Torture, they said

A few months ago Wikileaks released hundreds of thousands of government documents about the Iraq war, some of which reveal that not only did the U.S. military look the other way as Iraqis tortured and murdered Iraqis, but actually turned Iraqis over to the Iraqi torture squads. The other revelations include statistics showing that more U.S. paid private mercenaries were at one time fighting in Iraq than U.S. military troops.

The response of the government, of course, was two-fold. On the one hand we were told that such revelations will endanger our troops and informants, and on the other hand we were told that this information has already been revealed and is no big deal. The fact that these two positions are in direct contradiction to each other has not prevented authorities from using both of them. To the contrary, they provide the full universe of possible reaction, a cynical attempt to fool some of the people.

When the photos of Abu Ghraib prison abuse surfaced, Americans had to face the reality that our treatment of prisoners in Iraq violated every standard of decency. When the history of renditions and secret prisons arose, Americans had to face our violation of the Geneva Conventions. And now, with the revelation that our military handed over prisoners knowing that they would be tortured and murdered, Americans have to face the terrible reality that the war in Iraq was for a while waged by thugs.

Governments never like truths like this to be told; such lurid realities fly in the face of our national narrative about America holding itself to the highest standards of morality and justice. Such was the case when the Pentagon Papers were disclosed, and such is the case now. Whether Republican or Democrat, American administrations are so closely wed to the military industrial complex, our economy dominated by weapons sales and the support of 700 military bases around the globe, that revelations of corruption, thuggery, deceit, deception, murder and violations of international laws of military justice are routinely discounted as damaging to our national interest.

Lost amid all the official misdirection is the simple fact that we have and are continuing to lose our moral authority in the world, making it far easier for radical authoritarian regimes to enlist support. We can blame messengers like Wikileaks, and regularly do, but that does not excuse our government or our military from their culpability in destroying the rule of law and violating standards of decency and justice. We seem incapable of accepting responsibility for our actions, preferring instead to blame those who reveal the depths of our irresponsibility. Accordingly, we are shocked when others in the world turn against us and our policies; we show no remorse and rarely bring anyone to justice. This behavior provides the dissonance that undermines our standing in the world and our ability to be seen as fair and just. All the aggressive bluster about Wikileaks emanating from Washington cannot make up for the deplorable truth of our actions.

Like children too scared to admit guilt, America hides behind its beloved image and lofty rhetoric, arrogantly thinking that the people of the world are too stupid and ignorant to notice that the emperor has no clothes. To the contrary, our manipulative behavior reveals our ham-fisted foolishness and naked ambition.

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