Where's the outrage?

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Watching C-Span a few days ago, I listened to several panel speakers expressing utter dismay as to why there wasn't more national outrage to reports of prisoner abuse at Guantanimo Bay and Abu Graib. One of the panelists got quite animated and resembled a revivalist preacher thundering of hell and damnation, more than a citizen expressing strong objection to what he assumed was essentially true. I can only speak for myself, but perhaps partially answer their question.

To begin with, I'm not convinced that every alleged case of abuse deserves the automatic disdain assigned to it. When we were kids, my older brothers and their friends used to pull underwear over my head after tying me up, and though humiliating, it wasn't really harmful. We all knew of neighborhood kids who truly were abused, so by comparison it didn't seem so bad. While humiliation is specifically outlawed by the Geneva Conventions and can't be justified in strict terms, it doesn't constitute torture, a much overused term lately, as I would define it. It also shrinks to insignificance compared to masked men cutting off the living head of a kidnap victim chosen for nothing more than their nationality while it is being videotaped to maximize the shock effect of the act.

I'm also not sure the "detainees" at Guantanimo specifically qualify under the Geneva Conventions, which has as a key precept the distinction between prisoners of war and un-uniformed combatants. The conventions point out the necessity of belligerents to be uniformed, thus sparing civilians deliberate hostile action. Taliban and al-Qaida fighters captured in Afghanistan do not qualify for POW status by this measurement.

I don't want to see anybody mistreated or abused, let alone tortured. What I do wish is that those who insist on micro-criticism of what our government allegedly does, remember presumption of innocence, would stop exclusive introspection long enough to point the same critical eye at others, in particular those whose sworn purpose is to kill every one of us, but also our European "allies." Look it up for yourself. The French have what they call "provisional detention" that legally allows holding someone for years without charge, and that is within metropolitan France, not captured in war halfway around the world. Where's the outrage to that?

Rick Kaufman


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