Thursday, May 05, 2005

War Is Hell ...

... is something that apologists for war like to say when challenged. "War is hell," they respond, when confronted with the horrors of war. "War is hell" is a truism. And like many truisms, it serves both to reveal truth and to keep truth hidden.

The war in Iraq is no different from any other war in its hellishness. This is not a war of liberation or a war to create democracy. War doesn't create anything; at least, if the word "creative" is being used in a positive sense. War is destructive, not creative. And war turns human beings -- even decent human beings -- into monsters.

Bob Herbert is one of the few voices in the mainstream media who has consistently tried to show us what's behind the curtain in Iraq. Today, he writes again about Aidan Delgado, who became a conscientious objector after seeing the suffering this war has caused; and even more to the point, the savagery and truly bestial behavior many of his own comrades in the military displayed, because they hated being in Iraq and let that hatred infect their treatment of Iraqis. We know that these barbarities happened, and continue to happen, because American soldiers themselves record it, in videos and photographs.

There are pictures of children who were wounded and barely clinging to life, and some who appeared to be dead. There was a close-up of a soldier who was holding someone's severed leg. There were photos of Iraqis with the deathlike stare of shock, stunned by the fact that something previously unimaginable had just happened to them. There were photos of G.I.'s happily posing with the bodies of dead Iraqis. ...

Some of the most disturbing photos in his possession were taken after G.I.'s at Abu Ghraib opened fire on detainees who had been throwing rocks at guards during a large protest. Four detainees were killed. The photos show American soldiers posing and goofing around with the bodies of the detainees.

In one shot a body bag has been opened to show the gruesome head wound of the corpse. In another, a G.I. is leaning over the top of the body bag with a spoon in his right hand, as if he is about to scoop up a portion of the dead man's wounded flesh.

"These pictures were circulated like trophies," Mr. Delgado said.

Some were posted in command headquarters. He said it seemed to him that the shooting of the prisoners and the circulation of the photos were viewed by enlisted personnel and at least some officers as acceptable - even admirable - behavior.

This is what lies behind the pretty words about liberation and democracy. This is " ... the sickening reality that is seldom seen in the censored, sanitized version of the conflict that Americans typically get from the government and the media."

And there is a reason for that.

Americans' attitude toward war in general and this war in particular would change drastically if the censor's veil were lifted and the public got a sustained, close look at the agonizing bloodshed and other horrors that continue unabated in Iraq. If that happened, support for any war that wasn't an absolute necessity would plummet.

On October 11, 2001, in the first prime-time news conference of his presidency, Bush talked about the hatred of the United States that exists in many parts of the world, and that led to the events of 9/11.

How do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred for America? I'll tell you how I respond: I'm amazed.

I'm amazed that there's such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us. I am — like most Americans, I just can't believe it because I know how good we are.

And in fact, Pres. Bush is absolutely right. Americans are good. Americans are generous and compassionate and care about the suffering of others. Which is precisely why the Bush administration takes such extreme care to prevent Americans from finding out the savage cruelties that are being committed in their name.

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