Unorganized Thoughts on Abu Ghraib

I don’t want to spend a lot of time analyzing the situation at Abu Ghraib; there are people who are doing it far better than I could – and they are linked on the side of the site. There are, however, some thoughts that are floating around that I just want to throw out and see if anything comes of them.

We’ve said that the soldiers in Iraq are being put under great stress and pressure. I don’t disagree with that, and I have a great deal of respect for them as a result. However, you have to be at least 18 to serve. In a year of occupation we’ve stripped down 18 years of American behavior? Are our ideals so shallow? Or are we that ill-equipped that being human, let alone being American, is no longer important?

I believe Sy Hersh in his latest article in The New Yorker talks about the act of picture-taking is part of the humiliation process. However, we show the photos with the pictures of the victims faces, just the genitals blacked-out, thereby perpetuating the victimization. I would rather you blur the face and show the genitals, that way we can really understand how horrid these photos are without reveling at some level in the victimization of the prisoners. Perhaps it’s this voyeurism that feeds into my questions above?

Why is the entire discussion about the release of the photos from the administration about how the photos shouldn’t have been taken and shouldn’t have been released? Is there any sense that the acts themselves were wrong, which is why any subsequent acts were wrong? To me, that discourse is what is troubling about Rumsfeld’s and Bush’s pseudo-apologies.

As I’m writing this, CNN is talking about the court-martial against Spivits, the first of the seven charged with abuse. Bill Hemmer argued that we needed immediate information. I don’t agree with the idea of torture (Joho has some good posts about the debate at 1, 2, and 3), but regardless, this torture was not about information gathering; it was clearly about domination and control.

My first thought when Rush Limbaugh talked about these photos as being no worse than frat house hazing is that he is a moron. However, I’m beginning to realize that from his perspective they weren’t worse. Basic training, pledging, High Scope, etc., are based on the idea that common experiences, challenging ones, help build an individual’s character and create team unity. There is a voluntary surrender of power by the participant. This sort of initiatory experience can degenerate into abuse by those who have the power, which is why we need checks on power at all levels. Rush speaks from a position of power, where he’s never had to surrender power, and therefore is unable to see how wrong the torture is in either Iraq or in frat house hazing, which is illegal. I think this ties into the question of why this administration is not concerned about the acts of torture; they don’t see it as torture because they have never had to give up power. The revelation of the photos would cause them to lose power, which makes me wonder what will happen during the election period.

Abu Ghraib has to be closed immediately. All the photos and videos have to be released immediately.

2 thoughts on “Unorganized Thoughts on Abu Ghraib

  1. What really terrifies me is the way that this is becoming the symbol of America worldwide. People who already had some legitimate anger against the general disparity of power between the nations could easily latch on to this as proof that America is corrupt at best, evil at worst. And that jackass in the White House isn’t doing anything about it, which makes me so angry I lose coherency.

  2. Islamoyankee is much calmer than I am about all of this.
    What concerns me is that even if those 18-year-olds or twenty-something soldiers are young, the way they have behaved had to have come from somewhere. Things don’t occur in a vacuum, even if the persons involved are under stress.
    Something has become poisonous in our US culture, something evil and twisted that gave birth to the poisonous fruit we’ve seen from the stories out of the Iraqi prisons. And we–the civilians here at home, who contribute to this culture–have allowed it to happen.
    I really don’t buy the “But they hit us FIRST!” type of argument that I hear from a few people by way of “justifying” the despicable and blasphemous actions our soldiers have been up to. That is the weakest defense of all. One is only responsible for one’s own actions, not the actions and choices of another. And we are held accountable for what we do. The biggest joke of all is that a lot of the hotshots in D.C. claim to be “Christian.” No way. They’ve concocted something that takes some Christian beliefs, reforms them to suit their own political strategies and lusts for power, and totally perverts them to conform to some very twisted ends.
    What that “biblical” crowd is doing to Christianity is closer to the way Shinto was transformed and politicized in Japan before the Second World War: where a perfectly innocent and simple religious tradition was co-opted, twisted, and made to serve militaristic and nationalistic ends rather than the Creator.
    And besides, the last time I looked, we had a **secular** government, not a theocracy. That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway.
    Some of us have become physically ill at the latest reports of “Christian” behaviors and comments out of the Iraqi prison scandals. Literally physically ill. I do not claim them as “Christian,” not for one instant. Blasphemy is more like it.

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