17 February 2006

Abu Ghraib again?

So, an Australian network has aired more photographs, like the one at left, of the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. This allows US networks like CNN to cover that story and, in the process timidly hint at the fact that while the enlisted personnel and non-commissioned officers who were involved are sitting in jail, the officers in charge have merely been demoted, fined and so forth, and the politicians who set policy walk around free.

Three things seem pertinent here. First, even the Australian network did not display all of the newly available images. They deemed some of the images "too graphic" for viewing. So the alternaitve is? Let's leave all this to the imagination. Or let's allow citizens whose government is reponsible for this (and other) condemnable behavior to spend their evenings worrying about more crucial matters like who will progress on "American Idol." We surely do not want to offend their sensibilities!

Second, the military is, of course, continuing to shirk responsibility. As the CNN report notes: "Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, said he thought the timing of the new report was "unnecessarily provocative" and "irresponsible." He said any photos from that time period "do not reflect what is happening at Abu Ghraib now."" Well, who paid any real price for these abuses? And what precisely is happening at Abu Ghraib (and the other off-shore US facilities) now? No word on such matters from Col. Johnson. Just spin. Just charges of irresponsiblity. If there is no torture, there will be no pictures of it. If there are no pictures, this whole discussion is moot. But notice that the problem originates with those who engage in illegal activities not with those who disclose the activities. And here let's be clear that I mean individuals all the way up the chain of command. The easiest way to figure out just how far up the irresponsiblity goes is to have an open, subpoena-wielding, unified inquiry into this fiasco.

I anticipate that someone will comment here that being demoted is a "huge" penalty for the military higher ups. Please, spare me.! Jail time is "huge" too. Which would you choose? Demotion or a decade in the brig? Answer that before you write me. Also tell me how confident you are that there are no "abuses" occurring "now" in US facilities or those where individuals we have captured have been sent under rendition policies. Are these "abuses" committed by "bad apples" or the predictable result of policies sanctioned by elected officials and implimented by military and intelligence personnel? If they are the latter, we can discuss what sorts of policies ought to govern the way we treat prisoners (or whatever euphenmism the Bush administration hopes to foist upon us this week).

Finally, the CNN report makes clear that neither the ACLU spokesman - Amrit Singh - whom they quote, nor Col. Johnson has actually seen the pictures at issue. We know they exist. We will talk about them and use to them to attack those with whom we disagree. But we won't actually look at them. That is very, very odd indeed.

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