Thursday, October 28, 2004

by Grant Schreiber

It took more time to bury a sub-par president than it did to drop the story of the prisoners being tortured in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Once the nation’s stomach was turned, it came as sort of a blessed relief that longtime carrot, Ronald Reagan, finally shuffled off the mortal coil. Not that Americans are a squeamish group, but we like our violence neat and tidy and we like heroic send offs, even for bit part actors.

Calling the treatment of Iraqis in Abu Ghraib a scandal misses the point. The scandal is in Donald Rumsfeld and other high-ranking members dragging their feet once they learned of the conditions months ago. The acts at Abu Ghraib are war crimes and should be addressed as such. It cannot be stressed enough that many of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib were caught up in random sweeps that had nothing to do with security for our forces. Reports vary, but the numbers range from a low of 65% to a high of 90% of all Iraqi prisoners being totally innocent of any crime or act against US forces. People were snatched off the street, from homes, in huge lots for the sole purpose of making Abu Ghraib look functional. It was on par of meeting a quota. Making numbers look good so some officers can get a promotion is crossing the line from "misunderstanding orders" to evil. And sure enough, various private companies were present doing what it takes to make their profit. There is growing evidence that the practice of torturing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan its widespread. The Pentagon has reported over 1200 photos of abuse, rape, "misconduct," and torture. Apparently, President Bush has seen 12 of them. About the same number the American public was allowed to see before it was decided that such photos were too disturbing to be shown.

The feeble defenses put up so far of not being properly trained or failing to understand that what was being done to the prisoners violated international law harkens back to a Nazi guard’s plea of "only following orders." It doesn’t wash. Neither do half-hearted apologies in time for the 6 o’clock news. President Bush has yet to offer his apology to the American people for running an illegal war and managing to lose it too. Not only should Rumsfeld step down and possibly face criminal charges at The Hague, President Bush should announce he’s no longer seeking a second term. Maybe then some sense of honor can be restored to our country.

The airwaves are abuzz with talking heads and pundits trying to assess the damage done to the Bush White House and to our prestige abroad. How typically American. Gross injustices have been carried out by our troops, and the main concern is how to spin the story. One thing is clear though. If there is ever another attack upon US soil at the 9/11 level, we will know exactly why they hate us. But the negative fallout--or "blowback" as the savvy cliché goes--is already happening. It has been stated by more than one Iraqi that female soldiers can be treated as slaves if captured. The barbaric clowning of Lynndie England in particular might condemn the
next Jessica Lynch to death. We have treated people like animals in a slaughter pen, raped them, and mocked their suffering. We should expect the same treatment. There can’t be any shock over the beheading of Nick Berg. Not after this. And we have set the tempo for how any American abroad can be treated. Berg, in country without proper papers could have been declared an "enemy combatant" by any Iraqi force. His murder is no different than the murder of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of uniformed thugs. Rumsfeld and Bush have lowered the bar on conduct.

It is now clear that the US must get out Iraq as fast as possible, and I mean that literally and not at the glacial pace of political measurements. The US should dump as much money as possible into a bank for the Iraqi people to rebuild and we should pack up and skedaddle: the military, the "contractors," the humanitarians, and everyone else. There is no way to win this war, and thanks to the reckless and racist attitudes of the Military Intelligence, there will be absolutely no way to win the peace. We may, in a generation or so, appear in Baghdad again without bringing down bloody curses on our heads.

The level of our failure cannot be overemphasized. We know now what happens when we allow Capitalists to fully run a war. The main focus to go to war was a marketing scam about weapons of mass destruction that Iraq did not have. But not wanting to have too many cost overruns, we went to war on the cheap. Many jobs that the military normally does in the field of war were handed out to various private industries. No reason that a profit couldn’t be made on the side, right? We then changed the label and said we were there to get rid of Saddam Hussein and pave the way for democracy. But when various Iraqi factions demanded quick and open elections, we had to make sure it was a democracy we could stomach. To help put a stamp of approval upon what would be a new Iraq, a brand new flag was created in London and presented to the Iraqi people. The marketing boys must have been caught off guard by the public outcry over the new flag. They live in a world where branding and logos are the norm and saw nothing wrong with an occupying force present the people with a brand new box.

And now, suddenly, there is the PR crisis of truck drivers and cooks being given interrogation positions at prisons and not understanding that stacking nude men on top of one another and raping them with broken flashlights and broomsticks was wrong. While it maybe excused that a cook or lawncutter wouldn’t be the most skilled prison guard, it cannot be excused what happened to any of those prisoners. Way back when this jolly adventure started, Rumsfeld was quick to say that photographing captured American soldiers was a war crime. Suddenly the words "war crime" are not being uttered. And they need to be more than uttered, they need to be shouted: "War Crime!" What was done to those prisoners is a War Crime.

Right-wing commentator Rush Limbaugh thinks that what happened at Abu Ghraib might be akin to a college prank or some soldiers far from home blowing off steam. I would like to see if Rush felt that way after being stripped nude and chained to a fence for four days with a pair of woman’s underpants over his face. I wonder if any of the excusemakers would understand the situation better if they were forced to masturbate in front of a jeering woman after being denied sleep for several days. I wonder which pundit could find a reason to be forgiving for our troops as a laughing group of soldiers shove a stick up his ass and push him down a flight of stairs.

Clearly, the Private Englands of this sorry affair deserve to have the full punishment that is coming to them. Her boyfriend and lover, and possible ringleader of the lowbrow torturers, Spc. Charles Graner once bragged, "The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself.'"

One can only hope that Graner will be returned to the Philadelphia prison system, as prisoner and not as a guard. There are bound to be one or two fellow inmates who could discuss proper treatment of human beings to him over the long weeks.

But it is equally clear that the officers who did nothing to stop this or condoned it by a lack of action are also guilty. Adolf Eichmann did not personally kill a single person in the death camps of Europe; he just signed the papers that ordered them there. He was hung as a war criminal nonetheless. The creatures that helped create the conditions at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere are also guilty and should pay the price.

There is plenty of guilt to go around. We should take care to remember that Bush’s little war was well supported by many members of the press who instead of being watchdogs acted as cheerleaders. Snarling mea culpas are being printed in various editorial pages, but when it comes to war crime investigations, the kneepad reporters should also be made accountable. The sudden dropping of the Abu Ghraib story is almost an admission of guilt. With any luck, it will haunt them to extinction.

Ultimately, the American people will pay the price. Rumsfeld has helped hand the United States its greatest military defeat ever. Our prestige as a military force is shattered. Sure, we can still beat the hell out of any number of third world nations, but we can’t rebuild. We can’t control. We lack the essential element of empire building: intelligent and able leaders.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the terrorists groups we gleefully created in Abu Ghraib. If Bush remains in office or if Kerry decides to dicker about in Iraq in a "new and improved" style, expect disaster to hit sooner rather than later. Expect more attacks as we shrink within our borders. Our descent may be slow, but it is certain. Bush’s desire for revenge has brought about the end of American might. Not that his biggest supporters care. They’re still making money. Profits still look good for the friends of Cheney. They’re all fat and happy and in comfort and someone else’s son can die to pay their gas bills.

Underground Literary Alliance member Grant Schreiber is unfit for work so he's been producing Judas Goat Quarterly for six years now. All the left-wing hysteria and bitter rantings one would want, along with cheerful belly laughs on the way to the gas chamber. It's black comedy for these dark ages. Send questions and zines for trade to Grant Schreiber, 4422 N Racine #3S, Chicago, IL 60640 USA or email him at cavesofchaos (whereit'sat) hotmail dott com.

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