Sobran's -- The Real News of the Month

 Yankee, Come Home! 

May 4, 2004 
At first my reaction to the torture stories was cynical. It was only to be expected that Iraqi prisoners would be abused. Some details were even funny, in a mordant way: one of the fiendish torments was playing Beastie Boys recordings at terrific volume.

Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.Even Saddam never did this to his own people! There was the true, hideous face of the New World Order: rap sans frontieres.

My cynical amusement only lasted a few paragraphs. Keeping suspects underfed, thirsty, sleepless; beating them; keeping them in blindfolds and eyeless hoods; attaching electrodes to their scrota; humiliating them sexually in front of women ...

Suddenly, to my surprise, I found myself in tears. Partly it was pity for the poor Arab boys. Partly it was shame for the American boys.

We may not know the worst of it. We’ve only heard about the tortures our boys bragged about among themselves. There may have been others they didn’t brag about.

Back home most Americans were decent enough to be outraged. But some were angry at our media for reporting the story, because this allowed the Arab media — the enemy — to run with it and “spin” it, thus, as one local talk-radio host said, “undermining our efforts to make peace.”

Well, yes. The next American boys, or girls, to be captured may find their captors less than hospitable, God help them. President Bush was already finding it hard enough to persuade the Arabs that our intentions are benign. This takes the bloom off the boast that we’ve liberated them from Saddam’s torture chambers.

[Breaker quote: Victims of America]More than a year before the invasion of Iraq, there were even more horrifying stories from Afghanistan, where hundreds of prisoners were reportedly suffocated in hot, airless metal transport crates; Newsweek even did a cover story on them, but it was barely noticed. The Afghan war got much less coverage than the Iraq war, with far fewer pictures. It was easier not to face.

The “excesses” of the American interrogators pose a special problem for Bush, of course, since the original “defensive” rationale for his “preemptive” war has collapsed: Saddam had no deadly arsenal, had no ties to al-Qaeda, posed no threat to the United States. Now the war is justified as a humanitarian operation for the benefit of the Iraqis themselves. But the torture stories destroy the new rationale as surely as the absence of “weapons of mass destruction” destroyed the old one.

Pitiable as the torture victims are, we should also remember the first wave of victims: the Iraqi soldiers who died trying to defend their country last year. If the “preemptive” war was unjustified, then these young men, soldiers or not, were murdered. Today they are forgotten like so much dry camel dung in the desert.

We Americans have forgotten them, that is; their families haven’t. If we’re giving the Iraqis democracy, in some abstract way, we’ve already given them countless personal scores to settle. And they can’t be settled by marking ballots.

It’s hard to fathom the mentality of rulers who would do this to a foreign country and expect gratitude in return. The torture revelations aren’t spoiling an otherwise warm relationship between America and Islam; they are intensifying a fury we may not live to see the end of.

Blaming our torturers for doing piecemeal what our army did wholesale is silly; to our victims, it’s all the same thing. How else can they possibly see it? Can we expect the Iraqi to shrug and sigh, “My brother was blown to pieces — another sad case of American good intentions gone awry”?

The United States threw the Iraqis’ babies out with the Ba’ath Party — but has now decided to bring the Ba’ath Party back, in order to restore some semblance of order among the people we liberated them from. The revolving rationales, policies, and propaganda semantics would make George Orwell’s head spin.

The villains change without notice from day to day too. As soon as Saddam was toppled, new villains — many of them Saddam’s bitter enemies — began popping up. Their names were hard to keep straight, let alone spell, but they were all “terrorists.” Is it any wonder that our interrogators didn’t make careful distinctions?

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2004 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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