Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Honestly, We're Laughing With You

How many ways can the press corps. reconstitute the Abu Ghraib scandal? Well . . .apparrently the answer is bordering on infinite. First, there were the pictures. Then there were the pictures with second-hand testimony. Then there were the same pictures with some first-hand, anecdotal, "I was in the adjoining cell" testimony. Then there were the revamped descriptions of the pictures as they were run like brand-new pictures.

Shortly after that, the scandal wafted into "Pentegon Official Makes Uncouth Remark about the Pictures" headlines, prompting more airing of the pictures(in case someone actually managed to miss seeing the pictures).

And all this during a presidential election in which John Kerry is having to face a vietnam-era admission that he did things to people and villagers that are far worse than anything portrayed in the pictures. And while these pictures prompted all kinds of super-drooling questions of Kerry about the pictures, no one ever thought to ask him whether or not he, as President Ghengis Khan would have been morally obligated to pardon everyone caught making arab daisy-chains in the pictures.

2004 retrospectives provided even more glimpses at the pictures. Screeching through the years highlights, one could barely catch their network-watching-breath before the next slide finished off anybody inclined to epileptic seizures. Fist fights at games; the shot always cuts away before Ron Artest actually hits anybody. Two seconds of Ronald Reagan's cinematic deathbed scene in order to remind us of his real one; but then--finally--after all the caterwauling about Ohio's electoral votes and Floridian apocalypses. Now, all could gather around the luminous blue screen to see the pictures. Panaoramic pictures, color pictures, cell phone pictures . . . all meticulously layed out with a phlegmatic clarity that would rival a high-resolution close-up of Deep Blue's knight at a world chess championship--with Gary Kasparov in check.

Then the whole thing started to peter off. And somebody noticed it was doing so. Today comes the shocking revelation that a few of the litgants involved in this scandal may have actually thought what they were doing was funny.

Now that's going too far. Here's where the story starts off:

A Syrian insurgent held at Abu Ghraib prison testified by video Tuesday that Army Spc. Charles Graner merrily whistled, sang and laughed while brutalizing him and forced him to eat pork and drink alcohol in violation of his Muslim faith.

It seems that muslims can only tank-up and spend the night with strippers before "spectacular" attacks on Manhattan. Then,

An Iraqi detainee later told the court that he was among a group of prisoners stripped by Graner and other Abu Ghraib guards, stacked up naked in a human pyramid while female soldiers watched, and later told to masturbate.

Oh wow. They must know nothing of the idea that "one can't ignite that which is not already flammable." And their stultifying grasp of dubious bilological criminality is something to behold as well.

"I couldn't imagine it in the beginning," Hussein Mutar, the Iraqi, said when asked how he felt during the alleged mistreatment. "I could kill myself because no one over there was stopping it from happening."

Translation: "I couldn't imagine having the same Baathist ideal forced down my throat. I could just blow something up with a loaded vest."

And on and on, ad nauseum. The real nugget is a few paragraphs down:

Asked if Graner appeared to enjoy hurting him, al-Sheikh said through an interpreter: "He laughed. He was whistling. He was singing.". . .He described Graner as the "primary torturer" and "a naturally aggressive man" - a characterization that led Graner, sitting in the courtroom, to roll his eyes and chuckle.

And this is where the American gag reflex starts to trip. To commit a crime in this country--no big deal. To do it and maintain some degree of brazeness about the matter--now we've entered the Valley of Abomination.

The best illustration that comes to mind is the case of one Robert Alton Harris--executed in California's death row for the following crime (Text is from a senate debate on HR 3371--a crime bill in the hopper back in 1992)

In July 1978, Robert Alton Harris and his brother were looking for
trouble of the worst kind. Out on parole from California State Prison for
voluntary manslaughter, Harris and his brother were looking for a car to use in
a bank robbery. They came upon two boys, aged 15 and 16, who were sitting in a car eating hamburgers. Harris pulled out a gun and ordered them to drive to a
deserted area.
When they arrived at a deserted spot, Harris assured the boys that he had no intention of harming them if they walked away from the car and agreed not to identify him. The boys agreed and started to escape. But Harris began to shoot one of the boys repeatedly in the back. The other ran and Harris gave chase. He found the boy in the underbrush, crying and begging for his life. Harris shot the youth four times. Harris then returned to his first victim and proceeded to shoot him a few more times. He strode to the stolen car, ate the dead boys' hamburgers and went on with the bank robbery. No remorse, Mr. President. Just business as usual for one of the most ruthless killers in California's history.

You guessed it. The brazeness with which he ate the dead boys' hamburgers was the focus of the man's evil. The fact that a United States Senator needed to include this in an persuasive expository to nudge his moronic, senatorial comrades to sign on to the "crime is pretty much not swell" bill is a sad testament to the American mindset. Had Robert Alton Harris been on a fast--he would still be making licence plates in San Quentin.

And had Spc. Graner had a look of gravity while whacking a mullah on the head with a hamhock, the press would have to find some other sleazy rationale by which to. . . show us the pictures.

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