What if We Don’t Wait to Hear
What our Leaders Will Say Next?
By Greg Moses
May 2, 2004
As US Marines step back from Fallujah and military prosecutors pursue charges of crime in their own ranks, Americans are offered an opportunity to deeply reorganize. And we should begin without waiting for what our leaders will say next.
In the game of politics, as it is played for most of us, upon a checkerboard of images, there is a style of participation that simply waits to see what Bush is going to do next, what Kerry will say, or whether Nader will differ, and how we will rate them for their comparative poses? This is the spectator sport that we can broadly expect.
But the time has come to say goodbye to the Capital gangs for a while. If they enter our thoughts, we must be prepared to think against them, with well earned suspicion. Our political leaders and professional journalists, as a class, have failed us
miserably. Let them do their own healing while we do ours.
It is terrible but true: the nauseating pictures of torture at the Abu Ghraib prison bring the American people closer than ever to human relations with the Iraqi people. We should not wait for the opportunity to be squandered before we respond.
First of all, I think we need to say something to the young US soldiers who are finally being asked to step back. Your job has always been political and it always will be. The political process that put you there is large. You are stepping back, because that
process needs time to breathe.
Likewise to the prison guards. We will not disown you.
My sympathy for the troops and the prison guards has nothing to do with sympathy for the politics that put them where they are today. It has much to do with my
sympathy for all the victims of this war.
My sympathy for prison guards and cops in the US likewise has nothing to do with sympathy for US policies on crime or punishment, but is more closely connected to sympathy for the prisoners whose letters I have stopped answering. I don’t write letters to US prisoners anymore, because I have good reasons to worry about the hardships they will be tasked to endure when they are found in possession of the only
ideas that I can honestly convey. And that is the reality of homeland security in the USA today.
So I don’t care right now what Bush is going to say, or Kerry, or Nader. What I care about is what American people and Iraqi people, American troops and Iraqi insurgents, American prison guards and Iraqi prisoners, are going to work out during this brief
opportunity, with the inhumanity of our political order so vividly displayed.
We Americans can say we are sorry. We can ask to speak respectfully and directly to the people of Iraq.
Abner Louima could remind us that rape by broomstick is not confined to West Baghdad cells. His example also reminds us that the humanity of a Haitian immigrant circulates with more effect in the terror of such lone experiences than does the humanity of the
entire Haitian people who have also been recently “liberated” by US Marines.
If somehow, American, Iraqi, and Haitian, or for that matter, Israeli and Palestinian citizens, too, could unanimously resolve to ratchet all these powers down a notch, then we could talk amongst ourselves about what to do next–before reporters tell us the clumsy options that our various state leaders would have us choose between.
Bush is saying that the US prison guards in Iraq do not represent us as a nation. Either he is lying, or once again, he has no clue. US prisons are horrible places, made even more horrible during the past ten years by ever increasing repressions. Everyone sucked into that system gets warped by it.
In his State of the Union address, the President expressed concern that 600,000 prisoners will be released. What the president could honestly say is this: those US prison guards are only the latest examples of what prisons do to human beings every day,not only in Iraq, but in the US, too.
Thanks to the latest report from a truly professional journalist, Seymour Hersch, I followed a few links on the web relating to these “contractors” that now appear to be playing vital mercenary functions in Iraq. I have written a little about Parsons of
The month of April began with vehement attacks on “contractors” from Blackwater. And the month ended with accusations that “contractors” have been fomenting the politics of torture. Suddenly the month of April makes more sense. Now we have names like
Titan (soon to be acquired by Lockheed Martin) and CACI International.
At the website of CACI International, you can find texts of speeches by the Chair and CEO, Dr. J.P. (Jack) London in which he conceptualizes a new role for communication. Says Dr. London more than once, “For centuries, the maxim was, ‘divide and conquer.’
In the new, networked world, however, the watchwords are, ‘communicate and conquer.’ Cue to Fox News.
Last year, Dr. London took, “a month-long trip to West Pac and Asia, to Vietnam, Korea, Japan and Hawaii. CACI provides support to our armed forces in a number
of locations in that part of the world. The dangers there are quite real, too.”
“Here at home,” reports Dr. London, “CACI personnel are delivering information technology solutions to the armed forces, to the Defense Department, the national
intelligence community and federal civilian and law enforcement agencies. I’m also proud to say that CACI solutions are leading and supporting the transformation of U.S. defense and intelligence, and are helping to ensure homeland security.”
When speaking to the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association last October in Texas, Dr. London also offered his expert opinion about the threat of fundamentalist Islamists: “their goals are new. Unlike previous enemies, they don’t want to seize our territory or our resources, or overthrow our political system. Their goal is to destroy Western civilization and our free, Judeo-Christian
ethic and our open way of life. The major component of this threat is radical, militant Islam and the fanaticism of ‘jihad.’ These people must be eliminated.”
Destroy is the word that Dr. London himself places in bold face. Eliminating people is the answer he gives. Communication for Dr. London is a word wrapped up in
a project of conquest, destruction, and elimination.
But Dr. London also worries that now is an awkward time. The very structures of corporate power that is sharpening the edges of the American sword across the world seem not to be presenting helpful images. Confidence in corporate leadership is declining. And Dr. London is distressed when corporate leaders do not show more concern for ethics.
As it turns out CACI International has a Code of Ethics that strictly guides the company’s moral mission, even as it helps to eliminate certain people from the face of the earth. Which is a long way of saying that the moral leadership of CACI International is not what we need right now. Let’s not wait to take leadership from Dr. London. I’m not saying that anyone should not be listened to, but why stall our
own talk in deference to that kind of ethics?
If I sound a little short of breath with Dr. London, I have to disclose a bias. I’m angry at this Jack London for ignoring everything that his namesake ever stood for. “The Call of the Wild”—that was about how you make a dog American style, whack, whack, whack. But it wasn’t intended to be used as a manual of procedure. Really, Jack, you should share that book with the White House for quiet reading, while the American people and the Iraqi people sort things out.
And please ask the President not to stop reading the Koran. He cited a fine passage in remarks posted at the White House website under the title, “Islam is Peace.” The remarks were made on Sept. 17, 2001, at the Washington, D.C., Islamic Center. And the
President said, “The English translation is not as eloquent as the original Arabic, but let me quote from the Koran, itself: In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up
Americans might begin by asking Iraqis, how does that passage sound in Arabic? Make peace with communication, not war.