Shame on all of us!

My timing to conduct a survey among expatriates on their current political feelings proved to be disastrous in these past few days. The outrage dealing with the topical abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers had our expatriates all over the world running for cover… in disgust and also shame.

When confronted with the issue, Bush said to be “deeply disgusted” stating that any soldier “found to be at fault” would be punished… and underlining that the treatment of these Iraqi prisoners does not reflect the nature of American people.

Yep! Same old fable… Americans are 99.99% pure of heart, and we shouldn’t be surprised when a few spoil things for the lot. We spin defeat into victory, and criminality into virtue. The Bush administration has achieved mastery on this subject…now preparing to take it to a doctoral dissertation.

Bush stressed that the investigation into the soldiers’ “alleged” abuse was moving ahead. Come on! It has been eight weeks since it was announced that six members of an Army Reserve military police unit assigned to Abu Ghraib (a prison west of Baghdad ) faced charges of assault, cruelty, indecent acts and maltreatment of detainees. Justice could have been rendered in two to three weeks… but it was not. If the pictures had not found their way to the media, little or nothing would have been done. Now that the world is sitting in the front row, we have no choice but to offer a play with an adequate performance… perhaps giving greater punishment to these hyenas than the slap on the wrist they would otherwise have had.

Any defense, or excuse, for such behavior based on the high pressure environment in Iraq has no merit. Zero! The mixture and multiplicity of duties in a guerrilla or asymmetrical war, combat operations, occupation, liberation and peacekeeping or constabulary details do not afford an excuse to behave in a perverse fashion. You are either a decent human being or you are not.

Americans are no better or worse than any other people in the world. Our society is a mixed bag of good and bad, just like citizens in other societies. There is a factor, however, that sets us apart from most other nations, and it’s our tolerance for violence… something evidenced by our love for firearms under false “constitutional” pretenses. And prejudice, perhaps due to our diversity.

Our military, whether regulars or reserves, represent to a great extent a cross-section of our society, and are likely to behave in both acceptable and unacceptable ways. To have a set of policies and procedures, a code of conduct, be it of universal military behavior, or specific to a locale, would certainly help… but would not solve the problem. Soldiers who act as criminals must be treated as criminals, written code or not. Soldiers who exhibit prejudicial tendencies should not be allowed a home in the military; not stateside, much less overseas.

Unless our soldiers concede, not condescend, to the fact that they are no better than other human beings, no matter how different or poor they are, they will be seen as inhumane and despotic. Not just our soldiers, but the rest of us.

In Korea we called the natives “gooks;” “slopes and gooks” in Vietnam ; “ragheads” during the Gulf War; and now, we call Iraqis, “hadjis.” Some claim that the latter is not a pejorative name since it means “one who has made the obligatory trip to Mecca .” That is, of course, nonsense since the name is being used with disrespect, regardless of its meaning.

What an opportunity Bush had to show humanity by apologizing! Instead, the Bush administration accuses Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, which had properly called this abuse unethical and inhuman, of deliberately broadcasting “inciteful” material.

Meantime, American media’s biggest concern seems to be the damage to our image, and not the injuries perpetrated. Isn’t there any shame or dignity left?

Shame on Bush! Shame on all of us!