since the Americans I know who criticize America rarely do so in a way that would lead to anything constructive. I'm just saying that we live in a sick and troubled world so wracked by hateful bickering and suffering that we should govern our hearts with wise thoughts. And no, I am not The Example. I do not hold myself up as the Correct Model. I am a fallible navel-gazer who lives his life in search of day-to-day self-gratification.

History is an ocean, lashed by ugly storms and contending currents. I am a cork, leaning with feeble force toward the sunny shore. My tax dollars go to support evil oligarchs bent on destroying the world. My thoughts and words hint weakly towards the better world. We, in our millions spread across this globe, will instantiate that better world some day, despite the best efforts of the oligarchs, not through revolution and hate, but through mere survival, calm breathing, good works, smiles, and kissing the feet of babies. And getting out there and kicking butt on the Republicans at the ballot box in November.
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