Friday, October 21, 2005

The legacy of Abu Ghraib

Much like turning Iraq into the battlefront with Al Qaeda could not be a publicly discussed reason for going into Iraq, the legacy of Abu Ghraib is one whose resulting effect upon opinions within the middle east may be better than expected.
Nobody would wish for such actions as were taken during the Abu Ghraib scandal to occur. But at the same time, the manner in which America and the west has dealt with this issue has sent a message to the middle east.
Leaders should apologize to the people for improper actions which are inevitably their responsibility. Scandals such as these have and should be dealt with openly and with transparency. Procedural changes must be undertaken, again with transparency, to ensure such things do not occur again. And punishments should be meted out each accordingly to his or her culpability.
A dictatorship may refuse to acknowledge the issue, or blame it upon international conspiracies. They may also refuse to apologize for the wrongs which have been committed, after all, as unimpeachable leaders, they need not apologize to anybody for anything. A dictatorship, in the unlikely event of acknowledging such a problem, may also not make changes to prevent such occurences in the future.
Of the governing systems available today, the one most likely to prevent a recurrence of such a problem is clearly a democracy.

The message and legacy of Abu Ghraib is: "Look, here is how a real government deals with failures such as this, compare it to how you are being treated now."
For most of the population of the middle east, that's a difficult question to swallow. They ignore it, play it down, lambaste its context, but the question is still there.

The net effect of Abu Ghraib could be positive. This in no way excuses what those soldiers did, or the failure of policy an leadership which contributed to it. It is only an observation of the potential reality of the situation.

Perhaps this concept should remain undiscussed, ie, the crimes committed are so horrible, that the very slim chance of this being interpreted as an 'excuse' is unacceptable. I have not yet concluded whether or not that is the case.


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