31 May 2005


    Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"says the Lord.
      The Letter of Paul to the Romans
      Chapter 12, Verse 19

Today's news brings more stories of abuse at Guantanamo. Last week, Rob posted this to his blog, Laughing at the Pieces. He clues us in on a great OpEd in the NY Times. It argues that we are doing more harm than good there, and that we should shut it down.

In my comment I said the author was exactly right, but there was no chance of it actually hapenning, mainly because administration is entirely unwilling to admit a mistake. However, it occurs to me that there's more to it than they. If they shut down the Gitmo prison, it would offend their base. The core of their constituency believes that every prisoner deserves imprisonment, torture, and death. They still want payback for 9/11. And they don't much care who they pay back.

When the abuses at Abu Ghraib were first coming out, I heard a comment that remains with me today. I forget the exact wording, but the gist of it was: after what they did to the towers, who cares if we tortured a few of them. That the tortured prisoners had nothing to do with 9/11 was lost on this normally well-reasoned individual. Another comment came only a few weeks after the attack from someone impatiently asking how long before we'd see some dead Arabs.

When people made speeches, they always said that what we wanted was justice. We didn't; we wanted revenge, pure and simple. To put it in movie terms, we claimed to be Steven Seagal in Out for Justice, but we were really Mel Gibson in Payback.

Pearl Harbor evoked that same desire for revenge. The difference was, it was easier to figure out who's ass we wanted to kick. There was a sovereign nation saying, "Yeah, that was us. Bring it on, there's more where that came from!" So off we went. Of course, we still managed to unload on undeserving parties. We locked up American citizens without cause or due process, simply because of their ethnicity. We're back in that business again, although this time, with the exception of Jose Padilla (that we know of), we've focused on citizens of other nations.

I remember learning of an Army unit that was entirely of Japanese descent. They were one of the most decorated (if not most decorated) in the European theatre. They fought and died for a country whose freedoms were denied to their families. When I heard the dead Arab comment, it occurred to me that, but for the utter devastation, plenty of Arabs could be found among the dead at Ground Zero (not counting the terrorists). How many Muslims are serving in the Armed Forces right now? Yet so many in our country see them all as no different than Muhammad Atta.

We finally apoplogized to Japanese Americans and in some small way tried to make amends. We look back now at the internment camps and ponder how wrong were. We try to forgive ourselves for what we did in our blind rage, and perhaps comfort ourselves saying we know better know. But of course, we don't. I believe what we've done in the wake of 9/11 will one day be regarded as worse than Japanese internment. I do think we will one day manage to look back, wondering how we could be so wrong, and assue ourselves we'll not make that mistake again.

I hope I live to see that day, and I hope we'll keep our word.

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