Monday, February 07, 2005

On kangaroo courts/witchhunts/what have you

Okay, so courtesy of Kevin Drum we have the very reasons that the questions I asked in my last post may never be answered. We might never know, really, whether the invasion of Iraq has netted good stuff in the end, simply because we keep coming up with stuff like this from a military tribunal of a Guantanamo detainee:
"This is something the interrogators told me a long while ago," Idr complains during his so-called trial. "I asked the interrogators to tell me who this person was. Then I could tell you if I might have known this person, but not if this person is a terrorist. Maybe I knew this person as a friend. Maybe it was a person that worked with me. Maybe it was a person that was on my team. But I do not know if this person is Bosnian, Indian or whatever. If you tell me the name, then I can respond and defend myself against this accusation."

The tribunal president then responds, presumably with a straight face: "We are asking you the question and we need you to respond to what is on the unclassified summary."

Now, for all we know, this guy could be an al Qaeda operative planning terrorist attacks in his head while he's talking to the tribunal. Or he could be a taxi driver who got picked up in the expansive sweeps the US did at the beginning of the war years ago. If this is the way they're going to try him, we'll never really know; it's like dragging a random homeless guy off the street and saying, "Prove to me you're innocent."

And that's just the fit-for-TV version. The cable version includes what New York Times columnist Bob Herbert calls an "exercise in extreme human degredation" to the tune of abuses not conveniently caught by the camera of grinning Abu Ghraib MPs:
We know that people were kept in cells that in some cases were the equivalent of animal cages, and that some detainees, disoriented and despairing, have been shackled like slaves and left to soil themselves with their own urine and feces. Detainees are frequently kicked, punched, beaten and sexually humiliated. Extremely long periods of psychologically damaging isolation are routine.

And that's why we might never know if our intervention was really the best thing for Iraq - which should not be a question. What if European troops had charged into Rwanda to stop the genocide, only to lock up thousands of random Hutus and Tutsis, beat them into unconsciousness, and shackle them to the ground in a puddle of their own waste, all in the interest of putting down future rebellions? Would the net value of that intervention have been good or bad?

I realize that the following news is far from groundbreaking, but it's true: the tanner you are, the less value you have to much of western society. The Rwandans were dark enough that no one wanted to get involved at all. In Iraq, we were willing to get involved, but only on the condition that we could treat anyone like crap, lock anyone up, beat anyone down for information, in the name of peace. These guys are brown; if they're not terrorists, they know terrorists, or they could become terrorists, or at least they have no one to complain to. For a country that supposedly has so much respect for human life, we have a seriously funny way of showing it.

No comments: