Thursday, April 19, 2012

That's Not Who We Are

The latest military outrage from Afghanistan--they come now about one a month on average--is the publication of embarrassing photos of  U.S. troops with dead bodies of enemies. Mocking the dead, like we've seen before. The L.A. Times printed two of them out of a reported dozen or so sent to the paper by another U.S. soldier concerned, he said, with the breakdown of discipline among his comrades. Gee, ya think?

Anyway, top American officials are expressing appropriate levels of outrage. Leon Pinetta, secretary of defense, was the administration's point man for the required breast-beating. The behavior of the troops was "foolish" and "unacceptable," he said. He seemed to be saying that war is ugly and sometimes young, immature people make foolish decisions . . . in this case, to pose with bloody trophies. Do I sound cynical? That's because I am. We heard this sort of thing before. And we've also heard what Pinetta went on to say, i.e., that such behavior is "not who we are."

Well, sir, I respectfully disagree. This is exactly who we are. How much more evidence do we need that our troops routinely engage in savage behavior? We've had Abu Ghraib. We have had marines pissing on dead bodies. We've had burning of the Qur'an. We've had countless killings of innocent people ("collateral damage"). We've had revelations of massacres by U.S. troops. We've had other pictures of U.S. troops mutilating bodies. We've had just recently a berserk soldier who goes out and murders a bunch of Afghan women and children in their sleep.

This is exactly who we are: a society that was perfectly OK for 10 years with a war built on a passel of lies. That doesn't get outraged when people get shot down in their classrooms, repeatedly over years. A society who has incarcerated over 2 million people, that still endorses the death penalty, that has rampant police brutality, that spies on its own citizens, that has lately been characterized by more than its usual level of meanness in its refusal to endorse a viable safety net for the health and well-being of its citizenry and cannot wait to get at social security for the elderly.

No, Mr. Pinetta. You're wrong about this. Dead wrong.
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