Despite all the hosannahs that "we are not like that," the fact of the matter is that this collection of human beings called Americans can be just as vicious as anyone on earth.
Our national ethos is to be "not like that." But take individuals and anything can happen. Men rape here, adults kill children, and do everything that humankind has done from the beginning.
As for Americans at war -- Remember Con Son -- the tiger cages -- in Vietnam? Remember My Lai? How about intelligence agents taking Viet Cong for a helicopter ride, throwing one out at altitude and thus encourage the others to talk?
How about uprooting Americans of Japanese descent from their homes on the West Coast and tearing them away from their ways of making a living because of wartime panic in 1942?
How about the Jehovah's Witnesses who were punished by local authorities prior to the Supreme Court decision of 1943 because they wouldn't say the pledge of allegiance? (We still have those punishing types around here, although there is no law requiring the pledge.)
When Billie Holliday sang, in her mournful voice, of "strange fruit" she sang of black bodies hanging from trees -- to our everlasting shame.
How about Waco, Texas? Oklahoma City?
We murder each other, steal from each other (Enron characters impoverished a whole gang of people); how frequently we see grown men charged with beating a child to death.
During the Civil War Americans systematically made other Americans miserable in prisoner of war camps on both sides.
Stalin deliberately murdered in cold blood and made millions of his own countrymen suffer.
There is nothing special about Germans who deliberately and in cold blood murdered some 13 million people and made an industry of it. That happened in the country in Europe that arguably could boast of the highest civilization.
It wasn't Hitler and a couple of other guys who did that. The whole German nation, more or less, cooperated in it.
What made Hitler & Co. different? Well, when you collect all the brutes and perverts in one group and tell them anything goes with no consequence of punishment that's what you get.
As human beings we have base impulses. For some of those who are given free rein without restraint or fear of punishment, there is no telling what they are capable of. Everything vile and nasty and unbelievable is well documented in the history of mankind. We know that.
So whatever happened in that prison in Iraq pales in comparison to what could have happened. Hey, some people do those kinds of things on Saturday nights for fun, or so I have heard.
In any event, only a few low-ranking enlisted folks are being brought to justice on it. The high rankers and national leaders go unscathed. It was ever thus.
What is ruinous about it is that what we were trying to build is now completely destroyed. We have lost trust. We have gone back on our word for decency. We are like those priests who betrayed children to satisfy their impulse for homosexual rape.
Now we go through the same business of making sure "this never happens again." I have heard that so much in my life I am quite sick of it, frankly.
The fact is, people are people. There are good ones and bad ones. Nationality does not prevent the bad from their acts. We held a people in de jure bondage for more than 77 years under the Constitution of the United States, and in de facto bondage for another 100 years after that.
We displaced and located Indian tribes systematically and under the color of law -- the "Trail of Tears" is part of American history.
So what is the excuse? All that happened before, so it doesn't count? It counted in Cambodia, it counted in Rwanda, it is happening in Sudan this very moment.
Homo homini lupus.
And that goes for women, too.
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