Have we heard from everyone yet? The President blurted out how “disgusted” he was when he saw the photographs; the Secretary of Defense cringed at the “pictures” that had far greater impact than words alone; Senator Warner expressed “shame” that such vivid images of American wrongdoing had been on display for the whole world to see; all of the 24 members of the Armed Services Committee of the Senate offered how displeased, outraged, offended, and nauseated these explicit and un-American photos made them feel; even John Kerry checked in noting that the President should take full responsibility for this shameful display that has humiliated America before the entire world. How courageous to witness this righteous indignation by America’s pin-striped warriors as they cringe before the visible, graphic, four-color “pictures” that capture, as words alone cannot because they can be so easily skipped over, the horror of this “war” that they perpetrated on a defenseless people at the instigation of a President committed to the defense of Israel, as Senator Hollings has noted recently, a “just” war wrapped in lies and effectively executed with the latest state of the art (SOA) weapons that suck the living air from the lungs, that pepper a child with pellets tearing the skin in hundreds of places, that cut cars into slices as easily as slicing a loaf of bread, that sear the eyes and the throat with devastating pain as the depleted uranium seeps silently on the wind blown ash of the bombed out home. How courageous these men and women beating their chests before the whole world demonstrating like paid mourners their grief at the outrage even as they display the “openness” of the “Democracy” that they bring to the infidels through their “precision” war that cleanses the evil from their corrupt regime leaving only the good to blossom in the “greater middle east.”
Let us put aside the questions that were not asked of the Secretary of War or the Supreme General of our Space Command: (1) When the Pentagon (the talking building in Virginia – no wonder we pay no attention to words) announced “to the whole world,” as “Rummy” informed the Committee, that an investigation was underway concerning allegations of prisoner abuse, did it not occur to the Secretary that the President and the Armed Services Committee must be apprised immediately of the allegations since the very thought of Americans committing torture could not be contemplated? (2) Wouldn’t the Secretary immediately command one of his trusted assistants to read the entire report and extract from it the most damning items with recommendations on how to respond and when? (3) Wouldn’t it have occurred to the Secretary, since it has been his “state of the art” approach to military procedures and policy implementation, that private contractors, employed to “outsource” activities formerly undertaken by government personnel, were involved in these allegations and that he should know in what way they were involved? (4) Wouldn’t it have been a matter of concern that such contractors could be Israeli “consultants” like those hired to help American forces employ the tried and true “occupier” strategies employed by the IDF in urban areas, hired here to guide naive Americans in the sensitive area of prisoner interrogation, the “softening up” process used so effectively against Palestinian detainees, consultants who would be anathema to sensitivities in the Arab world and associate America even more closely to the despised state of Israel? (5) Would the use of such consultants have been considered initially precisely because they cannot be held accountable to the Geneva conventions or to Iraqi justice (since it no longer exists when the country is under “occupied” status), thus allowing various methods of torture to be used – sleep deprivation, electric shock techniques, sexual humiliation, forced lewd and lascivious acts, intimidation and fear for wife and children – while protecting American commanders and soldiers from possible prosecution under existing US codes or the Geneva requirements?
It occurred to me as I watched the Committee members interrogate the Secretary, expressing outrage at Americans straddling naked Iraqi men stacked like sacks of grain on a warehouse floor, that their righteousness was misplaced if only because American forces should never have been deployed in Iraq. Where was their righteousness when the President announced in September of 2002 that Iraq had to be invaded, an announcement held until September because you don’t sell a product in August? Where was their righteousness when his administration published the National Security Strategy Report that gave America license to invade any nation on earth at the behest of the President, a document imposed on the American people without consultation with their representatives much less the people themselves? Where was their righteousness when this same President declared the United Nations irrelevant, when he mocked the people who took to the streets in every major city around the world, when he brazenly and hypocritically presented the UNSC with an ultimatum that they authorize the US to attack Iraq, when he declared “war” on a word – “terror” – a word that at best describes a method of belligerence against a perceived enemy but in its vagueness, its intended vagueness, allows for unending war? Where was their righteousness when the bombs began to fall on cities that had no air force to defend their residents, when pictures arrived showing fathers cradling in their arms their dying daughters, mothers weeping beside their mutilated children in dingy hospital beds, the graphic horror of little twelve year old Ali Abbas, armless and orphaned by a precision missile, the air pressing down over his skinless body. How righteous can a Senator be if he or she is responsible for placing our soldiers in an illegal war, a war conceived in secrecy by a band of self-serving ideologues, souls sold to Charon, bound in servitude to the state of Israel, a war reveled in by the Zionist evangelical hordes that grovel before ancient myths that make them “Chosen” in the eyes of their imagined God, a war declared and owned by the industrial- military complex that feeds itself on the oil and gas reserves of nation states that it buys and controls with American tax dollars, indeed, a war that keeps the Senators in power through the paid contributions to their re-election chests by these same corporations? How righteous to demand that someone beyond a private or sergeant be chastised for demeaning America before the world!
It occurred to me as I watched the Committee members interrogate the Secretary, as they sat in splendor in the paneled chambers of the Senate office building, a palace as resplendent as that used now by Consul Bremer, a palace built by Saddam himself for himself, that this democracy no longer belonged to the people of America, but rather to a fragment of the one percent who own America. It occurred to me that our President had been appointed to his post by five members of a Supreme Court, self-declared cardinals anointed by the Almighty to elect their infallible Pope. It occurred to me that we now have an opportunity to choose one of two to rule us for the next four years, elevated by virtue of their exalted bank accounts, two who mirror each other in all significant ways: unbridled acceptance of the need to invade Iraq despite world opinion and international law, obsequious adoration of the state of Israel caused, no doubt, by fear of retribution by AIPAC and their donors, committing America to war on behalf of another nation regardless of its impact on the American people, and blind acceptance of extra-judicial execution of opposition leaders, knowing full well the consequences of such action in the world community, most especially in the Arab world, and its devastating destruction of rules of law and basic democratic principles. Kerry and Bush, exalted members of the chosen few allowed to enter the inner sanctum of the Skull and Bones, scions of the patrician class that have bought our democracy.
But what can one expect from those who rise out of the Tomb? What is there about an organization whose members take an oath to absolute silence about fellow members regardless of the actions perpetrated by their fellows? What unlimited power does this permit? What is there about an organization whose nascent members must prostrate themselves before their superiors as they confess their most lascivious desires and acts recognizing the absolute humiliation of their position as they recoil naked before these mocking eyes? What unbridled mentality does this unleash before those less fortunate? What is there about an organization whose members understand their exalted status as scions of the chosen few, who from time immemorial have had license to lord it over the hordes that roam the earth, the privileged who have inherent rights to rule recognizing their superior status in the world? What unshackled power rises in the soul that has accepted its unquestioned right to rule? How curious that our compassionate conservatives have understood what took place in Abu Ghraib as little more than, in the words of the Lord of Conservativism, Rush Limbaugh, “fraternity initiation rights, pranks only.” How appropriate that the Skull and Bones sanctuary is called the Tomb. There in its innards reside an exclusive population of maggots that coil about each other in an ugly love ritual of huddling and clinging while feeding on others’ deprivation, releasing from time to time one of its membership to rise to the pinnacles of power the better to control the masses and ensure the continuation of their resplendent Tomb in that citadel of idyllic learning walled off from the slums of Hartford.
I would that our Senators represent the people, the people corralled by the military recruiters who place 70% of their recruiting offices in poverty neighborhoods where our minorities reside; I would that they represent the average wage earner who is strapped each month to a pole of bills too great to pay forcing him and her into greater and greater debt day after day; I would that they represent the laborer who receives from our corporations the pittance of a wage that keeps them floundering below the poverty line; I would that they recognize that America is not an island in the world, able to navigate alone and use others to its benefit alone, avoiding the shoals and currents that make all residents of the earth neighbors in a community dependent on each other; I would that they responsibly act against an administration that has lied and deceived the people they represent, that has brought humiliation on America equal in depth and kind to that inflicted on the prisoners in Abu Ghraib, that has destroyed the fabric of American oneness by creating a fissure within our population that decries dissent as unpatriotic, and that has brought shame to the very concept of democracy.
These are the Senators that scream so loudly when pictures are displayed of flag draped coffins bearing the dead soldiers that they had sent off to die. What insensitivity to show such pictures to Americans! These are the Senators who allow this administration to prevent photographers from meeting the planes at Dover air base, to photograph the wounded and maimed in Germany, to let the journalists and their cameramen photograph where the missile lands, that prevent Americans from soiling their eyes with graphic pictures of dead and rotting corpses lying in the streets, or scenes of innocent civilians murdered in their cars at check points, or hit by sniper fire as they helped put a wounded person in an ambulance. These are the Senators who accept without question extra-judicial execution done in our name by CIA operatives, a practice taught us by Sharon as he directed the murder of the paraplegic Sheik Yassin with missiles fired into a crowded street “accidentally” killing innocent bystanders. Why wake Americans to the reality of their complicity in this carnage, the war they, the Senators and Congressmen, have created in our name? Perhaps it is time we heard from America.
William Cook is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California. His new book, Psalms for the 21st Century, was just published by Mellen Press. He can be reached at: cookb@ULV.EDU