The War On Civilization
by Chris Bowers, Fri May 20, 2005 at 08:34:14 AM EDT
The story of Mr. Dilawar's brutal death at the Bagram Collection Point - and that of another detainee, Habibullah, who died there six days earlier in December 2002 - emerge from a nearly 2,000-page confidential file of the Army's criminal investigation into the case, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.Downing Street Memo:The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss [the timing of the war] with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.FOIA's obtained by the ACLU:
- One investigation into abuses at Rifles Base in Ramadi, Iraq details an incident in July 2003 in which an Army captain took an Iraqi welder into the desert, told him to dig his own grave, verbally threatened to kill him and had other soldiers stage a shooting of the man.
In a separate incident uncovered in the Rifles Base investigation, the driver and passenger of an Iraqi fire truck were detained for failing to turn off the truck's headlights. Multiple soldiers reported that a captain kicked the detainees, threatened to kill them, and held a pistol to the head of one of the detainees, even though the detainees did not offer resistance of any kind. The detainees were released later that evening.
- An Army document dated December 30, 2003 stating that three Army personnel received administrative punishments -- rather than criminal sanctions -- for abuse of Iraqi detainees. A Master Sergeant was found guilty of knocking an Iraqi detainee to the ground, repeatedly kicking him in the groin, abdomen and head, and encouraging her subordinates to do the same. A Staff Sergeant was found guilty of holding a detainee's legs apart while other soldiers kicked him in the groin, abdomen and head. A third soldier was found guilty of violently twisting a detainee's previously injured arm and causing him to scream in pain.
- A July 15, 2004 information paper on an incident involving two Iraqi men detained in Samarra. The men were driven to a bridge, where a platoon leader instructed three soldiers to push the detainees into the river. One of the Iraqi men could not swim and drowned. The other survived and reported the incident to different U.S. soldiers. The body was recovered by the family 12 days later and buried. One soldier indicated to investigators that the chain of command had instructed the soldiers not to cooperate with the investigation and to deny that they pushed the men into the river.
- A May 3, 2004 information paper describing the deaths of two Afghan detainees at Bagram, Afghanistan. One man died from an embolism that the medical examiner "attributed to blows that he received combined with immobility due to restraint." The other died from aggravation or a coronary artery condition "brought on by complications that arose from blows that he received from the stress from being restrained in a standing position." None of the soldiers had been formally charged as of the writing of this report.
No one recalled, for example, that American Catholics lashed out in violent rampages in 1989, after photographer Andres Serrano's ''Piss Christ" -- a photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine -- was included in an exhibition subsidized by the National Endowment for the Arts. Or that they rioted in 1992 when singer Sinead O'Connor, appearing on ''Saturday Night Live," ripped up a photograph of Pope John Paul II.
There was no reminder that Jewish communities erupted in lethal violence in 2000, after Arabs demolished Joseph's Tomb, torching the ancient shrine and murdering a young rabbi who tried to save a Torah. And nobody noted that Buddhists went on a killing spree in 2001 in response to the destruction of two priceless, 1,500-year-old statues of Buddha by the Taliban government in Afghanistan.
Of course, there was a good reason all these bloody protests went unremembered in the coverage of the Newsweek affair: They never occurred.
Christians, Jews, and Buddhists don't lash out in homicidal rage when their religion is insulted. They don't call for holy war and riot in the streets. It would be unthinkable for a mainstream priest, rabbi, or lama to demand that a blasphemer be slain. But when Reuters reported what Mohammad Hanif, the imam of a Muslim seminary in Pakistan, said about the alleged Koran-flushers -- ''They should be hung. They should be killed in public so that no one can dare to insult Islam and its sacred symbols" -- was any reader surprised?
The Muslim riots should have been met by outrage and condemnation. From every part of the civilized world should have come denunciations of those who would react to the supposed destruction of a book with brutal threats and the slaughter of 17 innocent people.The clear implication of this line of thinking is that `the muslim world" is not civilized. On right wing blogs and radio shows across the country, the line of thinking expressed by Jacoby is repeatedly couched in terms of "these people"--why do these people act this way? This is the triumph of identity politics, when individuals are able to grant themselves moral superiority over others simply because of their cultural identification.
I view the ethics behind the situation a little differently. What is the difference between individuals who commit acts of violence, and individuals who support governments who engage in far grater acts of violence? That is not an easy question to answer, and it poses a difficult moral dilemma for all Americans, even those such as myself who vocally opposed the war in Iraq and the approval of torture policies such as those constructed by the Bush administration and Alberto Gonzales. Demonstrating our own complicity with uncivilized acts makes it a lot more difficult to only condemn "these people," but even to understand "these people" as different from "our people." A day should come when all acts of unjustified violence, whether they are committed by mobs of official governments, are condemned by the civilized world, but that day is not today.