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Blaming the messenger
By Benjamin J. Uticone
Online Journal Contributing Writer
June 21, 2005—It's been a rough year for those Americans who so vociferously supported our unprovoked war against Iraq.
Revelations that intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction, the main impetus behind the war, was "dead wrong" was bad enough. The Downing Street Memo which reveals that both American and British administrations planned to manipulate what they knew to be bad intelligence to bolster their case for war is an absolute outrage and an embarrassment to our nation and its leadership.
The story of the Koran being flushed down a toilet at Guantanamo, and the subsequent riots it caused, only to find that the story contained some factual errors was bad enough. Factually substantiated stories of desecration of the Koran as well as the Amnesty International report comparing the prison at Gitmo to Soviet era gulags are stains on the reputation of this country that we may never be able to live down.
The "insurgency," which is a more ominous way of saying rebellion, shows no signs of slowing and the bodies, both American and Iraqi, keep piling up.
Reports of the torture of detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo are becoming harder to ignore or suppress. Some estimates stand as low as 30, others as high as 100 deaths as a direct result of torture during interrogations.
The war-hawks are angry alright. But where is their anger directed; at the soldiers? Heck no! We support our troops and the magnetic ribbon on the back of their 15-mile to the gallon SUVs proves it. Are they angry at the president or his administration? Of course not. He's a good ol' boy who knows what it takes to protect 'Merica. Besides, "I loves my guns and my tax cut."
So where is all the right-wing anger pointed? Squarely at those who say anything bad about our efforts in Iraq, of course.
I suppose it's to be expected. Anyone who opposed the war before it began was unpatriotic for not wanting to protect America from a dangerous enemy. When the opponents of the war were proven right, that Iraq was never a threat, they were still unpatriotic for not supporting the troops. Now that reports of unethical and even criminal behavior are surfacing, those who report these violations are the unpatriotic ones for trying to undermine troop morale and stymie our efforts to spread freedom and democracy.
And all the while the armchair generals who've cheered for the war from the beginning go through the most elaborate mental gymnastics in order to avoid committing the one unforgivable sin; dissent. It's not a bad thing that we desecrate the Koran in front of Muslims. After all, we're the ones who supplied them with the Korans in the first place. Of course, if the situation were reversed, if Muslims were seen urinating on a Bible in front of American captives, the very people who casually dismiss the desecration of the Koran would be screaming for the blood of those responsible, but I'm sure there's an important difference somewhere. The people we are fighting cut off the heads of their captives, so a little torture in the name of gathering important information can be tolerated. And if a few people die in the process, well, you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs. It's fine that we hold human life as cheap, as long as the people we fight hold it just a little bit cheaper.
In an age where the moral elites criticize liberals for what they call moral relativism, it shocks me to see how far people are willing to go to justify unjustifiable behavior. If it is wrong to take human life in any situation, if there is no moral difference between giving a terminally ill patient a lethal dose of morphine upon their own request and just shooting a stranger on the street, then how can there be a moral difference between torturing Americans in the course of any criminal investigation and torturing Middle Easterners in the midst of an investigation into alleged terrorist activity?
The argument that our enemy's misbehavior justifies our own misbehavior, on the other hand, is ludicrous beyond words. Not to abuse an old cliché, but if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?
The excuse that we are justified in violating simple human rights, as spelled out not only by the Geneva Convention but by common sense as well, because our enemies commit the same violations is totally invalid. We would not allow our own children to get away with such an excuse. So why are we willing to let our leaders get away with it? Could it be because the president has deliberately wrapped himself in so many American flags that any attack on him is seen as an attack on all of America? Could it be that the image of the commander in chief climbing down from the cockpit of that fighter jet in full fighter pilot regalia is so deeply seared into the collective mind of America that any criticism of that one man is seen as criticism of all our armed forces?
It all leaves me with one question: Just how bad do things have to get before the shield of jingoism no longer protects this administration from the criticism, and more importantly the accountability, it so richly deserves?
They say that war brings out the best and the worst in human nature. But sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between the two. Patriotism can be a great thing, when it's used as a motivation for constructive purposes. When patriotism is used, however, as a justification to bulldoze other principles; fairness, mercy, integrity and honor, patriotism becomes merely a shield to hide behind while acting on all the worst parts of our nature.
Americans have duties other than just the duty to country. I dare say that there are some duties even more important than the duty to country. All human beings everywhere have an obligation to the truth. When the truth becomes inconvenient then that obligation becomes all the more crucial. We also have a duty to the principles of justice, and when justice is miscarried it is our duty as human beings to denounce those who are accountable, whoever they may be.
The administration that deceitfully led us into war, as well as the individual soldiers who mistreat prisoners of that war, are the ones responsible for giving America a bad name. Those who don't like it are faced with a simple choice: They can either blame the messenger, or they can blame the people responsible for the message.