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If the World has called it curtains and your torturers are hurtin' Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal!
by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
Zepps Commentaries

May 8, 2004

If there is one thing about the horrific stories coming out of Iraq that might possibly result in benefit to America, it's the fact that the American right -- sleazy, cold, amoral and vicious -- have been exposed for what they are.

I noted in an essay several days ago that one right winger on Usenet was howling about the torture stories. He had no problem with the torture; he was just upset that someone was stupid enough to videotape it. I noted that Usenet scum like him are extreme examples, and aren't representative of the American right.

Turns out I was wrong. He was.

Ever since the story broke, there's been a constant stream of denial, truculence, defiance, and finger pointing from the right, especially the Scaife/Moon/Ailes shadow media. Limbaugh has whined constantly about how the events in Iraq are nothing more than an excuse for liberals to pile on the President, and in his eyes, all outrage is partisan, doubtlessly from people who want to see America destroyed. The man who howled about trivial transgressions of Democrats for years dismissed the torture as just boys (or in Private English's case, something much harder to describe) "blowing off steam."

Putsch provided in interesting case study. His aides whined that although the story first broke nearly two weeks earlier (and it turned out that the Army had been investigating torture, rape and other abuses in American controlled prisons long before that) he knew nothing -- nuffink! -- until the story broke in the papers last week. I suppose that shouldn't come as any surprise; the man is an idiot puppet, and there's no point in fretting him over events that he can't control. So Putsch tried the "mistakes were made" non-apology that with the imperious and arrogant right, is the closest they can ever come to admissions of wrongdoing. When it became clear that this only made a horrifically bad situation even worse, he came out and actually apologized. Twice. It showed just how severe the damage was, and how grave the situation had become. The loathsome Donald Rumsfeld, under pressure from all quarters to resign, was next to step up and mewl his regrets, while Putsch staunchly averred that he was standing by Rummy, no matter how many women got raped or children burned. It's nice to see the Moron-in-chief take a stand on principle, isn't it?

One of the best examples of the reaction of the GOP and the American right came in the form of a column by Cal Thomas. Now, I don't know Thomas personally, and so I have no way of knowing if he is as sleazy, cold, amoral and vicious as the rest of the American right, or might be the sort who is kind to his dogs and donates to his church. Perhaps he howled in moral outrage for years over Monica Lewinsky, always a touchstone of moral worth among the right. But his column pretty well exemplifies the reaction of the American right, and forever smashes any claims to moral authority the right ever had.

He starts out by saying, "Let's get the preliminaries out of the way first: if members of America's armed forced violated any rules and mistreated prisoners of war, they should be punished in accordance with accepted military law." Sounds reasonable enough, right?

Let the mewlings, evasions and quibbling begin!

He then says that since we don't know the "identity and intentions" of these "allegedly abused prisoners," it was ok for the US to throw out the "book of etiquette."

From the very first day that the story broke, even as the right was trying to pretend that the photos showed isolated incidents and didn't reflect the general behavior of the military in Iraq, there was no "allegedly abused" about it; the photos unequivocally showed abuse. No ifs, ands, or bare butts about it. Nor is the reason they were prisoners (and in the GOP's Iraq, no reason need be given for incarceration -- there are no laws, no courts, no rules) in any way germane. In a civilized society, the mere fact of incarceration is deemed punishment, and it doesn't much matter what the prisoners' politics are, or why they're in there. Of course, in this showcase of privatization and supply-side economics that is the American nightmare called Iraq, punishment can be blind, insensate, and unremitting. All it takes is a sense of justification by the punishers. I wonder if Thomas thinks American prisons should be run the same way, or knows that many of them are?

Next, Thomas justifies the abuses by noticing that Iraq has a Resistance, one that includes women and children, and involves ambushes and shooting from hidden positions. Ignoring the fact that America invaded their country and is holding it captive, he thinks that because of this, it's ok to rape, burn, electrocute and humiliate prisoners. I hope Thomas isn't allowed near small children or pets with that kind of attitude.

Third is a favorite of the right. Saddam did it first. Saddam was a vicious dirtbag, and therefore it's ok for America to be a vicious dirtbag, as a warning to other vicious dirtbags that being a vicious dirtbag won't be tolerated by Americans, because being a vicious dirtbag is wrong, wrong, wrong! Implicit in this whine is the admission that Putsch, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the administration are the moral and ethical equivalents of Saddam Hussein.

Says a lot for regime change, doesn't it?

From there, he goes into a blatantly racist screed, accusing all Arabs of being no better than Saddam (or the American government, apparently) and therefore they deserve what they get. In one of the most amazing lines heard yet from the trash right, he writes, "We should be kind, generous, and humane because that is who we are. But we should not labor under false assumptions that such values alone will change minds and hearts poisoned by years of political and theological propaganda."

In other words, America has values it must live up to. Unless, of course, it doesn't draw the instant admiration of America's victims, in which case, all bets are off. Get out the hoods and leashes and show them what REAL American values are, by god!

In a unique one, he argues that the Arabs had humiliation coming because they accepted billions of dollars for their oil. Going by this logic, I guess we can grab Bill Gates, strip him naked, duct tape him to a chair, paint his penis pink, and strap electrodes to his genitals. After all, he accepted our money for Windows, and so has no right to complain if we abuse him.

It's kind of an odd stance for Thomas, an avowed capitalist, to take. More like the sort of attitude you might expect from the revolutionaries in France in the 1790s.

He finishes up by quoting some British apologist who says these isolated instances of abuse reflect a lot of stress felt by the troops, who are dealing with an ungrateful captive population. Life is hard when you're a torture camp guard. There's a lot of job-related stress, you know? None of the prisoners appreciate you!

But, Thomas' pathetic apologistics notwithstanding, the fact is that the abuses were widespread. Before the story broke, the Army already had thirty investigations open, and ten people had received dishonorable discharges.

There's worse to come. The CBC has resurrected a story from the early days of the war, in which Americans watched idly as Afghanistan's Northern Alliance slaughtered over 3,000 people, mostly by cooking them to death in transit vans. And all along, there have been reports of capricious shootings of civilians, and casual humiliations, similar to those German troops liked to inflict on Jews in the early days of the Holocaust, when Jews still walked the streets of captive Nazi cities.

I thought America would pay a horrific price for invading Iraq. World Respect, trillions of dollars, thousands of lives.

But those are all trivial. America has lost something far more important in Iraq.

We'll never see a recovery from this, not in our lifetimes.

But Thomas thinks it was justified.

Posted: May 10, 2004


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