May 29, 2005

Excuses, Excuses

General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with the press today to defend the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. He called the recent Amnesty International report that referred to Guantanamo Bay as a gulag "absolutely irresponsible," and then he went on to characterize those detained at Guantanamo Bay as people who "would turn right around and try to slit our throats, slit our children's throats." Finally, Gen. Myers went on to tell us that "this is a different kind of struggle, a different kind of war." Nevertheless, even while stating that the military has "always handled them humanely and with the dignity that they should be accorded," Gen. Myers admitted that five cases of mistreating the Koran could be confirmed. He was quick to point out that the Koran was not flushed down the toilet -- I guess we're supposed to be satisfied with the fact that the Koran was only "mistreated," but not flushed down a toilet.

When the excuses start flying, you can be sure that somebody somewhere is about to be in trouble. They're getting desperate to cover their behinds.

I think that Gen. Myers and the rest of the Bush administration would like the American people to believe that it's all right to treat people detained at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere with less dignity than prisoners of war are afforded under the Geneva Convention. He'd like us to believe that this is acceptable because these people would, in his words, "turn right around and try to slit our throats, slit our children's throats." After all, this is "a different kind of war," so shouldn't we be treating our prisoners a little bit differently than we normally would? Gen. Myers, like so many propagandists before him, is making the appeal to terror. He is appealing to the American public's less savory characteristics, characteristics which lead us to say: "Yes, we've got to get them, before they get us."

Of course, it's precisely because our enemies are so brutal that we cannot be brutal in return. If we're ever to win the war on terror, it's not going to be through the same brutality that our enemies dish out. As we have seen in recent weeks, returning brutality for brutality only creates more brutality, violence, and unrest. We are creating more terrorists and thus losing the war on terror by our policies, because young men (and women) in the Muslim world who would never engage in acts of terrorism are seeing what we're doing to their people -- some of whom, inevitably, are innocent -- and they're running to al-Qaeda and saying: "Sign me up." As much as the Bush administration would like us to believe that their policies are defeating international terrorism, the reality of the situation is that since September 11, 2001, President Bush and his advisors have only aggravated the tensions between the United States and the Muslim world. Nothing has contributed more to these tensions than the way we've treated our prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

It is time for the President and his government to accept responsibility for the worldwide unrest they've created, for their failure to accomplish anything in the war on terrorism, and for the damage they've done to the safety and security of America. If they will not accept responsibility, then it's time for Congress and the Supreme Court to hold them accountable.