May 10, 2004

This is not what Americans are.

I've been avoiding writing about the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners. It is hard for me to find a way to write about it, but we were talking about it a lot at my house yesterday, as we watched the Sunday news analysis shows. When I start to write something like "it's hard to take the accumulating weight of the photographs," it sounds quite idiotic, as if we are the ones being abused, as if having to look at the photographs is painful when the photographs depict pain of a sort that we are blessedly free of. I keep waiting to see how President Bush will deal with this crisis, which threatens to undermine every positive motive that has been asserted for the invasion. Surely, it isn't enough to say Saddam was much worse; we have to demonstrate a completely different nature altogether for what we are doing to make sense. It isn't enough to prosecute a few assorted evildoers (whether the prosecution is on TV or not), just as it wasn't enough to say after 9/11, as some people other than Bush did, "We need to arrest the people responsible for this and bring them to trial." Something much more comprehensive is needed to root out this abuse. If Bush doesn't find a way to do something comprehensive, he deserves to be replaced. Whatever deficiencies Kerry may have--and I have not been a Kerry supporter--I would like to see him moved into the Presidency to make clear statement of the thing that Bush himself keeps going around saying: this is not what Americans are.

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