Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Two (or Four) Sides to Everything

The asians use the term 'yin-yang' to describe the inherent duality in everything in life. Everyone, to a man, subsists on a duality within their lives, whether it's a public and a private side, or a "light" side and a "dark" one. The sun lightens the sky and the earth, or its absence leaves the sky and the earth dark.

Not a tough concept to grasp.

This morning, as I prepped today's HoB entry regarding yesterday (Valentine's Day) in the expanse of empty space between my ears, I came across a story at detailing more extensive information about the abuse that has been, apparently, the norm at Abu Ghraib. To add to the photos and information that had previously been made public (and that has led to two prison terms for guards formerly at the facility), yesterday's Australian Dateline showed pictures of more graphic imagery, not merely the naked, hooded prisoners but other humiliating depictions of prisoners forced to masturbate, hooded, naked prisoners being surrounded by dogs, and some even being exposed to naked women (which is forbidden in Islamic culture).

Of course, this broadcast was meant to reveal information that merits broadcast. It's news and the station that broadcast same has every right to do so. It's also clear, especially considering the mass demonstrations by Muslims against the publishing of some cartoons in Danish newspapers, that this was not the best time to broadcast this material. That notwithstanding, it was broadcast, and presumably, one can imagine that those who stoked the fire and anger within the empty-headed, future martyrs that comprise the bulk of these demonstrators are going to point to this recent broadcast as more fuel to throw upon the literal and virtual fire. To wit, yesterday in Pakistan, two people died amidst more cartoon-related rioting, when a riot -- in the throes of anti-Mohammad cartoon fervor -- targeted a Western-based hotel, banks and a KFC, and additionally vandalized a Citibank and broke windows at a nearby Holiday Inn and a Pizza Hut. Lord knows Kentucky Fried Chicken fully supported publishing those cartoons, and Pizza Hut, given the opportunity, might have served up a hot, steamy "Mohammad Pizza Bomb" pizza. Perhaps Holiday Inn was offering a "Bring in a Mohammad Bomb cartoon, get one night free" promotion. Rumor has it Citibank was considering the distribution of "Mohammad Is The Bomb" totebags in lieu of toasters with new accounts.

If you missed any of the above-dripping sarcasm swinging toward your head like a 5,000 pound sledgehammer, then my only regret is that I won't be publishing the cartoons here, with a self-penned addition featuring Mohammad, a plunger, two rolls of Toilet Paper and the rock band REO Speedwagon. It seems to me this recent broadcast on Australian TV to reveal with greater specificity the "atrocities" at Abu Ghraib that took place (and which were subsequently addressed) over a year ago during a time of international Muslim rioting and protesting is irresponsible, to say the least. Granted, if I were the reporter(s) assigned to covering this story and I put the capper on a hot potato I'd want the fucker there in print or at 8:00 after the re-runs of That 70's Show. But knowing that people are dying because of this morass of fiery, manifested anti-Western sentiment, it seems to me that this is the equivalent of journalistic piling-on. Frankly, it's reprehensible.

Yesterday, I received a monthly e-mail from a T-Shirt company that introduces each of its monthly missives with a cutesy and/or creative introduction about current events. The introduction to yesterday's e-mail was something akin to "The Muslims around the World are rioting again -- and it's not really news." What the writer indicated, and what seems to be increasingly clear, is that the world of Islam, for reasons both valid and invalid, seem to be swinging back again toward hatred of the West and the US. What I find interesting is that the combination of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rancorous, defiant tone regarding nuclear reproliferation, the Palestinian election of Hamas leadership, and these world-wide demonstrations -- over cartoons -- seems to echo the earlier sentiments that propelled Muslim "youth" in France to riot once the sun set.

Who is firing up the robotic, malleable Muslim plebescite? Is it Imams in mosques and schools throughout the Middle East? Is it George Bush's ramrod policies in the region? Is it Osama bin Laden? I think each of these plays a part in the noticeable swing of this pendulum. The last time this relationship between the Mid-East nations and the West was as tenuous, if not moreso, was the late 70's and 80's, when Khomeni in Iran helped reinvigorate Muslim rage in a series of hostage-taking and hijacking episodes.

The difference, of course, is that now, those tactics -- taking hostages, hijacking airplanes and naval vessels -- is somewhat passe. Note that Jill Carroll is still somewhere in Iraq and while her story and her fate is perhaps tragic, it's not front-page news anymore. And the spineless pieces of shit that kidnapped her and issued a half-dozen Al-Jazeera death threats against her seem to lose more credibility with each passing day. The point is, these tactics are losing their strength -- and the only thing that seems to make the West sit up and take notice of the Muslim struggle against oppression (either by the West or by selfish, greedy, self-serving Imams and leaders) is action on a global (read: nuclear, chemical and/or biological) level.

I'm not advocating a duck-and-cover policy, I'm not paranoid, and I'm not investigating a plot of land for my future family that features a 60-day-safe bomb shelter. However, I do advocate responsibility within this shrinking, tightening mortal coil which we -- all of us -- call home. We can pretend the rioting and the fires and the burning American flags are a world away -- and in a sense, they are. But the seeds that have nurtured those displays are as much likely to affect us on American streets as they are in Europe and on the other five continents of the world.

Incidentally, in direct response to the Australian "Dateline" from last night, I am not an advocate of torturing someone for humiliation or for "we're better than you" type sentiment. That mentality, incidentally, propelled the Nazi regime's experimentation on living subjects and fueled people like Josef Mengele. For American soldiers to mimic that mentality, even in a minimal form, is repugnant. However, as I've indicated elsewhere in these pages, I am not categorically or philosophically opposed to interrogators extracting information -- the kind that could save lives -- however necessary. Mossad, Israel's secret service, employs many different methods for interrogation, mostly because they need to do so. But the last time I remember anything remotely resembling a "scandal" or public knowledge of private interrogation technique being discussed was 1991's publishing and subsequent discussion of Victor Ostrovsky's "By Way of Deception," which publicized a lot of that which happens behind closed doors at Mossad. In fifteen years since that book's publishing, not one legitimate questioning of Israel's espionage or interrogatory conduct has surfaced. The reason why is that when and if there is a need for this activity, it should be undertaken with a responsibility and an understanding that it is not something to be enjoyed but rather a necessary evil. The morons in the pictures from Abu Ghraib (who are now in prison themselves) should have known this, and if their superiors gave them orders to photograph and humiliate prisoners, their superiors should also be imprisoned. However, if it means that some of those prisoners never again see the light of day and wind up providing information and/or intel that saves American lives, then so be it.

What this entire (ongoing) episode has demonstrated to me is that people react to scandal much more willingly than to responsibility and reality. We'd rather read about "TomKat" or prospective baby names for Brangelina than we would about possible nuclear proliferation and the reemergence of socialism in Central and South America and Argentina and Venezuela, even though some of these hot spots provide America with oil and other resources.

In a shrinking world, the reality is we can't afford to ignore or choose not to acknowledge reality.

Put that on a t-shirt and sell it.


Anonymous said...

I came here looking for news about what you and Kaia did for Valentines Day, not to hear about Iraq! Fess up!


Kaia said...

Put THAT in my reviewwwwww.

Sorry babe - couldn't help myself.