If George W. Bush wants Arabs to believe a word he says, then big heads should quickly start rolling in his administration. Starting with Donald Rumsfeld, who played down the torture incidents with the same arrogance he played down the catastroph
ic looting of the Baghdad museum – when he famously announced: “things happen.”
With the Washington Post’s bombshell report of having more than a thousand photos taken by American soldiers of their obscene escapades, the picture – pun intended – has become much uglier. I cannot imagine who is still naïve enough now to believe that such enormous photographic output could possibly be the result of so-called isolated exceptions, without high level endorsement inside what is supposed to be the most disciplined army in the world.
In fact, what we saw were merely those situations where the culprits had the nerve – and stupidity – to capture their acts on film through incriminating photo ops. The question everyone is asking is how many more similar incidents escaped the lens of these tourist warriors and went unreported.
What strongly suggests the prevalence of such widespread practice is the relaxed manner in which the tormentors happily posed with their victims, in open prison corridors and not in hidden cellars. If superior officers and senior Pentagon officials knew about what was taking place, then it is a disaster. If they did not – in a prison camp as sensitive as Abu Ghraib – then it is a much greater disaster, signalling a serious collapse of authority and accountability in the chain of command. Whichever way you look at it inside the Bush camp, the crap is all over the fan.
Indeed, I doubt that Lynndie England, the trailer park girl from West Virginia and the star of these gruesome pictures, had it in her to challenge the authority of her superiors and risk the wrath of the world without being sure first that she was part of a condoned system of abuse. I also seriously doubt that she was able to subdue and undress all those naked and allegedly dangerous prisoners with the collaboration of only a few bad apples from her regiment. And I don’t believe she would have accepted to smile for the camera without seeing for herself first that such methods of breaking inmates to soften them for interrogation was the acceptable norm and modus operandi in that prison camp.
Poor Ms. England. These pictures were her idea of personal souvenirs from the war and amusing memorabilia to bring home to her folks. The rest of the soldiers appearing with her seem to be nothing more than average freaks who escaped from the Jerry Springer show to make a few bucks killing Arabs. What do they know? They were lied to by their leaders and told that Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. And in Abu Ghraib, they did not believe they were committing a reprehensible crime by the standards of their commanding officers who must have witnessed and sanctioned the horrible sessions. In fact, the presence of several soldiers in some of the photos just goes to prove the permissive atmosphere under which they operated where such criminality seems to have been tolerated and excused, if not encouraged and mandated. It would be a real shame if the whole scandal was blamed on them. You might as well blame Jerry Springer.
But what is especially disturbing in the unapologetic attitude of the Bush administration is its capacity to excuse itself and pretend that responsibility can be diluted or avoided altogether by adding its own condemnation of the despicable images. What a useless ploy. Imagine Saddam Hussein, being confronted with the mass graves in his backyard, responding with shock, saying: “Disgusting, can you believe it?” This is precisely why the manufactured sincerity on the faces of Bush and Rumsfeld simply won’t sell anywhere in the world.
Donald Rumsfeld must go (hopefully Bush too, and his entire neo-con clique) for an obvious reason. Had the soldiers in this scandal not recorded their hideous actions on film, Donald Rumsfeld would have still come out with his condescending and patronizing postures and claimed to this day that all was well. He would have ridiculed the accusers from the media and called their legitimate questions and scrutiny unpatriotic and un-American. He would have refused any serious inquiry and would have insisted to keep an internal lid on the whole matter.
Now, in hindsight, using that same multi-purpose description unearthed from McArthyist archives, he said that the action of his soldiers was “un-American”. Well, since he is the one responsible for sending them there and supervising their activities, why doesn’t he do the honourable American thing for once, take responsibility and resign.