Americans’ appalling acts
U.S. soldiers who committed atrocities against Iraqis in prison have disgraced America.
There is the matter of those photos of prisoners treated as if by Saddam’s personal orders, the actual and alleged sexual humiliations, even the possible murders of at least two Iraqis.
It’s nice that President Bush is “disgusted,” that Defense Secretary Rumsfield declares the actions of the guards “un-American,” Powell calls them “immoral,” and the generals in charge acknowledge “mistakes were made.”
How does America even have soldiers, “bad apples” or whatever, who commit such acts? To listen to Iraqis who have spent time as American prisoners, the abuses go beyond the rare tormenter. They might have reason to exaggerate, but what is shown to be true is appalling beyond measure all on its own. It doesn’t help the American image that many of their injuries and an Army report that runs 53 pages long on the investigation into abuses in two of the more notorious prisons backs them up.
Also damaging is the admission that top leaders in the Pentagon, and higher, were informed as early as December and January, including President Bush. They didn’t bother telling Congress or the American people until those damning photos showed up on “60 Minutes II” last week. Sometimes it does indeed take our free press to reveal the truth. That is one conerstone to distinguish a fundamentally good America from the evil Saddam tyranny.
These revelations give us yet another black eye in the controversial handling of the run-up to war and the post-war drive to self-governing democracy in Iraq. Clumsy diplomacy and poor intelligence have combined with ham-handed “rebuilding” and shocking conduct by at least some in our military. Where’s the discipline, the training, the moral high ground of American might?
Make no mistake, this is serious stuff.
We’ve squandered a world’s goodwill following Sept. 11 and managed to fuel more hatred with our growing misadventure in Iraq.
So, how to turn this around?
President Bush beginning to take responsibility, if just an inkling so far, is a good start. The commander in chief deploring the “abhorrent” behavior of some soldiers and allowing that “mistakes are made” in democracy (as with all things human) is a step in the right direction.
Better will be genuine effort in that other most American of virtues, besides a free press: Justice.