A friend of a friend asked if I would post his column:
Unrelentingly, during the past three weeks, or longer, the media has bombarded Americans with news of events in a prison in American-occupied Iraq. In April most Americans had not heard of Abu Ghraib Prison; now a majority of them probably know of this place. The flow of the rhetoric in the prisoner-abuse saga has unfolded in the following way: Print and TV news, including 60 Minutes, have shown pictures as damaging evidence of the conduct of the American military in Iraq, which some persons have also used as evidence of the negative nature of the American occupation in that country. Soon after the photographs’ release to the public, there were calls for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. Other voices, especially those of talk radio, have come to the defense of the beleaguered Secretary of Defense and, outrages aside, have demonstrated support of President Bush’s handling of the Iraq War and the subsequent occupation. Often those who criticize the administration also accuse it and its supporters among the citizenry of being unwilling to face the horrible acts committed by Americans in Iraq. A few persons, some of whom have written me personally, are demanding that Abu Ghraib Prison be burned to the ground. In two areas I disagree with some of the voices that have been outspoken on this news item during the past two weeks.
First, one should not avoid or minimize the evil that has been committed; one should face it boldly and soberly no matter how disturbing and unpleasant a procedure this may be to endure. If America’s mission in Iraq or even the reputation of the United State has been irredeemably damaged, then, this must be accepted seriously. Inappropriate responses to news of man-made disasters and intentional acts of evil have a long history in the twentieth century. One should not respond as Noam Chomsky, the self-avowed leftwing critic of the USA, did to the genocide in 1970s Communist Cambodia by minimizing the extent of the killings. (See Paul Hollander’s Political Pilgrims, 1998, pages xxxviii & xxxix.) Neither should one attempt to construct absurd distinctions in human misfortune that serve only as fallacious diversions from a personally embarrassing event as the Americans Lefties to Castro’s Cuba often do. Suzanne Ross ridiculously excused dreadful medical practices in Cuba with the following comment: “We must understand that there are differences between capitalist lobotomies and socialist lobotomies.” (See Ronald Radosh’s Commies,2001, page 127.) Perhaps, the most egregious response to unnecessary human suffering in the twentieth century comes from Walter Duranty who was the NY Times columnist in Moscow between the two world wars. In response to the millions of persons who starved to death because of the official policies of the Soviet government, Duranty penned a poem in the NY Tiumes, some of which reads: “Russians may be hungry and short of clothes and comfort/But you can’t make an omelette without breaking an egg.” (See Paul Hollander’s Political Pilgrims, 1998, page lxi.) The government of Ukraine still waits for the apology from the NY Times for Duranty’s mis-reporting of a horrific evil on a staggering scale.
Secondly, I do not think that Abu Ghraib Prison should be burned to the ground; rather, I recommend that it be preserved as a museum open daily to the people of the world. As such an institution, the record of evil would be exposed, but this exposure would be incomplete if the focus fell exclusively on a few perpetrators during only a few months in Iraq. At least, one half the attention of the museum, if not more, should be given to the government-sponsored evil of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The acts of evil, those by Iraqis and those by Americans, should be set side by side for all persons of the world to survey. In this way many individuals, including Americans in the USA under the present press-barrage about bad Americans acting badly in Iraq, would not need the likes of a Chomsky or a Ross or a Duranty to interpret fact and morality for them. They, as well as all persons in the world, could judge for themselves just what evil Americans have done.
In closing, I would put a face on these contrasting evils. In the USA President Bush has apologized for acts, such as an Iraqi man being chained like a dog. In the Middle East the unrepentant Saddam Hussein is now succeeded by the unrepentant Abu Musab Al Zarqawi who decapitates an American on video. As far as I know, the Iraqi man, photographed on a leash, is still alive. The museum idea would constitute only the beginning of an appraisal of American action in Iraq. After all, only a few participated in the atrocities in Abu Ghraib Prison while there have been hundreds of thousands of Americans in Iraq since March 2003. We should know what their acts have been; we should know the rest of the story of American occupation.
George Sochan, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of History
Bowie State University