I sometimes wonder about that spark we all have... how is it it can drive some of us to greatness, and others to great evil... ofttimes as we share the same circumstances. How someone can suffer horrible tortures and rise up to be a force for good, and someone else could live a lie of ease and become a monster whose sole purpose seems geared to try our faith.
I thought of this, as I thought of Nick Berg, a 26 year old who was trying to embrace the world, only to be abused by both sides of the Iraq conflict. Well, at least we didn't toss him into the same prison as the Iraqi's who were tortured.
I've seen the unedited video, by the way. there was something in me that felt that we must witness an atrocity full on to fight it, to appreciate it the horror of it, much in the same way I forced myself to look at the footage of Auschwitz and the other concentration camps. America does itself a disservice by turning away, toning it down with soft murmurs of appropriate nothings designed to cover up hard realities. To paraphrase Laurie Anderson, we all desperately hope and pray that if we play it cool it'll all just... go away.
Riding into work this morning, still unaware of this act of misplaced vengeance, I was listening to the testimony on the Hill. Ted Kennedy had just finished his stint, and some republican actually had the temerity to suggest that the outrage at the acts perpetrated upon the people of Iraq was misplaced and political grandstanding. In his mind, what Saddam did was SO much worse, that the smaller atrocity should somehow be lessened. He even dared to hint that the people in that prison probably deserved what they got. Of course, he didn't address one assertion that as many as 90% of the people in that jail shouldn't have been there in the first place -- nor the fact that the people calling out the US for screwing up in the first place was that bastion of rampant liberalism, the International Red Cross.
I'm reminded of a scene from Star Trek, Insurrection. Picard is arguing with a star fleet commodore about the forced relocation of 300 odd people, supposedly for a "greater good", and the superior officer makes the plaintive comment that it's "only" 300 people. Picard snaps, and asks... no, demands to know when something becomes wrong. How many people does it take before we draw the line? 1? 10? 300? 3 Million? A billion?
I would argue that even one such act is crossing a line. Stating that this was the actions of a few is specious, as the "few" (seven, by the counts we're hearing thus far) were surrounded by countless silent accomplices, be they superiors or peers.
Over a year ago I predicted that a long stay in Iraq would bring about several inevitable things: Rebellion and atrocities, probably on both sides. I truly hoped I was wrong. I hate being proven right, especially since it's cost the life of so many men and women. Stop listing it in terms of us and them... start looking at it in terms of lives. Debating the relative innocence of the dead is another way of censoring the imagery in our mind's eye.