Fallujah and Abu Ghuraib: No Comparison
There simply is no logical or ethical comparison between the killings and desecrations of the four private commandos at Fallujah by a mixture of guerrillas and mobs, and the systematic torture of Prisoners of War by a democratic country.
Any equivalence would suggest that the United States military is not, and cannot be expected to be, better than an enraged mob in a small occupied city in Iraq’s western desert. What was done to the commandos was horrible, and it was a crime by civilians and irregulars who should be arrested and punished.
The United States is a government, not a mob. As such, it has entered into treaty relations and made commitments to international law. It is a signatory of the Geneva Conventions, which govern how prisoners are to be treated. The United States army violated the Geneva Conventions when it tortured Iraqi prisoners of war. Period. It was a series of serious crimes not by isolated civilians but by agents of the US government. Crimes of states are always more serious than crimes of individuals, because states are organized collective institutions upon which civilization depends. There is no excuse for it, least of all that sometimes town mobs have behaved worse.
The four dead American commandos at Fallujah, who were not uniformed military, have already occasioned a brutal siege of the city and over 600 Iraqi deaths, some proportion of them civilian. Shall they now also excuse the torture of dozens of Iraqis at Abu Ghuraib? And this, months after the fact? Is this Iraq enterprise an occasion for endless serial revenge, or an attempt to share democratic values with a beleaguered population all too used to torture and oppression? In the sordid calculus of race, how many Iraqi lives and psyches exactly are worth four American ones?
The issue of hypocrisy is also important here. The rabble of Fallujah never pledged that they were committing violence in order to end torture and establish democracy. George W. Bush boasted repeatedly that “there are no more torture chambers” in Iraq.
I am not only outraged that the US military committed these crimes, but I am extremely alarmed that the images coming out of Abu Ghuraib have damaged US credibility in Iraq beyond repair. Anyone tempted to make light of this issue or dismiss it with feeble and inappropriatecomparisons would be making a serious error of judgment.