Monday, December 06, 2004


Abu Ghraib. Even the name seems sinister, like a villain out of A Thousand and One Nights, a mustached, bearded fellow in a sparkling white turban with teeth as white as the turban, mouth stretched into a grisly grin, brandishing his sword, threatening to lop off heads!

What were they thinking? Why would American soldiers agree to such behavior, and why are those pictures so gruesome and intriguing that they approach Art? The fellow with the black hood, head akimbo, wired up, obviously tormented....the pile of nude bodies, with the laughing woman pointing.....that little plain woman, not beautiful, just ordinary, a little nonentity selected for the job. They seem to have some sinister hidden meaning, these pictures, like some grisly oils painted by an artist depicting the dark side of human nature, the demise of the American dream, Uncle Sam exposed. Those photographs will not die, but will become symbols of darkness, of human misery, of degradation for years to come.

Just as those pictures of the columns rising from the rubble of the World Trade Center, like the broken spine of a shattered dream, brought Americans together in cohesive courage, a white light of outrage and patriotism, the pictures of Abu Ghraib will reflect some hidden shadow darkening the soul of our nation, the threat of a sunless midnight.

I'm sorry, I just can't envision it. Here we have adults, clustered into a group, discussing the circumstances of war and how it will be handled. Obviously, the subject of the treatment of prisoners was discussed at one time or another by someone or other, because the lawyers wrote up an opinion about it all, pointing out ways to evade the Geneva Convention, pointing out ways to avoid being indicted as War Criminals. Call them Enemy Combatants, was the advice, instead of Prisoners of War.

But call George Bush a War President, not an Enemy Combatant President. Is there something wrong here?

Did they have that conversation? Did they outline these ridiculous measures? Did one say, "Well, we can sic the dogs on them. That'll frighten them!"

Did the next one then chime in with, "What about grabbing their genitals?"

"Good point," the first one might have replied. "And strip them down! It's degrading to be nude with women around."

"Don't forget the point about sleep. No sleep. Loud music. And beat 'em up once in a while."

"A few months of this and they'll tell us what they know!" one might have declared.

Actually, he's right. A few months of that and I would tell them what I knew and a lot of what I didn't know. I would tell them I was Osama bin Laden's cousin, had been his lover, and was the reason he has a bad kidney. I would confess to just about anything, but call off the dogs and get your damn hands off my genitals!

I doubt the morality of men who would agree to this behavior in Iraq, Guantanamo or Afghanistan or anywhere else, then continue to remain quiet about it, pretending the whole thing came from just a few playful recruits horsing around. But then, as Bob Dole said about campaigning, this is hard ball!

War isn't pretty. It is blood and gore and misery and pain. It is children dying. I presume our soldiers have seen and done things they never dreamed they would. It's a part of war and one can only hope they can come home, adjust to normal life, and push those horrors aside. It's a terrible thing to fight a war where the enemy wears no uniform, but looks exactly like everyone else, and you don't know which one is carrying a gun or a bomb.

And, getting those prisoners to talk, to tell what they know, is very important. But the childishness of the methods used is unbelievable. There is no dignity and honor in Abu Ghraib. There is no excuse. We crossed a line there and we are crossing it in Guantanamo, too, or so I hear, and after this long, if those prisoners haven't told what they know, then grabbing their genitals will probably not budge them.

I only hope they will bring our young people home soon, let those people behead each other, instead of us, and concentrate on watching our borders. Let Abu Ghraib fade into a distant memory, if possible, and return to the image of America, the gentle giant, that golden land of opportunity, where the poor, the destitute, the wretched refuse, the tempest tossed, are welcomed, where the dreams of any man can come true.