- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 9, 2005

Omitted from Cindy Sheehan’s diligent march to becoming a celebrity are some questions the press doesn’t ask her. If the president were to send the troops home, have you thought of the many Iraqis who voted in their first free elections despite the all too real danger that they would be shot to death at the polls? Were you at least impressed by their extraordinary courage?.

Have you thought about them at all, or would their deaths just be collateral damage in the higher good of your antiwar campaign? If our troops leave before the Iraqi forces are fully able to protect their people, have you thought of asking George Soros and MoveOn.org to pay for TV commercials to gather funds for the additional funerals for those Iraqis targeted for having shown signs of wanting to be free? That is, if their bodies can be found intact, or at all, after what the beheaders whom your soul brother, Michael Moore, calls “Minutemen” have done with them.

There are other current antiwar protesters whom I respect, as opposed to the self-aggrandizing Moores and Sheehans. These are direct-action pacifists continuing the long heritage of such organizations as the WarResisters League. (Its credo is that they “practice nonviolence to try and create a democratic society free of war and human exploitation.”) I participated with some of them in civil disobedience during the Vietnam War.

I could not join them in protesting this war, and I ask them the questions that I asked Cindy Sheehan. In Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers, men who could not be forced to speak were compelled to watch their wives being tortured, as further motivation. And more of Saddam’s mass graves are still being discovered. U.N. arms inspectors never went near the torture chambers, nor did they look for weapons of mass destruction in the mass graves.

In any case, with China and Russia on the U.N. Security Council protecting their investments in Iraq, there was no chance of any meaningful action by the United Nations to stop the horrors of Saddam’s regime. As for the “solution” for negotiating with Saddam, the name of Neville Chamberlain — the British prime minister who tried to appease fascist Germany — comes to mind. The Bush administration should have focused on the crucial need for an international humanitarian intervention. (As it should now with the rising number of corpses in Darfur.) But since I saw no way that direct-action pacifism could have any effect other than making Saddam laugh, I had to support this war.

However, there should be protests against how our treatment of our prisoners in this war is aiding the terrorists’ recruiting efforts and fracturing our moral grounds to enable freedom to take deeper roots elsewhere in the world.

Twenty-two-year-old Lynndie England has been sentenced to three years in prison for the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib. She is one of dozens of low-level soldiers who have been disciplined.But,asJackie Northam, the consistently first-rate national security correspondent for National Public Radio, pointed out on Sept. 25: “Nobody higher than very low-level soldiers have ever been really disciplined in this and that’s always been one of these things that have really stuck with people because all the investigations and inquiries have been done by… the military investigating the military, or by a panel that was, you know, brought on by the military.” This wholesale “whitewash” has been continually exposed and documented by the American Civil Liberties Union, AmnestyInternational, Human Rights First, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, the New England Journal of Medicine (doctors’ complicity in prisoner abuses), and such careful reporters as Dana Priest of The Washington Post and Jane Mayer of the New Yorker magazine.

In a particularly telling article, “The Stain of Torture,” in the July 2, 2005, edition of The Washington Post by Dr. Burton J. Lee III (presidential physician to George H.W. Bush for four years), he wrote: “The widespread reports of torture and ill-treatment frequently based on military and government documents defy the claim that this abusive behavior is limited to a few noncommissioned officers at Abu Ghraib.”

And while Congress has yet to authorize a truly independent investigation, including subpoena powers, Dr. Lee adds: “When it comes to torture, the military’s traditional leadership and discipline have been severely compromised up and down the chain of command. Why? I fear it is because the military has bowed to errant civilian leadership.”

If we are to win with this war of survival and the survival of the values this country stands for, it is long past time to go all the way up the chain of command to put sunlight on what Dr. Lee rightly calls “conduct unworthy… of the citizens of the United States.” If we are to avoid being further stained, along with all those troops who are not engaged in such conduct, there should be protests in front of Congress if it does not act to clear our names.

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