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Liberal Scandal Mongering By: George Shadroui
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Novelist Erica Jong, who appeared on Dennis Miller, would have us believe that the scandals that erupted about American treatment of prisoners signaled a death knell of American democracy. She even referenced Nazi concentration camps. Senator Joe Biden, whom I might have prematurely praised a few weeks ago, actually suggested that shooting the prisoners might have done less damage than the lewd photographs that surfaced.

Chris Matthews looked as if John Kennedy had just been assassinated again. And Christopher Hitchens weighed in, suggesting that the prison scandal justified shooting those soldiers who participated in the acts depicted in the photos. Let me get this straight. Shoot our own guys, but don’t hang women’s underwear on theirs?

Much of this is overcooked sanctimonious stew of the sort on display every day among the media and Washington elite. The photos were repugnant and the behavior of those who engaged in it deserving of condemnation. Interviews suggest that prison guards and interrogators were trying to shake up some of the prisoners, waging – however misguidedly -- psychological warfare. The photos, apparently, were props used to compel new prisoners to share information. Forgive me Senator Biden, but I find the less publicized allegations of homicide, severe torture or shootings more disturbing.


But the military has done precisely what the situation demanded – it is prosecuting those who misbehaved or treated with abuse Iraqi prisoners. Indeed, many of the events in question occurred in the fall, months before the photos found their way to CBS News. It was the 24-hour news circus – uh, cycle -- and a Democratic party looking to destroy a president that turned the investigation into an international crisis.


For those needing a primer on reality (including self righteous anti-American critics), here is the difference between America and our enemies: we seek to punish those who commit crimes, we don’t promote them or celebrate them. And is that not all the difference?


Who claims Americans are collectively a morally superior people? We have our criminals, and our idiots, just like everyone else. What some of us have argued, however, is that a political system rooted in the rule of law and in a bill of rights tempers such excesseses and provides the means of self correction. The system is working.  


How much pity we should feel for the Iraqis subjected to the alleged abuse I leave to others. One assumes the men in Abu Ghraib were not picked up for jay-walking, which means that a great many of them make it their business to kill without discrimination. What the rules of war should be when you are trying to get information from such people is one of those thorny ethical dilemmas more easily debated on television than on the battlefield where hundreds of lives hang in the balance.


Still, there are practical as well as moral reasons to conduct interrogations with professionalism and prudence. Hitchens is surely right in observing that confessions elicited by torture are notoriously unreliable. Our military might try offering Marlboro cigarettes, which helped me with some rough taxi drivers during my Middle East days. Or perhaps we could play a little heavy metal music – for two days running. I dare say these tactics are as likely to succeed as what we saw in the photos. Moreover, if there is even a chance that our good example might leave a mark on our enemies (not much of a chance, of course), the soldiers we save might be our own.


But the attempt by our critics, including many in the Arab world, to draw huge moral lessons from this shows an unwillingness to make crucial distinctions. Germans were not punished by their leaders for herding Jews into concentration camps; they were shot if they didn’t do it. Saddam did not stop his thugs from murdering and raping, he rewarded them for it. Perhaps an Arab journalist will share with us the outrage expressed in Arab capitals over the premeditated murder recently of an Israeli woman and her four young daughters, not to mention an unborn son.


Islamic Jihad proudly took credit for the crime, but this ghastly act has been overshadowed in the news by pontificating Democrats and overly apologetic Republicans. If a few lewd photos from Abu Ghraib drove Hitchens to advocate shooting soldiers, what do Jihadists who shoot children at point-blank range drive him toward? (I use Hitchens’ vivid comments only to make a point, for he has been one of the most articulate defenders of our efforts to confront terrorism.)


Happily, many Americans understand the very serious and dangerous business in which our military is engaged. Having watched 3,000 of their fellow citizens massacred in a single hour, many jumping from skyscrapers to escape an inferno, they are not as squeamish about the toughness it takes to penetrate groups who will commit such crimes, without apology, by the way, or reference to the Geneva Conventions. I am not advocating torture; I am pleading for a little perspective.


So, thank you very much, but those who would see Jews annihilated or Saddam back in power don’t strike me as authentic voices on behalf of human rights. The prison scandal should be investigated and those who committed crimes punished. Measures should be taken to ensure it does not happen again. Let’s move on.

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