May 29, 2005


Smash's story, though creepy, is vaguely familiar:

JANUARY 2003 – It’s been couple of weeks since my reserve unit arrived in Kuwait, and we’ve just finished negotiating with the port authority to take over an abandoned building to serve as the administrative headquarters for our harbor security operation.

The building hasn’t been used in several years, so before we can move in we have a lot of cleaning and repairing to do. Everyone pitches in – soldiers and sailors, officers and enlisted work side-by-side to clean up over a decade’s worth of dust, grime, and general neglect. But despite all the activity, the hallways remain strangely quiet.

A yeoman is on her knees, scrubbing a particularly difficult stain in the stairwell. She decides to break the uncomfortable silence with a little bit of small talk. “Whoever worked in this building before sure was lazy,” she sighs. “Who would spill a whole pot of coffee on the stairs, and not clean it up?”

Everyone stops working, and stares at her.

“What?” she asks, looking around. “What did I say?”

“That’s not coffee,” one of her co-workers whispers.

“It’s not? What is it?”


Apparently the room my husband used to email me from, the room I stared at whenever we had the chance to webcam, was awash in blood when the first American soldiers got there. My husband's camp in Iraq was an old Fedayeen camp.

We can hardly fathom things outside of our experience. A young American in the Navy would never imagine that she was cleaning up after a slaughter. I can't even begin to picture what a room covered in blood would look like. It's so beyond anything I've ever dealt with.

But it's so outside all of our realms. That's why when you do a Google Images search of Saddam+torture, you end up with photos of Lynndie England on the same page as a photo of "Saddam's henchmen amputating fingers". Torture is so far out of our realm that we conflate dog leashes and finger vises; most of us can't really imagine true torture. The Abu Ghraib thing is as bad as we get, but it's nowhere near as bad as things can get.

It's good that we live in a society where we don't have to regularly clean blood off of the stairs. But it sometimes prevents us from imagining that other cultures don't live with the naivete that we do.

Posted by: Sarah at 06:32 AM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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1 Sarah - you are right. The problem is people inflate things like pictures from Abu Graib to be TORTURE when in reality is was humiliation. So if you compare humiliation and call it torture - people get a warped view of what real torture is. It downplays the horrors of real torture.

Posted by: Kathleen A at May 29, 2005 10:20 AM (vnAYT)

2 My thanks to you for your service as I recall past and current military who have and are protecting our nation.

Posted by: Pat in NC at May 29, 2005 12:28 PM (pN8n1)

3 Excellent points, Sarah. Thanks! And please tell Mrs. Sims we are thinking of her, and her husband who gave all.

Posted by: Beth at May 29, 2005 02:40 PM (h2KYG)

4 I frankly do not care if what we did is not as bad as it could be. WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE BETTER THAN THAT, PERIOD, END OF DISCUSSION. It is a real damned short step from sanctioning the "hi-jinks", as some conservative twits called it, to sanctioning the level of abuse that Saddam inflicted on his people. I for one think our chain-of-command has failed us as a people, when it comes to the topic of abuse. Allow me to clarify: by chain of command I refer not to the "grunts" in the field, but rather the civilian portion, that is where the responsibility ultimately lies.

Posted by: Bubba Bo Bob Brain at May 29, 2005 06:37 PM (aHbua)

5 What the hell are you talking about Bubba? The army had already started an investigation of abu graib before the picture appeared in the papers. The few involved have been or are facing punishment for violating orders(read the UCMJ).We are better because we don't tolerate such behavior. ( I also wonder about one of the individuals involve being a PA prison guard in "real" life ).Was it torture-no, was it mis treatment of prisoners- yes. Was it a policy to mistreat prisoners- barring evidence to contrary- no. Was it poor leadership of subordinate personnel by superiors( local command)-yes.Has the civilian administration of the military taken steps to punish and clarify that this is not how we treat prisoners.yes.

Posted by: thomas D at May 31, 2005 09:25 PM (L7wiW)

6 Thomas D., wake up and smell the bullshit. I don't know how old you are, but this looks like a repeat of My Lai to me. Lt. Calley was the "cut-out" man, that is the guy whom if you take him out you can go no further in an investigation. The "cut-out" man in this fiasco was obviously Gen. Karpinski. So the American public will never know the whole truth now, which I think we are entitled to. You probably still believe the bullshit the government and the Army first tried to run by us regarding the death of Pat Tillman don't you.

Posted by: Bubba Bo Bob Brain at May 31, 2005 10:01 PM (aHbua)

7 The cut-out man (woman) is a Brigadier-General? Are you nuts? Well, obviously, yes. Unfortunately, there has been worse than Abu Ghraib; for example the two prisoners who died in custody in Bagram in Afghanistan. Again, though, the military have investigated and brought charges against those involved. Bad things will happen because there are some bad people in the military just as there are elswhere, but we do not look the other way.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at June 01, 2005 04:25 AM (AIaDY)

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