Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The front page of today's Daily News proclaims: TEAR DOWN THAT PRISON, inferring a ridiculous comparison of Bush's speech last night and Reagan's infamous "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" speech at the Berlin Wall.

I wondered last night whether or not the US had continued to use any of the German concentration camps once they had been liberated to house German civilians? enemy combatants? insurgents prisoners of war at the end of World War II, but everything I've come across suggests that conditions were so horrible at most of them that they had to be burned to the ground.

Interestingly, Abu Ghraib during Saddam's reign was [still is] often referred to as a concentration camp, where numerous Iraqis were sent and never seen again. And yet, knowing its reputation, we thought it was a good idea for us to set up camp there and use it to detain Iraqis ourselves, many of whom were dragged from their homes in the middle of the night by their supposed liberators, the US military.

Families live in fear of midnight call by US patrols
by Daniel McGrory, The Times Online, 9 July 2003

NEVER again did families in Baghdad imagine that they need fear the midnight knock at the door. But in recent weeks there have been increasing reports of Iraqi men, women and even children being dragged from their homes at night by American patrols, or snatched off the streets and taken, hooded and manacled, to prison camps around the capital.

Children as young as 11 are claimed to be among those locked up for 24 hours a day in rooms with no light, or held in overcrowded tents in temperatures approaching 50C (122F).

On the edge of Baghdad International Airport, US military commanders have built a tent city that human rights groups are comparing to the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Remarkably, the Americans have also set up another detention camp in the grounds of the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad. Many thousands of Iraqis were taken there during the Saddam years and never seen again.

Every day, relatives scuff their way along the dirt track to reach the razor wire barricades surrounding Abu Ghraib, where they plead in vain for information about the whereabouts of the missing.

The response from impassive American sentries is to point to a sign, scrawled in red felt-tip pen on a piece of cardboard hanging on the barbed wire, which says: "No visits are allowed, no information will be given and you must leave."
Remarkably, this article is nearly a year old!

One of the things we talked about during the first part of the show on Friday was this sense of "right" and "wrong" in a time of war and how ultimately pointless they are to those actually dodging bullets on the ground. 18- and 21-year olds with minimal education or training, thousands of miles from home and the possibility of ever getting back lessening with each passing day. If they're not being served up as cannon fodder on the frontlines, they're being hung out to dry as scapegoats. All to pay for the sins of their leaders.

Our leaders.

POP QUIZ: Who's your Representative in Congress? Did you vote in the election that put him/her in office? Did he/she vote to authorize this war? Have you ever written him/her to express your feelings on the state of the union?

While wars are eventually defined by a handful of individual moments, those moments - good and bad - are simply highlighted details from a much bigger picture. Many times they're highlighted to distract from a larger flaw, like makeup on a blemish.

The abuse at Abu Ghraib is one particularly ugly detail from an even uglier bigger picture, one depicting incompetence at the highest levels of command, the ill-conceived plans of a group of fanatics, and, if one were to step back far enough to see, the beginning of the end of an era.

POP QUIZ: If, as Nancy Pelosi argued yesterday ("The emperor has no clothes. When are people going to face the reality?"), George W. Bush is the emperor, what does that make his fellow Skull & Bones'er, John F. Kerry, who's only difference on the war lies in procedural rhetoric?

--"Under conditions of tyranny it is far easer to act than to think."
Hannah Arendt

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