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.