Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Not So Shocked and Appalled

News of Iraqi prisoners being tortured, humiliated, and degraded struck me rather oddly, to say the least. I was truly unable to emote the sort of standard outrage that usually occasions news of this type. To say that my indifference borders on callous would be fair; though, it must be noted, the news wasn’t surprising to me. I tend to generally hold the U.S to a very low standard when it comes to upholding the Geneva Convention (GC)—to be honest I hold every country that has engaged in any type of warfare/military operation within the last 20 years to a lower standard, if for no other reason than they were in warfare. It’s quite easy to follow the dictates of the GC when you’re not engaged in a military operation. It’s even easier when you not providing security and stability for the country you’re not occupying.

Therefore when I heard that six military police (MP’s) humiliated and degraded Iraq prisoners, I thought to myself, “I wonder what’s not being reported?” My lack of moral outrage frightens me sometimes—as it likely should the reader—since such heinous acts should be met with moral opprobrium everywhere.

To be frank, this speaks more to my growing cynicism of political language and rhetoric, than to my growing depravity in general—although I wouldn’t necessarily discount the later.

The “the facts on the ground” are certainly far worse than is reportable or palatable to the general public. One can only imagine—and it shouldn’t be difficult to do so—the types of criminal activities US soldiers engage in with sheer impunity. There is clearly no greater power militarily than the US in the region and, likewise, clearly no other organization able to legally reprimand or sanction the US. But, the US, already struggling to win the “Hearts and Minds” of the Iraqis, has blundered in a huge way. Managing perceptions and expectations of transforming US force into a benevolent fount seemed near impossible; but, now it is a lot closer to being empirically impossible.

Opponents of the Iraqi war are now realizing all their previous predictions and checking off their laundry list of catastrophic outcomes the occupation would produce. It is doubtless the Bush Administration was overly—even criminally— optimistic when it came to making the case for war; and now their eating crow. But to be fair, their detractors shouldn’t feel contented about their pre-war predictions. As far as I see it, these outcomes were a fait accompli.

These are the facts: guerrilla warfare has broken out in the cities and is fomenting the type of alienation necessary to make regular Iraqis question the continued presence of US troops; fundamentalist clerics fearful of losing territorial authority are usurping provisional government authority in the region, desperately holding on to what little power they have left; in the commission of military security, the US has detained prisoners and either humiliated, degraded, or tortured them. These things were all bound to happen, and they have all come to fruition. It wasn’t a matter of if these things could happen, but rather when these things would happen. This is why I wasn’t surprised when I heard of the tortures. I’m saving my moral outrage for something else.