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Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Other Views

Proverb about pictures and words correct

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 reassurances.

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 "aberration"—a fluke.

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.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.