Robbing "Defeat" to Pay "Appall"
by Peter Kurth
May 4, 2004

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Gosh. Golly. Gee whiz. Maybe it’s time to start quoting some bumper stickers. How many of these have you seen around town?

“Bush/Cheney `04: Apocalypse Now”

“Bush/Cheney `04: Who Would Jesus Bomb?”

“Bush/Cheney `04: Read Between the Pipelines”

“Bush/Cheney `04: If You Aren’t Completely Appalled, You Haven’t Been Paying Attention”

Right now, of course, we’re all appalled. We’re just appalled! The pictures that came out of Baghdad last week -- photographs of naked Iraqi prisoners subjected to abuse and humiliation by American soldiers -- have left us so “appalled” we can’t think of another word to describe it.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Richard Myers is “appalled.” British Prime Minister Tony Blair is “appalled.” Army spokesman Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt was “dismayed” and then “appalled,” and even George W. Bush, who’s never appalled, said he was “deeply disgusted.”

Stamping his foot like Shirley Temple, the President of the United States remarked, “I didn’t like it one bit.”

Just imagine how the Iraqis feel. Or maybe you’re not appalled enough for that. Maybe you’re like Alexander Downer, the Australian foreign minister, who says the torture and degradation of Iraqi prisoners is “appalling,” all right, but that his government -- up till now, a gung-ho, paid-up member in the Coalition of the Willing -- “no longer bears legal responsibility for Iraq as an occupying power under international law.”

I had to read that a couple of times before I got it right. “Mr. Downer said yesterday that Australia was originally a joint occupying power,” according to The Age in Melbourne, “but after the toppling of Saddam Hussein the United Nations Security Council identified the US and Britain as the occupying powers.”

Ah, the old “after-the-toppling-of-the-tyrant” trick! I might have known.

You remember the United Nations? They’re the ones the U.S., Britain and Australia paid no attention to whatsoever before commencing their invasion, and whom the U.S. and Britain, at least, are looking to now to get them out of this mess. (Please, don’t call it a “quagmire.”)

As to “international law,” The Age reports: “Mr Downer said he did not see any need for Australia to do anything about it, because British and US leaders were already sufficiently appalled, and well aware of the view on the abuse held by Australia and the rest of the world.” Downer’s counterpart in the Australian opposition, Labor Party MP Kevin Rudd, has denounced this position as “obscene,” but Downer’s standing firm, staying the course, seeing it through – “obscene” is when Janet Jackson flips a nipple at the cameras, not when Tennessee trailer trash sticks a light bulb or a broomstick up a Mussulman’s ass.

You should be weeping, is what. But you should have been doing that a long time ago. Why did we need these pictures to tell us what we already know -- that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq is illegal, immoral, indefensible and doomed? Is it better or worse to be stripped naked, “piled in a pyramid” and forced to “simulate sexual acts” than be blown to pieces by a “precision” bomb?

Put differently, would you rather be held incommunicado in a dark cell, unable to sit, stand or lie down, deprived of food and sleep and forbidden even to pray, or arrive at a makeshift clinic in Falluja with “multiple blast wounds -- lost limbs, abdomens blown apart,” only to die on the ground without anesthetic because, in the interest of your “liberation,” your liberators have blocked the supply of even basic medications to assist you?

Going for the gold now: Which is more important, President Pipsqueak’s reelection or the infant mortality rate in Baghdad, currently estimated at 103 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with 6.8 per 1,000 in the United States? According to UNICEF, “one in eight Iraqi children dies before his or her fifth birthday. A fifth of Iraq's children are malnourished, and a quarter are born underweight.”

Christians! Did you hear what I just said? “Innocent babies” are dying in Iraq while you’re stuffing $5 boxes of popcorn and 2-gallon buckets of Coke down your throats at The Passion of the Christ. And if, as General Myers insists, “there is no evidence of systematic abuse” in U.S. detention centers in Iraq – if the horrific treatment of Iraqi captives at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad is the work of “just a handful” of rotten apples at the bottom of the military barrel -- why not give our “enemies” the same excuse? Why has the recorded incidence of hate crimes and harassment against Muslims in the United States increased by 70 percent over the last year?

Take some time out from praying and Bible class and you just might see the connection. But don’t expect your “leaders” to do it for you, because they won’t. They don’t give a good goddamn what happens in Iraq, to babies or anyone else. These are the men who rain leaflets down on refugee camps, saying, “If you’re a terrorist, beware, because your last day was yesterday!”

These are the “neo-cons,” wonks, Likudniks and “analysts” who tell reporters that “we’re not engaged in an `offensive’ in Falluja – we’re simply attacking cockroach nests in the poorest part of town.” These are the reporters who repeat lies without blinking. And these are the ones who keep Little Hitler in power, fixing his syntax and marveling at his “gravitas” while he mumbles and mewls about “freedom,” “democracy” and “progress, you bet ... Whether it be in Falluja or elsewhere, we will deal with them, those few who are stopping the hopes of many."

Is it too much to hope that we’ll deal with Bush, too?

Peter Kurth is the author of international bestselling books including Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, Isadora: A Sensational Life, and a biography of the anti-fascist journalist Dorothy Thompson, American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson. His essays have appeared in Salon, Vanity Fair, New York Times Book Review, and many others. Peter lives in Burlington, Vermont. He can be reached at: peterkurth@peterkurth.com. Visit his website at: http://www.peterkurth.com/


Other Articles by Peter Kurth


* Standing Small
* Bible Time
* One Man's Flip Is Another Man's Flop
* Kee-reist is More Like It
* Star Wars
* The Breast That Ate Pittsburgh
* Monkey See, Monkey Do
* Crank Call
* A Cynic's Guide to the Top Stories of 2003
* Talking Turkey
* Let Them Drink Coke
* The Gang that Couldn’t Talk Straight On Iraq
* Party Rules