Wednesday, May 26, 2004
-----------------------Deconstructing the Deconstruction
Andrew Sullivan attempts to put Susan Sontag in her place with his new article in the New Republic after her "The Photographs are Us" piece in the New York Times. He attacks her bold claim that the prison torture was covered up by saying:
These abuses were initially exposed by soldiers within the military structure. Someone realized they were wrong. We have as yet no hard evidence of a cover-up. In fact, the exposure of these images, their dissemination, the congressional hearings, the journalistic coverage, and the military courts are not signs of a society unable to recognize when something has gone terribly wrong.
It is true that soldiers exposed the torture, but would "heads fly" without Seymour Hersh and CBS? Would a soldier get a year in the brig? The answer obviously is a flat out "No". In fact if people were fired and soldiers given the sentences they deserved, it would have attracted the media's attention. What Sullivan doesn't realize is that most cover-ups are discovered usually because of someone on the inside. It is rarely the case that someone on the outside walks into a room and says, "What the fuck is going on?" Incidentally, this happened with the Red Cross and they had agreed previously to shut up. It's still a cover-up if the top guys are trying to block what low-level special forces or reserve guards exposed.
Michael Bowden (of Black Hawk Down author fame), who had written a recent piece on torture practices before the prison scandal, implies that the pentagon by not covering up the events indicated something much more damning about the people involved. The idea that the pentagon allowed CBS to run the photos, to him, means that the highest ranking person who knew of the photos didn't give a shit. Such people in his eyes are not fit for their positions.
So, on the one hand, if you cover it up you can't prosecute those responsible to the fullest extent of the law--on the other hand, if you don't cover it up you obviously don't realize the immorality the photos depict. This still doesn't explain why the army itself didn't present the photos to the media, which goes in favor of Bowden's point.
Sullivan also accuses Sontag of equating incidents of hazing in the US with the prison torture, thus obscuring the difference between her and Rush Limbaugh. What Sullivan fails to grasp is that Limbaugh says hazing is no big deal, whereas Sontag says the hazing that goes on these days are in fact gruesome. Are they equivalent to Abu Ghraib? A few months ago a US high school football team raped one of its members at a get-together "hazing" event in Long Island. This is the type of hazing Sontag has in mind, not the put-a-bannana-in-a-toliet-bowl-and-make-him-think-he's-picking-up-shit kind.
And I think she has a point.