mr. zilla goes to town

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

who will tell the president?

From President Bush's radio address on Saturday:
"One year later, despite many challenges, life for the Iraqi people is a world away from the cruelty and corruption of Saddam's regime. At the most basic level of justice, people are no longer disappearing into political prisons, torture chambers, and mass graves..."
"...but two out of three ain't bad", Major General Antonio M. Taguba might have interjected, since he wrote a damning report on the Abu Ghraib prison complex back in February. Which, incidentally, neither General Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs nor Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have bothered to read, even since this issue exploded a week ago.

Now it might seem a little tough to hold Bush and Rumsfeld immediately accountable for the stunning stupidity of military personnel about 42 rungs down the ladder. But the evidence seems to indicate that the disastrous actions were systemic, and calculated, rather than out of line. And from Day 1 of this mess, the view from the top down, the organisational culture if you will, has basically been that the old rules (international treaties, geneva conventions and the like) don't apply anymore. Sow the wind: reap the casual brutality.

For me this is so sadly evident in the decision by some f*#king idiots amongst these boneheads decided to mess about with their digital cameras while sexually humiliating the Iraqi prisoners. No one but no one is writing this off, but Joseph Nye's article in the latest Foreign Affairs delves into the crucial strategic implications of events such as this:

Soft power, therefore, is not just a matter of ephemeral popularity; it is a means of obtaining outcomes the United States wants. When Washington discounts the importance of its attractiveness abroad, it pays a steep price. When the United States becomes so unpopular that being pro-American is a kiss of death in other countries' domestic politics, foreign political leaders are unlikely to make helpful concessions (witness the defiance of Chile, Mexico, and Turkey in March 2003). And when U.S. policies lose their legitimacy in the eyes of others, distrust grows, reducing U.S. leverage in international affairs.
I think this mess shows the dangers and vulnerabilities for the US's course in this digital, netcentric era. More than ever before, the US's critical "hearts and minds" mission in Iraq -- and thereby the fulcrum of the neo-conservative approach to the Middle East - is exactly, and only, as strong as its forces' most twisted heart, and feeble mind.


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