It’s been reported that authorities have come upon the most shocking and disturbing photos of alleged American abuses in Iraq yet – graphic pictures of American GIs kicking puppies and recklessly littering.
In other news, photographs previously thought to be of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib have now been discovered to be snapshots of a San Francisco nightclub.
Alright, sorry, that was too much. I don’t want to make light of the Abu Ghraib. It’s inexcusable and unjustifiable, and should be condemned. People should be punished.
But look, this is not even vaguely like My Lai, the Inquisition, or any of the other things it’s been compared to. And it is most certainly not like the murder of Daniel Pearl or Nick Berg. Not even close. I don’t understand how anyone could draw any similarities at all.
There are a lot of things we don’t know about these photographs. A picture is worth a thousand words, but you have to make sure it’s the _right_ thousand words. We have virtually no context for these pictures.
Let me try to be clear: There are no imaginable circumstances that would make the abuse of those prisoners even remotely justifiable. But there may be factors that would make it more or less awful. We need to keep those factors in mind so that we respond appropriately.
Proverbs 18:13 says “He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.” Let’s be sure we hear the full story.
Who are these prisoners, and why are they in prison? Did US forces storm a park and round up daddies flying kites with their children? Are these shoplifters? Are they
terrorists insurgents? Former officials under Saddam? Agents of these terrorist insurgent groups?
Why are they being treated this way? Are these US soldiers having fun? Are they just being sadistic? Is it part of a controlled attempt to break down these particular prisoners? Part of an attempt to intimidate and break down other prisoners by making an example of these? Are they being punished?
Why are the soldiers taking pictures? For kicks? Souvenirs? To mock and further abuse these prisoners? To aid in a physchological attempt to break down these or other prisoners?
Who is in charge? Are the soldiers acting of their own accord? Under orders from higher up? In cooperation with lower level intelligence agents? In cooperation with high level intelligence agents?
And we should remember a few things. We are at war. And our war is not simply with Iraq; it’s now with these guerilla fighters in Iraq, and you need an awful lot of intelligence to defeat them. Not to mention the terrorist groups.
There is no excuse or imaginable defense for the abuses shown in those pictures. It is wrong. But it is much “wronger” if the soldiers are simply being sadistic. It’s a different story, and probably deserves a different reaction, if this is part of a calculated attempt to gain necessary intelligence, and was carried out under the direction of high ranking intelligence officials. It’s still not excusable or defensible, and still people – including the soldiers involved – must be punished, and it’s still wrong, but it is different.