I’ve been reading some pretty stunning claims on some of the discussion boards. People want to say that the outrage over Abu Ghraib is politically motivated, or that it’s an unfair attempt to “slam” Bush or Rumsfeld or the Republicans or the military.
Others, in an even more heinous attempt at denial, want to quote Rush Limbaugh in calling this a “fraternity prank” or “just humiliation.”
I even saw one post that tried to somehow blame “liberal academia” for the abuse–in an unprecedented display of bending-over-backward. Too ridiculous to repeat here.
I find all these maneuvers sickening, and I’m honestly surprised that anyone would stoop so low–although I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised by now.
My feelings about this are much closer to those expressed (quite eloquently–he seemed honestly, emotionally, shaken) by Mark Shields on The News Hour Thursday night (May 6).
I’ve been to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, I’ve been to Bethesda Naval Hospital in suburban Maryland and spent time in the company of the 340 Americans who had been severely wounded since the president declared mission accomplished. They’ve lost arms, they’ve lost legs. They’ve lost their sight. Not one of them I ever talked to — men and women – ever lost any belief in the mission, in the unit they served in and the tasks that they have been assigned. They have been dishonored. They have been sullied. Their service and their sacrifice has been stained. That’s how profound this is. This isn’t going to go away.
This is not political, it really isn’t — back and forth on that. It is not three points for John Kerry, five points for George Bush. This is national. It’s not going to change, you know, if George Bush loses and Don Rumsfeld leaves or whatever. It is not going to change. This is a permanently upon Americans.
I was also reminded of a small piece of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. When the narrator is in basic training, just finishing up, a deserter from his regiment who has murdered a young girl is captured, tried, convicted and brought back to the regiment to be hanged.
He belonged to us, he was still on our rolls. Even though we didn’t want him, even though we should never have had him, even though we would have been happy to disclaim him, he was a member of our regiment. We couldn’t brush him off and let a sheriff a thousand miles away handle it. If it has to be done, a man — a real man — shoots his own dog himself; he doesn’t hire a proxy who may bungle it. The regimental records said that Dillinger was ours, so taking care of him was our duty.
that night we started thirty days of mourning for Barbara and of disgrace for us, with our colors draped in black, no music at parade, no singing on route march. Only once did I hear anybody complain and another boot promptly asked him how he would like a full set of lumps? Certainly, it hadn’t been our fault — but our business was to guard little girls, not kill them. Our regiment had been dishonored; we had to clean it. We were disgraced and we felt disgraced.
We are all disgraced, it’s our mess, it’s our responsibility, and we need to be very open and clear about the dishonor which these soldiers and their commanders have brought upon all of us. Sure, they’re exceptions, sure, they don’t represent the military as a whole, or Americans as a whole–but if that’s true at all, then we have to own them and every bit of their dishonor as well.