I know Republicans no longer care what the world thinks of them. They don’t give a liquefied Krispy Kreme (yes, they’re selling doughnuts as drinks now) that a buncha furriners think they run a hick one-party government replete with torturers. Brand America isn’t selling well. Big deal.
But as the American torturers of Abu Ghraib were in court last week, you’d think Republicans would worry about what the publicity will do should Americans ever end up in the numerous Abu Ghraibs of other countries.
Take Uzbekistan, to which the United States gives $220-million (U.S.) a year because, I don’t know, it’s pretty in the springtime.
Craig Murray, the brave British ambassador to Uzbekistan, a trained diplomat, struggled with his conscience and suggested in public that Uzbek President Islam Karimov should not boil quite so many citizens to death. Unfortunately, the U.S. government finds Uzbekistan strategically significant, and Britain’s a poodle, so you know what happened to the ambassador. He was fired. (Take note, Paul Cellucci, as you lecture Canada on joining Battleground Space.)
So torture is not only acceptable, but deploring it is now a firing offence.
The military trial of Specialist Charles Graner Jr., 35, a U.S. soldier accused of torture at Abu Ghraib, didnâe(TM)t go at all well. Graner, born in Uniontown, Pa., is an alleged wife-beater, father of two and former jail guard who was once accused of feeding an American prisoner a razor blade, piled hooded naked Iraqi men into pyramids, put them in dog chains, forced male Iraqis to simulate oral sex, insult their own religion and beat them till they cried, while whistling, laughing and giggling. He looks like one of those shy, bespectacled pudgy men of whom the neighbours say, “He was just a quiet kinda guy. Polite. Sure, he barbecued my dawg. But he mowed my lawn after.”
He and the notorious Private First Class Lynndie England, a divorced 21-year-old chicken processor born in a trailer in West Virginia and soon to face her own torture trial, now have a child together. It’s a boy. Gee, I can’t think of a better gene blend. And talk about having interests in common.
Graner had what I’d call a bad lawyer, but then I don’t work at Fort Hood army base in Texas, which is a bit Uzbek, shall we say. The lawyer, Guy Womack, argued what Graner did isn’t torture. After all, he said, U.S. cheerleaders often form pyramids.
I beg to differ. They’re not hooded, naked, weeping and showing their perineums . . . oh, I see. It’s a fantasy. Is this a guy thing? “[Even] Saddam did not do this to us,” the prisoner told the court in video testimony.
And tying up prisoners like dogs? “You’ve probably been at a mall or an airport and seen children on tethers; they’re not being abused,” Womack told the military court.
They’re not naked and wearing dog collars either, but some people do try to be good parents.
The trials of the U.S. torturers — where, tellingly, the statement of the new U.S. Attorney-General that international laws against torture are “obsolete and quaint” are not being admitted as evidence for the defence — achieve something I thought could never be done. They make the My Lai killers look good.
In 1968 at My Lai in Vietnam, where soldiers raped and killed little girls and shot unarmed men, women and children in a ditch, the soldiers used the Nazi defence and said they were just following orders. But they didn’t squarely claim they were terrifically excellent Grade A orders, or a standard part of warfare.
That is what Graner’s lawyer has stated, that the prisoner witness was being rightly punished. “It’s very clear that he hates America,” Womack said. Well, if he didn’t before, he does now. The thing is, an extra billion people agree with him, and that’s a problem.
His client is one chirpy torturer, two words I never expected to combine. Usually, they sigh at the unfortunate necessity, like French general Paul Aussaresses, who tortured Algerians, or they deny urging it, like Donald Rumsfeld. Graner joked with his lawyers. “Whatever happens is going to happen, but I still feel it’s going to be on the positive side and I’m going to have a smile on my face,” he told reporters.
Graner is always smiling. That’s the worrying thing. It’s a hideous parody of American optimism. Whether he’s attaching an electrode to a genital or trolling for catfish, whether he’s facing 17 years in jail or being an absentee dad to Rosemary’s Baby, he’s always happy.
Reading about the brutish life he and Lynndie England led makes me laugh out loud and then stop, ashamed. England’s best friend is really named “Destiny Gloin”? Graner really sprayed Mace in a fellow prison guard’s coffee?
Bloggers have pointed out, fairly, I think, that if you won’t force educated, middle- or upper-class people to join the U.S. Army, this is the scum you send. We can only assume that educated soldiers practising torture would have been smart enough not to take pictures of themselves a’kickin’ and a’grinnin.’
The Washington Post reports that his commander wrote to Graner’s wife (Staci. The traditional spelling) telling her he couldn’t appear in court on charges of beating her to a pulp because he was shipping out for Operation Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle. He wrote, “Charged with a mission supporting the national security of this nation, [I request] that you delay the proceedings to allow this soldier to perform his critical part in that mission.”
And he did that. He gave it a brand name, Abu Ghraib, and a logo, a pile of naked humans. A big job for a little man.