Though I am a fairly hard-boiled cynic, I found it hard to believe that the shocking photos were real. There was a young female soldier (Pvt. Lynndie England) laughing, thumbs-up, cigarette dangling from her mouth, and pointing at the penis of a young Iraqi man who was being forced to masturbate.
There were naked men made to simulate oral and anal intercourse, and another prisoner with a hood and electrodes. The actual photos are much worse than shown on TV, and include the ice-packed corpse of another unidentified prisoner apparently beaten to death before he could be entered into the prison records.
This is nothing less than Nazi behavior. This was so bad that had the military denied they were real, I would have been inclined to believe the government. That is because these pictures are the best present we could ever give Osama bin Laden, and the best way I can imagine to lose the hearts and minds of Arabs and Muslims everywhere, perhaps forever.
Yet the pictures are real, and a secret internal report indicates that worse went on. Writing in this week’s New Yorker, Seymour Hersh, the nation’s top investigative reporter, says the report, which he has seen, documents “sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses” by coalition jailers at Abu Ghraib, formerly Saddam’s notorious torture prison, which we have repainted, retiled, and made our chamber of horror.
Our abuses include, Hersh writes, “breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees ... beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape ... sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broomstick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate ... and in one instance actually biting a detainee.”
Presumably that was a dog biting the poor prisoner, but with soldiers like Lynndie around, you never know. (Interviewed by a reporter, her mother called what her daughter and her friends did “pranks; stupid kid things.”)
These weren’t, remember, captured Sept. 11 plotters, known murderers of Americans or even rank-and-file al Qaeda members. They were Iraqis detained for a variety of reasons.
What’s even harder to believe than this behavior is that someone took snapshots of it all, almost certainly with the approval of whatever superior officers were around. After that, it was a cinch that they’d get out to the media.
You don’t have to be an international authority on the customs of Islam to know that nothing could be better calculated to lose us the hearts and minds of all Muslims.
Nothing could be more humiliating or repellent to most of their faithful, particularly fundamentalists, than to be naked in front of strange women, let alone to be forced into perverted sexual acts or simulated sex acts by women, even if they are enemy soldiers. You can believe these pictures (the real ones are far more graphic than the shocking but sanitized television versions) are now circulating throughout the souks and madrassas of the Arab world.
Have any doubt that the United States is the Great Satan now? Some who have been on the fence are bound to answer no.
What we ought to do is something equally stunning. Frankly, if our code of military justice permits it, and if prisoners were sexually abused or murdered, we might consider having a speedy military drumhead trial and publicly execute those responsible, including at least one high-ranking officer, by hanging or firing squad.
Then we — our President, George W. Bush — and the head of our military must formally apologize to the people of Iraq, make whatever restitution we can, and vow that further abuses will receive equivalent punishment.
We have to do that, or forget ever having any credibility in this region. Naturally, that’s what we won’t do. Eventually, sweet Lynndie, who grew up in a trailer in West Virginia, and is now pregnant and confined to quarters back in the States, will be drummed out of the Army Reserve, and she and all the other low-ranking schlumps identifiable in the photos will be punished in some way.
Maybe a few will be sent to prison, and the woman brigadier general who ran the prison (Janis Karpinski) will be demoted or drummed out of the army, which doesn’t care about reservists much, and which will protect its higher-ups as ruthlessly as any bureaucracy or major corporation.
Yet damage beyond repair already has been done.
Nolan Finley, the Detroit News editorial page editor, is not exactly known as a humorist, but recently banged out (quite unintentionally) one of the few genuinely funny things I’ve seen about our glorious war. Finley is, it seems, getting a little irritated that our wretched ungrateful Iraqi subjects don’t seem to want to accept the wonderful gifts we want to force on them.
“America simply wants to deliver the gift of freedom to a people who have lived under the iron boot heel of tyranny for generations, and is willing to spend billions of dollars and risk the lives of its [soldiers] to deliver it.
“Pardon us if we are getting a little ticked off.”
Nolan didn’t say whether a broken flashlight jammed up the ass is part of the wonderful gift of freedom, but he has discovered there is “nothing logical about the Middle East. If we didn’t know that before we set about liberating Iraq, we sure know it now,” he concludes. “What a mess.”
Well, he did get something right.
Come Down Off That Milk Carton: Meanwhile, as things spin out of control, we might ask why John Kerry doesn’t get his onion in gear and forget about Vietnam. Kerry has bafflingly fallen for the Bushie trap and is wasting time defending himself against a torrent of lies. The fact is that Kerry was a wounded war hero, Bush was a spoiled frat boy draft evader, and that was 40 years ago. So say so, John, refuse to talk about it further, and come back to the 21st century. We need you.Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org