Abu Ghraib: A “Moral Chernobyl”
Abu Ghraib: A âMoral Chernobylâ
Christopher Hitchens warns public opinion about Abu Ghraib: get ready the worse is yet to come. As it was not enough he explains that there is something like a collective responsibilityâ¦
In a recent public debate, so I was told, an American officer referred to the Abu Ghraib scandal as a “moral Chernobyl.” You might think that this was overstating matters, even if in one important senseâbecause Chernobyl was morally an accident, albeit in some ways a “systemic” oneâit is actually understating them.
But get ready. It is going to get much worse. The graphic videos and photographs that have so far been shown only to Congress are, I have been persuaded by someone who has seen them, not likely to remain secret for very long. And, if you wonder why formerly gung-ho rightist congressmen like James Inhofe (“I’m outraged more by the outrage”) have gone so quiet, it is because they have seen the stuff and you have not. There will probably be a slight difficulty about showing these scenes in prime time, but they will emerge, never fear. We may have to start using blunt words like murder and rape to describe what we see. And one linguistic reform is in any case already much overdue. The silly word “abuse” will have to be dropped. No law or treaty forbids “abuse,” but many conventions and statutes, including our own and the ones we have urged other nations to sign, do punish tortureâwhich is what we are talking about here at a bare minimum.
[T]he original imperative for harsh measures came from a Defense Department, and by extension a White House, that was under intense pressure to get results in the battle against al-Qaida and felt itself hampered by nervous lawyers. Almost the whole of public opinion is complicit in this, as is shown by the fury over the administration’s failure to pre-empt the Sept. 11 assault: a pre-emption that would almost certainly have involved some corner-cutting in the interrogation room.
Many, many people must have fantasized about getting Osama Bin Laden into some version of an orange jumpsuit and then shackling him for a while to the wrong end of a large pig. It’s not very far from that mass reverie to “Hey, Mustapha, you’re gonna get to really know this porker” and similar or worse depravities. So in a distressing senseâof course you can all write to me if you like and say that you never even thought about itâwe face something like a collective responsibility, if not exactly a collective guilt.