As citizens, we tacitly consent to the actions of our government. The government is our public voice, and that's one reason why any American citizen serious about personal and public morality should be deeply disturbed by Abu Ghraib, and the Iraq operation as a whole. At the very least, I would demand that people should not be conducting depraved acts or engage in careless killing of innocents when acting in our name.
Now, reports are in that U.S. helicopters have just slaughtered attendees at a wedding party, including numerous women and children. Their apparent crime: shooting celebratory shots in the air.
To be sure, we've gotten numerous reports of this kind of "collateral damage" in the last three years. There was a similar tragedy in Afghanistan, and there were times when harmless families were gunned down for not heeding a "halt" in Iraq. In Afghanistan, the army appeared to have taken strong measures to prevent unnecessary deaths, even as they carpetbombed the caves. Disturbed as I was by such reports of civilian deaths from Afghanistan (the LA Times provided fine and balanced coverage), I ultimately solaced myself by concluding that such accidents are unavoidable consequences of a necessary war.
By contrast, I can find no way to rationalize the slaughter of innocents in Iraq in our name. None. Some nutcases have been making the case that the Berg beheading video showed why we need to toughen up and destroy the enemy at all costs. Even putting aside their predictable hypocrisy and total lack of moral seriousness, these wingnuts never made the distinction that Abu Zarqawi, the man who beheaded Berg, is not in fact an Iraqi insurgent but an al Qaida associate. (Which further begs the question: do we really need to watch a gruesome beheading to understand that al Qaida is ruthless, demonic and Public Enemy #1?)
Zarqawi and his ilk should've been our target from the start. Zarqawi is an undisputed evil terrorist, the man who's likely behind the Spanish train attacks. Instead, we've been concentrating our resources on the legion of enemies we've created as a consequence of this invasion and botched occupation, including Islamo-nationalistic Iraqis like al Sadr and Sunni insurgents.
It turns out Bush had a couple of chances to take Zarqawi out before the war, but refused, reportedly fearing that such actions would jeopardize, politically, the rationale for war to depose the toothless dictator Saddam. Moreso than his failures to take al Qaida seriously before 9/11, taking out Zarqawi probably would've prevented 3/11. In switching enemies mid-war, Bush made the world more dangerous for us all.
If God really exists, a willful imbecile like Bush should by all rights be running a Radio Shack in Omaha into the ground. Would some Benovolent Supreme Deity really have put Rufus T. Firefly in charge of England during WWII, unless that Deity is also kinda sick & twisted?
It's no exaggeration to say that these last two months have been the most demoralizing of my life, entirely because our "elected" leaders, acting on our behalf in the world, have proven themselves to be a blight on humanity. I have little doubt that 100 years from now, historians will note the cruel joke that a badly designed butterfly ballot put into power the most inept American presidency since Warren G. Harding. [Link to this fascinating historian survey found via the Salon blog.]
NB: The Pentagon is now disputing the previous wedding party report, stating that they launched the AC-130 against insurgents and "foreign fighters" after being fired upon. The quotes from some Iraqi witnesses appear unreliable ("100 bombs?"). But corpses of children are seen on TV. Hmmm.....who to believe? Who to believe?