Sunday, May 29, 2005

Fanning the Flames of Hatred

On Fox News Sunday, General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended US treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay. In addition to citing demonstrably faulty statistics (for example, claiming that "100 cases of prisoner mistreatment" have been found, when over 100 prisoners have actually died in US custody), Myers claimed, per the Associated Press, that

the U.S. was doing its best to detain fighters who, if released, "would turn right around and try to slit our throats, slit our children's throats."

For General Myers to describe the detainees this way is absolutely irresponsible for many reasons. Two big ones:

(1) Remember that virtually all of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners have been charged with no crimes, are mostly NOT terrorists, and in many cases are apparently innocent of any offense.

(2) It's true that some of those who have been captured are enemies of the US invaders of Afghanistan and Iraq and therefore would try to kill Americans--just as we have been killing Afghans and Iraqis. That is the definition of war.

To describe this on network TV in terms of the slitting of throats of American children serves no purpose other than to stir up fear, anger, and blind hatred among American citizens--emotions which contribute nothing to sound and thoughtful policy decisions.

The Iraqi "insurgents" could just as accurately say of any Americans they capture, "These are people who want to explode bombs among our wives and children, spattering their brains and internal organs all over the walls of our homes." Would that justify torture or mistreatment of American captives?

The founders warned repeatedly about the danger to freedom and self-government posed by the demagogic inflaming of passions for political purposes. It's terribly sad and disturbing to see the flames being fanned by military leaders whose sense of honor and tradition ought to restrain them.
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