Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How the Kent State Killings &
Abu Ghraib Horrors are Alike

Wired Magazine has some chilling new photos of the horrible abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American guards at the now-infamous Abu Ghraib prison. I have to warn you: they're pretty graphic. There's also a story accompanying the photos. As it happens, this week the National Geographic TV channel also debuted a splendid new hour-long documentary on the Kent State shootings of May 1970, and while the Kent State buffs and obsessives didn't find anything new in it, the average viewer probably did (me included). I learned, for instance, that while no one was ever convicted for the shootings, a number of grunts from the Ohio National Guard were subjected to criminal and civil proceedings. None of their leaders, however, had to answer for their decisions in a court of law. Sound familiar? The same thing happened in the wake of Abu Ghraib. Some low-ranking prison guards had to face the music, but further up the military chain of command--up to and including the defense secretary--no one never had to answer for the uniquely heinous crimes that will rightly stain America's reputation for decades. The horrible events at Kent State and Abu Ghraib were sad enough without that additional bit of injustice adding salt to the wound.

4 Comments:

At 11:08 AM, Blogger roldo bartimole said...

These photos are more like what you'd expect from a Nazi concentration camp.

All Americans should be ashamed.

 
At 1:44 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

You said it on both counts, Roldo. It just leaves you wondering about how this could happen, but it's compounded by the fact that no one in a leadership position has ever been held accountable. That's utterly at odds with the phrase "chain of command."

 
At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Jo said...

Roldo, you are right, but I must add that I am glad that America does have a collective conscience that cries out its shame. We do not glorify the dehumanization of our enemies nor the murder of innocent civililians. In the face of people that do, I have not been a soldier and do not understand the pressures they face.

John, I think you hit the nail on the head about leadership. In the face of such pressures, the rank and file looks to their leadership to set an idealogical framework for their actions and reactions. The Washington Monthly Article was a powerful example of some leaders doing just that. Accountability does not make us look foolish, it shows how strong we are.

 
At 2:47 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

"Accountability does not make us look foolish, it shows how strong we are." Now that's a ringing phrase. Wonderful stuff, and wonderfully said. I couldn't say it better, nor agree more. Thanks for that extremely valuable addition, Jo.

 

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