Thursday, May 06, 2004

Abu Ghraib - We've Been There Before...
Hirota Isomura and Toshio Kobata

Two critically ill internees killed by sentry July 27, 1942, during transfer to Lordsburg Internment Camp. Isomura was a fisherman from San Pedro, California. Kobata was a farmer from Brawley, California. These two Issei, along with almost 150 other prisoners being moved from the Fort Lincoln Internment Camp in Bismarck, arrived at the New Mexico train station. While the other prisoners were forced to march the mile from the station to Lordsburg, Isomura and Kobata were too ill to walk. The two were driven to the front gate of the camp, arriving before the rest of the prisoners. At approximately 2:30 a.m., camp guard Private First Class Clarence A. Burleson suddenly opened fire on the two men.

When the other newly arrived prisoners asked the camp physician about the condition of the two men, they were told that Isomura and Kobata were receiving medical care at the camp hospital. When morning came and the question was asked again, the doctor claimed that the two were shot during an escape attempt while on their way to the camp. Their graves were dug by two other Japanese American inmates, who were told "these graves are for the Japanese who died; if you don't do your work quickly, I will make you dig two more graves."
There's so many "dirty little secrets" in American history. I don't suppose that's any different than any other country, but our dirty little secrets seem to be particularly rooted in violence. We could be talking about treatment and wholesale slaughter of Native Americans, slavery, prison systems, post-reformation lynchings in the south, or a whole host of other (and mostly racially motivated) atrocities, including Japanese internment camps in WWII. The bottom line is that we're pretty good at abusing those different than ourselves.

Let's get past a myth - America is not a "peaceful nation". In fact, a case could be made that the U.S. is the most violent country on the planet, both in terms of real aggression and the culture that breeds this aggression. In the 21st century, we are one of the few countries in the world that codifies capital punishment - state sponsored execution. We can watch heads roll 50 times a night on TV, but you won't see one bare boob. But the abortion issue? No, no, life is sacred.

I tire of the evangelical dichotomy.

I'm reminded of what allied forces did upon liberation of concentration camps during WWII - they forced the local citizenry, who turned a blind eye toward the horrors in places like Dachau and Auschwitz, to come in and view the carnage, and literally clean up the mess. As Americans, we've never been forced to confront the stink of reality of our (to paraphrase soon-to-be ex-DefSec Donald Rumsfeld) "untidiness" to other members of the human race. The images of atrocities at Abu Ghraib, even sterile as they may be, force us to confront that reality. So it shouldn't be surprising that Mom and Pop Heartland are literally screaming that the images of prisoner abuse shouldn't be shown.

This is our culture. This is who we are. 228 years after the revolution, we've still got a chip on our national shoulder.

Update, 4:35PM - From Fearless Leader this afternoon:
"I told him I was as equally sorry that people seeing those pictures didn't understand the true nature and heart of America," Bush said, standing in the Rose Garden alongside Abdullah.Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. People seeing these pictures most certainly do understand the true nature and heart of America. And therein lies the heart of the problem.