Oh, we are so surprised.
American troops posing for photographs with body parts. What’s next, Navy SEALS in bloody video games? Oh, wait, we’ve already got those.
In the usual aftermath, we’ve got the President and his Secretary of War pretending like mad.
Obama, by way of his mouthpiece, Jay Carney:
“The conduct depicted in these photographs is reprehensible. It does not in any way represent the standards, the very high standards of the U.S. military.”
“This is not who we are, and it certainly is not who we represent when it comes to the great majority of men and women in uniform who are serving there.”
The L.A. Times today printed two of the eighteen photos given to it by a soldier who was part of the 82nd Airborne’s 4th Brigade Combat Team from Ft. Bragg, N.C. The soldier, whose name is being kept confidential by the paper, presumably because the military, with its very high standards, would probably kill him, hoped that disclosure would wake somebody up. Good luck with that.
It seems likely that the withheld sixteen are even worse than the ones published. The ones I’ve seen are sick and disgusting.
The military with its very high standards has asked the Times not to publish any of them. Fortunately, the newspaper’s standards are not so high that they climb into bed with government and military censors. Not yet, anyway.
The pretense continues and the denial is institutionalized, but the reality keeps getting out. This is not an aberration. It is typical. It is who we are. It is what we’ve trained our soldiers to do and be. The photos leaked to the press, like the Wikileaks video of the helicopter gunship murders, the photos out of Abu Ghraib, and the conduct of the various U.S. wars everywhere, are eloquent proof of exactly who we are, Panetta’s claims to the contrary.
Most Americans don’t know and don’t care, but American soldiers committed wholesale atrocities, mass murder, in the Iraqi town of Fallujah. We don’t know or care but you’d better realize that in the arab world the word Fallujah has a very specific, emotional meaning. They don’t hate us ‘for our freedom’, as Bush brayed, but for our militarism and the horrors we inflict as a matter of course.
After condemning this sort of behavior while a candidate, Obama has expanded death lists, kidnapping and torture, drone attacks on civilians, and the self-righteous rhetoric of empire. The tortures at Abu Ghraib were not exceptional; they are commonplace. We are doing worse every day in Bagram, in Afghanistan, and many other ‘black sites.’ The officer in charge of Guantanamo in fact was sent to the middle east to apply what he had used in a wider arc.
The standards of our military are that anybody coming out of basic training has been taught to hate, taught to abuse, taught to kill reflexively. Then we act surprised when they manifest these teachings.
Most of the soldiers are kids. They joined the military for various reasons. Some wanted to qualify for some money for college; others couldn’t find work in this glorious capitalist economy. My guess is that most of them had no idea what they were in for. Some of them no doubt swallowed the American propaganda, that we’re sending our ‘warriors’ to other lands to keep us safe or defend liberty or some other happy horse shit.
I don’t ‘support the troops’ and never will. They are doing the work of an illegitimate government, fighting unprovoked wars on behalf of multinational corporations. Maybe they’ve been fooled but they have an obligation not to be fooled. Killing is serious business, not a summer job or video game entertainment.
You can only pose with the body parts of dead people if we’ve dehumanized them for you, and we certainly have. The article in the Times referred to the dead, to the corpses, as ‘insurgents.’ That’s who we’re dealing with: ‘terrorists’, ‘insurgents’, ‘militants.’ Thus we’re justified in killing anyone, especially in territory where not everybody is wearing a uniform.
Our government, meanwhile, has created these monsters and done it on purpose, and therefore the arrogant proclamations about how we’re not really like that is nothing but public relations designed not for foreign eyes and ears –– other peoples already know about America –– but for domestic consumption.
So, pay your taxes, watch your television, drink your beer. Send each other animal photos on facebook. But while you do it, there are other photos going around, your tax money at work, your leaders sponsoring horror and pretending otherwise.
The photos in the L.A. Times are precisely representative of our military, its goals and purposes. Pretending they aren’t contributes to keeping it that way.