During George W. Bush’s visit to Australia at the beginning of September where he commented upon the US Army success in Iraq with delight the human rights organization The American Civil Liberties Union published a volume of documents on about 10,000 pages about crimes committed by the American army against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The massive inflow of information adds to several scandals connected with CIA secret jails in Europe, shocking things in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, killings of civilians in Haditha and Samarra, kidnapping and tortures of secretary of the Iranian Embassy in Iraq Jalal Sharafi and other scandalous events. Meanwhile, American human rights activists state that they have published a minor share of such crimes that are getting more and more sweeping.
To tell the truth, the publication has not come really sensational. It is known that people neglected morals during all wars in all epochs. Running the continuous risk of being killed soldiers get used to killing enemies and other humans and even in such moments when there is no need to kill at all. As for tortures, governor of the notorious jail Abu Ghraib Jeffrey Miller said that there were no pleasant ways for getting information from people who would not tell it. And what the warden says sounds much more reasonable than indignation of human rights activists who have never smelt powder, or good requests of Geneva documents that were passed during the time of Fascism barbarities because of which some Americans could not drink their orange fresh in the morning.
And it is no surprise that the international human rights movement formed as a weapon against the totalitarian Soviet Union in the 1970s and working on exposure of even slightest human rights violations is now investigating crimes of the US army. In the 1990s, human rights activists of all countries were indignant at the outrage of the Russian army in Chechnya while now the universal soldiers of the USA, the country that positions itself as the main democracy exporter, are in the focus. And this is quite fair at least.
But it is unlikely that the human rights activists’ campaigns will stop the sweeping brutality that terribly disagrees with the everyday comfortable life, declarations on human rights and other humanitarian values. The contradiction sprang in recent wars when authorities encouraged the military in absolute permissiveness and the latter incurred no liability for anything at all. It started with senseless devastation of Dresden, atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities, then continued in Vietnam, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Against such a terrible background people can hardly perceive why they can not kill or mutilate one human at the time when they are allowed to raze an entire village to the ground. On the other hand, social psychologists insist that a normal human being can hardly realize the amount of victims of modern wars. And people’s minds together with widespread propaganda on the governmental level make up a generalized image of the enemy as a defense reaction and then apply it to everyone of the opposition. The inter-civilization nature of recent war conflicts adds national and racial nuances to the image, and the nuances are in resonance with everyday racism. As a result, one of the combatants begins to treat its enemy as if they are no humans at all and can be easily liquidated. This inhumane treatment of others is the first step toward holocaust. So, when Republican Senator John McCain says that Talibs executing another hostage ‘are obviously not humans’ he thus paves the way for senseless killings of civilians and tortures of Iraqi prisoners of war executed by young American soldiers.
It is astonishing that extremist ideologists employ similar methods. To save the face the authorities prosecute US army private Lynndie England for cruel treatment of prisoners, also pass humane laws and adopt resolutions but these measures will hardly stop the habit of permissiveness.
Three months after the scandal involving a CIA official convicted of the tortures of an Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Baghdad President Bush approved new regulations as concerning treatment of suspects of terrorism. Thus, the CIA regulations on detention and interrogation were brought into accord with the Geneva Convention that prohibits cruel, inhumane or humiliating treatment of prisoners of war.
Usually only single crimes attract the attention of public opinion and authorities. Besides, American human rights activists say that military men who appear before court and admit that they have committed crimes against civilians still insist that they violated no laws as their actions had been approved by commanders. In other words, they state that this extreme brutality is the norm.
Now that the double standards separating the civilized world and the world of barbarians are clearly obvious human rights activists remain the only power confronting with this hypocrisy. These days the ideas of human rights protection are coming back to the West. But the attempts of human rights activists to spread the norms of behavior adopted in the civilized world onto the ‘barbarian world’ will be no success until the western culture gives up the illusions about its absolute domination and exclusiveness.
Translated by Maria Gousseva