Friday, May 21, 2004

The Actions of a Few

I have been thinking some about the Bush administration's response that the whole Abu Ghraib affair should be brushed aside and focus placed on more pressing issues because it is simply "the actions of a few" and does not represent "the true nature and heart of America" according to Bush in his apology to Jordan's King Abdullah [AP](I never did figure out why Bush apologized to Jordan for the prison abuses). And it finally struck me that we are asking the Arab world to measure us not by the actions of those few derelict soldiers (assuming that is an accurate assessment of the situation), but rather by the conduct of all Americans. However, when it comes to the Global War on Terror, the Bush administration and many who support the war continue to condemn and oppress the Arab world based on the actions of a few.

For example, Senator Inhofe expressed "outrage at the outrage" at the Senate Hearing on May 11 (NYT) because the prisoners we are so concerned about are all (in Inhofe's mind) murderers, insurgents, and terrorists. And almost to prove his point, "those people" decapitated Nicholas Berg--one of "us"--that same day.

Contrary to Senator Inhofe's suggestions, the ICRC claims that most of the Abu Ghraib prisoners (up to 90%) are innocent. At the very least, we know that Abu Ghraib prisoners were not "high value"--the "high value" campers got extra-special treatment at a separate facility near the Baghdad Airport (that is now being investigated too [MSNBC]).

My point is that many of the problems that we face now and will continue to face in battling this Global War on Terror stems from separating "us" from "them," and holding "us" to a different standard than "them." How many Fallujans did we kill to avenge the deaths of four civilian contractors? Were they all murderers, insurgents, and terrorists too? Until we are willing to extend the same basic liberties that we consider inalienable for ourselves to all those who share this planet, there will be terrorism. Until we are willing to accept that the actions of a few others do not justify waging war on all others, we cannot hope to persuade the world that the actions of a few of "us" should not reflect poorly upon America.

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