Sunday, August 14, 2005

Risk Management

I hold this truth to be self-evident: Unreleased footage from Iraq's prisons depicts the US-sanctioned rape of children in front of their parents.

With that rather astonishing fact in mind, let's have a brief look at this NYT article:

Officials See Risk in the Release of Images of Iraq Prisoner Abuse

Pentagon officials argued that releasing the images would incite public opinion in the Muslim world and put the lives of American soldiers at risk.
Let's be clear about this. If our government has ordered, condoned, or attempted to cover up a policy of raping children in front of their parents, all of our lives deserve to be at risk. These are acts of incalculable evil, and we're all culpable for them. If I've been raping and murdering children and burying their carcasses in my backyard, and the police become interested in me, I can't seek an injunction against a backhoe operator on the grounds that his activities will inconvenience me, or upset my neighbors. I gave up all consideration for myself and my neighbors when I committed those crimes.

Notwithstanding, General Richard Myers warns us that
It is "probable that al-Qaeda and other groups will seize upon these images and videos as grist for their propaganda mill...."
It seems obvious to me that an administration whose actions so reliably aid al-Qaeda is incompetent at fighting al-Qaeda, but that's a mere detail.

A sane country holds its leaders accountable for crimes of this magnitude, because it realizes that the social and moral disequilibrium caused by failing to do so threatens every member of that society. Our morbid national obsession with morality - a showy, commercialized form of morality that lacks any consistency or validity, let alone compassion - is a perverted, superstitious recognition of this disequilibrium, and is about as sophisticated as knocking on wood to ward off evil. Apparently, if we can prevent infants from being raised by lesbians, we've done our part; we can shrug off the sexual torture of Iraqi children (and the very real possibility that these videotapes were created, at least in part, to serve as pornography for members of our government).

The argument that revealing the truth about these crimes would put the lives of American soldiers at risk is absurd. First, our soldiers' lives are already at risk, by virtue of being under the dominion of a corrupt administration. Second, there's a certain irony in the fact that BushCo is trying to protect itself by means of the basic argument against violating the Geneva Conventions, which is that committing war crimes puts one's own soldiers and civilians at risk. Needless to say, this is an argument that Bush and his creatures have been sneering at for years. Having rejected it summarily when it would've put a crimp in their plans, they have no right to invoke it in their own defense now.

My feeling is that if we're unwilling to identify and punish the officials behind these acts, we forfeit any right to complain about retribution, no matter what it is or whence it comes. Nature abhors a moral vacuum.


Wayne said...

ahh, this is not a sane country, though, is it. No interrogative needed there.

What will it take to bring it back to health?

Thersites said...

Also, everyone already knows what is in those pictures and tapes. propaganda use is going to be made of them one way or the other. So why not try to show the world we are indeed a nation of laws and hold our leaders accountable for their misdeeds?

It's by the way pretty messed up that you even would have to post what you did, fom an ethical perspective. No slight on you, Phila... but what does it say about our country that his even should be an argument, whether or not we should own up to and atone for our crimes?


Rexroth's Daughter said...

Phila-- It is so good having you back. I have definitely missed your thoughtful and cogent voice.

I am amazed that our country stands by the notion that it is far worse and more consequential to admit the truth than it is to have committed the crime. What does that say about our country?

roger said...

well said phila. perhaps the real fear is that more and more of us here would demand that justice be done. that would mean names and trials and evidence. we have already seen pictures of cia agents and "private contractors" helping soldiers with torture at abu ghraib and not one of them has been held accountable. our "enemies" can make as much unfavorable propaganda of our failure to prosecute criminal actions as of the actions themselves.

Eli said...

Great. Further proof that our Republic is being run by badly-raised five-year-olds.

(Thers will please to note that I said *badly-raised* five-year-olds)

monkeygrinder said...

Given that a judges order was flouted in suppressing these tapes and pics, I'm surprised the Justice Dept. didn't step in and start arresting people.

Patriotism rides again. I guess it trumps everything.

Engineer-Poet said...


Cervantes said...

Hey Phila, I also am glad you're back in business. You're right, we do know what's in the tapes and pictures. Unfortunately as we saw from the first set of pictures that were released, there's something about the human psyche, or at least the U.S. political culture, that apparently requires the images in order to elicit the appropriate moral response. The information that prisoners had been tortured and abused at Abu Ghraib had been made public months previously, but had no impact.

The incidents depicted in the still secret tapes include the rape of children, which the DoD does not deny. Shouldn't it be sufficient that we all have that information? Apparently not, Joe Biden has to watch the tapes before he denounces that administration.

Yes I am quite sure that making these images public inflame public sentiment around the world against the U.S., but it's more than a little bit too late to worry about that. The only way to win back a modicum of respect is for us to turn on our corrupt, evil and treasonous leadership and put an end to their disastrous dominion. If making this material public will help achieve that, it will be to the benefit of humanity.