Double Standards

In today’s papers I read that the charges were dropped against Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich in an incident thought to be one of the worst atrocities committed by the US Army in Iraq. He is facing no more than three months of prison for commanding his troops to “shoot first, ask questions later”. This is, I read, the last of the 8 prosecutions for war crimes committed by the US Army that ended without a trial or conviction. (LA Times, p. 1, Jan. 24, 2012) A day later, I find out that Wuterich won’t serve any prison time at all.

In the same paper I also read that an ex – CIA officer, accused of providing classified information to reporters, among them the information about the CIA torture techniques known as waterboarding, was charged with violating the Espionage Act, which carries a prison term of more than 10 years. This is, I read, the fifth prosecution in an unprecedented Obama administration crackdown on national security leaks. One of the defendants is Bradley Manning, charged in connection with the Wikileaks scandal. No other administration was more enthusiastic in prosecuting government officials who leaked classified information to journalists and, thus, to the world. (LA Times, p. 6, Jan. 24, 2012)

What are we learning? That all war crimes should be prosecuted except the US war crimes? That killing 24 civilians, including women and children, is not necessarily considered a crime, while disclosing the fact that the US military uses torture in their dealings with the enemy (or potential enemy) is? That the Obama administration cares more about the “unauthorized disclosures that undermine the public trust” (LA Times, Jan. 24) than about the dead bodies of innocent Iraqui civilians?

My wise 13-year old son is giving me advice: “Don’t ever discuss politics or religion with people. It clarifies nothing. It only brings strife.” He’s right. But sometimes there are things that hit you straight in the head, like a hammer. And you have to react.

The undisputable double standards concerning the prosecution of war crimes around the world have been a known fact for a long time. It’s almost irresponsible and certainly naïve to deny it. You have no choice but to become a cynic while observing the hypocrisy and the insulting arrogance of the big powers that place a different value tag on lives of different human beings, the price being tied exclusively to the nationality of those human beings. We’ve known all that for a long, long time. Unfortunately.

But that the brilliant man (whom I helped elect) is cracking down on those who bravely choose to disclose the dirty secrets of the system, including the use of torture that he himself publicly denounced – that is a shock. That this administration is prosecuting “those who report on the individuals who committed torture but not the ones who undertook that torture” (ACLU Executive Director Romero, LA Times) is disappointing and disheartening. I guess I haven’t become cynical enough. Not yet.

“Don’t discuss politics”, says my son. But I was raised on early American feminism that claimed that “personal is political”. So, forgive me, my wise and cautious son, I (sometimes) have to. Really, what is not political? The advertisement for tourism in the Gulf produced by – British Petroleum? Or the fact that the parents gather once a month to sweep and vacuum my son’s school (one of the best public high schools in the US), since the finances for school janitors had been cut?

But hush, hush. No politics. No strife. Shut up and sweep the floor. And pray to your god. And be humble and thankful, believing that good intentions will win in the end, no matter what.

Good luck with that. Let me know how the story ends.

As for me, I’m off to another planet. With a broom.