I'm supposed to be writing
I lose readers when I rant. People email me to say, "I want to read your books but your political POV puts me off. I'll never read your stuff now." I understand that--hey I can sympathize with it.
Here's what I want to post but I know is inappropriate, alarmist and overwrought, not to mention so left-wing it makes my teeth hurt.
Chemical warfare[warning: link has graphic images], torture, secret prisons. Who's the bad guy again?
To stop myself from obsessing about this and getting to work (not to mention not posting this damned entry in a romance rioter blog, Teresa) I went looking for reassurance that we're really not a Bad Guy. First of all, the above methods seem to be seriously stupid actions in the circumstances--not the way to win the hearts and minds of a country we "liberated" and want to retain as an ally. But the reason I'm obsessed with the issue is more personal and emotional. I'm a patriot and I want to know that the country I love is not involved in these activities--particularly the first. I remember that image of the kid running down the road naked.
Those three--chemical warfare that hits civilians, torture of prisoners and the secret prisons--go against everything we as Americans are brought up to believe.
- We went to war against Sadam because he used chemicals on his civilians. (Once the WMD were discovered to not exist, that became the reasoning I heard in the political speeches.)
- We study basic government in grade school and learn that torture is classified as cruel and unusual punishment--it goes against the basic tenets of our country. Basic Human (and not just American) rights.
- Our leaders used the existence of Eastern block secret prisons to scare the bejesus out of us--this is what went on behind that Iron curtain and why the Soviets must be stopped. Remember? A free and open society does not have secret prisons where people just "disappear". Remember The Gulag Archipelago--a lot of us read it in high school.
I figured it would be easy to find a middle ground so I could calm down and work. . .and not post this entry. I want someone to tell me that this stuff is exaggerated. Most of the sources of my information are far-left blogs and news groups (and The New Yorker and the Washington Post and Salon.). I really want find out that at least some of this stuff is rumors spread by rabid anti-war activists.
1. Chemical warfare? Italian mainstream media ** has clips of the use of white phosphorus at night and vivid descriptions of what it does to people who are unfortunate enough to be near the stuff. As the rant on kos in link above puts it: it melts the skin off kids. We're taking up where Sadam left off. An army magazine confirms we used it in Iraq.
Okay--what about the other side of the issue? Is there justification for this stuff? Here's what I found: Use of white phosphorus is "legal". It's used to help our soldiers fight at night. Napalm was legal too. Remember napalm? It was used to clear dense jungles. That picture. Of the kids.
2. Torture? Not a rumor and I've already been on about that one. It doesn't work--although it does seem to unite the torturers' enemies. Would McVeigh have talked under torture? Who knows? I'm certain that anyone who remotely agreed with his nutty principals would have only grown more sympathetic to the cause if he'd been tortured.
3. Gulags? Yes, the authorities say they exist, ironically in those ex-iron curtain countries (hey they already have the facilities). The facilities have nicknames like "the Salt Pit."
And the response? Outrage! Frist and Hastert demand to find out who illegally leaked the existence of the prisons to the mainstream media!
I give up. If I'm such a patriot, I really can't shut up, right?
I thought war was bad enough****. Over the last six years working with refugees, I've heard about war from the civilians' point of view. More than once I've been shown a treasured but rumpled photo of a smiling baby. I look at the blurry photo while the still-grieving relative explains in broken English that a soldier swung that sweet baby by the legs and smashed its skull against the wall or that the baby died of hunger in a camp.
The stuff I'm reading now is worse--sanctioned by the authorities is worse. Less personal, institutional dehumanization is even more horrible than brutality.
** from the Italian report: "I heard the order being issued to be careful because white phosphorous was being used on Fallujah. In military slang this is known as Willy Pete. Phosphorous burns bodies, melting the flesh right down to the bone," says one former US solider, interviewed by the documentary's director, Sigfrido Ranucci. "I saw the burned bodies of women and children. The phosophorous explodes and forms a plume. Who ever is within a 150 metre radius has no hope," the former soldier adds.
****Yes, war is hell. But the argument that the enemy is forcing us to use these methods? Okay, talk about simplistic thinking on my part: it reminds me of the "you forced me to hit you back" justification of wife beaters or gangs.