OH, the hypocrisy of it all. The Army blamed a few bad apples for the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison and at other detention facilities controlled by the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush Administration called the photographed incidents of prisoner humiliation, torture, and death aberrations. Dubya said the deplorable acts by American military did not represent America.
Got the picture? Some national guardsmen from Oregon thought they did until their military superiors told them not to intervene in subsequent prisoner abuse they witnessed by Iraqi jailers on the grounds of the Iraq Interior Ministry.
While the Army parades pregnant privates to trial for conduct unbecoming the Geneva Conventions at Abu Ghraib, it simultaneously pretends such conduct is none of its business in the new sovereign Iraq.
Under the old sovereign Iraq a despicable regime did despicable things to Iraqis who stepped out of line. Saddam Hussein was the chief evildoer who built a fearsome reputation for torturing and killing his own people. His atrocities could not be overlooked, argued Washington, in the pre-emptive propaganda buildup that preceded the U.S. invasion. Baghdad had to be rid of a ruthless regime that was imminently threatening humanity and - lest we forget - sitting on vast oil supplies.
After the primary sales pitch for the invasion - dangerous stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction - was wholly discredited due to a lack of such weapons, Bush-leaguers began spreading a new justification for the pre-emptive military action. The new pitch was based wholly on the malevolence of Saddam and how the world was better off without him destabilizing the Middle East. Why, insists Candidate Bush, with all the bravado of a used car salesman, we've turned a corner in Iraq and the dividends of a fledgling democracy are on their way to discovery.
I'll give the man credit for delivering those stump speeches with a straight face even as the rest of the world watches Iraq lurch toward a protracted civil war between unrelenting Shiites, Sunnis, and the armed-for-insurrection Kurds. Each fights for a vested interest with defined parameters. The centuries-old tussle between the cultures for control was only restrained under the iron rule of Saddam. The strongman void was quickly filled with chaos from competing camps.
In the middle of the expanding Iraqi war zone perpetuated by a U.S. military force unable to secure the peace with adequate might, are the sitting-duck sons and daughters of America. They are dying at a disturbing rate, bogged down in bloody guerrilla warfare with Iraqi "insurgents," whom Washington likes to generalize as "terrorists" or "thugs and criminals." Truth is, many Iraqis who take aim at U.S. troops belong to disparate native factions fiercely motivated to revolt against any established authority made in America.
Then add insult to injury. The new Iraqi government, picked and propped up by the U.S., is discovered employing some of the same intimidation tactics of the old, with prisoner beatings punctuated with an inventory of torture devices from metal rods to electrical wires and bottles of chemicals. Is the new boss same as the old boss? Does that explain how a 14-year-old Iraqi prisoner - like other Iraqi captives seen exhibiting fresh welts and bruises across their backs and legs - was dealt with as brutally in the enlightened post-Saddam era as before?
Washington hypocrisy explains how Saddam's brutality against Iraqi victims could justify a war against one government and a hands-off approach to another engaging in atrocities because the latter is administration-approved. A freer, more democratic Iraq needs no outside interference in its internal affairs. Unless, of course, a majority of Iraqis should clamor for a theocracy akin to Iran's. The argument for discriminating involvement in a diplomatic mess deteriorating rapidly is infuriatingly hollow.
But not to the Bush pretenders. Those who boast we've turned a corner in Iraq (and are heading to Iran) are full of unilateral optimism that, despite the escalating death and violence we leave in our wake in Iraq and Afghanistan, we've made the world a safer place - and deserve continued support.