We’re now entering our third straight week of wall-to-wall Abu Ghraib coverage from Big Media. Over and over we read the self-recriminations, the blaming of Donald Rumsfeld, the indictment of American society. We see the images: the naked Iraqis, the hoods, the dog leashes….Yes, yes, punish the perpetrators, by all means, but please–we’re sick of it! National Review Online’s Jim Gehraty samples the Iraq-troubles saturation coverage in yesterday’s Washington Post, where Abu Ghraib seeped into even the paper’s non-national news sections:
“On H3 in the Arts section, a debate about monster movies features a picture of the naked pyramid, with the caption, ‘An image from Abu Ghraib. Hollywood’s attempts at horror pale in comparison.’ (Below it, Godzilla.) On C8, in the Metro section in an article about the Blue Angels performing at Andrews Air Force base, the crowd reaction includes, ‘Like many in the crowd yesterday, the Reeds said they strongly disapproved of the prisoner abuses shown in the photographs from Abu Ghraib.’ Discussion of the prison abuse continues for six paragraphs. In section E, Sports, a profile of the Iraqi soccer team that just qualified for the Olympics notes, ‘For Iraqi players, it was a bittersweet affair. These are not pampered pros cut off from tumultuous events engulfing their country; insurgency in the central and southern parts of the country; an occupation administration that finds it difficult to meet Iraqi expectations; and an uncertain future that haunts Iraqis more than a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein.’
“I guess later this week, Hagar the Horrible will refer to it in a punchline and the Horoscope for Aires will warn, ‘you may find communicating difficult, like those poor naked guys with the hoods on their heads.'”
And Slate staffer Timothy Noah has devoted two entire columns to making fun of–or so he hopes–the explanations that conservative commentators have offered for why the Abu Ghraib abuses took place. Problem is–most of those explanations sound quite plausible! (In Liberal World, it is permissible to blame only one or both of the following for Abu Ghraib: a) American society; b) George W. Bush.). Since Tim offers links to the conservatives in his rogues’ gallery, I suggest clicking here and here for some darned good reading.
My favorite Abu Ghraib commentary, available via Tim, comes from Linda Chavez, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, in a column for Townhall.com. Like me, Linda sees the abuses as the outcome of a lamentable breakdown in military discipline, not a consequence of American imperialism in going to Iraq in the first place. She writes:
“Although the military brass has been loath to admit it, the increased presence of women in the military serving in integrated units has made military discipline more challenging. While some advocates of women in the military have argued that women’s presence would improve behavior, in fact, there is much evidence to suggest it has had the opposite effect. For years now, the military has ignored substantial evidence that the new sex-integrated military interferes with unit cohesion and results in less discipline.
“Putting young men and women at their sexual prime in close proximity to each other 24 hours a day increases sexual tension. Allegations of sexual harassment, even rape, have become commonplace. In February, the Pentagon reported that it had received 112 complaints of sexual assault or rape in the previous 18 months from women in military units in the Central Command unit of operations, which includes Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.
“In addition, the pregnancy rate among female soldiers serving in Iraq, most of whom are unmarried, is rumored to be unusually high. The Pentagon has resisted releasing precise figures, even when pressed to do so. Last year, one female Marine actually gave birth on a warship deployed off Kuwait. But while we don’t know what the overall pregnancy rate is among female soldiers serving in Iraq today, in Operation Desert Storm it reached 15 percent and was the single largest cause of evacuation from Bosnia during U.S. deployments there.
“Military service has become heavily sexualized, with opportunities for male and female soldiers, sailors and Marines to engage in sexual fraternization, which, though frowned upon — and in certain circumstances, forbidden — is almost impossible to prevent.
“So what does this have to do with those pictures of mistreated prisoners? Take a look at the faces of those soldiers again, especially the female soldiers. They look less like sadists than delinquents. They look like they’re showing off at some wild party trying to impress everybody with how ‘cool’ they are.”
Thanks, Tim, for making it easy to link to cogent insights like these. Maybe there’s something to be said for the liberal press’s Abu Ghraib fixation after all.