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Appalled and Shocked

Graib Matters


Published May 5, 2004 at 4:00 p.m.

Gosh. Golly. Gee whiz. Maybe it's time to start quoting some bumper stickers. How many of these have you seen around town? "Bush/ Cheney '04: Apocalypse Now" "Bush/Cheney '04: Who Would Jesus Bomb?" "Bush/ Cheney '04: Read Between the Pipelines" "Bush/ Cheney '04: If You Aren't Completely Appalled, You Haven't Been Paying Attention."

Right now, of course, we're all appalled. We're just appalled! The pictures that came out of Baghdad last week -- photographs of naked Iraqi prisoners subjected to abuse and humiliation by American soldiers -- have left us so "appalled" we can't think of another word to describe it.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Richard Myers is "appalled." British Prime Minister Tony Blair is "appalled." Army spokesman Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt was first "dismayed" and then "appalled," and even George W. Bush, who's never appalled, said he was "deeply disgusted." Stamping his foot like Shirley Temple, the President of the United States concluded, "I didn't like it one bit."

Just imagine how the Iraqis feel. Or maybe you're not appalled enough for that. Maybe you're like Alexander Downer, the Australian foreign minister, who says the torture and degradation of Iraqi prisoners is appalling, all right, but that his government -- up 'til now a gung-ho, paid-up member in the Coalition of the Willing -- "no longer bears legal responsibility for Iraq as an occupying power under international law."

I had to read that a couple of times before I got it right. "Mr. Downer said yesterday that Australia was originally a joint occupying power," according to The Age in Melbourne, "but after the toppling of Saddam Hussein the United Nations Security Council identified the US and Britain as the occupying powers."

Ah, the old "after-the-toppling-of-the-tyrant" trick! I might have known.

You remember the United Nations? They're the ones the U.S., Britain and Australia paid no attention to whatsoever before commencing their invasion, and to whom the U.S. and Britain, at least, are now looking to get them out of this mess. (Please, don't call it a "quagmire.")

As to "international law," The Age reports: "Mr. Downer said he did not see any need for Australia to do anything about it, because British and U.S. leaders were already sufficiently appalled, and well aware of the view on the abuse held by Australia and the rest of the world."

Downer's counterpart in the Australian opposition, Labor Party M.P. Kevin Rudd, has denounced this position as "obscene," but Downer is holding firm, staying the course, seeing it through -- "obscene" is when Janet Jackson flips a nipple at the cameras, not when some American yahoos stick a light bulb or a broomstick up a Mussulman's ass, the foreign minister might suggest.

You should be weeping, is what. But you should have been doing that a long time ago. Why did we need these pictures to tell us what we already know -- that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq is illegal, immoral, indefensible and doomed? Is it better or worse to be stripped naked, "piled in a pyramid" and forced to "simulate sexual acts" or be blown to pieces by a "precision" bomb?

Put differently, would you rather be held incommunicado in a dark cell, unable to sit, stand or lie down, deprived of food and sleep and forbidden even to pray, or arrive at a makeshift clinic in Falluja with "multiple blast wounds -- lost limbs, abdomens blown apart" (London Independent), only to die on the ground without anesthetic because, in the interest of your "liberation," your liberators have blocked the supply of even basic medications to assist you?

Going for the gold now: Which is more important, President Pipsqueak's reelection, or the infant-mortality rate in Baghdad, currently estimated at 103 deaths per 1000 live births, compared with 6.8 per 1000 in the United States? According to UNICEF, "one in eight Iraqi children dies before his or her fifth birthday. A fifth of Iraq's children are malnourished, and a quarter are born underweight."

Christians! Did you hear what I just said? "Innocent babies" are dying in Iraq while you're stuffing $5 boxes of popcorn and 2-gallon buckets of Coke down your throats at The Passion of the Christ. And if, as General Myers insists, "there is no evidence of systematic abuse" in U.S. detention centers in Iraq -- if the horrific treatment of Iraqi captives at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad is the work of "just a handful" of rotten apples at the bottom of the military barrel -- why are we tarring all Muslims with the same brush? Why has, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the recorded incidence of hate crimes and harassment against Muslims in the United States increased by 70 percent over the last year?

Take some time out from praying and Bible class and you just might see the connection. But don't expect your "leaders" to do it for you. They don't give a good goddamn what happens in Iraq, to babies or anyone else. These are the men who rain leaflets down on refugee camps, saying, "If you're a terrorist, beware, because your last day was yesterday!"

These are the "neo-cons," wonks, Likudniks and "analysts" who tell reporters, "We're not engaged in an 'offensive' in Falluja -- we're simply attacking cockroach nests in the poorest part of town" (www.axisof These are the reporters who repeat lies without blinking. And these are the ones who keep Pipsqueak in power, fixing his syntax and marveling at his "gravitas" while he mumbles and mewls about "freedom," "democracy" and "progress." Whether it be in Falluja or elsewhere, "we will deal with them, those few who are stopping the hopes of many."

Is it too much to hope that the rest of us will deal with Bush?

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