I feel sick in a way I've never felt before, and hope never to again. I've spent my whole life pondering war, revolution, counterrevolution--violence and politics in its worst forms. Sometimes when we're in bed at night, my wife will turn to me and say, "What, another book about [Vietnam, the Thirty Years War, the Holocaust, etc.]? Maybe a good escapist novel might be better right before going to sleep?"
I stay focused on the subject because I feel that I should. As the title of the blog says, "The political uses of violence, for good or bad." I know what the US did in Vietnam. I know how we treated the Native American tribes in the expansion westward. I know what many graduates of the School of the Americas did.
I also know what good US military power has done. My visits to the Normandy beaches and the Gettysburg battlefield have brought me to tears. I even think that there's a good case to be made that we might have won the Vietnam War. And I've worked hard at listening carefully to people who sincerely believe the Iraq War was a good idea, or a risk that was worth taking.
But I've never felt as deeply sickened as I do by the Abu Ghraib pictures. Perhaps it's because you could see this kind of calamity coming, from as far back as before the war, when it was clear the Bush Administration had no interest in hearing what kind of mess it into which it was hurling American troops, civilians, prestige, credibility...Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, et al. just didn't want to hear. (And I don't want to hear how tired or anguished Powell is. Every day, he had the choice whether to continue supporting the Administration, or just walk out the door with his honor, and perhaps the nation's, intact.)
Rolling the dice, knowing the risks, is one thing. Willfully ignoring every warning you receive, and in fact attacking the people who are trying to help you by giving you these warnings...I'd say that's stupid, wretched, abominable. I'm really at a loss for the words to describe how I feel right now.