Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Does Torture in Iraq shock you? It shouldn't.

Shock and anger are the most common responses to the latest Wiki-Leak release. It documents that the US military has stood by and allowed Iraqi soldiers and policemen to torture Iraqi detainees. According to the Wiki-Leak documents some US military have committed atrocities. The many US mercenaries, not part of the military, are suspected of many acts of brutality. But apparently the bulk of torture was committed by Iraqis while US military stood by and let it happen. Americans who tried to stop the torture were prevented from taking strong action by a US military order not to investigate Iraqi tortures.

Those of us who have opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the very beginning should think twice about being shocked and outraged. We should know by now that war is always brutal, and that it inflicts pain on its victims randomly. Wars do not injure or kill justly. There are no rules in war except to kill wherever possible. We should not for one moment forget the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo-- all of them representative of countless brutalities that are the essence of war.

That is why we oppose these wars, because they inflict needless and random pain and suffering on so many and because they brutalize many participants.

In the background of our shock at these disclosures are racist assumptions about how we -- the Americans and the British -- conduct ourselves in more morally acceptable ways in war than other nations. We were appalled at the cruelties in the Balkan wars in the early 90s. Implicit was the belief that we would never conduct ourselves as the Serbs did in Bosnia. Today the American and British military look on while our Iraqi allies commit atrocities. Our tolerance of their action says that, after all, they are Iraqis. Their hands are not as clean as ours.

But are we really any different from them? Who started these wars? Who has insisted that the bloodshed, torture and brutality continue?