outraged should an outraged American be?
became a question last week thanks to Oklahoma
Senator James Inhofe. When he took the microphone
at the hearings on Abu Ghraib prison, he did not
begin with a question for the military man seated
at the table -- which is what he was there to
like too many senators -- Democrat and Republican
-- he began with a speech.
in his speech, he said he was "more outraged by
the outrage" than by the treatment depicted in
photographs from Abu Ghraib.
were the photographs, in case you've been out
of the country for a while, that showed naked
Iraqi detainees bound or gagged, stacked like
flapjacks, bagged over the head or leashed like
pets, while our soldiers posed and smiled as if
taking snapshots with Mickey Mouse.
was the treatment, according to the military,
that saw detainees forced into sexual acts or
attacked by dogs. Inhofe suggested these people
had it coming, saying if the prisoners were in
that area, "they're murderers, they're terrorists
. . ."
in a final "outraged" point, he said: "I am also
outraged that we have so many humanitarian do-gooders
. . . looking for human rights violations."
as we all know, if there's one thing you hate
about war, it's all those do-gooders.
values of Americans
I guess I'm a little confused. I thought we, as
Americans, were proud to be do-gooders. I thought
we took pride in not sinking to the level of the
people who hate us. I thought we felt good about
offering an example to the world of how a civilized
country can and should look.
thought the greatest part of this nation was its
willingness to cast an eye upon itself, to examine
its leaders, its behavior, and see whether we
were living up to our high standards or if we
could do better.
thought we took pride in never adopting the dogma
of "our leaders are always right" or "our soldiers
are always right" or "our politicians are always
right." I thought that was exactly the kind of
lockstep fascism we deplored in places like, well,
I thought, above all, that we so loved life and
basic human rights -- the kind written in our
Constitution -- that we were always outraged when
we saw them abused.
matter who did the abusing.
the Arab world
statements confused many people. For one thing,
his insistence that the detainees are all "murderers
and terrorists." How would he know that? Nobody
else seemed to. Abu Ghraib was clearly a ball
of confusion, few people knew what anyone was
or wasn't doing, and between 70 and 90 percent
of the people brought there were reportedly innocent
of anything. Two of the alleged men in those awful
photographs were actually interviewed by U.S.
newspapers. They'd been released. If they were
murderers or terrorists, why were they let go?
Inhofe can say those things, because it reflects
a convenient lumping together of almost anything
Arab into the big funnel of Sept. 11. It's getting
to the point where if they look like Arabs, they
must know something.
don't know if anyone bound, gagged or naked in
those photos had anything remotely to do with
the terrorism of Sept. 11. But I do know those
photos will inspire some angry Muslims to sign
up for more.
I don't get it when Inhofe is "outraged by the
outrage." Americans can be outraged by bad conduct
without hating the military. They can be outraged
by Abu Ghraib without joining the enemy. They
can be outraged by one act and still be outraged
by another, such as the beheading of Nicholas
Berg. Outrage is not mutually exclusive.
the contrary. It is our anger at cruelty that
defines us -- as a caring, human people. Maybe
politicians like Inhofe should stop making speeches
when they're supposed to be asking questions.
Personally, I don't worry when the country is
outraged over bad behavior.
worry when it isn't.
Posted: May 17, 2004