Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat May 22, 2004 9:51 am 
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Can’t Pronounce It, Can’t Digest It -- But We Know What It Means

First let’s note that Israel takes advantage of US scandals in Iraq to step up the level of brutality in occupied Palestine. This explains the havoc wrecked in the city of Rafah in the Gaza strip – at least 40 dead and over a thousand homeless, dozens of homes destroyed, the worst tragedy for the Palestinian people in three years, all accomplished in just a few days of terror -- in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal. The ‘cover’ effect only works in the US, not in the Arab World, where the Israeli attacks are top news and Abu Ghraib, while also important, only confirms what they knew -- just as (according to Seymour Hersh’s latest report) it confirms what Donald Rumsfeld knew and approved right after September 11, 2001, if not before, when the attack on Iraq was conceived.

Let’s also note that Americans tend to take the short view and focus on Abu Ghraib only as a scandal that must be cleaned up somehow. “We” must root out the wrongdoers. “We” must reassert our morality. Policies must be changed. This must not happen again. Behind the scenes other Americans take the more Machiavellian stance that “we” must prevent this sort of thing from ever being revealed again. Others take the stance -- with both humane and Machiavellian implications -- of questioning whether random torture inflicted by ill-supervised cadres yields reliable information.

All these calls for change are valid; but let’s take the long view: what most needs changing is the Bush regime, whose cadre, spearheaded by Rumsfeld, rejects such trivial authorities as the Constitution, the Geneva Convention, and the rules of common decency. Bush is unlikely to fire Rumsfeld, because that might give the public the idea that he too should be fired come November. Rather, Bush himself must go, and with him his whole gang of arrogant scofflaws. The American public seems to be moving in that direction currently, since his overall job approval rating according to Newsweek has sunk to a new low of 42%, with only 35% in favor of his management of the Iraq occupation.

Those low ratings show this is a truth that may be getting through now in the US. Americans were shielded from it by an ever-stonewalling Bush administration and an ever-cooperative US corporate media. But a courageous report by a general named Antonio Taguba and articles by the journalist who revealed the My Lai massacre, Seymour Hersh, have broken the shield. (Hersh’s revelations have been supplemented since by excellent coverage elsewhere, such as Newsweek’s). It was a practice also under Saddam to photograph the torture and humiliation of prisoners; Americans, continuing the practice, have even more cameras, plus email to send the images around. Robert Fisk of the London Independent on May 7 called the camera our modern “digital suicide bomber.” No matter that the purposes and the numbers differed, US behavior at Abu Ghraib and the atrocities under Saddam are now inextricably linked in the eyes of the Arab public.

Specific responses to the scandal are only distractions from the essential and crucial significance of Abu Ghraib: that, as Katha Pollitt wrote in The Nation, “The United States has just lost its last remaining rationale for the misbegotten invasion of Iraq…the rescue of the Iraqi people from tyranny and brutality.” Photos from Abu Ghraib have blasted through the façade of American morality and reached the US Senate, destroying, perhaps, that “last remaining rationale" at the heart of the American government.

Beyond that, Abu Ghraib shows that, as 70% of Iraqis now believe, the CPA authorities are occupiers, not liberators. It’s hard not to think of American prisons, not only throughout the world, but at home. Pennsylvania Death Row prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, who should know, points out that “The horrific treatment of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib has its dark precedents in the prisons and police stations across America.” More recently, on the day when we learned the Israelis killed at least 20 Palestinian peace demonstrators in Gaza and the Americans killed 40 Iraqi civilians in a wedding party, Mumia wrote a piece pointing out how the corporate media justifies killing what he called “retail terrorists” while establishing the more wholesale state terrorism such as that perpetrated by the IDF and the Coalition in Iraq as the norm. The US press attributes the wedding party claims to Iraqis and quote official denials. “I wish the US military spokesmen could be more gracious about such errors,” Iraq expert Juan Cole says, “Can't they just say that they are deeply sorry for the Iraqis' loss, and that they are not sure what went wrong, and will investigate?” But the American way now is the way of denial, in both senses.

In other important ways events in Iraq over the past six weeks have moved rapidly downhill for the occupiers – hence the low US approval rating of Bush’s handling of the situation. April was “the cruelest month” for the Coalition, the time when the insurrection moved beyond Muqtada’s army of the Mahdi to Sunna and Shiites all over the country. Both sides are being blamed for the disastrous ongoing battle between occupation forces and al-Sadr’s army in the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf. Otherwise Muqtada al-Sadr may be closer than initially appeared to overall Iraqi religious leader Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani, but what’s clear is that the occupation shadow government has been crumbling. In May, the president of the Iraqi Governing Council was assassinated and the neo-con’s darling Ahmad Chalabi’s house was raided by CPA troops and he was expelled from the Council. Chalabi cares only about his own interests and therefore may be more dangerous than ever now, an article by Andrew Cockburn suggests.

For many of us, the evil – Bush’s fundamentalist word seems to fit rather well – of the American treatment of Iraqi prisoners is something we have as hard a time getting our minds around as many of us have getting our tongues around names like Rafah, an-Najaf, al-Falluja, Karbala, Abu Ghraib.* But what is to be concluded is clear and was well stated in an editorial in the London Independent on Saturday, May 22, 2004:

The consistency of the evidence, whether from photographs, from Red Cross reports, from anonymous Pentagon informants or from former prisoners themselves, is testimony to a concerted policy of persecution and deception. The claim has been made that the Pentagon ran a top secret military intelligence unit, off the books and beyond congressional or international scrutiny, to hide the darkest aspects of its "war on terror" from view. The disgrace, however, is less that such a unit may have existed - after Iran-Contra, we can believe almost anything - than that a country aspiring to spread freedom and democracy around the globe should have been so ready to defy the essentials of both.

*How to pronounce “Abu Ghraib.”

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

Last edited by cknipp on Wed Feb 15, 2006 9:16 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2004 11:04 am 

Joined: Wed Nov 26, 2003 12:35 pm
Posts: 7
The most disturbing thing about the whole "W. Bush years" era we're living in right now is that it's going to continue for at least 4 more. Just like Nixon, he's ensured he'll be around for a second term.
Fahrenheit 9/11 will help a bit, but ultimately Georgy will win again. It's forgone. An idiot can see that. Bush WILL win the election. He bought and paid for it with his hard-earned oily, baseball dollars. *I'm being very sarcastic here*

You're absolutely correct about his fear-mongering, his blindness, his shocking audacity and smugness. "I'm a war president!". This guy is delusional (except when it comes to money and power), stupid, illiterate, and a plain asshole.
Who can like this guy? His father at least seemed intelligent.
Bush looks like the guy who fills in for the President, the guy who speaks on the president's behalf, not the Chief.

Most Canadians keep close tabs on US politics, mainly because US politics heavily influence ours. Bosnia? Clinton called up Chretien and said "You're sending troops" *click*. We are on a short leash with the US, we commit troopswhen told, we commit aid when told, we assist our ally when told. Why? Because business relations are so deep-rooted. The biggest trade partner we have is the US. There is *virtually* no border. We are land-locked and we are, as Powell said "inseperable".

The US could do the most heinous international acts and Canada would somehow be associated with it. It's a Catch-22. we need the US support, resources and economic injections, but we also are a practical people. We see truth very easily, we see lies very easily. To us, this is lost on a lot of Americans. We don't understand a lot of US policies, we don't understand government decisions (health care for one- how is universal health care not a right for everybody? I pay $35 a month and all of my medical bills are covered, except major surguries- which only 80% is covered. How tragic, eh?- in the states people are DYING because the cannot afford simple prescriptions! Inconceivable!)

I'm not a political activist, but I can get pretty riled up over "national" news. There is so much wrong with the state of things, and it's a bit scary to think what will happen in the next 4 years. Bush's caginess and his inability to accept responsibility for anything that he does is downright despicable. A recent poll determined that 85% od Canadians hate Bush. We can't stand the man- we think he's rotten to the core. There's an appropriate campaign slogan: Rotten to the core for 4 more!

Anyway, that's my rant. It's just a sad situation that keeps getting sadder.

And it's all because of MONEY. That's the worst part- others must suffer for one man's greed.

"I always direct the same film"- Federico Fellini

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