Are the Violent Results of Crude Militarism Really a Surprise?
"Shocked! I'm simply shocked that abuse is going on here!"
Now, in the midst of the torture scandal, is the time to make sure this kind of thing is never repeated. The politicians have done their posturing and exclaiming, now let them take action to bring America back from the shame of violence and torture.
Here is an excerpt from an article made available by Progressive Trail and originally published by Voices in the Wilderness.
by Mike FernerGeorge "that's not the way Americans do things" Bush is outraged.
General "those troops let us down" Kimmit is outraged.
Senators and Congressmen are outraged.
Everyone is shocked, simply shocked to hear that abuse is going on at Abu Ghraib prison!
Of course it's an outrage that American soldiers and mercenaries are torturing Iraqi prisoners. But ask anyone who has gone through military basic training and they might well respond: "What did you THINK was going on in Iraq?"
What could be more naked abuse than cluster-bombing children and terrorizing whole cities? What could be more obscene than sending armless and legless GIs home by the planeload? Our leaders are outraged at what is happening inside Abu Ghraib? When they know full well that next door in Fallujah our troops were killing so many people—including women and children—that the soccer stadium was turned into a cemetery? There have been pictures of all this, too. Not on 19th Century Fox, or other corporate news outlets, but there were pictures aplenty.
In 1984, Orwell described how Big Brother kept the citizens of Oceania in line with a daily, televised "Two Minutes Hate" directed at the nation's Public Enemy #1.
"He was the primal traitor...all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of his teaching...(he) seemed like some sinister enchanter, capable by the mere power of his voice of wrecking the structure of civilization."
Once the good people of Oceania worked up a good hate, they were ready to let Big Brother do whatever he wanted to "protect" them from their supposed enemies: bomb them, kill them young and old, put them in places like Abu Ghraib.
We of course don't do this personally. We prepare a vulnerable segment of our own population to do it for us. It's called basic training.
We take kids hoping for college or looking for direction, heads full of myths about how Oceania always stands for freedom and democracy. We systematically dehumanize them in basic training and teach them how to dehumanize "others," "over there" until those others become "the enemy." Surely whatever happens to the enemy is fair game. They are, after all, the enemy.
Consider this from Hal Muskat, who went through basic training at Ft. Dix, NJ, describing a frightening scene during bayonet practice for 1,000 young men:
"In between the call/response of, 'What's the spirit of bayonet?' 'Kill! Kill! Kill!' drill instructors (DIs) would pick up megaphones and scream, 'See those C-130s landing? They are bringing in bodies of dead Americans killed by gooks. The gooks murdered our soldiers! Do you want to be a body on that plane? I can't hear you? What's the spirit of bayonet?' Every once in a while, a DI would pull several of us aside and give us lessons on the proper use of bayonet in performing a 'field abortion.' Stick the bayonet in the gook's c*** and pull up towards her throat. A dead gook in the womb saves Americans lives!'"
Or this, from Roger Domagalski, describing what he was told as a recruit and his duties after basic training: "From the first moment we arrived, we often heard the words, 'girls, ladies, sissies, pussies, and worse' when insulting us. Thus 'women' as a whole became a derogatory concept; very sexist and very dehumanizing...I had been dehumanized to such an extent that I completely lacked all empathy for these frightened, new trainees. Instead of treating them decently, I mistreated them as I had been mistreated. Once you dehumanize a person, you need to maintain control because such a person is liable to do anything, from the relatively mild 'hazing' I engaged in, to the Nazi-like terror tactics used by the guards against Iraqi prisoners. Yes, basic training works...all too well sometimes."
Should we be shocked that good American kids are filling Fallujah's soccer field with corpses, torturing prisoners in Abu Ghraib, raping their own female comrades?
While in Baghdad recently, more than one Iraqi asked me this tough question: "How can your soldiers do these things for America? Don't you live in a democracy?"
Perhaps some day we will live in a democracy and will no longer train soldiers to do these things in our name. But until then, we continue to live much closer to the condition Eugene Debs described in the closing months of World War One's butchery, in his famous Canton, Ohio speech: "...when the feudal lords concluded to enlarge their domains...they declared war upon one another. But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street go to war...The serfs had been taught to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another it was their patriotic duty to cut one another's throats...The working class who fight the battles and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace."
George Bush can be outraged at the news from Abu Ghraib, but he is the one who unleashed the dogs of war at the behest of our modern feudal lords. The result is never pretty. Are we shocked?
Mike Ferner visited Iraq for two months earlier this year. He also spent the month of February, 2003 in Baghdad and Basra, with Voices in the Wilderness. He served as a Navy Corpsman during the war against Viet Nam, is a member of Veterans for Peace and a former member of Toledo City Council.
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