Monday, May 01, 2006

Abu Ghraib and the Need for Moral Clarity

Summary: The Abu Ghraib prison scandal generated a lot of photographic coverage of prisoner abuse. In this post, I talk about some of the abuses that didn’t get reported, probably because they didn’t get photographed.

The Abu Ghraib prison scandal has been out of the news for a while, but its memory will not easily be forgotten, nor should it be. Several American service men and women have been appropriately punished, while others probably should have been as well.

How did it all start? By photographic evidence turned over to the news media. Photographic evidence accentuates news reporting. It’s something that is more believable, because it is visual. An ongoing problem is that much more abuse occurred and is occurring that isn't being reported. And it still continues. To make matters worse, the abuse that’s occurring now makes what was reported a year or two ago pale in comparison.

Why is the additional abuse not being reported? Because the perpetrators are wise enough this time to not allow any photography.

Many of the insurgents are being held on nothing but the most specious of charges. Here is a litany of the additional abuses that they must endure—and that are not being reported. Prisoners are being beat with mallets, clubs, and rifle butts on a regular basis. Water is withheld from them for long periods of time. Food is withheld from prisoners for even longer periods of time. Questionable sanitary methods are used when preparing food and drink for the prisoners. Female prisoners are being raped systematically. Prisoners are compelled to sign sworn statements against themselves that bare little resemblance to fact. They live in filth and squalor, their only contact with outside life for days on end being the rats, cockroaches, lice, and bacteria that torment and attack them. During these periods of time they are allowed no means of personal hygiene.

Family members are seldom, if ever, allowed to visit the prisoners. Their mail is often destroyed or looted en route, and not often delivered intact. Family members frequently lose any contact with their imprisoned fathers, brothers, husbands, wives, daughters, or sisters. Sometimes the only way they discover their family member’s whereabouts is because he (and sometimes she) has been summarily executed without trial. When the torturers can’t get their prisoners to rehabilitate, they resort to such tactics as electric shock therapy or detaining and torturing their children.

Did you hear about all this happening at Abu Ghraib? That’s because it didn't--at least since Saddam has been gone. It might still be happening, but because Torture Me Elmo has been deposed, the Iraqi people are no longer being systematically abused by their government. However, the litany of abuses described above is happening in Iran—today. It is happening in North Korea—right now. And if it’s not still happening in Cuba, I would be very surprised. So, if as you read this, you were incensed to think that America could still be perpetrating such abuse, are you still as incensed now that you know it's really someone else that's doing it?

The way abuse is reported by the media really has very little to do with the presence or absence of photographic evidence. It has much more to do with the ideology of those who report—and who in the process make—the news. Because American reporters often detest America, they paint as bleak and negative a picture of America and the Bush Administration as possible. Yet when they go to places like the Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran, their ideological blinders invite them to take at face value the lies told them by these countries’ dictators and their shills.

To the American media’s chagrin, America and the coalition have opened ‘curtain number 1’ to reveal the harrowing abuses perpetrated by the Hussein regime in Iraq. Thankfully, these abuses have been put to an end. It seems sometimes, however, that the media will stop at almost nothing to avoid having any more of these ‘curtains’ opened. I think this is because a revelation of the monumental abuses currently occurring in Iran, North Korea, and likely Cuba would belie the phony ideology that most American newsmakers have entertained all these years.

America and the world reported abuse perpetrated by American and coalition forces and demanded that it be cleaned up. The result is that it has been stopped. Why don’t the media use their same influence to bring the vile acts of Iran, North Korea, and Cuba to light as well? It would be nice if these regimes would stop abusing as well.

We now know that our media have the ability to report abuse. Now, new sources are available. A new scoop is obtainable. If they don’t report it this time, they are complicit in the abuse that continues.


Matt said...

You scared me at the beginning of that post, Frank! However, I totally, 100% agree with you! I've heard Abu Ghraib is a hospital now. Is that true? As far as those forms of torture going on in Iran, Cuba, and North Korea everyone knows they exist. The media does nothing to demand their cession because those are the media's friends. That's why you never here the Iranian people speaking their minds when reporters go to Tehran. All you ever see are Bassij screaming Merg bar Amerika (Death to America). I don't understand why we haven't just blasted Cuba with TV and radio transmissions. We know how fragile of a grip Castro has and it would isolate Chávez (of Venezuela even further). As far as Chávez is concerned, we'd never invade. The only thing we might do is send in Delta if he imprisons a US servicemember like he claims he will. That's what we did with Noriega in '89. However, the media paints people as Chávez, Castro, Kim Jong Il, and Ali Khameini as great people who represent the true interests of their country just because they hate the US. What rubbish!

Frank Staheli said...

Matt, Thanks for your comments. I'm glad my post had the desired effect! ;-) I read it to all the guys I work with here and they were spittin mad that I would write that about America, and were certainly relieved when they realized what my point was. By the way, I thought it was interesting to see a picture of Chavez and Castro in Brazil(?) yesterday when they nationalized all the natural gas and petroleum. It figures. South America generally doesn't get it because they've never 'gotten' it. North America comes from hardworking entrepeneurial stock, while South American culture for the last 400 years has been epitomized by the rich lazy people oppressing the poor, who can't get a leg up in society.

forever_changing said...

As the wife of a former marine, you are doing a great job!! others are quick to criticise and judge, but you put your life on the line daily to ensure and assist the freedom of others. Abu Graib and the scandal which followed was shocking but nothing compared to what you have mentioned.

Its always easier to judge the selfless men and women of the military from an office in Washington or from the couch isnt it.!!

Frank Staheli said...


Thank you. I'm always glad to get positive feedback. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Thank you for your support of our noble endeavor. Spread the word about this and other blogs that are trying to get the truth out.

Thanks again.