Right-wing culture warriors on Abu Ghraib.

Right-wing culture warriors on Abu Ghraib.

Right-wing culture warriors on Abu Ghraib.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
May 13 2004 7:11 AM

Abu Ghraib Denial, Part 2

Right-wing culture warriors are on the case.

Stop the presses! Chatterbox predicted May 11 that right-wing culture warriors would soon be blaming the Abu Ghraib prison scandal on the depravities of the 1960s. But various readers alerted Chatterbox that quite a few conservative commentators (most of them second-tier) have already come tantalizingly close to making just that point:

  • Blame moral relativism. Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, to Rachell Zoll of the Associated Press: "This is not a breakdown in the system. This reflects a breakdown in society. These people's moral compass didn't work for some reason. My guess is because they've been infected with [moral] relativism."
  • Blame gays. "Could it be, as Rush Limbaugh mentioned in passing on a recent broadcast, that the perpetrators of the alleged crime are homosexuals?" asked Jeremy Reynalds of Men's News Daily. "Many people believe that homosexuals have a much greater potential than heterosexuals to be sexual predators. In addition, a sizeable number of sexually dysfunctional individuals (aka sexual predators) take pictures of their illicit acts."
  • Blame pornography. Rebecca Hagelin, a vice president of the Heritage Foundation, on Townhall.com, says we need to "take a cold, hard look at the degradation in our own country" if we want to understand Abu Ghraib: "[W]ith the non-judgmental, sex-crazed, anything-goes culture that we have become at home, it seems that America has set herself up for international humiliation. Our country permits Hollywood to put almost anything in a movie and still call it PG-13. We permit television and computers to bring all manner of filth into our homes. We permit school children to be taught that homosexuality" etc., etc.
  • Blame feminists. Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, as quoted by David Thibault on the Cybercast News Service Web page: "The globally distributed photo of a U.S. servicewoman holding a naked Iraqi prisoner by a leash 'is exactly what feminists have dreamed of for years. … That demeaning photo of a female soldier with an Iraqi man on a leash—a woman had to have taken that picture,' Donnelly said. 'And I understand the other woman soldier has admitted that she did.' "
  • Blame Quentin Tarantino. Rich Lowry, editor of National Review: "[T]he distinct echoes of Abu Ghraib in our culture are unmistakable. "Consider the iconic film of the 1990s, Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. It includes a scene of the rape of a man imprisoned and kept as a sexual slave, which prompted laughs in theaters. The victim, 'The Gimp,' became a figure of fun. Tarantino's latest, the Kill Bill movies, present the same romance of power and violence, arbitrarily and stylishly wielded. Cruelty, Tarantino tells us, can be fun."
  • Blame the Farrelly brothers. Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker: "When President Bush told the world that abuses at Abu Ghraib prison do not reflect American values, he was right. … But some of what happened at Abu Ghraib, specifically the sexualized humiliations, may reflect American culture, especially in the instance of the naked human pyramid, which is nearly iconographic within the adolescent zeitgeist that spawned our current generation of soldiers. … What we saw, at least in part, was 'The Farrelly Brothers Do Baghdad.' "
  • Blame women in the military. Linda Chavez, who almost became President Bush's labor secretary: "Military service has become heavily sexualized, with opportunities for male and female soldiers, sailors and Marines to engage in sexual fraternization, which, though frowned upon—and in certain circumstances, forbidden—is almost impossible to prevent. … Take a look at the faces of those soldiers again, especially the female soldiers. They look less like sadists than delinquents. They look like they're showing off at some wild party trying to impress everybody with how 'cool' they are."
  • Blame the academic left. James Taranto, in the Wall Street Journal editorial page's "Best of the Web Today": "[I]ncreasing the quality of military recruits would probably help avoid future Abu Ghraibs. One constructive step toward that end would be for elite universities to drop antimilitary policies, so that the military would have an easier time signing up the best and brightest young Americans." (Chatterbox is sympathetic to Taranto's plea that Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and various other schools that chased out ROTC during the 1960s bring it back. But he's not sold on the idea that the "best and brightest" are any less predisposed to torture Iraqis than anyone else. Saddam reportedly has a law degree.)
  • Blame the liberal media/entertainment complex. Emilie Lamar, in a letter to the Montgomery Advertiser, observes: "The liberal media and the Hollywood crowd with their abandoning of morals and their attitude of 'whatever feels good' must've rubbed off on the military guards."
  • Blame journalists' Vietnam-bred hostility toward the military. Diana West, columnist for the Washington Times: "With Abu Ghraib, the old antagonisms between the media and the military return, with the counter-culturally-minded media exulting over a high and mighty military slip." Seconded by Marvin Olasky, a Bush guru who coined the term "compassionate conservatism."
  • Blame our sick society. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council: "We must be willing to look deeper—we must be willing to look our culture in the mirror and ask some hard questions about what kind of society our children are growing up in."

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Chatterbox is certain there are more examples. Please don't send them. Meanwhile, George Will, the conservative Washington Post columnist and TV commentator, has a more novel idea: Blame Donald Rumsfeld. You know, the guy in charge of the military. It's a thought.