Why It Must Be From Higher Up

I could write about any number of things here, from the wonderful meal that Lime prepared today, to the wedding I attended, to the film we saw tonight… but those things can wait till tomorrow, or the day after.

For right now, what’s on my mind is what I saw on TV while we ate dinner. It was the Korean news, showing videos and new photos that are apparently from Abu Ghraib. The detainee death toll there now—this is death, not tortures—is 32 in Iraq in and 5 in Afghanistan.

What now-released prisoners describe is horrifying, and seems to me to seal the fate of America’s occupation in Iraq. Worse, any soldier with the decency to come clean about what those sick bastards have been up to gets disciplined for his sanity.

But most chilling was what Lime told me the Korean reports mentioned, but which, to find online, I had to search for specifically. When I looked at Yahoo today, I found loads of info on the new pictures, but nothing on the fact that prisoners were being made to eat pork and drink alcohol, tactics clearly designed to humiliate them. This is chilling for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it’s probably grounds for the calling of a jihad in the minds of a great many people. It’s a direct assault on the freedom of these men and women to follow Islam, and it would be akin to forcing Christians to shove crucifixes in the anuses or forcing them (at gunpoint, or on threat of dog attack) to pray aloud to Satan.

But more chilling is this: the provision of dogs at the jail; the tactics being used, which specifically draw on the sexual and dietary taboos of Islamic culture, suggest to me that the directives must be coming from above.

Why? Well, you see, it’s like this. Firstly, a great many Americans are generally ignorant about the world outside of America. Other than a few basics about culture, they have no idea how other people really think. American (and Canadian) expatriates in Korea sometimes display a startling degree of ignorance about (or lack of interest in) Korean culture. It’s as if they’ve never left Philadelphia or Dallas. Now, the soldiers I’ve met to date are even more ignorant, generally. I have met still fewer soldiers who have learned to engage with Korean culture, food, customs, language, or even Korean people. They tend to live on the base, eat base food, and have scant knowledge about the society surrounding the little Americana-island known as the base.

This worries me because for such deeply Islamic points of anxiety to be targeted so precisely, so specifically, one would have to know about them. It seems to me the common soldier is unlikely to know about this sort of thing all on his (or her) own. Forcing a Muslim to eat pork, or drink alcohol, smacks of a higher authority suggesting approaches to breaking these prisoners.

I wonder how much mercy American soldiers will be shown from now in in Iraq. I suspect it’s going to be less than America hopes (or will demand). And I wonder how high the authority goes. Given the way the story is buried on Yahoo, I’m fairly certain it goes higher than could be possible if this were only a few bad apples.

As for the fact that al-Jazeera is apparently partisan, that may be, but I think the USA has no right, at this moment, to be sore at them for reporting the awful news. It seems as if so many American conservatives simply wish this news had not been broken; they seem not to care that it happened, but only to regret the publicity. That, I have to say, is downright sick.

UPDATE: Yes, I know that the pork/alcohol part of the story is being reported on TV news now. However, it still seems to me as if in internet news, it was relatively buried, considering the significance of the news. (Significant because of the degree of offensiveness and significant because of its apparent significance to the minds of the Arab world.)

That said, after talking with Lime about the differences in reportage, I want to make sure people don’t have the wrong impression about the Korean media. She confirmed my suspicions that the news here is not, relatively speaking, more free nor is it more likely to report a story that the American media might, relatively speaking, bury. It is, I suspect, more likely to report a story that makes America look somewhat bad—especially the American military—but the practice of mushrooming its population (ie. keeping everyone in the dark and feeding them sh*t) is probably more successfully carried out here than in any English media, because of the limitations of language and the limited sources of media in Korean.

I just wanted to make sure this is clear. Still, I think relatively that on Yahoo, the story was relatively buried. It was from less than 24 hours before, when I looked, but the story wasn’t showing up on the main Iraq news page. I had to search for it specifically.

4 thoughts on “Why It Must Be From Higher Up

  1. Things like this make me ashamed to be an American. Oh, I’ll be sewing a less than subtle maple leaf on my rucksack when the time comes…

    Thing is, there are a great many people I know who are familiar with the taboos described. Who do these wankers think themselves fooling?

  2. Actually, you know, while Koreans often claim to love Canada, those who are in the know also know full well that most foreign teachers in Korea are Canadian. Meaning a lot of morons, drunkards, and weirdoes. Besides which, having a huge maple leaf on your backpack turns off most of the interesting and intelligent Canadians (and Americans).

    It’s possible that Muslim cultural taboos are actually well-known in America, from films and so on. Usually talking with an American soldier about life in Korea is pretty shocking though: beyond a Korean girlfriend, lots of these kids seem to have no real contact with the place they’re living in. Then again, maybe that’s preferable.

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