Revealed: The Root Cause of Abu Ghraib!


In what just may be the most moronic piece yet to come out of Iraq war, syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker implicates the Farrelly Brothers–makers of There's Something About Mary and the greatest Amish/bowling movie of all time, Kingpin–in the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. Snippets:

The images from Abu Ghraib, now irreversibly tattooed on the Arab brain, were every frat-house cliche magnified. The human pyramid, males mooning, masturbation, bags over heads. What we saw, at least in part, was "The Farrelly Brothers Do Baghdad."

How else to explain the giddy photographs of young soldiers mugging for cameras and giving the thumbs-up sign beside humiliated prisoners, naked and masturbating? Another Farrelly movie, "Dumb and Dumber," comes to mind…

The Farrelly Brothers—kings of the gross-out comedy film genre characterized by scatological humor and raunchy sex jokes—are convenient touchstones in the larger discussion about the debasing of American culture. In their side-splitter for the developmentally arrested, "There?s Something About Mary," the male star gets his genitals stuck in a zipper. Later when he pleasures himself, he misplaces his "issue," which subsequently becomes hair gel for "Mary."…

Such is what has passed for culture for many of the kids now populating our military. My point: There?s not much difference between what those soldiers enacted in Abu Ghraib for digital cameras and 15 seconds of instafame back home and what America?s increasingly debased culture embraces as good harmless fun….

To the [American soldiers in the pictures], it seems, Abu Ghraib was just another photo op, an after-hours party sans grown-ups to inhibit their jaunty trip through a Heronymous Bosch garden of perverse delights. Farrelly, farrelly, farrelly, farrelly, life is but a dream.

We can?t blame America?s culture entirely, but as we?re trying to change the hearts and minds of others, we might take a closer look at our own. You can?t steep a teabag in sewerage and expect it to taste like Earl Gray.

It may have taken almost 150 years, but we've now finally moved on from the "I was only following orders" defense pioneered by the commandant of the notorious Andersonville prison camp during the Civil War and cited by war criminals ever since. We can all look forward to the military tribunal of Lyndie England, the Madame Defarge of the U.S. military, in which she and her codefendants plead overexposure to Me, Myself, & Irene.

NEXT: Who Cared?

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  1. “…irreversibly tattooed on the Arab brain…”, is Parker’s most moronic statement.

    “…the Madame Defarge of the U.S. military…”, is yours.

  2. Words fail…

  3. The culture argument is the flip side of the same culture coin that has produced an ongoing mantra heard since 9-11 that goes something like this: those middle easterners (Iraquis) are so immersed in the culture of hatred spawned by Islam that they cannot possibly be redeemed. Nor can they be expected to adopt a form of government that is any way, shape, or form respectful of human rights.

    So, if Americans across the political spectrum buy into the culture argument as it relates to Islam why shouldn’t they buy into the culture argument as it applies to Lynndie and her cohorts?

  4. our civilian prisons may well be disasters in the making.

    They’re already disasters.

    naked human pyramid, which is nearly iconographic within the adolescent zeitgeist that spawned our current generation of soldiers.


    The root cause of Abu Ghraib was simple human nature. Just because we’ve jotted down some silly notions about human rights doesn’t mean all 290 million of us are going to uphold them. On my own I wouldn’t uphold half the ideals that America supposedly stands for.

    I think she’s just trying to deal with her discomfort at a female taking part in traditionally male “atrocities,” like pouring non-toxic glowstick liquid on prisoners, and making them stack in naked human pyramids. Aren’t our women supposed to be soft, cuddly, and (with the exception of Ann Coulter) progressive? Oh the shock and awe.

    This was more of a PR flap than anything else. The spin has made it all it can be. The event by itself doesn’t say anything about our culture, our government or our way of life. We’ll actually prosecute our own when they commit such violations. Can’t say as much for the international “community.” Just ask Rania al-Baz whether her husband is in jail yet. Or how lucky Amina Lawal was that she got knocked up after Nigeria adopted the Sharia. Or how Gyaltsen Drolkar enjoyed her stay at Drapchi prison. Maybe Ahmed Selmouni might like some freedom fries?

    “Human rights” is a meaningless tool for diplomatic leverage. An anachronistic yet popular religion allegedly preaches you should beat your wife and kill Jews; Muhammad Kamal Mustafa is jailed for naught but writing a book in support of it. And somehow I’m supposed to feel bad about our country because a dozen jackasses beat up some Iraqis and took pictures? It’s not like it was legal to do.

    Maybe some of you free thinkers should go back to the concept of people taking responsibility for their own actions, instead of seeing how far up the chain you can place blame until you’re satisfied that your position is sufficiently “anti-establishment”.

  5. But watching a Farrelly Brothers movie is just a gateway! It leads to other things that really are damamging. People just don’t realize.

    What about WWE Wrestling, Greek Societies, Pop Warner Football and other horrors? What about the NHL? I just don’t see how we can have both a sophisticated culture and people walking around watching hockey games with impunity.

    What about beer? Were any of these atrocities committed under the influence of alchohol? I bet they were. What about Rap music? You know the lyrics are awful. There’s those computer games too! Don’t forget the games.

    All of these factors contributed to making fine young people want to join the military, invade a country, take as many prisoners as possible, strip them naked, put them in “funny” poses and take pictures with them.

    That’s the law of cause and effect. First you watch a Farrelly Brothers movie, then you get into the WWE, you join a fraternity, and then you start watching hockey games and drinking beer. You play a couple of first person shooters and the next thing you know, you’re abusing prisoners of war in Iraq.

    People just don’t realize.

    P.S. We gotta protect the children.

  6. Just in case it isn’t clear, I’m not advocating the culture idea I’m saying:

    Well, whaddya expect?

  7. Some say this was a result of a lack of training. I agreee. It is a lack of training most of us got in Kindergarten.

  8. Hey there, Dom.

    Long time, no read.

    My, you’re getting cranky.

  9. Kathleen Parker apparently cannot help herself when it comes to shamelessly shilling for the Bush administration at every available opportunity. In this case, she and others like her work overtime to propogate the myth that this is an isolated incident that involves a few bad apples who got out of control. One needn’t look at the photos too carefully, however, to see what’s obvious: This was an institutional failing, one that obviously went to the top of the on-site chain of command. (Why else would soldiers be so cavalier about being photographed?)

    Over time, Kathleen Parker has demonstrated over and over again that her relationship to credible political columnists is approximately like the relationship that Dr. Laura has to credible psychologists.

  10. I just know that somehow this is the work of gays.

    I’ll report back as soon as I figure out how.

  11. Rst –

    Hard to know exactly how to react to your inane post. Yes, finger-pointing over human rights issues can be a tiresome and fruitless bureaucratic exercise rife with hypocrisy. But it also helps establish humane standards and norms that only the most addled or debased human being could find fault with. It’s absurd to call it “meaningless.”

    It’s possible that this is, as you say, merely the moral failure of those who perpetrated the crimes at Abu Grhaib. It’s also possible that leaders and commanders, all the way up to the top, might be found to be guilty of failing to put basic safeguards in place. We won’t know until an investigation is made. Anybody with the faintest familiarity with the military would understand this. Yet you do not, juding from your nihilist message above.

  12. What the soldiers did was stupid(don’t take pictures you idiots. especially when you can see your face.!) But I do think they were told to do it by military intelligence guys. It was to soften them up for interrogatin. It wasn’t just for kicks on the cell block.

  13. I’m shocked, SHOCKED that Parker passed up South Park for the Farrelly Brothers.

  14. A very good theory I have heard bandied about is that the “atrocities” are scripted techniques developed by the CIA to break the enemy prisoners. Islam preaches the dominance of men in society, and nothing attacks this more than having American women dominating the Iraqi men and forcing them to do things that are, to them, absolutely abhorrent. Just a way to show them who is really in charge and emphisize to the prisoners the need to coorporate.

    Unfortunately some idiot in the military took offence to the methods employed, blew the whistle, and embarassing photos were released.

    One more question: How were the Iraqi men humiliated or embarased when they were hooded and did not see the comprimising positions of others.

  15. It’s absurd to call it “meaningless.”

    I was unclear. “Human rights” (the singular concept)is meaningless. Human rights (the myriad beliefs) are not. The difference between Abu Ghraib and the instances I mentioned is that the U.S. actually prosecutes such behavior. So when the international community – for which the same cannot be said, no matter the publicity – starts whining about “human rights,” I say it is meaningless.

    We won’t know until an investigation is made. Anybody with the faintest familiarity with the military would understand this.

    That phenomenon is not limited to the military. Regardless, if the fulcrum of the event is photographic evidence of specific soldiers committing crimes, then we should start there. Finding out what Rummy, a politician whose profession revolves around non-answers, has to say about it seems an empty gesture meant to placate the Old Men of Congress. It does not satisfy me; I want the facts of the event. Only from there can one fairly assess what overriding factors contributed to it.

    Yet you do not, juding from your nihilist message above.

    Nihilism is a measure of faith, not knowledge. Get over yourself.

  16. If I were Marilyn Manson, I’d be pissed that the Farrelly’s stole my venerable position as scourge of American youth. What about those Jackass guys? Or Girls Gone Wild? Parker’s reservoir of delicious targets for normative-moral blowharding (blowing hard?) is, shockingly, only a fifth of an inch deep.

  17. Hi David,

    Yes, a long time. How are things on the ridge? 🙂

    It’s not that I’m getting cranky but that I’m more letting it show. Cranky for seeing some sort of Gresham thing at play. At play with military commanders not taking the responsibility their positions demand followed by Parker doing the same and our otherwise esteemed Editor in parlay.

    It’s the old curse, “May you live in cranky times!”

  18. Considering how our generals have been bragging about our use of “torture lite” on the citizens of the “Axis of Evil,” could it be at all possible that maybe the root of this is not pop culture but modern military culture?

    Torture Lite: tastes great, and won’t fill you up with any heavy moral dilemmas! At least not until the world press gets pictures of it.

  19. Here’s a story in today’s Washington Post about the military culture which led to such atrocities. Since the Post requires registration, some of you won’t be able to read the story, so after posting the link I’ll cut’n’paste a few highlights.

    In April 2003, the Defense Department approved interrogation techniques for use at the Guantanamo Bay prison that permit reversing the normal sleep patterns of detainees and exposing them to heat, cold and “sensory assault,” including loud music and bright lights, according to defense officials. . . .

    A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment for the record. Several officials interviewed for this article, including two lawyers who helped formulate the guidelines, declined to be identified because the subject matter is so sensitive. . . .

    The Pentagon guidelines for Guantanamo were designed to give interrogators the authority to prompt uncooperative detainees to provide information, though experts on interrogation say information submitted under such conditions is often unreliable. . . .

    Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said the tactics outlined in the U.S. document amount to cruel and in inhumane treatment. “The courts have ruled most of these techniques illegal,” he said. “If it’s illegal here under the U.S. Constitution, it’s illegal abroad. . . . This isn’t even close.”

    . . . .Mark Jacobson, a former Defense Department official who worked on detainee issues while at the Pentagon, said that at Guantanamo and the Bagram facility in Afghanistan, military interrogators have never used torture or extreme stress techniques. . . .”I actually think we are not aggressive enough [at times in interrogation techniques],” he said. “I think we are too timid.”

  20. Thank God that Animal House is reserved only for thermonuclear war.

  21. I think we can all agree that Lynndie, her boyfriend and the others involved are complete dumbasses.

    The frat-house theory has already been advanced by torture-apologists such as Rush…

    Therefore, while I do not specifically blame the Farrelly Brothers and scatological entertainment for the actions of these jarheads, obviously these people have something wrong with them.

    Maybe they are just stupid – literally possessing below average IQ… or maybe they are a product of trailer-trash culture.

    While Parker does not hit the nail on the head – she comes close…

  22. There was an assumption that professional civilian prison guards, enlisted in the National Guard, would continue to behave professionally with little additional training. So we were wrong.
    If there is a lesson here, it is that our civilian prisons may well be disasters in the making.

  23. The trouble with your argument, Black Hat, is that “culture” is a very vague world. The culture of hatred or intolerance does very directly effect one’s morals–if you’re taught that blacks and whites shouldn’t marry, you’ll be more likely to fight to make sure it doesn’t happen. But to pin prison abuse on seeing some gross-out movies (or anything generally in our fictional pop culture, for that matter) is quite something else.

  24. Jennifer is right. For three years we’ve been assaulted with blather about how the Arab culture is evil and unprincipled, how all who oppose us are not merely mistaken or misguided but actually in league with Satan, that the government should have unlimited power to deal with these subhumans, and that our conduct is forever above reproach because we’re Different. In other words, the Bush administration promoted a worldview in which the Arabs were untermenschen who had only those rights we wished to grant them. So this is where we ended up.

    Bottom line: I was disappointed, but not surprised. One general was removed from his post at Guantanamo over a year ago for protesting the methods of the interrogators, in a story that got very little play at the time. Several deaths at Bagram were classed as murders by Army coroners, with no consequences for the interrogators and little interest by the press.

    What made this incident different? In a word, sex. The men were sexually abused, and that’s the only reason CBS was really interested in the story. Bush has created an environment where you can shock a man’s privates but not touch them, and while I am appalled that Ashcroft’s feverish obsessions are considered “morality” in this country, I am very much amused to see Bush caught in his own web.

  25. Dom, I’ve told you before, Music City is in the Cumberland Basin. We’re the opposite of hillbillies. Basinbillies?

    Our military is becoming the kind of military Kipling celebrated, fighting those savage wars of peace.

  26. It’s all the result of those MTV video games.

  27. It was announced today that Lyndie England will not be appearing in any more bondage flicks until after the birth of her child in September.

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