Must every horror mean more Culture War?

During the furor over Columbine, what pissed me off the most were the endless invocations of the most heated Culture War rhetoric imaginable.

On the left, the endless meme (epitomized by Michael Moore) was that the United States is a violent society, a culture of guns. The kids were simply products of that. Mindless automatons doing what they'd been programmed to do in evil America.

On the right, the meme was along the lines of a "climate" created by the anything-goes, 1960s generation. A culture of nihilism so terrible that the boys were simply a product of it.

Each side blamed the "climate" created by the other for the actions of two deranged young psychopaths.

In Iraq we have more than two young psychopaths who have behaved in a manner consistent with their pathology.

Not my pathology. Not something created in the 1960s. Not the gun culture Michael Moore loves to hate. Not the "military culture" -- which is the main reason the culprits (led by a civilian prison guard) were discovered and the reason this has not been covered up.

I didn't do it, you did not do it, the hundreds of thousands of honorable military service members did not do it. There is no collective guilt for which we must atone. The psychos (and those in charge who were negligent) should be punished severely for their (not "our") crimes.

But I am deeply worried that somehow the Culture War will be insinuated into this once the finger-waggers start screaming about how "American society" is somehow to blame.

That's because I have seen it before. First comes the shock. And then, along with the anger, the fingers start to wag.....

I only hope I am wrong.

It's late on Friday night, and I have been helping out a dying friend so I haven't had time to blog. I am too weary to research this as I should. I am afraid that what I might find would cause me to lose my temper and be unable to sleep.

I wish the ideologues would keep their Culture War in the privacy of their own bedrooms, homes, and families and not try to use every terrible incident to come along for political advantage.

Because once it starts, there's no stopping it.

UPDATE: It didn't take long. This nauseating piece is already setting the tone:

Why are we surprised at their racism, their brutality, their sheer callousness towards Arabs? Those American soldiers in Saddam's old prison at Abu Ghraib, those young British squaddies in Basra came -- as soldiers often come -- from towns and cities where race hatred has a home: Tennessee and Lancashire.
Is Tennessee a town or a city?

I guess we should ask the author, a guy named Robert Fisk.... He says it's all about "we."

Must "we" read his garbage?

UPDATE: Roger L. Simon's post and comment thread intrigues me to no end. Timing is everything. (FDR's rule of coincidence always comes to mind.)

I am just a lowly blogger, but I have to assume that someone, somewhere, has researched the background of the psychos involved in the torture....

I hate to generalize, but prison guards have a disproportionate number of notoriously corrupt individuals.

Were I looking for a few rotten apples, I'd know where to find them.

(After all, if the U.N. can be bought, why, there's plenty more where that came from!)

posted by Eric on 05.07.04 at 11:29 PM


The torture and mistreatment of prisoners was not the product of a few random psychos, but of an entire system of abuse. I'm sure there will be plenty of blaming and hand-wringing (has been already), but the (U.S)culture is not to blame. The leadership is. Leadership in the US military (at best) knew about this and did not stop it. At worst, they were acting on orders from the top down. Let the blame chips fall where they may:
The international Red Cross said Friday that the abuse it found in Iraq's U.S.-run prisons was systematic and amounted to torture. It added that it had first raised concerns with the United States more than a year ago.

"The elements we found were tantamount to torture," said the director of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Pierre Kraehenbuehl. "There were clearly incidents of degrading and inhuman treatment."

At a quickly arranged news conference, which followed the publication in the Wall Street Journal newspaper of leaked extracts from a confidential Red Cross report to the U.S. government about findings at U.S.-run detention centers in Iraq, Kraehenbuehl indicated that abuse appeared to be widespread.

"It is clear that our findings do not allow to conclude that what we were dealing with here in the case of Abu Ghraib was isolated acts of individual members of the coalition forces," he said. "What we have described amounts to a pattern, a broad system."

SixFootPole   ·  May 9, 2004 12:46 AM

A broad system?

I previously posted about General Janis Karpinski, who was in command of the unit responsible. She (a careerist who came up under DACOWITS) is now blaming the CIA. But she was in command. I guess we'll see how well-placed she is, and who she can implicate.

I'm not especially emotional about this, but I think because of the pictures it will get rather dicy....

Once again, I don't want any of these people working as police (or as prison guards, as some of them were), and I hope that this will lead to further public inquiry about the routine abuses heaped upon civilian prisoners in the United States. (Wish the Red Cross would investigate THAT!) If prison rape is routinely tolerated here, and prison guards are allowed to serve in the military, it's par for the course.

My point is, I don't think it typifies the U.S. military, and I hope they get to the bottom of it.

Eric Scheie   ·  May 9, 2004 1:35 AM

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