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Alle Menschen werden Brüder

May 10, 2005

A commonality struck my eye this morning as I was reading through a New York Times story on the “dark soap opera” of the ongoing Texas-Abu Ghraib court proceedings (3/10/05). This repetition that caught my attention centered on the motivation behind two of the defendants’ reasons for joining the U.S. military in the first place.

“Private Graner, 36, a Pennsylvania prison guard and a former marine, had rejoined the
military in a burst of patriotism after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.”

“Ms. Ambuhl had already been on college study trips to Kenya and the Galapagos Islands.
She had worked as a technician in a medical laboratory in Virginia, where she grew up,
and like Private Graner, signed up to defend the nation after Sept. 11.”

What is this “patriotism,” this will to “defend the nation” that these two shared, I wondered. Patriotism is not the easiest thing to define. Standard definition: love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it.

Do the actions of these and others, at Abu Ghraib, the Guantanamo prison camp, and other locations both available to and hidden from the public eye, meet the two most basic qualifications: love of country, and placing the needs of others above one’s self-interest? What is the essence of this situation, this war, that finds itself reflected in the actions of its agents?

One Comment
  1. May 18, 2005 1:19 PM

    Oddly, Schismism might offer some insight to the “patriotism” commonality. As to the “essence of this situation” I believe that it comes from putting kids into a prison environment as guards. Here is a link to a fascinating study on the subject:
    The Stanford Prison Experiment

    I ended the study prematurely for two reasons. First, we had learned through videotapes that the guards were escalating their abuse of prisoners in the middle of the night when they thought no researchers were watching and the experiment was “off.” Their boredom had driven them to ever more pornographic and degrading abuse of the prisoners.

    (They ended the two week experiment after only 6 days.)

    This in no way justifies the fact that this culture was allowed to prosper (at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, etc.) by the officers in charge, especially considering that the guilt or innocense of the prisoners seems not to have been a factor in their imprisonment. As I recall, a large percentage of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib were later released without charges.

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