So, the biggest story in the news is STILL is the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by the US military. Apparently we’re been torturing and humiliating prisoners over there, and the media and the public seem to be shocked and horrified by it.
You know what else is shocking and horrifying? I’ve heard that the military is also shooting Iraqis dead and dropping bombs on them and stuff. Can you believe that??
Look, I don’t want to make light of what were clearly stupid and despicable acts, but when you really stop and think about it… really… how is making a naked Iraqi stand on a box any more “immoral” than shooting them and bombing them and killing them? How are we “surprised” by this? Because the very ACT of war necessitates dehumanization. Killing another human would be immoral! Everybody knows that. You can’t shoot a person with whom you have empathy… someone you recognize as another Thinking and Feeling Being. So you dehumanize them and think of them only as The Enemy. But then somehow if you capture one on them, all of a sudden you’re supposed to invite them in for tea and biscuits? It doesn’t work that way.
The problem as I see it is this – We in the “civilized” world… the media and the population at large… we have as individual moral beings simply outgrown the idea of war. We recognize that Vietnamese and Russians and Iraqis and Palestinians are human beings and that it is wrong to kill or torture other human beings. But our social and political mechanisms have NOT outgrown the NEED for war as a TOOL. This poses a dilemma. Because at the same time, our modern media does not allow us the DISCONNECT that is required to conduct a satisfactory war. We’re not supposed to see people being blown to bits, or dead children in the streets, or Americans being dragged naked and burned through the streets, or our own soldiers humiliating enemy prisoners. Because when we see these things, we simply can’t maintain the “Spirit of Dehumanization” that war requires from the comfort of our living rooms.
So we wind up with a massive nationwide cognitive dissonance. Everybody supports the IDEA of the war… until somebody gets killed or captured or tortured or raped or… whatever. What the fuck do we do? I don’t know.
And here is another thing. Is it shocking when American soldiers torture prisoners of war? Of course. But it is no more shocking than when our police officers beat suspects with sticks, or shoot unarmed black men 40-odd times, or sodomize them with broom handles. These are our OWN citizens in our OWN prisons. And everybody knows it goes on. (Don’t you?)
“Civilization” is the thinnest of veneers. Humans are animals. And not just the ones inside the cages… all of us. We can pretend otherwise, and we may have come a long way in our intellectual standards of morality, but it only takes the tiniest shove to turn any one of us back a million years. That’s not to say we shouldn’t resist. We should. But we should cut out the indignation and try to solve the real problems.
Dr. Dave (doctorsilence.blogspot.com)Powered by Sidelines