At the end of September, 2005, it was revealed that American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq have been taking pictures of dead Iraqis and Afghans, and exchanging those photographs for free access to online pornography.
It's bad enough that the soldiers had compromised the wartime facade of battlefield secrecy by broadcasting battlefield photographs online. Much worse is what the photographs suggest about the impact of President Bush's wars on the integrity of the American people.
Consider, for example, this photograph, which shows smiling American soldiers pointing happily to the charred corpse of an Iraqi.
Think back now to the spring of 2004, when four American mercenaries were caught in an ambush in Fallujah, shot to death, burned to a crisp, and then dragged by a crowd of Iraqis to a bridge where their charred bodies were displayed as trophies and photographs. Americans were shocked and outraged at how barbaric the Iraqis could be. President Bush deplored the Iraqis' actions as criminal and evil.
Well, look again, America. Here are your own soldiers doing the exact same thing: Ambushing, killing and burning Iraqis, then smiling in triumph for trophy photographs over the dead bodies. What's the difference? Is this kind of thing okay because Americans are supposed to be the good guys?
This is necrophilia. Consider the close cognitive proximity of sex and death suggested by the exchange of these photographs. The soldiers give terrible images of violent death and mutilation, and get a turn on with sexy pictures of girls in exchange. Would you want such a soldier to come home and marry your daughter?
President Bush has offered excuse after excuse for the Iraq War. He said that the war was necessary, even though Iraq had not attacked the United States, and had not even threatened to do so. Bush said that we had to start a war against Iraq to get rid of massive arsenals of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, but it turned out that those weapons of mass destruction never existed, and Bush never had any genuine evidence for their existence. Bush said that we had to invade and occupy Iraq because of the attacks of September 11, 2001, but the evidence then and now clearly showed that the government of Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks.
So what's left? Well, now Bush is saying that the war in Iraq is necessary to spread American moral values. Moral values? What kind of moral values are shown by these photographs?
It's interesting that the other arena in which George W. Bush and his Republican supporters use the phrase "moral values" is their efforts to use the power of government to promote Christian religion. Early on in his declaration of a war against evildoers, Bush called his effort a Crusade, reminiscent of the holy wars of slaughter by Christians against Jews and Muslims. High ranking military officers have been promoting Bush's wars as part of a larger battle against Islam on behalf of Christianity, something that they say is a sign of the End Times.
Now consider the caption for this photograph: Die Haji Die. That's the caption put on the photograph by the American soldier. Most Americans don't know what a haji is, being largely ignorant of Islam. A haji is a Muslim who is shown respect because he or she has completed the holy pilgrimage to Mecca. So, when the American soldier places the caption Die Haji Die under a photograph he takes of an Iraqi that he has killed, he's making a particular religious statement. The soldier is declaring that he believes he is fighting a war against Islam itself. With crude declarations like this, is it any wonder so many Iraqis regard the American invasion and occupation of Iraq as part of a Christian holy war against Islam?
Now comes the most gruesome photograph of the bunch. Pretty disgusting, huh? I am particularly disgusted at the cord around the dead man's neck. It suggests that either the Iraqi was captured by Americans before he was killed and mutilated, or that the Americans tied a cord around the Iraqi's neck after he was dead. You take your pick.
What's most disturbing of all to me, though, is the caption given to the photograph by the soldier. The photograph of this corpse is labelled, "What every Iraqi should look like". So much for the pretense that America is liberating Iraq. This soldier who uses the pseudonym RalphMalph (How Happy Days! How purely American!) has identified his enemy quite clearly: He's not there to liberate the Iraqis. He's there to kill them. He wants them all dead.
By now, you're probably disgusted. You ought to be, but please don't let your reaction die there. Now, you need to ask the important question: Why are American soldiers taking these photographs with such a combination of glee and hate?
For the answer, we need to take a look at ourselves. How many Americans in fury called for the killing of every Muslim in Afghanistan and Iraq? How many Americans joined in the chants for vengeance accompanying that pro-war country song "Have You Forgotten?" Too many Americans in and out of the military have been pushing a bloodthirsty line of propaganda beginning with Bush's declaration of a Crusade and following through to Congressman Tom Tancredo's recent call for Mecca to be destroyed with nuclear weapons.
There's something more to it than that, something that those of us in civilian clothes can't get complete access to, and that's the truth of what's going on in this war. The young Americans who posed with the dead and took pictures of them in order to trade for pornography weren't born sadists, and most of them probably were not raised to be barbaric voyeurs of death.
We need to critically examine the indoctrination that the Pentagon has put its soldiers through, and how it can contribute to the development of a cruel love of violence and death in many soldiers. The fallacy that we can train impressionable young people to be killers and leave their sense of decency intact must be seriously questioned.
It's not enough to blame the soldiers who took these photographs with smiles on their faces. We need to place even more blame on the military meatgrinder that takes kids out of high schools and turns them into coarse killing machines. Too many instances of extreme brutality on the part of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have reached our ears to believe that the problem is just a matter of a few bad apples. There's a system that's developed in the military to ruin our nation's youth.
An honest investigation of this system of barbaric transformation of America's youth into hateful necrophiliacs must start at the top. It's been well documented that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and President George W. Bush themselves are part of the conspiracy to teach soldiers to torture and brutalize people held prisoner by the military.
That top-down immoral example continues in the Pentagon's reaction to the discovery and release of the soldier's photographs of the Afghan and Iraqi dead. The Pentagon has announced that none of the soldiers connected to these photographs will be charged with any crime. Pentagon spokespeople say that there's just not evidence to bring any charges.
Of course, such an excuse is ridiculous. All the evidence that is needed for a prosecution is right there in the first photograph displayed on this page. The faces of the soldiers are there. The online pornographer who received the images should also have records of where and when the uploads took place. From there, more specific soldiers who have been involved can be identified, arrested and prosecuted.
Prosecuted for what? Well, those of you who pay attention will remember that in the first few days of the American invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi government captured some American soldiers, and some of those American soldiers died. The Iraqi government took pictures of those dead soldiers, and showed them on television for propaganda purposes.
In reaction, members of George W. Bush's Cabinet went on television and denounced the broadcast of the pictures. They said that in taking and using pictures of dead Americans, the Iraqi government was violating the Geneva Conventions.
Now, American soldiers have been caught doing the very same thing. Statements "Die Haji, Die", and "What every Iraqi should look like" next to photographs of gruesomely slain Iraqis are clear examples of propaganda. The soldiers who take these photographs and pose in these photographs are war criminals, and ought to be prosecuted as such.
By refusing to prosecute the sadistic soldier photographers and traffickers of images of war dead, the Pentagon is sending a clear message to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan: Keep it up. It seems that celebrating terrible death is an integral part of our military culture, something that our youth are being taught from by the very top decision makers in the Pentagon.
Until we the people stand up and demand that this kind of brutality be stopped, our youngest citizens will continue to be indoctrinated in a cruel cult of death. Enough is enough. This war is doing nothing for America and is threatening to destroy the idealistic core of our democratic civilization. The time for peace and healing is long overdue.
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