Frank Rich, as usual, has a spot-on commentary in today’s NYTimes. What is going on with our country that we are actively turning our collective backs on the constant and widespread abuses of the Bush administration? We just don’t want to know. I just don’t understand this mentality. If it were another era, I could imagine the citizens and punditry of this country holding massive protests and saturating the print media and airwaves with articles pointing out how badly we have lost our way. Yet, we get this collective yawn, as Rich puts it.
In April 2004, Stars and Stripes first reported that our troops were using makeshift vehicle armor fashioned out of sandbags, yet when a soldier complained to Donald Rumsfeld at a town meeting in Kuwait eight months later, he was successfully pilloried by the right. Proper armor procurement lagged for months more to come. Not until early this year, four years after the war’s first casualties, did a Washington Post investigation finally focus the country’s attention on the shoddy treatment of veterans, many of them victims of inadequate armor, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other military hospitals.
We first learned of the use of contractors as mercenaries when four Blackwater employees were strung up in Falluja in March 2004, just weeks before the first torture photos emerged from Abu Ghraib. We asked few questions. When reports surfaced early this summer that our contractors in Iraq (180,000, of whom some 48,000 are believed to be security personnel) now outnumber our postsurge troop strength, we yawned. Contractor casualties and contractor-inflicted casualties are kept off the books.
Instead of taxing us for Iraq, the White House bought us off with tax cuts. Instead of mobilizing the needed troops, it kept a draft off the table by quietly purchasing its auxiliary army of contractors to finesse the overstretched military’s holes. With the war’s entire weight falling on a small voluntary force, amounting to less than 1 percent of the population, the rest of us were free to look the other way at whatever went down in Iraq.
Currently, I am ashamed of this country. I am ashamed that our government is using tactics that we normally associate with Germany in the 1930’s or the Soviet Union. The United States tried Japanese military leaders as war criminals for the same things we are doing now. And a large percentage of our population either ignores this, or else condones it to such as point that they call anyone who disagrees with them “traitors”. I am ashamed of some of the infantile arguments that people use to justify the unjustifiable.
If there is such a thing as karma in this universe, then this country is going to get a massive comeuppance in the future. It may be soon, it may be fifty to a hundred years in the future. I don’t know what it will look like, but this country is not going to resemble the one that once stood as a beacon of enlightenment, justice, fair play and the defender of those weaker than us. World history may well relegate us to somewhere just above the Roman Empire of Caligula. And that, need I remind you, was not a very enlightened era.