Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Government We Deserve

Sometimes, when I am feeling especially optimistic, I hope that someday in the distant future we will get the government we deserve. Other times, when I am feeling a bit more realistic, I fear that we already have it. Or at least some of us do.

When the Abu Ghraib torture scandal was just beginning to break, I read that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was very upset, not because of was happening at Abu Ghraib, but because of the way in which the story had become public. I never found out whether he was ticked at the reporters who had the gall to start talking about it, or at the fact that the soldiers running the torture center in Abu Ghraib were stupid enough to take pictures of what they were doing.

More than once I found myself thinking "The Land of the Free and the Home of the Depraved". And the more I thought about the culture of violence in which we try to raise our kids these days, the more I wondered whether the people taking pictures and making videos in Abu Ghraib were simply having fun and collecting souvenirs. Whether those photos I found so revolting were, to them, just something to remember the war by.

According to this report from the BBC, I may have been right. The BBC reports that attorney Guy Womack, representing Specialist Charles Graner, told a military court:
[T]he soldiers took pictures of each other "because no one did anything they thought was wrong".
All in a day's fun, right? Just another day at the office?

Well, no. Not exactly. More like just another Saturday at the football game.
Womack [...] denied that the photos depicted real abuse.

He compared pictures of naked Iraqi prisoners in a human pyramid to cheerleaders at US sports events, who form pyramids "all over America".

"Is that torture?" he asked [...]
What? Did I hear that right? What the heck is he expecting the jury to think?

No, Guy. It's not! It's just another fun pastime. It's exactly like what the cheerleaders do at college football games every weekend in the fall, isn't it? Well, let's not count the fact that the pom-poms and the colorful uniforms are missing, and let's forget that the guys in the pyramids are all naked except for the hoods over their heads. That's no big deal, is it? It doesn't really change anything, does it? And anyway, who cares if cheerleaders build pyramids for fun and the guys in these pictures were doing it because they were forced to? That doesn't make any difference, does it? And it doesn't matter that the post-game party isn't going to be in a bar or a frat-house, but in a cage! That doesn't matter either, right? Hell, no. It's no different! No big deal! And that game wasn't even on TV, was it? Well, no! But at least we have some pictures. So that's about the same, right?

Yeah, Guy. It's almost exactly the same! Really.

What worries me most is that
"no one did anything they thought was wrong".
In fact, according to the BBC,
The soldier's defence says the abuse was sanctioned by his superiors.

"He was doing his job. Following orders and being praised for it," Mr Womack told the court.
So ... they didn't think there was anything wrong with it at all. Just doing their job and being praised for it. How lovely.

What about the people who voted for four more years of this? They didn't think they were doing anything wrong either, did they? Just doing their civic duty and being praised for it? Well I hate to say it, but maybe they got exactly what they deserved.

I didn't get what I deserve, and neither did my friends. But then again, we never do. But that doesn't matter either, because I'm not the people, am I? I'm just one guy, one left-wing nut-case bleeding-heart liberal wacko, far out of the political mainstream, over in the back corner somewhere. Who cares what I deserve anyway?
Rah Rah. Sis Boom Bah. Four More Years. Four More Years!
Well I'm sorry I have to say this but I do: While others are waving their pom-poms and celebrating the fact that they now have the government they deserve, I am sitting here wondering: How much more of this can I stand? How much more of this can the country stand?

How do you answer a question like that? Maybe there's a hint in the same article:
In his opening statements, prosecutor Major Michael Holley graphically described some of the acts allegedly carried out by Spc Graner.

He claimed the military policeman beat an Iraqi prisoner with a baton until he begged to be killed [...]
So... How long will it be until we beg to be killed?

Don't answer that. I really don't want to know. And anyway, I have a feeling we will find out soon enough.

May I please go back to my cage now?