Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Harry Potter and the Apocalypse
I have read a little bit about the families of the soldiers being court-martialed for prisoner abuse, and I caught some of Jeremy Sivits' father's comments after his son's conviction this morning. And what I feel mostly is sorrow. These are people who believe in the military, believe in the mission, and believe what the military does is important. And clearly, their children do, too.

Now you can argue--and I will--that people everywhere ought to be able to tell the difference between right and wrong, and that when it comes to beating, rape, and general humiliation of other human beings, the line of demarcation isn't hard to see. And the soldiers who chose to cross the line anyhow should be punished for that. But I wouldn't be a liberal if I didn't argue that there's more to their crime than simply crossing the line. Earlier this week, Josh Marshall published a communication from a friend in Iraq, a retired military intelligence official now working as a private contractor. Among its many grave observations is this one: "I told a journalist the other day that these kids here are being told that they are chasing Al Qaeda in the War on Terrorism so they think everyone at Abu Ghraib had something to do with 9/11. So they were encouraged to make them pay. These kids thought they were going to be honored for hunting terrorists." What we wrought at Abu Ghraib, then--and what the court-martialed soldiers and their families are going to suffer--is another sterling byproduct of Bush's apocalyptic framing of the war on terror, and the way its purposes have been misrepresented from September 12 forward.

Speaking of Bush and the apocalypse: Once you start poking around in the darkest corners of fundamentalism, you find some fairly creepy stuff, like this from Rick Perlstein in the Village Voice. Recently, a Bush administration official met with a Christian group vehemently opposed to yielding one inch of land to the Palestinians in Israel and the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state. The reason--if Israel does either of these things, it could postpone the second coming of Christ. It's not clear Bush himself buys this particular type of Christianity--as Perlstein notes, it was more Reagan's style. But it doesn't say a lot for the administration's judgment when it would grant an audience to a group like this--whose representative on the ground in Israel believes Jews have to convert to Christianity or be damned, and who claims to have been bewitched by a Harry Potter book.

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