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September 25, 2005


Aidan Maconachy

When the Abhu Ghraib revelations first surfaced I was inclined to believe that a minority of boneheads were behind it and I also felt a lot of the "torture" allegations were being hyped. However the recent revelations that have surfaced suggest a deeper and more prevasive problem.

It now appears that torture was used as a tool to humiliate others in a random and completely gratuitous fashion - for reasons of power and control basically. This is quite different from applying pressure to a suspect who has knowledge that within an hour a bomb will detonate in a mall killing and wounding hundreds. In such a case I would say do whatever it takes to extract information about the whereabouts of the device.

To suggest that American methods can't be compared to the very real torture of regimes such as Iran isn't the point. Given the apparent extent of this problem we can't off-load responsibility by simply saying "its worse over there".

Recently Hitchens in fact used the term "moral Chernobyl".

When the Bush administration presumes to be an exporter of "freedom and democracy" to other countries it better make damn certain that its representitives are above this type of mass descent into moral idiocy.

Aidan Maconachy

I would like to add that my views on the torture issue have evolved over the past year.

When the Abhu Ghraib story first surfaced it seemed to be an unfortunate aberration. Some of the "torture" depicted was even satirized on comedy shows. At that time I really took exception with those who tried to lump this American mistake with the torture methods of Saddam's secret police.

However, comparisons are no longer appropriate now that it is clear there was in fact an extensive problem.

There are Republican voices who are urging that photo evidence should be buried, citing fears of an explosion of rage in the Arab world. I don't agree. I think we have a moral obligation to expose this. Any anger in the short term that occurs on the Arab street, will later give way to the acknowledgement that the Americans were prepared to do the right thing. This will enhance American credibility and demonstrate that they are willing to hold themselves to the highest standards.


I admit being biased, since I've been a fan of war literature and war movies for a long time.... but it's hard for me to understand why Abu Ghraib is so shocking or is considered such an abberation. Given the dehumanization of the enemy required by modern warfare, this kind of thing is bound to happen. Rather than phony moral outrage after the fact (without a serious effort to change the policies directly endorsing torture!), the American media should do a better job of making the public aware of war's psychological implications before conflicts begin.

As for America's "higher standards"...this rhetoric has been out of date since (at least) the daily napalming of civilians in Vietnam. What a joke. Let's have an end to illusions of some sort of enlightened American imperialism.

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