Outraged by the Outrage at All the Outrage

One of the most frustrating tricks that conservative politicians manage to actually get away with is the inversion of indignation, i.e., taking an offensive position on issues where clearly, all good sense would indicate that they should be defensive. In the awful bellyflop that was President Bush’s most recent press conference, I remember Bush answering a question about the paltry international support that the United States could point to in our ongoing operations in Iraq, and how when one took a close look at the numbers, it becomes apparent that, after U.S. and British troops, the single largest demographic of allied troops on the ground is “ private contractors — literally, hired guns.”

In a not-so-clever but head-scratchingly effective bit of political maneuvering, his answer went like this: “My response is, I don’t think people ought to demean the contributions of our friends into Iraq.” Clearly, it had nothing to do with the issue, but even in this clumsy and transparent evasiveness, he managed to take a false moral high ground and no one really called him on it.

Some of that same contempt for the truth and unwillingness to address matters at hand must have motivated Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe earlier today in a senate hearing on the scandal at the Abu Ghraib prisons. In a pique of sheer mendacity, the Senator is quoted by Reuters as saying, “I’m probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment… These prisoners, you know they’re not there for traffic violation.”

The Senator continued, “If they’re in cellblock 1-A or 1-B, these prisoners, they’re murderers, they’re terrorists, they’re insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands and here we’re so concerned about the treatment of those individuals… I am also outraged that we have so many humanitarian do-gooders right now crawling all over these prisons looking for human rights violations, while our troops, our heroes are fighting and dying.”

Hogwash, I say. If the United States can’t be bothered to hold itself to internationally-accepted standards of humanitarian behavior, then outrage is the least of the responses that this travesty should invoke.



  1. Wow. I am now outraged at the outrage at all the outrage to the power of two.

    There’s this feeling of incredulous WTF? when I read this. I’ve been following this story for the past few days and I’m amazed at what some people are saying.

    The hole is getting deeper. Hopefully enough for them to bury themselves in it.

  2. This from the inimitable Rush Limbaugh: “This is no different than what happens at the skull and bones initiation and we’re going to ruin people’s lives over it and we’re going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I’m talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of needing to blow some steam off?”

    If the boys need to blow off some steam then to hell with the Geneva Convention, I say.

  3. I heard that Limbaugh quote. It was disgusting, to be sure, but it’s one thing to broadcast it on the moral negative zone that is conservative talk radio, and another to utter the words that Inhofe did in the United States Congress. It’s shameful, and I really, truly wonder why so much of the country is willing to place any sort of faith in today’s Republicans. Even forgetting all their dirty tricks for a moment, they are, to my mind, fundamentally un-American.

  4. “If the United States can’t be bothered to hold itself to internationally-accepted standards of humanitarian behavior, then outrage is the least of the responses that this travesty should invoke.”

    Exactly what the murderers of Nick Berg had in mind before they sawed off his head.

  5. Raphy, I’m not sure what the point you’re trying to make is, but it sounds like you’re suggesting that the United States should not feel beholden to the Geneva Convention, perhaps because after our soliders at Abu Ghraib ignored it then a band of contemptible Iraqi terrorists also ignored it in beheading Nick Berg. If that’s correct, I have to say, with all due respect, that such a position is incredibly irresponsible. But then, a remarkable level of irresponsibility is what got us into this mess.

  6. The entire world knows that the United States Armed Forces adheres to the Geneva Conventions, the rules of warfare, as well as their own Uniform Code of Military Justice. That is why these so-called “insurgents” in Iraq, and elsewhere, hide in mosques, school, and behind women and children while shooting their AK-47s and RPGs. They know the U.S. armed forces will go to great lengths to protect innocents. Members of the U.S. armed forces put themselves at greater peril precisely because they are complying with the Geneva Conventions.

    To disparage the entire U.S. military, past and present, because the acts of a small group of soldiers is offensive to me, to say the least. Furthermore, drawing an equivalence between Nick Berg’s butchers and the soldiers accused of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib, as you did in your last comment, is not only indefensible, it’s mind-boggling in it’s vulgarity.

    Moving on…

    In a free and open society, an elected official has a right, as you surely know, to express their opinion – popular or not. The fact that Inhofe made his comments during an congressional hearing into the matter of the abuses at Abu Ghraib tells me these incidents are being taken seriously by the United States government. You, on the other hand, use Inhofe’s comments, make your judgment, and apply it to anyone who dare disagree with you, and by association, label them “un-American”. That’s a line right out of Rush Limbaugh’s script. You know, the one you refer to as disgustingly immoral.

  7. Actually, Raphy, the entire world does not know that the United States adheres to the Geneva Conventions – that’s the problem! In fact, the world now suspects that we specifically do not adhere to it.

    This perception is wrong for the most part, but it should be the job of our leadership to make sure that America’s motives are not misunderstood by the world. Instead, some Republicans and most Bush Administration supporters are going out of their way to downplay these abuses — and some are even trying to defend them.

    This administration, and to a greater degree its surrogates like Inhofe, don’t seem to realize the importance of the United States being perceived as a model nation. I think they are more concerned with the United States being generally perceived as a power to be feared. This attitude is going to harm us in the long run, and it certainly does not reflect the kind of country I want America to be.

    Also, I should add that (from what I’ve read in the news) most of the MPs staffing Abu Ghraib were National Guardsmen who, in fact, are not trained in the Geneva Convention at all. Somebody at the Pentagon forgot to make sure of that. That’s pretty darn irresponsible, no? It’s so irresponsible that, to me, it crosses the line from simple incompetance/negligence to outright deliberateness.


  8. And as a matter of fact, the entire world is now being told, BY THE PENTAGON, that “some of the interrogation methods approved for use by the US military on Iraqi prisoners may violate the Geneva Convention governing treatment of war prisoners”.

  9. Much of the world suspects, or outright believes, that Jews secretly control everything. Jews around the world have been trying to change this perception, particularly in the Arab world, for generations and yet anti-Semitism is still alive and well. It’s not as easy as some may think to change false perceptions, especially when they are ingrained into a citizenry by state controlled media (as it is in the Arab/Muslim world).

    So people can believe whatever they want, particularly if it serves their agenda.

    If the US did not adhere to the Geneva Conventions there would be no investigation into the abuses. The investigation began long before the photos came out, and a report was issued in late February – the Taguba report.

    Even if the Geneva Conventions did not exist, the MPs in question would still be in violation of multiple articles contained in the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), would be tried by Court Martial and punished if found guilty. (The UCMJ contains articles on the proper care and treatment of POWs) If the MPs were not trained in the Geneva Conventions (they should have been), the UCMJ still applies – and that is something taught to every “boot” who enters Basic Training.

    As for the alleged “downplaying”. How is it downplaying for the President of the United States to go on Arab television to apologize for the abuses?

  10. My mistake. There was no direct apology at that time, but he did call the abuses abhorrent and promised a full disclosure and a firm response into the matter. He made several more comments to that effect during this unprecedented appearance on Arab television.

    Soon after, he publicly apologized during a joint news conference with the King of Jordan.

    My point is that Bush is making a genuine attempt to express his outrage at this situation – not downplaying it.

Thank you! Your remarks have been sent to Khoi.