Friday, February 17, 2006

Of Boot Camps and Abu Ghraib

The world is again focused on pictures of American torture from Abu Ghraib prison, and again the attempts to rationalize the brutality are making the rounds of the know-nothing talk circuit: The pictures are old news. The pictures are needlessly inflammatory. The media are just as irresponsible for “rehashing” them as they were to pointedly insult another religion with obscene cartoons. And so on. (Martini Republic, the blog, sums up one particularly vile such example, though by an unsurprising source.) The same voices that would never dream of putting a statute of limitations on the revelations of other people’s brutalities, from Saddam to Stalin to Pol-Pot to—for that matter—murderers in the civil rights era, rush to snuff out evidence of American brutality the moment it emerges.

The claim that Abu Ghraib is no Cambodia is the easiest bluff to hide behind. It’s true. Abu Ghraib is nowhere near those historic atrocities. But it doesn’t diminish the obvious: Numbers alone don’t an atrocity make, otherwise the My Lai massacre could have also been chalked up to just another incident of war, the sort of thing that happens when the reckless and the paranoid collide. We wouldn’t dream of making that sort of claim. But how different are the Abu Ghraib apologists’ latest claims?  Their pretenses are not merely false. They flirt with the complicit: By seeking to repress the evidence, they become more than apologists of brutality. They become its enablers. The less a country owns up to its brutalities, the more it will indulge in them. Abu Ghraib is proof. Read the rest …