Wednesday, May 12, 2004

I'm outraged

I'm getting really tired of hearing partisan Republicans try to justify the recent events which have occurred in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Folks such as Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh have made clear that their partisan political hackery knows no limits. At a time when serious criminal offenses have been perpetrated by US, likely with encouragement from the highest levels of government, is causing many in the U.S. to question the humanity of their nation, and many across the world to reach their final verdict about what the United States represents, these guys minimize the significance of the incidents, and suggest that the problem is not the methods and practices of the United States armed forces, but the fact this information reached Americans in the first place.

Add to this club James Inhofe, an undistinguished Senator from Oklahoma.

As others condemned the reported abuse of Iraqi prisoners, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe expressed outrage at the outcry over the scandal and took aim at "humanitarian do-gooders" investigating American troops.

But Sen. John McCain, himself a former prisoner of war, said such humanitarian involvement distinguished the United States from its enemies.

"I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment," Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and an outspoken conservative, told a U.S. Senate hearing probing the case.

In heated remarks at odds with others on the Senate Armed Services Committee (news - web sites) who criticized the U.S. military's handling of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, Inhofe said American sympathies should lie with U.S. troops.

"I am also outraged that we have so many humanitarian do-gooders right now crawling all over these prisons looking for human rights violations, while our troops, our heroes are fighting and dying," he said.

"These prisoners, you know they're not there for traffic violations," said Inhofe, whose senatorial Web site describes him as an advocate of "Oklahoma values."

Questions about Oklahoma values aside, evidently, Inhofe in his role as a member of the Senate Armed Services committee was not aware that around 70 to 90 percent of detainees were detained by mistake. But there is a bigger issue here.

Please, does anyone remember anything about history, about Nazi Germany? Germany didn't bear responsibility for some of the worst atrocities in the history of mankind because its people were evil. It did so because its government operated with the consent of a large portion of its population, of whom many believed that whatever the government was doing, it was doing it in the best interests of the country. I would be willing to bet that as the German war machine revved up prior to WWII, and Germans began to be aware of at least some aspects of the brutality of their own government, the Nazi propogandists used the rational that their country was only working to accomplish what was best and fairest for its people, and that its actions were inherently good. And enough people bought it, or didn't question it, to allow things to get much, much worse.

There are other interesting things about Nazi Germany. When one asks how a modern, Westernized democracy can degenerate into a country with no democracy, where war and cruelty are the dominant themes, one must place events in their historical context.

Why did a great deal of Germans not strongly oppose Adolf Hitler? Because he kept the country in a state of fear. Germany was in danger. Foreigners posed a threat. Foreigners were evil. Germany was working for the good of the German people. It was also under attack by terrorists.

Hitler used the 1933 burning of the Reichstag (Parliament) building by a deranged Dutchman to declare a “war on terrorism,” establish his legitimacy as a leader (even though he hadn’t won a majority in the previous election).

You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in history,” he proclaimed, standing in front of the burned-out building, surrounded by national media. “This fire,” he said, his voice trembling with emotion, “is the beginning.” He used the occasion – “a sign from God,” he called it – to declare an all-out war on terrorism and its ideological sponsors, a people, he said, who traced their origins to the Middle East and found motivation for their “evil” deeds in their religion.

Of course Germans were not inherently evil. They were a people dominated by fear who allowed it to overcome their bests instincts. They were a people whose democratic system, whose institutions, crumbled in the face of a leader who had no qualms about using fear to consolidate his grip on power and accomplish his dark dreams.

The United States has a history rich with the triumph of human rights, and humanity, over our darker instincts. However, there is no guarantee that our system will endure. We must fight to protect it, and fight hard, and be very outraged when, as here, the ideals for which our country has long stood are so thoroughly dishonored.


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