Before Americans took control of Abu Ghraib after invading Iraq, Saddam Hussein had used the prison to torture and murder political detainees. Reports say as many as 4,000 murders were committed there. There are numerous accounts of prisoners being found with missing limbs, limbs that were perhaps fed to one of the Ba’athist regime’s industrial-strength wood-chippers. But no one knew the name Abu Ghraib until 2004 when images surfaced of American troops sexually humiliating detainees at the prison.
Then, a media frenzy.
Round the clock coverage; thirty straight days of front page ink in the New York Times; The Economist, the Boston Globe, the Times, and others called for then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation. As Peter Schweizer pointed out Monday, Harry Smith claimed on CBS that what happened at Abu Ghraib was a logical consequence of Bush’s policies. The images became the calling card of the national and international anti-war movement. The abuse was referenced in hit T.V. shows Family Guy and Arrested Development, among others. World-renowned artist Fernando Botero even toured the world with an exhibit of dozens upon dozens of his signature “volumetric” paintings (that means depicting morbidly obese people and animals) embellishing the cruelty that took place at the hands of American servicemen and women.
This week, Der Spiegel released photos of a similar incident. The Week sums it up well:
German news magazine Der Spiegel has published photographs of grinning American soldiers posing next to the corpse of an Afghan civilian. (See the graphic photos here.) The soldiers, Spec. Jeremy N. Morlock of Alaska and Pfc. Andrew H. Holmes of Idaho, are among five members of a rogue 5th Stryker Brigade “kill team” facing murder charges in the deaths of three Afghan civilians last year. Military commanders say they are bracing for an explosion of anti-U.S. anger akin to that which followed the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq. Is this as bad?
This is worse than Abu Ghraib: NATO leaders know these images “could be more damning than the photos from Abu Ghraib,” says Nitasha Tiku at New York. The photos from Iraq showed U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners, and that was bad enough. But these soldiers have been accused of “deliberately” murdering Afghan civilians. And these images might just be the tip of the iceberg — apparently, the Stryker “kill team” recorded their actions in 4,000 photos and videos.
So the Times itself, the paper who lead with the Abu Ghraib story without interruption for a full month, publishes a report that says these images are worse than Abu Ghraib. Yet, two days later, “Obama Ghraib” has already been bumped to page A20. But hey, who’s to say that article is more important than “Film Shows Babe Ruth, at Leisure and Up Close.“
And today we’ve learned that Spec. Morlock intends to plead guilty to for the murder of three Afghan civilians.
Don’t hold your breath for a dramatic cover of the Economist calling for Robert Gates’s scalp any time soon.
So what gives? Why is it that sexual abuse of Iraqi detainees in 2004 is worthy of more media coverage than the presumed murder of three Afghan civilians in 2011? I’ll give you one guess…
Not only has the Commander in Chief, who campaigned against preemptive wars of choice, entered one in Libya, now we see these photographs that make Abu Ghraib seem like J.V. football hazing. What a week for hopenchange. Yet, the international coalition of the anti-war movement, artists, and the mainstream media thus far have done little to lord these images over the President and Secretary of Defense like they did with Bush and Rummy. Abu Ghraib became an instant international obsession and was without question the most potent propaganda tool used to oppose the foreign policy of the Bush Administration; if it weren’t for the media’s love affair with Barack Obama, there would be reason to believe these images of the alleged murders of Afghan civilians by the American “kill team” would have the same effect on our current President.
But they haven’t, and won’t, and that’s what we call a smoking gun.