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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Abu Ghraib Briefly Revisited

I was amazed at how shocked and dismayed good Americans were on hearing of mistreatment of Iraqis by American troops at the Abu Ghraib prison. Or were they really so shocked and dismayed? If they were, they were even more oblivious than I had thought to the myriad injustices that are committed in their name, and by them, at home as well as abroad. These injustices predate even the founding of the nation, and in the last century or so prisons have played a big role in that.

I have not been shocked or even particularly interested in the revelations of the misdeeds by American jailers at Abu Ghraib. Anyone who had read the necessary weblogs, notably Riverbend's at "Baghdad Burning," would already have been long aware of the iniquities associated with that abattoir in the sand. And they would have wondered what possessed the American forces to use it for much the same purposes that Saddam Hussein had earlier. Did they not know that such a benighted place would preserve an aura that would satanically control all its subsequent users, until such time as it was levelled to the ground?

GWBush likes to refer to our troops as if they're the very finest individuals to be found. He has to profess to see them as such, because he is asking them to stand in harm's way in order to realize his own inhuman intentions. But though they may all have come from homes filled with goodness, once they are sworn in, the apple pie factor seems to vanish, and these fine sons and daughters cease to be your paragons of virtue. Instead, being in the military takes away some of a person's humanity, and that is true also of civilian law enforcement, and it applies to volunteers of any nationality.

Unless they are trying to be funny, you will seldom if ever hear servicemen say idealistic things, such as that they joined to preserve the country's freedoms. That sort of blather is reserved for their commander-in-chief. Instead you will hear them say, in so many words, that most often they enlisted to improve their economic outlooks.

As a result, if they were honest and not heavily invested with ersatz patriotism, those who have been in the military might tell you that , though they met some fine guys and gals in there with whom they wouldn't mind reuniting in later years, too many others are a scruffy lot, with their minds constantly on sex -- or at least to preserve appearances they have to pretend to stay in that mode -- and with their mouths full of gratuitous invective and worse.

In addition to the military's hard, cold, prevailing culture, the adverse effect on its members is also a result of the chief tools used there, the weapons. Brandishing a weapon of any kind, which means wearing it, necessarily coarsens a person. It can't be helped. The weapon gives its holder a feeling of power, because of the fear that that implement induces in others. And in that respect the military is more drastic than hunting or law enforcement. Whether that weapon is a rifle, a tank, a submarine, or an airplane, the youths operating these implements have essentially been issued permits to kill with few questions asked, or to pillage, capture, beat, and kill, preferably with regard to opponents whose means to retaliate are as close to zero as possible.

These are very sad aspects of the human condition, though hopefully, if the excuses for having and using weapons don't overwhelm the species, they will not always be present ...in some other era to come.


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