Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Risk Management

(This post originally appeared on August 14, 2005.)

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.

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