Friday, June 11, 2004

Sy Hersh gave a talk at the University of Chicago on Tuesday, and Brad DeLong has posted the notes from that talk taken by someone in the audience. While much of Hersh's political analysis makes the listener discouraged, this last paragraph -- blogged by many today -- shakes one to his core.
He said that after he broke Abu Ghraib people are coming out of the woodwork to tell him this stuff. He said he had seen all the Abu Ghraib pictures. He said, "You haven't begun to see evil..." then trailed off. He said, "horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run."

He looked frightened.
Sixty-two comments and counting on DeLong's posting, some (e.g. Billmon) of which express the attitude that this is simply "business as usual" for US policy: Vietnam, Central America, Chile, depleted uranium . . . you get the idea.

But there is a significant difference which Billmon is missing.

I have no doubt that Sy Hersh is correct about the treatment of children at not only Abu Ghraib but throughout the US gulag system. He alluded to as much once before, back in early May when he appeared on Charlie Rose, although none of the charges of the torture of children appeared in his New Yorker articles. As the notetaker states, "He asserted several things that he says he didn't have nailed down enough to write, but that he was confident of." Surely all this will break before November.

But this is not primarily about politics. What makes this different from Vietnam or Guatemala or whatever other example people are introducing here is that this is a case of depravity which is almost unimaginable. Here is why.

These are moral claims which I believe to be both virtually universal and True.
  • Intention matters
  • Cruel/inhuman is not the same as depraved
  • Killing an enemy in a prison is worse than killing him on the battlefield
  • Killing a child is worse than killing an adult
  • Raping or sexually torturing someone is worse than beating them
  • Exploiting the bond between parent and child is worse than exploiting any other bond between human beings
Because these things are true, revelations of the sexually depraved abuse of children at Abu Ghraib will shake Americans and the world to their core. Some will weep. Some will rage. Some will minimize. Some will refuse to believe against all evidence because they literally cannot do so -- it would destroy their ability to function in the world.

It's not about numbers. It's not about one man in the Oval Office. It is about the darkness -- and give Bush his due, there truly is evil in the world -- that lies on the hearts of Americans. This goes far beyond George W. Bush.

It is about Colonel Kurtz.

It is about the horror.


At 9:02 AM, Blogger billyblazer said...

Excellent reference to Kurtz. Excellent post altogether.

There is an active evil in this world. I have become convinced of it. And all too often it parades under the guise of religious fervor.



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