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The Thin Veneer of Civilisation

Perhaps the greatest revelation to emerge from "Operation Freedom" in Iraq, is not who the goodies and baddies are, but the inescapable conclusion that given the right conditions, all of us are capable of the atrocities currently taking place in that most unholy of regions; ironically deemed to be the birthplace of civilization. It is also where the three great religions, branches of the God of Abraham, emerged, which now serve as the facade of justification for an orgy of slaughter for which there is no foreseeable end.

The facade of religion is a convenient tag, useful for delineating the 'them' from the 'us' as much as anything else. The tags of evildoers, terrorists, cowards and murderers can all be applied with equal justification to either side of the bloody conflicts in the middle east, and given the right conditions, they (and we) are capable of doling out the most horrific retributive 'justice' the mind is capable of devising.

Who, amongst both the pro or the anti-war lobby, hasn't had a 'serve the bastards right' moment during the Iraq conflict? The letters to the editor pages are becoming more and more divisive as the war continues, with many writers now comparing the relatively benign nature of 'our' atrocities, as opposed to the incomparable
examples of the much worse 'their' atrocities. It was a cycle of retribution and counter retribution, death versus death, revenge versus revenge at an ever escalating rate which was foreseen by the opponents of the war. Whatever slant the proponents of 'Operation Freedom' would like to place on it, no lives will be saved as a result of the invasion, and none of the deaths which have occurred and will continue to occur, can ever be undone.

Who is to blame for the abuse of the prisoners then? The guards? Their superiors? The Pentagon? George Bush? Well yes, but despite the unprecedented opposition to the war, unmatched even by the demonstrations against the Vietnam War (which came when the war had well and truly begun) Bush and his cronies were able to garner enough support from the gullible, the fearful, and the Murdoch Press to launch their invasion. The most uncomfortable truth of all, is that the horrors we are viewing are perpetrated by our own species, and the shame and the pain of it belongs to us all.

The horrific events in Rwanda, in Bosnia, in South Africa and in the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict ought to be lesson enough as to how thin the veneer of civilized behavior is. It is ironic, considering the efforts to manipulate the media through 'embedding' and by the charades of press conferences, that it is the poor bastards doing the the dirty work of killing and being killed, who are the documenters of their own crimes via the personal digital media being carried by the US troops (soon to be banned, surely). We have never been so close to our own failings, from so far away.

How does one accommodate such horrors? There is the overwhelming sense that there is nothing one can do but accept that we are what we see, that we will not change, that conflicts like this are our lot to the end of our days. An unlikely alternative would be that, confronted by horror for long enough, we realise the futility of our doctrines of division, and make the appropriate changes. For now, we can be thankful our failings are confined to our televisions. For now.....

Posted: Thu - September 21, 2006 at 04:44 PM      
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