"Must I paint you a picture?"
This is a weeping song
A song in which to weep
While all the men and women sleep - Nick Cave
Those who were awaiting Friday's court-ordered release of more, and still more grievous, images of inhumanity from Abu Ghraib know it didn't happen. (I wonder, could any have been surprised?) Here's the story, entitled "U.S. defies order to give up Abu Ghraib abuse photos":
Lawyers for the Defense Department are refusing to cooperate with a federal judge's order to release secret photographs and videotapes related to the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. The lawyers said in a letter sent to the federal court in Manhattan late Thursday that they would file a sealed brief explaining their reasons for not turning over the material, which they were to have released by Friday.
[In June, Judge Alvin Hellerstein] rejected arguments from the government that releasing the photographs would violate the Geneva Conventions because prisoners might be identified and "further humiliated," but he ordered any identifying features to be removed from the images.
In the letter sent Thursday, Sean Lane, an assistant U.S. attorney, said that the government was withholding the photographs because they "could result in harm to individuals" and that it would outline the reasons in a sealed brief to the court.
You see, it's quite simple really: it's the evidence of torture, not the torture itself - including, reportedly, child rape - that violates the prisoners' rights. It's their images which are protected by the Geneva Conventions. They themselves are not.
Such criminal contempt for law and common justice, such lunatic reasoning, suggests the question: Do they mean to drive every last, sane one of us mad? Maybe so. More than 20 years ago, during the - incredibly - relatively benign Reagan years, Bruce Cockburn sang "No adult of sound mind / Can be an innocent bystander." And that really drops us in it, doesn't it? Because we cannot consider ourselves truly informed unless we also shoulder the suspicious-looking rucksacks of empathetic knowledge. It bears down on us, knowing what we know, and not knowing what to do with it. And it's a burden which most of us must bear in virtual silence, surrounded by good people who remain blithely unaware of the abominations, the crystallization of unprecedented crises, and the ever-more bizarre vortex swirling about the All-Seeing Eye.
These days, it's almost enough to get you stopped on the subway.
America has already processed the softer scenes of prisoners set upon by dogs, stacked naked in pyramids, forced to perform sex acts on one-another, smeared in excrement and posed for electrocution. And the usual Americans have made peace with them, in their "freedom isn't free" subterfuge of every decent thing. Are they ready for the harder stuff? If not, after years of a concerted dulling of consciences, how much worse must they be?
From German television, via DailyKos, here is an artist's rendering of one such photograph, depicting the beating of an apparently naked eight-year old girl:
George Orwell wrote that "the nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them."
The images exist, and are as real as the torture they document. But since the government contends - and it must be with a delicious smirk - that their release would violate the Geneva Conventions, Americans may never see them.
Here's one image from Iraq which Americans are entitled to see: members of the 983rd Engineer Battalion of Camp Ramadi, posing in Rush Limbaugh's "Club G'itmo" wear. The t-shirts bear such slogans as "I Got My Free Koran and Prayer Rug at G'itmo":
"We will export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defence of our great nation, and rid the world of evil," said a member of US Special Forces on an Afghan hillside early in 2002, while consecrating a memorial to the victims of September 11. That's his mission.
Last year, Donald Rumseld said regarding the unreleased images, "I looked at them last night, and they're hard to believe.” They show acts "that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane." And yet the White House, led by Dick Cheney, is thwarting Republican efforts to regulate the treatment of detainees.
What is the mission, again?
Father, why are all the children weeping?
They are merely crying son
O, are they merely crying, father?
Yes, true weeping is yet to come