Slow-breaking news - Shocked - no and yes

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Bush 'disgusted' by Iraq abuses

Or to get the graphic truth, go here.

Two of the most shocking stories out of Iraq have taken at least two days to even begin to sink into the consciousness of Americans - but if anything looks like the end of this sad road, these stories do. The stories have, in fact, been played down by the American press so far - but they are getting plenty of notice around the world.

Ok, let's call a spade a spade. Apparently US soldiers hooked electrodes to the balls of an Iraqi prisoners and a British soldier urinated on another one - and everyone is shocked by these and other acts, many of which are memorialized in photos now making their way onto the front page of every newspaper in the world.

And we look like shit. With the world lined up against us. With our own people protesting in the streets. We invade a country far weaker than ourselves which has done nothing to us and offer no threat to us. We brag about "shock and awe" as we kill thousands of innocent civilians in front of the television cameras of the world. And then we get caught pulling down the pants and doing unspeakable things to helpless prisoners. And we take pictures of it! Hey, why aren't you folks throwing flowers in our path?

But don't "cut and run" says our fearless leader. BS! We're not going to cut and run - we're just going to hand security over to Saddam's Republican Guard! Just what the hell is going on? This story has been on the wires for two days and I think only now is starting to seep into the consciousness of the pundits. This is the crudest of "declare victory and get out" strategies you'll ever see. How many stupid things do we have to do before we understand that this guy in the White House makes mistake after mistake - has done so all his life - and will never own up to any of them?

Ok - I'm starting to foam at the mouth. TV news does that to me. Gross ignorance does that to me. Man's inhumanity to man does that to me.. Woman's inhumanity to man does as well. And did I mention stupendous, over-the-moon, stupidity?

That said - I am NOT shocked by these pictures. Really. I am shocked that we would talk about how we ere going to send the Marines into Fallujah. And we would run news stories about bringing over a bunch of extra tanks to do the job right. And then suddenly we start seeing these stories about turning the whole things over to a pick-up team of ex-Hussein generals. If you can't beat 'em, buy 'em. Well why not. We got ourselves into a situation where this was our best alternative.

But back to the prisoners and the pictures. War is a lot more horrible than this and people regularly do things in war that are a lot more outrageous. In war everyone is a victim - including the people who did the things depicted in the now famous pictures. They are victims of the incredible stupidity that lead us to allow our government to license young men and women to kill other people - soldier, maybe soldiers, maybe civilians, families in pick-up trucks, maybe children, old women - bakers, bankers and candlestick makers.

Or did you not notice all the bullets and heavy shells being lobbed into "suspected" enemy positions. I'm sure people in those positions fired at us. I'm sure that if I were a Marine, I'd fireback. And I wouldn't give a damn who got hit. I would protect my ass and my buddies. So i don;t blame the soldiers. But I guarantee you that some of thos ebullets were killing innocent people. I don't blame our soldiers. I blame the idiots who put them in this impossible situation in the first place.

So don't be shocked when these young people - put in an environment where life (including their own) is cheap - behave a bit worse than they would at a college frat party. No we shouldn't tolerate what went on at that prison. But we should NOT be shocked by it.

And I fear what will happen next. Just watch. In self-righteous indignity we will try to score points with the Muslim world by punishing the hell out of these soldiers. Well, they have some punishment coming to them. But the buck shouldn't stop there.

The buck belongs on the desk of the presidentr and the president - for once in his life - needs to act like a man, eat crow, make amends, and get us the hell out of there. Strutting around like GI Joe won't cut it - especially when GI Joe just crapped in his nest. We're wrong - not just at the prison, but for being in Iraq at all. We need to admit it. Get out. And do whatever we can do to help the Iraqis get back on their feet. Kiss ass - don't kick it. And if that's the only price we pay for this horror show, count ourselves as lucky.

War stinks.

For a reality check, please revisit:

The emerging war lover - no lover at all.

And then remind yourself of what Chris Hedges said and wrote about war. See Two Books on War, Religion, and Evil."

Make no mistake about it - I think what was done in these prisons is horrible. And make no mistake about it, the impact of this on the Muslim world will be incredible. If you thought they hated us yesterday, just wait until tomorrow!

I applaud the fact that we are not trying to cover up the undeniable. But the damage is done. And frankly, anyone who expresses surprise and shock at this sort of thing is simply naive. They are caught up in the current mentality of the nation where we assume everyone serving in the Armed forces is a hero - especially if they die. Some of them are. Some of them aren't. And some of them are heals rather than heroes. And some are just stupid. And some are mean. And some are simply put in impossible situations and served a deadly cocktail of power and fear and how the hell do you expect them to act? So get real - stop pretending they're all heros. They're ordinary people like you and I and it is our votes, our tax dollars, that put them where they are. What they do, for better or worse, they do in our name.

Now when are we going to do the unthinkable? When are we going to act like responsible adults, admit our mistakes, and seek reconicliation? Soon I hope. Because if we don't catch this thing and catch it quick it has the potential to blossom into a full-scale holy war and that will make the puctures that are shocking everyone so right now look like a Sunday school picnic that got a little out of hand.

Posted by Greg Stone at April 30, 2004 08:59 PM

What has happened in Iraq recently is outrageous, but not terribly surprising. It is the result of an administration which is filled with men who are ignorant, immature, thoughtless, cruel and callous, gutless, and irresponsible. Just like these soldiers. They are simnply following the example set by their superiors. Some of us watching events unfold over the past two and a half years anticipated almost all of the problems we've come up against in Iraq, but I don't think anyone of us expected this. We should have, though, given the crap that flows from the mouths of the current President and his cohorts. It's a natural extension of the shoot-from-the-hip and the hell with the consequences atttitude permeating Washington.
As far as I'm concerned, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Cheney, and Bush should all be removed from the positions of public trust they hold. They are responsible for the criminal behavior of their subordinates and should be punished for that behavior, just as the soldiers should be punished.
I am sickened, outraged, saddened, but like you, not at all surprised.
Will this incident wake up the American people, including the Democratic candidate? I hope and pray it will. Unfortunately, I have doubts.

Posted by: Peter McDonald at May 1, 2004 12:21 AM

Yes, and I fear from what I've seen so far this will do far more to wake up the Arab people - this will be overplayed in their media and under-played in ours and so ignorance will continue.

But while I agree with your description of our current leadership, this is just the sort of thing I expect from soldiers. We are so nave in this country - we so abuse the word "hero," and we have so little experience with war, up-close and personal that we just don't have a clue what happens to men and women when you suddenly yank away all the controls society normally puts on them. Our young men and women behave better than most soldiers because they are better disciplined that most soldiers. But as we have seen in every war, they still can behave poorly.

And that relates to one more concern about all this:

How will our new Iraqi soldier behave? The ones we turn power over to in Fallujah? My guess is that they will either make a joke of the battle - their will be none - or if there is a battle they will be far more out of control than our soldiers. We seem to have swung 180-degrees here - from not using international troops and international support, to using the troops of our worst enemies in the country. Go figure. That piece of idocy may sink in deeper than the other one.

Posted by: Greg Stone at May 1, 2004 05:19 AM
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