Sunday, May 23, 2004

The abuse bandwagon rolls on 

A week ago I wrote that in the media's rush to exploit the prison abuse "quagmire", two separate issues will increasingly become confused and blurred: the sado-sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners by some American guards, and the use of special interrogation techniques. I wish I could say I was wrong.

This from the "Washington Post":

"A military lawyer for a soldier charged in the Abu Ghraib abuse case testified that a captain at the Baghdad prison said the highest-ranking U.S. military officer in Iraq [Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez] was present during some 'interrogations and/or allegations of the prisoner abuse'."
To be fair to the "Post" they write further down in the story that "[s]o far, clear evidence has yet to emerge that high-level officers condoned or promoted the abusive practices," but what about their earlier "Post" story about Sanchez' October 12 memo, which other news sources are gleefully describing as a "potential smoking gun" implicating American military leadership?

The memo in question gave interrogators the control over the "lighting, heating . . . food, clothing, and shelter" of detainees, as well as gave intelligence officials and the military police more scope to "manipulate an internee's emotions and weaknesses." Watch over the next few days, how simulated sex acts and men on a leash will magically blend with sleep deprivation and stress positions to form one sadistic orgy of torture and abuse sanctioned from the very top of the military structure.

And to keep the story going, there's a "Vivid new set of abuse photos" seemingly almost every day. And then there's also new "Abuse Video [that] Shows POW Torment." Doesn't the media increasingly remind you of adolescent boys swapping baseball cards? "I'll give you the one with the dead guy if you give me the one where they're all in a pyramid", "Bummer, not another one with bags over their heads", "Wow! The prisoner covered in excrement! That will be worth at least ten dogs!" Remember the olden days when the Americans were condemned for releasing the photos of dead Uday and Qsay Hussein because the pics "communicate[d] an acceptance of violent images not welcome in other times, a willingness to rejoice over death, a suspension of general norms"?

In amongst the frenzy, there are some rare voices that try to maintain perspective: "Veterans: Iraqi Abuse Photos Pale In Comparison To Abuse In Past Wars [And] Military Experts Say Reality Of War Uglier Than Most Imagine." Well, who would have thought! But the media seems to be afraid that to help explain and understand is the same as to help excuse, so we can't have any of that.


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