...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004
      ( 10:00 AM )
A Way Forward?

I don't really understand how so much justification can be flowing so rapidly about the atrocities in Iraq. Why do people have to justify it - even by comparing it with atrocities taking place in other countries? Part of the very atmosphere that resulted in our crimes against Iraqi prisoners was the fact that our press refuses on a daily basis to pay attention to atrocities against humanity in the rest of the world, and especially our country's tacit approval of them by supporting those countries or ignoring the atrocities. Neither the fact that other countries commit them, nor the fact that the US has committed them in the past excuses or justifies in any way what has happened over the last year.

The conservatives were so quick to jump on us liberals after 9/11 when some of us said that bombing an entire country senseless did not seem a proportionate response, and we tried to get people to see under the horror of what had happened to the conditions that foster the kind of hate that resulted in so many horrible deaths. But we were labeled as "appeasers" and "traitors" and told that we were somehow justifying the attacks by asking questions about what really happened or by not supporting the invasion of Iraq (which had NOTHING to do with 9/11). Yet here are the very same people trying to actually justify these crimes we have committed against the Iraqi people and the entire Arab community.

How can there be any question that torture is wrong? How can there be any question that what was allowed to happen under our watch is heinous and that we have not only crippled our standing in the world, but we've basically sent out a recruitment call to all young Arabs who may have been on the fence, but now are squarely in the camp of "sign me up, I'll kill any American I find."

I find it more unspeakably appalling that conservative commentators can continue to justify what was going on. Even some democrats in Congress have been unwilling to just say what is true: we totally screwed up and we've got to figure out a way to make amends.

And John Kerry had better be talking with his advisors now, and preparing some plans on how he's going to deal with this. Things aren't going to be automatically better just because he takes office. He is going to have to have a real plan of action to make amends to the Arab community, to Iraqis and to the world.

I'm so tired of people trying to pretend this horror isn't really as bad as everyone is saying. It's bad. We caused it. We should make amends for it. As far as I'm concerned, it's too late now for Rumsfeld to resign. It would have been a bold action on Bush's part at the very beginning of this to be decisive and show he was in charge and he wanted to change things. But he DOESN'T want to change things, and he will never actually act the part of a leader if it means going against the loyalty of his gang. Rumsfeld leaving now would only look weak and haphazard. The ongoing calls for his resignation are useless, in my view, and a distraction from the real issues and the real need to make true amends.

If you are interested in reading a very well-written book about how ordinary people can end up committing torture, I highly recommend John Conroy's Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture. He explores three case studies, in Chicago (police brutality), Northern Ireland (the hooded men), and Palestine (torture of Palestinian detainees). I read it several years ago in the context of my work in Northern Ireland, and I really recommend it as a way to see into what barely seems believable: That ordinary people can commit atrocities against their fellow human beings.

Where are we going, and how did we get in this handbasket?

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