Sunday, May 02, 2004
This Sunday morning I know how a proper and good German must have felt when first reading of Hitler’s camps.
In Seymour Hersh’s latest New Yorker article, Torture At Abu Ghraib, this ordinary American’s soul is shocked to see how deeply, in the President’s words, America has changed as an institutional scandal to rival the Catholic Church and Wall Street erupts into thuggishly brutal daylight.
The article is not easy reading and is not for the squeamish but it must be read if only to understand that the young American enlisted pictured in the images that have rocked the world are as much victims as the poor naked Iraqi.
Sergeants, corporals and privates follow orders, period.
Hersh obtained a copy of a general officer’s report on an investigation into the Army’s Abu Ghraib prison meant for Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior commander in Iraq:
There were numerous instances of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” at Abu Ghraib. This systematic and illegal abuse of detainees…was perpetrated by soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company, and also by members of the American intelligence community…Stunning evidence to support the allegations…”Detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence”… Army intelligence officers, C.I.A. agents, and private contractors “actively requested that MP guards set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses”…[The] report, however, amounts to an unsparing study of collective wrongdoing and the failure of Army leadership at the highest levels. The picture he draws of Abu Ghraib is one in which Army regulations and the Geneva conventions were routinely violated, and in which much of the day-to-day management of the prisoners was abdicated to Army military-intelligence units and civilian contract employees.
The ugly sexualized humiliation perpetrated by America in Abu Ghraib, to me, is a direct consequence of the thuggish elitism and denial we see enacted daily in the higher ranks of our once benevolent and once representative government to say nothing of our increasingly brutal pop culture and society.
Did American intelligence officers and contract employees, along with British military police in separate incidents, decide themselves to sexually abuse the Iraqi prisoners in their charge?
It does not seem likely.
According to Gary Myers, a civilian attorney for one of Abu Ghraib’s senior enlisted MP’s and once one of the military defense attorneys in the My Lai prosecutions of the 1970’s:
Do you really think a group of kids from rural Virginia decided to do this on their own? Decided that the best way to embarrass Arabs and make them talk was to have them walk around nude?
Were there direct, but subtle, instructions whispered out of the Vice President’s NSC or the Pentagon’s private CIA to intelligence field officers and security NGO’s?
What private instructions did the President verbally give to these people at many of the rah-rah send-off rallies so beautifully telecast and produced by an anything goes Presidential re-election effort?
Certainly it is a short hop from Abu Ghraib to the smears and intimidations we witness daily in what passes for modern American public discourse.
Will we see a trail followed?
Or, will six enlisted soldiers bear full responsibility for this ultimate fruition of Bush era hubris?
God bless America and, please God, let her return to her senses.
Images: Jasper Johns, The Memory Hole