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Today's Magic Trick: Spreading the Blame Without Thinning It Out

What's clear by now -- or ought to be -- is that the "Abu Ghraib Scandal" doesn't really reduce to who ordered whom to do what. Ultimately, what happened was that several groups of people, operating from the lowest to the highest levels of our military-political-industrial complex, all came to accept variations on an ethos that valorized the degradation of human beings.

What must not be lost in all of this is that the depravity at the bottom would not have been enabled without blessing from the top, cascading down through the "ranks" (and through the shadowy, extra-rank, quasi-civilian hierarchies of "military intelligence").

The rationalizations certainly varied with political ideology and position in the food chain -- and certainly with the individual as well. Rumsfeld rationalized his decisions with the rationale of preventing attacks on American forces (and contractors). Cambone rationalized his decisions as loyalty to Rumsfeld (and maybe a desire to prevent further attacks).

"Military Intelligence" (we now know, largely civilian contractors working under the SAP brief) probably just rationalized that they were 'doing their jobs'.

As did, probably, the guards. But at the lower levels, only a doctrinist would fail to understand that there was frank depravity going on, that was enabled by the individual cruelty, the street-gang mentality, of people like Spc Grainer.

We should be angry that this was allowed to happen. I've said before that we see this all the time, and we do, but (much as it pains me to admit), G. W. Bush is right about one thing: This does not represent "American Values" as we understand them in our daily lives. We get through each day by believing that we're better than this, and we ought to be angry that someone is taking away our ability to believe that.

And folks, this is a just the foreshadowing of a cascade of self-loathing waiting to happen, and we would not be in this situation if we had not been set up for it by a cadre of self-serving ideological zealots who had to have their blessed war, regardless of the consequences for America and for the chances of civil society in the world. Which, incidentally, ought to be pretty good by now, except that it's in the interest of war profiteers that they not be:

The Cheney Gang embraces an unfortunate but fundamental truth: there are billions to be made and power to be grabbed through war, pestilence, and chaos; not so much to be made through peace, equality, and stability. You have admit that enslaving the richest and most powerful country on the planet to forward the business plans of, at most, three or four hundred people is a ballsy move. But make no mistake: true, effective homeland security is antithetical to their aims. This country, and control of its government, is their tool. Period. [ddjangoWIrE, "Being prepared ...or being set up?"]

Our military are far from blameless. At the highest level, their defense still amounts to "I was following orders": Orders to plan an invasion in a way they knew would fail; orders to cede their authority and responsibility to others who didn't know what they were doing.

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