Look at what you made us do…

This comes from the New Yorker, via Empire Notes. Of course, torture of Iraqi prisoners is widespread, systematic, and committed by people following orders. What I want to comment on is where Rahul explains how North Americans will rationalize even this:


This comes from the New Yorker, via Empire Notes. Of course, torture of Iraqi prisoners is widespread, systematic, and committed by people following orders. What I want to comment on is where Rahul explains how North Americans will rationalize even this:

“A culture desperately looking for reasons to continue its hysterical self-congratulation (bad enough after the fall of the Soviet Union, but even more stomach-churning after 9/11) will not take long to come up with a redeeming story even for this — these are isolated incidents, swiftly dealt with, they actually show how civilized we are because everybody else does this but nobody else punishes it, …”

I suspect the rationalization will be different. Like so much else, it will be one practiced and perfected in Israel. Israelis, and North Americans, you will recall, are taught that the Israeli Army practices ‘purity of arms’. This is not a technical term for shooting children in the chest and head while they throw stones (or walk, perhaps to school), or bulldozing homes with families in them, or running over wheelchair-bound men in tanks. Apparently ‘purity of arms’ means that the Israeli army doesn’t do any of these things that it does. But when atrocities become too blatant to be denied (rare enough — they are still, largely successfully, denying the massacre in Jenin and minimizing those in Sabra and Shatila ) these atrocities are to be blamed — not on the whole system of occupation, but on the ‘environment’ itself, and the victims! We are ‘pure’, we have ‘purity of arms’, but these Arabs are so vile that they make us commit atrocities against them. Being in Iraq (the West Bank) is so hard on our boys that they snap. Poor lads (and women, as the pictures so clearly show), they deserve our compassion. They are suffering these horrors so that we can be safe, or free, or whatever.

So, that’s how I predict it’s going to go, to the extent that it’s not just forgotten (it will mostly just be forgotten and ignored — anyone who mentions it will be told ‘oh, come on, don’t bring THAT up again’), it will be another justification for racism: Look at what they made us do to them!

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.