Drumhead Justice

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Just two quick comments about the abuse of prisoners by Americans in Iraq.

The first thing that such appalling behavior shows is that the people doing it were simultaneously wicked and idiotic. “Here, let’s do something that will outrage everyone in the world, were it to become known, and — I know! — let’s take pictures of us doing it!” The wickedness shows, for those still in doubt, that America is no savior. Despite the rhetoric of bringing in democracy as a universal elixir, we see here that people are sinners everywhere they go. The idiocy involved in this shows that the one thing that the American armed forces had going for them over there — their much vaunted professionalism — has in certain clear respects been overrated.

In the meantime, the photos have created a political situation for the president back here. His opponents want him to solve the problem by groveling, and he appears to think the solution lies in not groveling. But what he needs to do is dispense some drumhead justice — swift trial, severe sanctions, with the entire proceeding manifestly incorruptible. The first argument for doing this is that it is the right thing to do. The second argument for doing this is that it will address the political problem here. But this is not because stateside liberals are clamoring for such justice. They hate anything that even smells like real justice. The reason it would solve the political problem is because this would immediately turn the alleged perpetrators into victims according to the canons of the domestic Left. The only thing Bush needs to do to get liberals to defend these abusers is for him to vigorously prosecute them.

If Bush starts looking around for a tall tree and a short rope, the next thing we may expect to see is one of the court-martialed defendants on Oprah talking about his childhood problems with ADHD and bedwetting.

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