Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A Sad Day

In the New York Times last Wednesday, an innocuous article burried on page 6 caught my eye: “Colonel is Acquitted in Abu Ghraib Case”. As I understand it, Col. Steven L. Jordan was the only person facing a court-martial in the Abu Ghraib ‘incident’, and that this case was essentially the last time the courts were going to have a chance to hold somebody accountable. And while there seem to be a number of excellent arguments of why that somebody should not have been Col. Jordan (instead of somebody right at the top of the military food chain), I would have settled for anything.

The Times explained that, accoriding to his lawyer, “he served as a manager of sorts at the prison, focused on making living and working conditions at Abu Ghraib, a notorious complex that Saddam Hussein’s government had used to torture its enemies, as accommodating as possible.” As such, he is not responsible whatsoever for keeping his subordinates from committing human rights abuses.

This is unacceptable.

They didn’t convict anybody! Not a single soul could be identified as being responsible for breaking military laws in this case. Well, let me rephrase that. The soldier in question was convicted of talking about the case. And the soldiers at the bottom paid a price.

But the only person in charge to be charged was not found responsible for anything except gossiping. The brass had apparently told him not to discuss the case… he did.

I don’t know what Col. Jordan said that the pictures didn’t… apparently enough to potentially land him in jail for five years.

He’s in enough trouble to demonstrate that failing to follow orders is still a punishable offense. I just don’t understand why failing to follow the Geneva Convention is a less significant offense- how he (and every other warm body in the chain of command) wasn’t implicitly or explicitly failing to follow orders. And if the orders specifically allowed for this sort of behavior, somebody needs to explain to me why heads haven’t rolled from the very top.

I appreciate the troops more than words can express. I deeply respect the military as an institution. But I feel that both have been dishonored, discredited, and disserved by this. I have always raised a skeptical eye when liberals have called for President Bush’s impeachment. I think that is a silly suggestion- one that would do more harm than good.

But in this case, I feel that the decisions made are tantamount to treason and somebody needs to face that. The past abuses at Abu Ghraib and the continuing abuses at Guantanamo so far offset any gains we have made in gathering intelligence, that they should be dealt with in the severest manner.

I would gladly give up my life in a terrorist attack if it meant that I never had to wake up realizing that I no longer loved my country- that everything I have ever known about what it means to be an American was no longer relevant.

The attacks of September 11th were despicable. Friends lost family members. I am still angry. And I am still scared.

But what’s worse, what really makes me angry, is that I don’t love this country anymore. Everything I have ever known about what it means to be an American is no longer valid.

I will always support the troops. I will continue to thank them every time I see them. But the goose-bumps don’t come anymore when I hear the National Anthem. I am no longer thankful that I was born in this great land.

What's more, I think twice before writing these words for fear an NSA computer will read them and put me on a list.

I am profoundly less safe because of that.

Abu Ghraib has done more to undermine the efforts of our troops, aid workers, intelligence officers, journalists, and parents than any terrorist ever could- not only because tempers have been stoked, because recruiting terrorists is easier, or because our allies have even less reason to come to our aid, but because we are no longer defending a solid sense of self.

When we lose our identity and the values that make us who we are, then there is no America left to protect- just malls and subways and federal buildings.

If the actions that are responsible for this aren’t treasonous, I don’t know what is.

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