Call torture scandal a damaging self-inflicted blow
Jun 01, 2004
High-ranking Vatican diplomats are calling the Iraq torture scandal a self-inflicted blow that has caused more damage to the United States than the 2001 terrorist attacks. That stark assessment comes only weeks before President Bush is expected to meet with Pope John Paul II in Rome, and as U.S.
Both the International Red Cross and Amnesty International knew about the horrors of Abu Ghraib. Both organizations had sent reports detailing brutal behavior in U.S.-run Iraqi prisons to military authorities. But no action was taken until Specialist Joseph M. Darby alerted the army’s Criminal Investigation Division and mentioned photographs.
The myth of American innocence dies hard. It resurfaces even as it is being punctured by reality. President Bush, faced with evidence that American soldiers have tortured Iraqi prisoners, declared that the photos do not show “the true nature and heart of America.” Somehow, according to such rhetoric, the true heart of America remains pure, untouched by the actions of actual Americans.
Nearly four months before the publication of photos of Iraqi detainees abused by their coalition captors, a small Christian peace organization issued a report detailing incidents similar to those now sparking outcries from North America to the Middle East.
While interviewing President Bush for his just-published book Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward mentioned what British Prime Minister Tony Blair had said about receiving angry letters from families who had lost loved ones in Iraq: “Don’t believe anyone who tells you when they receive letters like that they don’t suffer any doubt.” Upon hearing this, Woodward reports, the president stiffened and,
Church aid agencies working in Iraq are pulling out international staff, reviewing their programs in the face of continuing violence, and in at least one instance considering suspending operations altogether, the Geneva-based Action by Churches Together (ACT) International alliance announced last month.
Medieval mapmakers, with their limited knowledge of distant lands and uncharted seas, sometimes depicted dragons on the far edges of their maps. Hic sunt dracones (“Here be dragons!”), they warned. Dragons do not appear on our modern maps. But bodies on the rail lines of Madrid and the streets of Fallujah leave no doubt that Something Ferocious stalks the edges of our political and religious maps. Nationalism, tribalism, empire and religion mutate in draconian forms, and we sometimes fail to recognize the beastly genes in our own DNA.
Proponents of traditional family values are championing a unanimous California Supreme Court ruling March 11 that halted—at least temporarily—gay marriages in the state. “What the court has done . . . is take a stand against the anarchy that has reigned in San Francisco since February 12,” said James Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family.
Getting to Iraq requires a flight from neighboring Jordan that ends with a hair-raising flourish: a 60-degree “corkscrew” turn into the former Saddam International Airport. “We have a slight missile problem,” said the impish pilot, a white South African, explaining that the tricky maneuver is necessary to avoid getting hit by a ground-launched rocket.
President GeorgeW.Bush and British Prime Minister TonyBlair should apologize for the “immoral” war against Iraq, according to retired Anglican Archbishop DesmondTutu. Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, made his remark in giving the annual Longford lecture in London on February 16.