By David Swanson
Michael Vick, the football player who’s all over the news, should have tortured humans instead of dogs. Then we would have been told to overlook it for the sake of moving forward. Better yet, he should have killed humans rather than only torturing them. Then we would have been told next to nothing about it at all. It might have been reported, but it wouldn’t have become a hot topic, an echo-chambered story to be dismissed only after a great deal of hand-wringing. It certainly would not have interfered with watching football games.
No, I don’t support harming dogs. No, I don’t really want people tortured. (Yes, I’ve had to explain that to the severely satire-impaired after making the above statements.) And, no, I don’t really think murder is better than torture. Nor do I think murder by bomb or gun or suffocation is necessarily any worse than murder by health insurance company. But I am concerned that we arrest and prosecute people in this country for individual small-time acts of torture and murder, whether of people or dogs, but never for the large-scale authorization of torture or murder. We do, however, publicly worry about our souls because of mass-torture, whereas mass-murder doesn’t seem to gain the same coverage in our corporatized communications system. Of course I want torture prosecuted, but torture is a symptom.
The illness is aggressive war, a violation of the U.N. Charter and therefore of Article VI of the US Constitution. War crimes are unavoidable symptoms of aggressive war. And, even for those who support wars, there are war crimes that surpass the evil of torture. Who remembers the truckfuls of bodies, live bodies but only barely, dehydrated people licking and chewing the sweaty bodies beside them, screaming in agony, piled by the hundreds inside airless metal containers on flatbed trucks in desert heat, holes sometimes shot into the trucks with bullets for air — but not into the roof, rather into the people already crammed inside — remember that? Who remembers the truckfuls of bodies dumped out and buried by the thousands in mass graves by Afghan troops under U.S. command with U.S. forces present and aware, the same U.S. forces engaged in torturing prisoners who made it to the prison alive?
If you’ve forgotten, you may want to watch this excellent film and read this website created by Physicians for Human Rights: http://afghanmassgrave.org. Here’s a diary with recent updates and an NPR interview. And here’s a recent New York Times report on the failure of the Bush White House to investigate. Democracy Now covered the story again on Tuesday because a former CIA asset, the U.S.-purchased war lord who carried out the 2002 massacre, is actively campaigning for the reelection of Afghanistan’s president, U.S. puppet Hamid Karzai. Check out, as well, the website of Dave Dienstag who spoke up passionately on this topic at the recent national convention of Veterans for Peace.
Now, it wasn’t exactly news when the New York Times reported that Bush had failed to investigate or prosecute this crime. But when asked about it, President Obama replied that he would look into the matter, having just been made aware that a proper investigation had not been done. What, one might ask, would constitute a proper investigation of mass-murder, a proper investigation not resulting in criminal prosecutions or anything else that might become publicly known? And is that the sort of proper investigation that Obama intends to conduct now? Why is Eric Holder not conducting the investigation?
Imagine the outcry for the use of nuclear weapons if even a single truckload of Americans was murdered by a foreign nation. Imagine the great moral outrage. Imagine the difficulty one would have conducting a conversation about it without the name Adolf Hitler coming up. Then imagine what the people of Afghanistan must think of the foreign armies occupying their land. Imagine the treatment American prisoners are likely to receive by people whose countrymen have been stuffed like trash into a truck, driven and parked in the sun until the stench overwhelmed those around it and blood dripped out the doors.
Robert Jackson said at Nuremberg: “[T]he ultimate step in avoiding periodic wars, which are inevitable in a system of international lawlessness, is to make statesmen responsible to law. And let me make clear that while this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law includes, and if it is to serve a useful purpose it must condemn aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment.”
Yet the law has never condemned us. And we have so violated it that we are losing the ability even to sit in hypocritical judgment. If this is not changed and justice not upheld, we will eventually become indistinguishable from dogs, and torture will become ordinary and accepted.