Saturday, May 21, 2005

Tales of Three Prisoners

The front page of Tne New York Times on Friday featured the shocking story of the brutal, horrific torture and death of two Afghan prisoners at the hands of the U.S. military. Based on a 2,000-page report on the investigation conducted by the military, it details how the prisoners were beaten, humiliated, chained to ceilings and denied medical care for the resulting injuries.
On the same day, a United Kingdom tabloid, The Sun, featured on its front page a photo of Saddam Hussein in his skivvies.
Guess which one has gotten the most attention from the U.S. Administration and media?
Take a look at the CNN web site's home page this morning. Lead story? "Pentagon vows to probe Saddam photos." Off on the side is a link to a story headlined, "Afghanistan's Karzai 'shocked' by abuse report."
We learned throughout the day yesterday that the administration was concerned that photographs of Saddam in his Y-fronts might constitute a violation of the Geneva Conventions. In the case of the Afghan prisoners, we learn that there are still "disagreements" within the military about whether the two Afghan prisoners died from abuse or natural causes.
What the hell is happening to this country? Have we really lost our perspective to the degree that we only care what happens to the "celebrity" prisoner. The Saddam photos, while clearly inappropriate if, as suspected, they were taken by U.S. military personnel and sold to The Sun, are tabloid journalism on a level with nude pix of Britney Spears. (And I'll admit to laughing out loud at The Sun's follow-up headline, "Bush Probes Saddam's Pants") Those who took and sold the pictures should be disciplined -- and everyone should move on to more serious matters.
But the Afghan prisoner story depicts a level of inhumanity among U.S. troops that should be the final nail in the coffin of any pretense that we are doing good work in the Middle East. Except that nobody except possibly the Afghan president seems to give a flying fuck.
Certainly not our president, who is more concerned about protecting the lives of undeveloped embryos (which of course, are potential U.S. citizens and red-state voters) even if it means stifling scientific research into cures for diseases which actually kill living, breathing people. It continues to amaze me how Bush's hypocritical "culture of life" ends with birth.
Reading all of this, I begin to feel as if it can't be true, that I really have entered some sort of Twilight Zone.
But I fear that the zone I have entered is the one we are all living in, the twilight of American culture, the slow end of U.S. predominance as a force for positive change in the world. As I said in a post last week, all we have left is our military might.