There’s an excellent op-ed in the New York Times today discussing our own culpability for the events of the Iraq War which I think is well worth reading. The author makes an excellent point, arguing that in the beginning stages of the war, it would have been hard to fault the American public for the actions of our government, but at this stage, we need to bear some portion of responsibility.
The recent kerfuffle over military contractors in Iraq has been remarkably subdued, especially when one considers that we’ve known about the existence of these contractors for several years. Evidence has also trickled in, bit by bit, that these contractors are not very nice people, and that we should perhaps be opposing their presence in Iraq. We accept the excuses of the government largely without demur, rather than more actively questioning our activities in Iraq.
It should be fairly clear to anyone with half a brain that our government is torturing people. Major media has been covering the practice of extraordinary rendition for at least five years, and photographs from Abu Ghraib and other locations around Iraq clearly indicate that torture is a widespread and accepted practice there as well. Yet we seem to be living in a fantasy world where acts of torture are “isolated and aberrant,” according to the White House. Yet, at the same time, we accuse the Bush administration of lying and spreading falsehoods. We can’t slice our bread both ways: either the Bush administration is lying, in which case their statements on torture should not be believed, or they’re not, in which case the world is looking pretty good right now.
There’s a lot of anger and awareness in the United States right about events which are occurring in places like Burma and Darfur, as well there should be, because these events are deeply troubling. But this awareness should not come at the cost of knowing about our own government’s actions. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, they say, and I think it’s hard for us to criticize the actions of other governments, no matter how terrible they are, when we can’t even call our own to account.
As Rich says in his article, do we want to be “Good Germans,” maintaining “plausible deniability” about ourselves? or do we want to stand up and do the right thing? It’s time to move opposition to this administration’s policies from the lunatic fringe to the mainstream, and it’s time to hear some serious statements on torture from candidates for the Presidency. You’re fooling yourself if you think that any of the mainstream candidates wouldn’t carry on the status quo, my friends.
Here’s more on torture by Andrew Sullivan, in case you think I’m part of the lunatic fringe.