Or Idiotic Prank?


By Mark Armstrong


In the context of the war on terror, and American involvement in Iraq, it’s hard to imagine anything which could have caused a bigger blow to patriotism.  What in the world is behind the ludicrous stunts perpetrated in Iraqi prisons by a few of our own soldiers?  Let’s hope only a handful are involved, and that they’ll be dealt with swiftly.  Have I heard right?  Some have claimed that these were measures designed to make them talk? Ridiculous.  Or that some of those Iraqi prisoners were deserving of the treatment because they themselves were guilty of brutalizing others?  Truth is, there can be no justification for the images that have been splashed across our television screens night after night. 


The reporters and commentators have spoken of the “humiliation” of the prisoners.  In fact, it is the United States of America which has been humiliated.  Once images such as these have been burnt into the consciousness of the whole world, how can the damage be repaired?  It undermines the whole concept of America as the benevolent liberator.  It shatters the justifiable pride we’ve felt for our armed forces, not to mention the huge black eye it gives the U.S. all over the world.  But was it torture?  Torture is what went on in the prisons of Iraq before Saddam was deposed.  Some of our military men, and even humanitarian workers in Iraq have been subjected to unspeakable torture, dismemberment and murder.  Those stories never seemed to have “legs.”  Pictures weren’t widely disseminated, and probably shouldn’t have been.  But this looks to be one of those stories which just won’t go away, and it’s definitely not safe to catch up on the news over dinner.  If not for the implications, these pictures wouldn’t have gotten a pass from network censors!  What are they doing to our kids?!?  Apparently normal standards just don’t apply when it comes to giving the USA a black eye.


We’ve seen countless stories from imbedded reporters traveling with our troops in all kinds of dangerous and hectic circumstances.  We’ve seen them in action, under fire, and in interviews under calmer circumstances.  They are very impressive.  They’ve earned our appreciation and our respect.  So how did we end up with these perverted idiots with the digital camera representing our military? 


My opinion is, it’s not the military.  It’s an outgrowth of a sickness which pervades our society, and maybe to a greater degree, the younger generation. There is a trend you can witness every day on television, particularly in programming aimed at teenagers and young adults.  Much of it passes for comedy.  And that is the idea that the raunchier and more outrageous something is, the funnier or “cooler” it is.  It’s not new.  For years now, shock value has been treated as a measure of entertainment. 


The images in those photos make us sick, and feel revulsion for the participants.  But they appeared to be making a party out of it!  As if they were having a great time striking  poses with unidentified naked prisoners under their power.  It would probably require the expertise of a shrink with a PhD to figure out what possessed these people to engage in such debauchery and then document their stunts with photographs.  Actually, this seems less a documentation of something which was occurring, than something staged for the purpose of taking photos.  You’d think they’d know better than to pull a stunt which would give the whole Moslem world justification for rising up in self-righteous indignation, destroying their own lives in the process.  


Now the politicians are weighing in.  Some have called for Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation, like he bears some responsibility for this lunacy.  I felt discouraged to see how humbly and chastened our President appeared when he addressed the situation and offered an apology.  Sure enough, the activity and the photos are an outrage and those involved must be addressed with severity.  But, in the larger context, is it possible that a little too much attention is being paid to a matter which should have been dealt with and dispensed with a couple of months ago when it first came to light?  I guess the armchair quarterbacking is simpler than protocol allows for.


Let’s hope our military and civilian leaders will deal with this abject stupidity on the part of a handful judiciously and with all haste, and that respect will not be lost for so many brave soldiers who continue to risk life and limb as “liberators.”  Maybe all the political grandstanding will be seen for what it is as well.  Is that too much to hope for? 


            Probably.  This whole episode represents a distraction from the seriousness of the business we’re involved in.  The doctrines of the Islamic religion continue to represent a threat to western society.  Moslems still want to eradicate Christians and Jews from the face of the earth.  The mind-numbing complexities of the Middle East still represent a threat to peace and prosperity of the entire world!  Too bad the media just can’t resist a ratings bonanza.

Mark Armstrong