America has been poking a big stick into the hornets' nest a lot lately. Though to be fair, the militant elements of Islam are actively looking for a fight, and we're not the only country with a stick.
The anger over cartoon depictions of Mohammad has spread, and so has the corresponding death and destruction. Anger is often irrational, but this is completely beyond reason. The issue is being milked by protesters to the point that blood is coming from the teats.
A Danish newspaper published blasphemous cartoons, and a few other European papers followed suit. It’s the perfect excuse to vent that long-held anger at all things Western. Burn every embassy and fast-food restaurant you can find. Protest at American airbases, even though we’re not a party to the cartoon affair.
That said, I am disillusioned with the way my country has been exerting its influence in recent years. We’re not living up to our own democratic ideals by a long shot.
The newly released Abu Ghraib photos shocked me more than the original set did. This abuse is widespread, not just some fraternity pranks by a handful of untrained recruits. But even as we see and hear more evidence, our president insists we don’t torture.
Instead of sticking to generalized talking points, Bush needs to unambiguously renounce the torture that has happened, and that may indeed still be happening covertly, before the world. We lost our moral superiority cherry long ago, folks.
There are those who condemn the leak of such photos as endangering our troops, but it’s the acts they depict that stir hatred. Those in charge should think about acts that may take place under their watch; if they are inflammatory in nature, they’re endangering their own people by committing and/or encouraging them.
If the Abu Ghraib photos were never released our leaders could still deny any such deeds have ever taken place. Critics should consider how the people at the top have essentially forced the hand of the press here. First there were rumors of torture, which were denied. Then came the photos: “See, we told you so.”
My point is, if there’s no torture, there are no credible photos of torture to foment fanaticism and give ammunition to our foes. I hate to think of any American doing that, or of any American suffering retribution as a result of what someone else may have done.
Of course it's not just Americans taking ill-advised actions, it’s our friends, too.
A few days back news outlets aired video footage of British soldiers beating up Iraqi adolescents. The kids were being punks, throwing rocks at the soldiers, who then seemed to blow off steam with blows to the kids’ chests, faces and balls. If you haven’t seen it, the boot-to-groin kick is particularly nasty.
But where few Americans have been convicted of mistreating Iraqis, some British officials have loudly called for the conviction of those involved in this incident. Several arrests have already been made.
We'll still see a backlash from guilt by association, though.
Let’s lay blame where it belongs, whether it is with ourselves, our friends or our enemies. And let’s see that our responses are measured in proportion to the initial offenses. All sides could stand to be reminded of that.
I know, I’m an idealist – shoot me. It wouldn’t be the most extreme overreaction the world has seen lately.