The Los Angeles Times published
from the Army’s investigation of abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib.
Best Possible Spin is in. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
despite having not read the Army investigator’s report describing the abuse,
said “categorically” that “there is no evidence of systematic abuse” and
blamed the scandal on “just a handful” of abusive guards whose actions
“besmirch maybe the reputations of hundreds of thousands.”
- The activities that occurred at Abu Ghuraib prison are not to be compared
to those of Saddam Hussein’s rape rooms and torture chambers. After all,
those were rape rooms and torture chambers. These were
merely rooms in which rape occurred, and chambers in which
individuals were tortured.
- In war, atrocities will happen, as dew on the grass in the morning, or
flower blossoms in the spring. The dew gathers. The buds open. The
atrocities bloom. It is all according to the mysterious, ever-unfolding
cycle of life — a cycle too vast and complex for mere mortals to
- These were isolated incidents, and the behavior of these prison guards
should in no way reflect upon the military superiors who endorsed and
promoted such behavior. This is because atrocities are supervenient on
subordinates, but not on command structures. Those with greater learning
What sort of conclusions do I mean to draw from this ongoing chronicle of
Certainly not “look! here’s proof that this war is brutal!” I agree that in
the context of the reign of Saddam and the brutality of the invasion of Iraq,
the torture and humiliation of a handful of prisoners is a footnote. Not to
the prisoners themselves, of course, but the same can be said of the victims
of so many other footnotes and those who will remain uncited even there.
This is a war in which Americans deliberately and rationally
ten-year-olds (for very good reasons) and
bombed residential neighborhoods (for
very good reasons). Were
torturing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners, perhaps for very good reasons? Did
we have to see pictures to know?
Rest assured, though, that appropriate
reprimands and admonishments
will be meted out now that official denial is no longer an option.