Friday, April 30, 2004

Earlier this year, some seized on testimony given to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971 by the then recently-discharged John Kerry. Kerry said:

During an investigation, Vietnam vets told stories that at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.

Conservatives were apoplectic with rage about these comments. They fumed that Kerry had betrayed American soldiers by accusing them of war crimes. And any moral authority he may have gained by his medals for valor was thrown away by these vicious and slanderous accusations. American soldiers simply don’t do such things, was the clear implication of conservative rage.

They could’ve praised Kerry for pointing out the atrocities committed by individual soldiers that besmirched the honor of the overwhelming majority that don’t do such things. But instead, for political reasons, they chose to shoot the messenger. American soldiers simply don’t do such things and for Kerry to suggest otherwise is despicable and slanderous.

Then earlier this week, 60 Minutes II broadcast images of prisoners being abused by American soldiers. CBS News’ website reported:

Some pictures show Americans, men and women in military uniforms, posing with naked Iraqi prisoners. There are shots of the prisoners stacked in a pyramid, one with a slur written on his skin in English. In some, the male prisoners are positioned to simulate sex with each other.

According to the Army, one Iraqi prisoner was told to stand on a box with his head covered, wires attached to his hands. He was told that if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted.

Another picture shows a detainee with wires attached to his genitals. Another shows a dog attacking an Iraqi prisoner. There is also a picture of an Iraqi man who appears to be dead — and badly beaten. In most of the pictures, the Americans are laughing, posing, pointing, or giving the camera a thumbs-up.

The images were initially shown on the Arab network al-Jazeera, much maligned for its somewhat different style of covering the invasion than the American networks used.

The soldiers who allegedly committed the acts are apparently going to be court-martialed. The abuses were denounced by President Bush.

Yet few are accusing CBS, even though it's supposedly the most leftist of the "liberal" television networks, of slandering the troops. I guess it’s harder to smear the messenger when there’s video footage.

Most soldiers are honorable and don’t do these things, many will say. If such atrocities are really committed by only a tiny minority of American troops, then it’s all the more important that they be condemned unambiguously. If soldiers are really "protecting our freedoms," (or "Iraqi freedom") then these horrific acts need to be condemned with no equivication.

It’s not al-Jazeera’s fault. It’s not the “liberal” media’s fault. And it’s not the anti-war hippies fault. It’s the fault of some soldiers who forgot they were against what Saddam’s regime represented, not part of it.

If you want me to support the good guys, then you damn well better be willing to denounce the bad guys. Regardless of what uniform they're wearing.

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