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Sunday, May 23, 2004

Outsourcing Responsibility

It’s Sunday morning here in America. In Seattle at 8:30 A.M. people are out getting coffee. Some look like they are dressed to go to some sort of religious ceremony while most are just dressed. Lots of work-out clothes—not that they are actually going to work out but these are easy clothes to slip into in the morning. The farthest thing from most people’s minds is the war in Iraq. This is definitely a lower case kind of war—the only kind we have known since World War II here in the U.S.A.

I rarely overhear strangers talking about the war when I’m out. The war is something people see on the TV or a newspaper headline at best. The war in Iraq doesn’t directly affect most of us. It is a testament to the wealth and power of this nation that we are able to wage a war half-way around the world so casually. We haven’t been asked to make a single sacrifice so that the world may have a free Iraq, or to eliminate the WMD, or whatever reason we are there killing people.

If you are solidly middle class you don’t have to worry about your child serving in the military. Our “all volunteer” army is an army of economic conscripts pressed into service by a faltering economy. Getting your ass shot off in Iraq is more often than not what some soldiers are forced to endure if they want to better themselves by going to college. The fierce fighting and increasingly heavy losses in Iraq are enough to convince a lot of potential recruits that a long life of crappy jobs at home in the safety of America is preferable.

This same lower and powerless tier of our society is the first one to bear the brunt of an investigation into a complete lack of leadership in the Abu Garib prison scandal: Outsource the fighting and the blame—how tidy. The first person to go on trial and to be sentenced for the abuse at the prison should have been the brigadier general in charge. She claimed she wasn’t allowed into that part of the facility. My response to that would have been, “What the fuck are you talking about? You are a brigadier general in charge of this prison. No one can tell you where to go or not to go. Guilty.” After this I would go after the CIA and civilian contractor interrogators (I’m really sick of hearing about civilian contractors having anything to do with operations). After all these people are found guilty then I might start worrying about the grunts in the pictures.

This war is very, very real for a lot of people—even some very unlucky Americans. We need to decide whether or not we are a nation that stands for human rights and decency or not—black and white. This doesn’t seem like a gray area to me. Leadership starts at the very top.

If you think that a bunch of Army E-4’s could run a prison like some S&M whorehouse from hell--all on their own--you don’t know how the military works. If you learn nothing else in the military you learn how to follow orders. The military isn’t famous for teaching people to improvise or think on their feet.

The idea that Iraqi prisoners are less than human started with our president saying that our opponents have no souls. Next we have a Secretary of Defense who thinks that torture is an acceptable form of interrogation if the suspects are terrorists. By the time this shit rolls down hill--as they say in the military—to the enlisted ranks you have a recipe for disaster. That disaster has already been cooked and served to the world, a world we have tried to convince that we are on the side of freedom, human rights, and human dignity.

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