The Other Charlotte and I have been blogging about the humiliation, as opposed to physical harm, depicted in most of the pictures so far from Abu Ghraib.
Apparently, we’re about to learn more about physical abuse in the prison.
So who’s guilty? American policy? American society? The patriarchy? Andrea Dworkin? The whole of Western civilization? Or the guards who perpetrated these abuses? I tend to blame the perps (and that includes anybody who gave orders to torture). But not everybody shares my perspective.
Lawrence Kaplan of the New Republic has a piece on this question and how it plays out in the presidential campaign:
‘To understand Kerry’s reluctance to focus on the guards,’ writes Kaplan, ‘we would do well to cast a glance backward, for this is hardly the first time the public has responded to a wartime revelation of this scope. Having been convicted in 1971 of premeditated murder during the My Lai massacre of 1968, Lieutenant William Calley became an overnight hero. A White House poll found that 79 percent of Americans disagreed with the verdict, and on the day it was handed down, the Nixon team received over 50,000 telegrams demanding clemency. Within days, ‘The Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley’ had sold 200,000 copies, and Nixon, citing ‘public support,’ sprung Calley from his jail cell.
‘As it happens, one of the voices raised in Calley’s defense belonged to John Kerry. The responsibility for My Lai, Kerry said in congressional testimony, rested not with Calley, but ‘with the men who designed free fire zones … with the men who encourage body counts.’ Lest anyone miss the point, Kerry told an audience at the New York Stock Exchange, ‘Guilty as Lt. Calley might have been of the actual murder, the verdict does not single out the real criminal. Those of us who have served in Vietnam know that the real guilty party is the United States of America.’ However mild his current criticisms may sound, the blame Kerry ascribes to the architects of U.S. policy in Iraq differs mainly in tone from the blame he attached to the architects of U.S. policy in Vietnam. Put another way, Kerry’s insistence that none of this would have transpired ‘if I were president’ blames the mission that filled Abu Ghraib with prisoners as much as it blames the soldiers who betrayed that mission. Again, this makes perfect political sense. But it hardly provides an adequate response to the moral questions raised at Abu Ghraib.’
Senator Joe Lieberman’s response to the situation is so eminently sane that you can tell immediately why the fella didn’t get his party’s nomination.
This sensible editorial from the New York Daily News talks both about Rumsfeld’s testimony yesterday and Lieberman’s response to Abu Ghraib:
‘Uncharacteristically humble as he [Rumsfeld] sits in the epicenter of a catastrophic American moment, the secretary added his own voice to the chorus of breast-beating apologies that has suddenly become the bedrock of foreign policy. He even offered ‘compensation’ to Lynndie England’s prisoners, which, frankly, seems more apologetic than is necessary. These guys, it is useful to remember, were not sitting in Abu Ghraib just because they were driving on expired licenses.
“Which is a point that was not lost on Sen. Joe Lieberman. Amid the wringing of hands — amid condemnation even from the Vatican — Lieberman refreshingly focused on fundamentals:
“’The behavior by Americans at the prison in Iraq is, as we all acknowledge, immoral, intolerable and un-American … I cannot help but say, however, that those responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001, never apologized. Those who have killed hundreds of Americans in uniform in Iraq, working to liberate Iraq and protect our security, have never apologized. And those who murdered and burned and humiliated four Americans in Fallujah a while ago never (apologized)….”