Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Victims of Abu Ghraib

Here is my latest article about some victims of Abu Ghraib, and here are some pictures of the victims. Recent polls are showing a 12 point drop over the last two months in support for the Iraq war, with many wondering whether we should have come at all. We must not dismiss the abuse which occurred. We must treat it seriously. But we must also not lose sight of the change that has been made. One of the commenters on this blog resorted to moral equivalency, suggesting that we had done all the horrors of Saddam. Were he to leave his ivory tower and come to Iraq and actually say that to an Iraqi, the locals would laugh at him. There is no doubt that the Iraqis are angry and disheartened by the pictures, but they know the horrors of the previous regime. This is not to use the worst to in any way justify the bad--but when people make statements suggesting that the current situation in Iraq is no better than the prior regime, their imprudence should be checked by the painful realities of the former regime. And, to emphasize the point of my article, the real difference is that our leaders view the abuse with horror because it violates our principles--in the prior regime the abuse would have been looked at with disdain by the leader because it was not on a grand enough scale.

Discussions - 16 Comments

And let us not forget that humiliation can be redressed and compensated for; a visit to the shredding machine cannot.

There it is again, that wonderful little caveat that Conservatives seem so fond of using in their efforts to defend the actions of the prison guards. "We must not dismiss the abuse which occurred. We must treat it seriously," says Robert. But then he resorts to the "but." BUT we did a lot of good over there, he says. Surely, all of the good we’ve done must have earned us at least a couple of free passes!?!?!? And hey, even though our guys humiliated, tortured and murdered prisoners, they’re not half as bad as Saddam was.

Sorry to burst your bubble, Robert. Murder is murder. Torture is torture. Humiliation is humiliation. It doesn’t matter who the offender is. The only difference between the injustices imposed by Saddam and the prison guards was that Saddam was a whole lot more creative (though I doubt that even he ever came up with anything as freaky as the naked human pyramid).

Yeah, instead he and his sons smothered women they just finished raping with honey and fed them to starving doberman pinchers.

You are right: cruelty is cruelty. The question is: is that cruelty a violation of the principle behind the regime or a fulfillment of it? In the prison cases, the horrors are in violation. In Saddam’s case, the murders go right along with the principle. It is not that we are not as bad as Saddam and are therefore good, it is that we recognize these things for the grave moral evils that they are!

we recognize these things for the grave moral evils that they are!

But do we really?


Starbuck, your moral ignorance is grotesque. You say the only difference between our guards’ abuses and Saddam’s
is that the latter were more "creative."

Would you care to explain that to Saddam’s victims?

You are absolutely right when you say
"murder is murder, torture is torture, humiliation is humiliation." Unfortunately, you also seem to think that humiliation is torture, and torture is murder.

Given your inability to engage in moral reasoning, perhaps you’re better off with the Kennedy/Kerry/Soros/Dean/Sharpton crowd. Ashland readers couldn’t care less what you think.

You say the only difference between our guards’ abuses and Saddam’s is that the latter were more "creative." Would you care to explain that to Saddam’s victims?

It’s called sarcasm. Perhaps you were thrown off by the fact that I was writing at level greater than the 4th grade reading level.

Unfortunately, you also seem to think that humiliation is torture, and torture is murder.

You are a real piece of work. Are you honestly going to sit here and try to tell us that prisoners haven’t been tortured and murdered? I know of at least two who would disagree with you.

Here’s a tip: the next time you feel inclined to shoot your mouth off, try picking up a newspaper. You’ll come across as sounding a whole lot less ignorant.


Obviously I don’t think you were praising Saddam’s creativity. But it is clear that you are making our errant guards into Saddam’s moral equivalent. And that, sir, is moral idiocy.

I’m aware that there was probably some real torture and may have been some killings. But you have chosen to speak in the aggregate -- our abuses on the whole versus Saddam’s on the whole.
By that standard, you are uttering drivel.

Again, would you be willing to share this view with any of Saddam’s victims?
I can imagine some "creative" responses they might make. I imagine that not all of these responses would be verbal.

Your utter failure to understand the stakes in this war disqualifies your
comments from the consideration of any intelligent person.

Starbuck does a fine job at moral equivalency, but misses my point. I never said that America deserves a free pass for abuses--he did. I said that the abuse should be taken seriously, and distinguished it from the previous regime because we are punishing those who committed these acts rather than promoting them. The point was that the bad acts of the prison guards does not transform the act of regime change to a shift to an equally bad system. Because Starbuck seems to miss this point, that does not mean we "get a pass"--we treat it seriously and punish those who did wrong. However we need not subscribe to his reductio ad absurdum and claim that if all murder is murder and equally culpable, that we can make no distinctions between the ultra vires act of a prison guard and systematic genocide. It is not just that Saddam was more creative. It was policy to torture under the previous regime. It is our policy to punish those who commit inhumane acts. Let alone the scope of the atrocities: under Saddam there were more than 300,000 dead in mass graves alone, and 400,000 tortured at a time in Abu Ghraib. The recognition that we committed bad acts does not prevent us from noting that as bad as the abuse may have been, it does not change the fact that from a human rights perspective, the shift in regime is still good. It is still a goal which was worth pursuing. And it is goal which we must continue to pursue by bringing the prison guards to justice.

But it is clear that you are making our errant guards into Saddam’s moral equivalent

Not at all. What I’ve said is that the CRIMES committed by our guards were the moral equivalent of the CRIMES committed by Saddam. You’ve chosen to paint my response with that brush because doing so enables you and your right-wing wacko brethren to continue to deny that any wrongdoing took place.

Get some sleep, bro.

I’m aware that there was probably some real torture and may have been some killings

By the way, you might want to revisit your newspaper, per my previous suggestion. It is well-established that killings did take place.

I said that the abuse should be taken seriously...

And then you went on to imply that when US solders torture, humiliate and kills Iraqis, it is not as despicable a crime as when Saddam did it. Nice try.

and distinguished it from the previous regime because we are punishing those who committed these acts...

Which, as well all know, has absolutely NOTHING to do with the fact that the photos became public, spawning outrage by the US and World public.

Thanks for the laugh, Robert.

Starbuck: Your arguments are entertaining, even though ill-informed. The investigation into the misconduct, including a recommendation that initiated the court martial began over a month before the pictures became public. So while the pictures served to highlight the abuse and to stiffen the spine of Americans against the abuse, the investigation was already underway. As for your claim that it is not as bad when Americans torture Iraqis, you really need to learn how to read. What do you think it means when I said in my article that the torture received great attention because it violates our founding principles? That is extraordinarily serious. You, however, are the one who have demonstrated an incapacity to make distinctions between moral evils. For you, our regime is no better than Saddam’s. The acts committed by the prision guards were wrong. But that does not mean that our actions in entering Iraq are wrong. And it does not mean that the good of regime change has been undone. I stand by my statement: if in comparing regimes, you can’t tell the difference between one in which a few people did bad things in a prison and a regime in which hundreds of thousands of people were systematically tortured and killed, then you are not even worth talking to, because reason clearly evades you.

Starbuck argues that it is debatable whether the investigation was under way. I suggest he check his beloved newspapers, to learn that the internal investigation began began in January, and the referral for the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding prior to court martial happened over a month ago.

Starbuck claims that he never stated that Abu Ghraib abuse delegitimizes regime change. Of course, I never said that he did either--a point that he conveniently elides. However I am curious as to whether he actually believes anything to the contrary (keeping in mind that he has already decried US entry to accomplish the regime change as "wrong"). He seems incapable of accepting my simple thesis that the abusing soldiers are terribly wrong and should be punished AND regime change was still the right decision because the human rights conditions in Iraq were horrendous. Somehow any attempt to say the latter is viewed as "downplaying" the former. But these are not contradictory statements, unless of course you fail to take the abuses of the former regime seriously. Surely there is room for thoughtful analysis which acknowledges both the human rights abuses of Abu Ghraib and the general benefits of reforming Iraqi government so that a larger number of more heinous crimes do not take place. Conservatives have been quick to denounce the prison guards and to recommmend tangible punishment and correction for that situation, but those in the Kennedy/Starbuck camp have been loathe to suggest how it is that they would have remedied the abuses of the former regime. All I have heard is their thoughts on why they believe that freeing Iraq was wrong. I’m sure those words will be comforting for the 300,000+ Iraqis who loved ones lie in mass graves, or the many more who lost limbs and suffered rape and torture by the former regime.

I think Alt is making the point that the Damage done to us and our policies in the Mideast by abu Ghraib is NOT "How horrible they (we) are" but rather "See they are no different". This is why Bush, Rummy, Rice, & Powell have gone to great lengths to explain this is not how we do things in the Arab Press, and public punishment of the sicko MPs involved will go a long way toward countering the "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" perception these images have fostered. Call me optimistic, but I feel that our swift and public attention to this matter may actually play FOR us in the long run, and further our cause in the mideast.

I think Alt is making the point that the Damage done to us and our policies in the Mideast by abu Ghraib is NOT "How horrible they (we) are" but rather "See they are no different".

That may be one of his points (and if that is the case, he hasn’t made it well), but it is not the issue that I took him to task for.

This is why Bush, Rummy, Rice, & Powell have gone to great lengths to explain this is not how we do things in the Arab Press

The problem, Gerry, is that actions speak louder than words. So while Bush and company may be claiming to the world that this is not how we do business, the continued release of increasingly graphic images and video suggests otherwise, as does the mounting evidence that supports the notion that these were not the actions of a few rogue guards, but that it was policy.

Starbuck, If you wish to know so much about Iraq, put down your biased newspapers, stick a crowbar in your wallet and buy a ticket to Iraq. Talk to the people, talk to the coalition forces, talk to Saddam while you’re there and make an informed decision based on your findings, not just what you’ve read in the papers. You’re an aggravating person but everyone here is willing to read your comments. You just have to be willing to read ours and weigh the two sides. It seems you have a little "high horse" attitude and it’s getting boring.

Leave a Comment

* denotes a required field
 

No TrackBacks
TrackBack URL: http://nlt.ashbrook.org/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/4141