End Self-Delusion

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If you have any sense of justice, do not allow the United States government to make scapegoats out of a few enlisted people at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. That, of course, is exactly what Washington has in mind, and it has already begun the process.

When this story first broke, I said it smelled of intelligence and the CIA, and so it does. The purpose of the humiliation and the photographs was to break down resistance to interrogation — to, as the Pentagon so euphemistically puts it, "soften them up."

Now, there is one certainty you can count on when you deal with the military: Enlisted people do not originate anything. They follow orders. They follow orders of lieutenants, who obey captains, who obey majors, who obey lieutenant colonels, who obey colonels (full birds, they are called), who obey generals, who obey other generals, who obey civilians in the Defense Department. If ever there was a trickledown organization, it is the U.S. military.

As part of my duty, I endured the two sessions of bull at which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appeared. Leave it to a bunch of bloviating senators to make Rumsfeld appear almost heroic. Almost, but not quite.

The strategy was clear. The young Americans at Abu Ghraib were being disowned. Everyone took great care to say they were not typical, just bad apples, not representative of America’s true values.

Oh? Which country has an $8 billion pornography industry? You can see stuff as raunchy as those pictures on cable television, on a zillion Internet porn sites and sometimes in gay pride parades. Whose commercial entertainment industry thinks the only things that sell are sex and violence? Which country has the largest prison population in the world? Which country, in 1999, had more than 15,000 murders and 89,000 forcible rapes?

The answer to all of the above is the United States. Those kids in the military police unit are products of American culture. And for God’s sake, folks, why would anyone believe that if we are willing to shoot, bomb, burn and dismember Iraqis and destroy their country, we would hesitate to employ torture? The United States is without a doubt the most self-deluded nation on Earth, and that nest of liars who occupy Washington work full time to maintain the delusions.

We are like the lady in the Bobby Burns poem who sat in puffy pride in her fine silks in church while lice crawled out of her hair. We need to go to rehab and recover from the dope of Washington lies and look at ourselves realistically. We are and always have been one of the world’s most warlike nations. And when we go to war, we turn savage. War crimes are as old as America itself.

In the first Gulf War, some pundits ridiculed the Iraqis trying to escape from Kuwait with their vehicles loaded down with loot. They didn’t escape. They were cremated on what was called the "Highway of Death." But what I thought of was Gen. William Sherman. When his army left the smoking ruins of Columbia, S.C., the wagons loaded with stolen personal property — stolen from homes, churches and businesses — stretched out for five miles. War crimes were committed all over the South by the invading Northern armies, and virtually all went unpunished. Even so, the South fared better than the Native Americans.

I’m not one of the "hate America" crowd. I love this country. But I love it for what it really is, warts and all, and not some kindergarten fantasy created by lying politicians to cover up their own immoral actions.

We are not God’s chosen people. We are a nation of human beings, and like every other nation, we have a mix of virtues and vices.

Do not allow the guilty parties in Washington to sacrifice the young men and women at Abu Ghraib on an altar of hypocrisy.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on LewRockwell.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.

© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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