“The horror…The horror of it all.”Colonel Kurtz (Brando), musing on the amorality of a supposedly honourable soldier’s actions during war.
Watching Rumsfeld squirm tonight in front of the Senate committee investigating the torture and abuse of POWs in Iraq – at times by non other than former First Lady Hilary Clinton – was interesting and disturbing. What was more disturbing was the reaction of the small, rural West Virginia town where the female soldier grinning in many of the photographs lives in a trailer park. A lot of the rank and file of the US army comes from poor towns like this – they don’t get much of a shot at the much-vaunted American Dream and the forces are a way out for many. Understandably this leads to many of the locals in these areas being extremely loyal to their fellows in active service.
However, when the BBC crew interviewed many of these folk most were of the opinion that she hadn’t done much wrong as was just being scapegoat by her superiors and that the blame lay further up the chain of command. While I would agree that the blame should indeed run right up the chain of command – all the way to the top, especially since the Commander in Chief had already alluded to disregarding the Geneva Convention which every civilised nation adheres to after 9-11. But this does not excuse our poor country gal from her actions either. Look at those pictures – she’s bloody laughing at the misery she and her fellow grunts are inflicting on other people. She’s enjoying it. Saying the blame lies only with those in authority above them is like the tired old defence of the junior demons at Nuermberg: I was only obeying orders. In other words, I ain’t responsible for my own actions…
Now while I want to see those above these folk castigated and charged for breaching human rights this in no way excuses our West Virginia girl, regardless of how sweet her family say she really is. Only following orders is no excuse when they involve illegal actions. And as was quite deliberately shown by the Allies – including, ironically, America – at Nuremberg, and then later in the Balkans, everyone who commits these offences will be due to stand in front of a human rights court, from heads of state and generals to police and prison guards.
One of her home town citizens commented that it would all blow over. He actually said that hey, look at all the bad things in WW1 and WW2 – no-one show pictures of those any more or talks about them. Well, except for a mountain of books, thousands of hours or documentaries… All this in the anniversary of D-Day – no-one talks about those times anymore! In other words, he is saying bugger it, everyone will forget about it if we let it go.
This is worrying in two ways. First of all because I fear all too many people, especially the bigoted and ignorant, don’t follow history, just as he says. One of the main reasons, I suspect why we end up repeating so much of it again and again. The second is because one of the things that creeps like the British National Party do is to try and eradicate and deny horrific human rights abuses from history to make their own bigoted viewpoint appear more justified and palatable. Amazing what some people will do in the name of ‘right’ and ‘patriotism’.
Meanwhile those of us who do still read history realise speaking softly and carrying a big stick may no longer quite cut it.
Warm weather. Ah, one of the drawback of warm, sunny days of spring and summer – the noise-polluting wanker brigade. Noisy neighbours seem worse because their windows are open, your windows are open, the music is much louder… And as for fucking wankers in cars with the DUM DUM DUM DUM mindless repetition of bad dance music blasting at full volume from their cars. Usually a crappy wee car with the stereo turned up very loud as if to compensate for the paucity of the vehicle and the spotty young Herbert driving it (usually with a baseball cap). And with the windows all open it is soooo fucking irritating to everyone they pass. But what do they care? Consideration of others is not something that has ever entered their psyche.
Don’t get me wrong, I like loud music – I’m a rock fiend for Alice’s sakes! But I try not to blast it too loud around other folk because it’s not right to inflict it on everyone else against their will. A little consideration. So the slow-moving traffic I walked past tonight on the way home with the baseball-hat wearing Ned with the most dreadfully unoriginal dance music thumping out of his windows pissed me off. And I couldn’t help but look at those open windows and think, why not make them work for me? And so I decided to add CS gas canisters to my Utility Belt. Pull pin and toss through the window…Ah, sweet revenge fantasies, how they help me make it through the day…