On another front, it’s been reported that the
Pentagon is considering whether or not to reopen an
inquiry into the case of four Iraqis who were employees
of Western news organizations. Three of the men who
were employed by Reuters and one for NBC News were
arrested and abused in early January after attempting
to report the downing of an American helicopter near
Falluja. The possibility of reopening the case comes
after Seymore Hersh’s book “Chain of Command”
details the horrors that were done to those we are
detaining at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.
Whether it be a testosterone-filled football camp,
a high society fraternity or an army prison, how do
we propose to win the hearts and minds of the Middle
East population with education, when we of the so-called
civilized world have very little to be emulated?
The dictates from what had been ratified at the Geneva
Convention for the protection of the wounded war personnel
demand that not only are the war detainees to be treated
in a fair manner, but that those doing the detaining
should respect said agreement. Tragically and incomprehensibly,
those who forcefully entered Iraq with the intention
of eliminating weapons of mass destruction were suddenly
doing heinous deeds at the orders of their commanding
officers, Geneva Convention or not, to those they’d
gone to free.
There are those who rightfully raise up fists in
anger for what has been done in the Middle East, from
what Saddam did to his own people, to what we are
doing to those same people. The reports of the deaths
and assaults done by the so-called liberators to those
who had been held captive for years by their dictator
are confounding, disgusting and infuriating. But when
it happens by us to those who are somehow under our
command, be it in a fraternity or prison, one asks
if the hearts have become evil and the minds vacuous.
Something valuable is lost if we continue to close
our eyes to these horrors, and there is enough blame
to go around. The desensitizing violence that is constant
from all sorts of media is culpable. The often irreproachable
and indifferent demeanor from those who should be
held responsible for their lawless deeds is another.
What happened at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and now
Forward Operating Base Volturno where the four Iraqis
were detained, needs to be investigated and people
charged, but as a society we need to begin at home.
There has been a serious loss of respect for one
another. Not the kind of respect the cops tried to
physically coerce from Abner Louima, but a respect
that begins at an early age. Somewhere between the
time a toddler demands his or her way to when they
create full sentences, there should be the gentle
teachings of respect for others. True, each generation
looks to the new with a disbelief shaking of the head,
even though each generation often brings betterment
to the next in countless ways.
From pre-school on, certain classmates have always
been the target of bullies for one reason or another.
It is a power trip for the bully to see the control
he or she can gain over their subject.
Occasionally, adults try to abate the teasing, taunting
and outright cruelty by intercepting, but most other
times they incorporate the ineffectual platitude that
begins, “Sticks and stones will break your bones.”
We have crossed the line, however, when older classmates
feel it is their right to use a broomstick in the
act of rape on younger classmates as a hazing ritual,
which was what occurred in a football camp in Pennsylvania
some time ago and involved a high school where this
writer’s children had attended.
I recall when my son was in this very same high school
several years ago having to defend his right to wear
a baseball cap while in the school building. It became
a large issue with the administration and involved
meetings and conferences. It was my son’s battle
to fight, but he had my full support, especially when
I witnessed his peers smoking on school grounds and
speeding their souped up cars through the school parking
lot. I suppose it was easier to make the hat a distraction
from what the school board could not control. For
him, it was a teenager’s fashion statement,
not an expression of religious culture as are the
head scarves required for fundamentalist Muslim women,
and my son eventually relented.
Even though it is on a much larger scale, it is not
so far off the course from when certain people in
power want to censure the readings of the names of
those who died in a battle that had been dubiously
instigated or photograph the line of coffins of those
who died doing what they felt was their duty. Administrations,
from school to government, magnify what should be
inconsequential in order to downplay what is actually
occurring, even discomforting, and we need to learn
to discern the difference.
Sadly, there is no quick fix, and as the hazings
and rituals continue, so do the violence and mindless
acts. Private first class Lynndie R. England and Corporal
Charles Graner, Jr. have been charged in the abuse
of Abu Ghraib prisoners and are awaiting the consequences
while also having recently become parents. One wonders
if they acknowledge the weight of parental responsibility;
one wonders if we as a community do, as well.
Maybe the examples being set are something we as
parents, teachers and responsible adults need to examine.
Perhaps our children need to witness people who do
not elbow his or her way past the rest in order to
get the best seat on the train. Perhaps our children
need to witness people who take time to listen instead
of shouting down each other. Perhaps our children
need to witness what it means to respect one another,
regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation
or being a war detainee. And, perhaps, our children
need to witness these people, us that is, willing
to defend the underling, so that weapons of massive
destruction, like broomsticks, will not even enter
Otherwise, what do we have to offer not only to the
outside world, but to ourselves?