Proverb about pictures and words
Commentary by PAT MURPHY
In just one week, pictures from the chaos
in Iraq have become worth far, far more than the thousand words of Chinese
proverb renown, and done more to raise new doubts about President Bush’s
Coffins draped with Old Glory lined
respectfully aboard a homeward bound Air Force transport. Photos and names of
more than 500 U.S. dead in Iraq broadcast on ABC television’s "Nightline." A
full page of photos in USA TODAY of the fallen.
And now dreadful photographic evidence of
torture and humiliation of Iraqis by U.S. personnel in Saddam Hussein’s infamous
Abu Ghraib prison.
Most of the good U.S. troops have done in
Iraq has been wiped out among Muslims the world over.
Do these nauseating images represent the
price the president wants to pay in his war to "change the world"?
Pro-war disciples of President Bush
vilified media for showing the public the coffin photos as political propaganda.
One of the president’s reliable political stooges, the Sinclair Broadcast Group,
even ordered its seven ABC affiliate stations (it operates 62 stations) to pull
the plug on Ted Koppel’s "Nightline" to prevent viewers from souring on the
president or the war, a decision scored by an angry Sen. John McCain as
"unpatriotic." However, other stations, including a Bush-embracing Fox TV
outlet, picked up the Koppel program.
Now Pentagon and White House damage
control squads are promoting the fiction that prisoner abuses are an
Rubbish. The men and women responsible for
torture, bestiality, or sodomizing prisoners are from private firms--examples of
"outsourcing" gone mad--carefully screened and experienced in the dark arts of
gathering intelligence, interrogation and black bag jobs by the CIA. Most have
military backgrounds and secrecy clearances.
They’re tough, emotionally callous,
hostile to non-Americans, psychologically brutish, utterly barren of any sense
of human decency when told by superiors to get information one way or the other.
This is precisely why the Pentagon hired
them at premium salaries reportedly from $10,000 a month and up. And also
because they’re less accountable than military personnel.
A few Americans defend the abuses. Yet,
they’d be furious if a GI held captive was forced to likewise portray homosexual
acts, stand nude in front of female guards, be hooded and wired with electrodes,
sodomized with a chemical night stick.
The atmosphere for this medieval behavior
was nurtured when Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Pentagon, aided by
Congress, embarked on their programs of seizing and indefinitely jailing
terrorism suspects without any charges in defiance of customary American
standards of justice.
In the war on terror, codes of conduct
have been abandoned by Ashcroft at home and U.S. torture teams in Baghdad.
Last week’s column seriously understated
traffic fatalities with a statistic from a demographic subgroup. The correct
2003 toll actually is 43,220 killed, according to the. U.S. Department of
Transportation. That’s 48 times higher than U.S. military fatalities thus far in
Iraq and Afghanistan.