By Alex Hacker
Us Raise 1000 Contributions... Please Donate!
This week is our second quarter 2004
fund drive. Our goal is to bring in 1000 individual
donations before midnight on Sunday, May 16.
There is no minimum (or maximum) donation. Whether
you can spare $5 or $500, your contribution will
bring us one step closer to our goal. So please
take a moment to donate
all possible reactions to the news of the Abu Ghraib prison
abuse and the uproar it has caused, Oklahoma Senator James
Inhofe's outrage is perhaps the most shocking, not because
the Republican Senator has expressed outrage at the atrocities
that were committed by American soldiers, but because he had
the unbelievable gall to take umbrage at those who have responded
to these incidents with horror and dismay.
During Tuesday's session of the Senate Armed Services Hearing
on Iraqi Prisoner Treatment, Inhofe voiced his concern over
"this outrage everyone seems to have about the treatment of
these prisoners... I'm probably not the only one up at this
table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by
the treatment. The idea that these prisoners - you know, they're
not there for traffic violations. If they're in cell block
1-A or 1-B, these prisoners, they're murderers, they're terrorists,
they're insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood
on their hands. And here we're so concerned about the treatment
of those individuals."
And so the cycle of outrage continues, because that is an
outrageous statement for anyone to make, and moreso for an
elected official purporting to represent his country.
First of all, no one "seems" to have outrage over these brutal,
unlawful acts. We are outraged, period. Perhaps if
Inhofe paid attention to the overwhelming response of people
and politicians all over the world he might understand why.
But instead he just says that he is "more outraged by the
outrage" than he is "by the treatment."
That is perhaps the most stupid, backward, and inhumane thing
said by any politician since the war began (quite an achievement),
and the fact that Inhofe has support for his statements from
some of his peers in Congress and a portion of the populace
is very scary and itself outrageous, for his stance is representative
of the kind of attitude that can only lead to more atrocities.
Since Inhofe seems not to understand why "we're so concerned
with the treatment of those individuals," perhaps what seems
obvious to most of the human race needs to be stated again.
We are concerned because such atrocities are cruel and inhuman,
and they should not take place against anyone, anywhere, under
any circumstances. It is quite simple. There can be no excuses.
Inhofe, like President Bush, thinks it is somehow appropriate
to bring up Saddam's record of brutality, but that is a weak
and childish attempt to shift focus in the hope of escaping
guilt. "I would guess," he said, "that these prisoners wake
up every morning thanking Allah that Saddam Hussein is not
in charge of these prisoners." At one point Saddam was
presumably in charge of those prisoners, and surely they would
wish he still was, but that's beside the point: it's doubtful
that they thank anyone for anything when they awake.
Inhofe is suggesting that what those soldiers did to the
Iraqi prisoners was bad, but nothing compared to what evil
Saddam has been doing for years. The funny thing about comparisons
is that they work in two directions, and once the focus is
shifted back from Saddam onto the US soldiers, their acts
look more atrocious, not less.
The fact is that no amount of explanation or talking around
the subject can negate the feeling of repulsion, the natural
and human feeling of outrage that the majority of people everywhere
felt on seeing the photos of American soldiers torturing and
abusing Iraqi prisoners. We are concerned and outraged because
supposedly U.S. forces are over there to end such atrocities,
not propagate them. Did someone forget to inform the troops?
Inhofe seems to believe that the nature of these prisoners'
crimes has something to do with this issue, with how they
should or should not be treated. This is mere rhetoric, of
course, standard political tripe, and it is entirely irrelevant.
The claim that they are murderers, terrorists, and insurgents
is worse than irrelevant: it is, from a political and juridical
standpoint, untrue, because it has yet to be proven; no trials
have taken place; the prisoners are detainees, awaiting tribunal,
which happens to be one of the most basic of human rights.
Those prisoners are there because they are prisoners of war,
and there are international codes of conduct for the treatment
of such prisoners, the violation of which falls into the category
of war crime. Since the Bush administration has seen fit to
ignore international agreements in pursuing this war, perhaps
it is not surprising that the soldiers it employs should follow
suit, which is reason enough that responsibility for these
abuses be placed on the shoulders of those at the highest
levels of authority.
Inhofe says of Saddam that "when he was in charge they would
take electric drills and drill holes through hands, they would
cut their tongues out, they would cut their ears off." And
when Bush was in charge they sexually molested them.
Inhofe's outrage looks suspiciously like an attempt to hush
the dissenters before responsibility has time to step up the
ladder to the highest rung of authority. He makes a feeble
attempt to suggest that everything is under control, that
it's all been taken care of, with the implicit suggestion
that we should all just go back to our business now: "I hasten
to say yeah, there are seven bad guys and gals that didn't
do what they should have done. They were misguided, I think
maybe even perverted, and the things that they did have to
be punished. And they're being punished."
Bad? The epithet is far from the mark. More appropriate
would be one the President is fond of: evil. Those acts were
evil, and yes (not maybe), "even perverted." And Inhofe has
it backwards, of course: it's not that they "didn't do what
they should have done," but that they did do what they
shouldn't have done. They did things that they, nor
anyone else should ever do. And if they were "misguided" in
doing such things, then who was their guide? It is not only
seven "guys and gals," (Is that supposed to make them seem
more likeable? As in "Oh, he's just one of the guys, you know,
a sadistic sexual pervert.) who are responsible; it is an
entire chain of command.
It doesn't stop here. If those with authority are going
to suddenly divest themselves of responsibility, there can
be no guarantees that more atrocities will not take place.
Inhofe's statements, his outrage at the outrage of others,
is a barrier to such guarantees. That is, in the end, why
Inhofe's statements are so inappropriate, for these are not,
to use his tasteless remark, "traffic violations." They represent,
in the words of a recent statement issued by a conference
of eight Arab nations and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan,
"a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and
basic principles of humanity."
Inhofe would have the whole scandal swept under the rug
immediately, along with international law and everyone's humanity.
It is a blatant political move to make those of us in this
country who would (and will, despite or because of him) continue
to speak out and point fingers and express our outrage, feel
somehow guilty for doing so.
And he doesn't stop there: "I am also outraged that we have
so many humanitarian do-gooders right now crawling all over
these prisons, looking for human rights violations while our
troops, our heroes, are fighting and dying." This statement
is virtually impenetrable. Since when did humanitarian do-gooders
become a target for disparagement? Does he expect them to
go out and fight the good fight, with our "heroes," our troops,
seven of whom are now being tried for what amounts to war
Inhofe sounds like Saddam trying to avoid more inspections,
and his remark can only be interpreted as concern that perhaps
there is more to come. If outrage should fade, as he wishes,
and these investigations are not carried through to the very
end, to the very highest levels of authority, then that concern
could turn into yet another in a long string of outrageous
realities perpetrated by the Bush administration.
Alex Hacker lives in Washington, DC.