The pictures have been published – some of them anyway. The shock , horror and revulsion that professional soldiers could have debased and humiliated prisoners in Iraq with such inhuman callousness and perversion has been acknowledged and condemned. Public statements that this is not what soldiers do, certainly not what American soldiers should do, have been made by the political big shots (Bush, Powell and Rumsfeld!). Well, clearly American soldiers did do this abuse against innocent Iraqis (yes, they are prisoners , but they are not charged with any crime. In any case they are innocent till proven guilty).
What is striking, across the entire US political spectrum, is the distinction that ‘American soldiers’ do not commit war crimes. As though they are somehow incapable of the worst of human behavior. Of course, greater expectations are made of them – as representatives of the self appointed bastion of democratic principles. But great expectations are rarely satisfied. Once we start to distinguish between expected levels of human behavior, we go down a very dangerous course. A road I fear we, as a civilisation, lack the maturity to steer effectively.
A far simpler view would be to say that human beings should not abuse other human beings in this way. Its not just a crime according to military law, its a crime against basic human law (no such thing exists, the closest we have is the Geneva Conventions!).
Like an embarrassed father having to come to school to scold his child, Donald Rumsfeld makes a ‘surprise’ visit to Iraq (of course, under the tightest security). With his military commander in tow, they have come ‘…to ensure that detainees were being treated properly and US soldiers were behaving right’. He insists that he was not in Iraq to cover up the scandal. He couldn’t if he tried. The cynic in me knows that they would have tried to cover this up. Given the fact that they (the US and the UK command structures) knew internally (from allegations made by other soldiers) and externally (from reports submitted by independent agencies) for a while and only now is the truth about the extent and depth of depravity coming out. After all, this is the same government that had to be forced by the US supreme court to release pictures of coffins containing the remains of US casualties in Iraq.
In the lead up to the Iraqi invasion, Mr Rumsfeld was one of the most eager supporters of the action. His vociferous support for ‘getting Saddam’ was notable even amongst his peers within the neo-conservative think tank that is the Project of a New American Century.
Presumably whilst in Iraq he will scold commanders in his ‘tell it like it is’ manner. But at the end, he will deliver a message praising the efforts of the vast majority of decent soldiers helping to restructure Iraq under very difficult conditions. He will insist that the US will stay the course. Nothing will be said of compensation to the victims; nor of a changing of the mass detention policy in Iraq that has seen tens of thousands detained unlawfully.
Along with his government, Mr Rumsfeld has opposed the International Criminal Court, principally on the grounds that it could be used as a political tool to prosecute US military personnel such, the US does not recognise the jurisdiction of the court. In effect saying, we will roam the earth as we please, do what we like under the guise of humanitarianism and in the name of good, but we will not be held accountable for atrocities we commit.
Well, he may disapprove all he likes. But the responsiblity for the Iraqi war and all actions subsequently, lies squarely at the doors of his government. His war mongering plays no small part in all of this.