Saturday, May 8, 2004

Abu Ghraib - A Betrayal and Symptom of the Times

The text of the military's investigation of prisoner sexual abuse in Iraq has been made public, about which Bill Cork, posting to his political blog "Lincoln and Liberty", offers some good analysis.

Personally, I hope they take every single person complicit in the affair, from the top all the way to the bottom of the ranks, and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Those photographs spell the betrayal of the U.S. mission in Iraq -- an insult to every citizen and soldier working to achieve peace, freedom and democracy in the Middle East.

But how could this possibly happen? -- The lack of military discipline and disrespect for the law is one thing, but beyond that, I'm concerned about the inspiration for such actions? Those responsible are pleading ignorance of "The Geneva Conventions"; but how can people be so ignorant of basic codes of simple human decency? -- Writing for the National Review, Donna Hughes offers reasonable speculation:

President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have condemned the acts and the abuse of the Iraqis. They said that these acts do not represent American values. I want to believe that is true. Yet, I see the common themes and methods used by other types of perpetrators on different victims. These similar images are what the young American soldiers from the Internet generation have grown up with and learned to call "adult entertainment." Did they become desensitized to the harm of doing such things to people by seeing multiple images of similar abuse to women? Did they learn how to violate someone by being a voyeur to abuse, and in Abu Ghraib they had the chance to become perpetrators — and pornographers? Did they fully comprehend the harm they were doing?

Dave Morrison ("Sed Contra") might concur with Ms. Hughes:

I am afraid that this represents the....increasing depravity abroad in this country. The U.S. armed forces in Iraq now has a larger percentage of reservists among its ranks in recent history. And while I, as a former Navy man myself including time in the reserves, draw back from blaming anyone as a group for what happened - I think these two facts are connected. It is not a twisted "military culture" that allowed these things to happen. It was men and women whose lives are essentially civilian and who are more 90% of the time NOT in the military who allowed it to happen. And I deeply fear this says more about us than we would like to admit.

Abu Ghraib is simply a reflection of the worst elements of our own culture. If citizens of Iraq and neighboring countries regarded proposals of democracy and the benefits of "Western civilization" with skepticism before, they have ample reason to do so now. The necessary response is to back our Government's apology to the Iraqi people with swift and sure justice to those who have committed these crimes . . . followed, if we are up to it, by an examination of the moral and spiritual degeneration that has led us to this place. Mark Shea proposes what should be the most obvious solution:

. . . What this girl -- and our culture -- needs is, quite simply, Jesus Christ. Being American and being military do not save us from sin. Being "against the terrorists" does not save us from sin. Being conservative does not save us from sin. Even being a communicant in the Catholic Church does not save us from sin. All those things are good. Some of them are necessary. But none of them automatically make us saints. And being a saint by having a living awareness of our great capacity for evil and our desperate need for Jesus to save us from our sins is the doorway into salvation from our sins. That's not anti-American. That's simply Christian.

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