Thursday, January 5, 2006

57. Do anti-American claims add up?

Connecting the dots...can be a measure of perception. Drawing a causal relationship to an event or the prediction of an event can often be manipulated, especially in light of premeditated outcomes. Such a reflection was considered in the wake of Bill O'Reilly's latest attacks on the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), broadcasted on December 8, 2005, in which he labeled it as an "anti-American organization," and then listed its "agenda."

On the list is the fact that the ACLU, under the Freedom of Information Act, asked that additional photographs from Abu Ghraib be released to the public. O'Reilly claims that such a request "puts all of us in danger," tarnishes the American image, and risks the lives of American soldiers.

O'Reilly is right; the release of these photographs may tarnish the American image and place Americans in dangers. The government, in its memorandum to the court, admits the same; as well as to possible violations of the Geneva Convention. It argues, "public release of these records could reasonably be expected to endanger the safety and lives of individuals, including soldiers and civilians in Iraq." The Department of Defense, furthermore, wants to "invoke these privacy exemptions in light of the United States' international treaty obligation under the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions, which prohibit subjecting detainees to public curiosity and humiliation." The Department of Defense even admits later in the memorandum that, "the detainees in the images are often naked or otherwise inappropriately clothed, posed in ways designed to embarrass and humiliate the individuals in the pictures." (Source, ACLU vs. Department of Defense, et al).

The ACLU argues in its July 29, 2005 press release regarding the memorandum to the court that, "The government's recent actions are making a mockery of the Freedom of Information Act." And since much of the memorandum was redacted, including the conclusion that, "Not only is the government denying public access to records of critical significance, it is also withholding its reasons for doing so."

However, my argument is with the conclusion drawn by O'Reilly that, upon release of the photographs, it would be the ACLU who is responsible for American endangerment. Was it the ACLU that detained prisoners and interrogated them outside of agreed upon international treaties? Was it the ACLU that not only humiliated prisoners, but also photographed and video taped the event? Was the ACLU responsible for military tactic and supervision in detainee interrogation? Was it the ACLU that passed the Freedom of Information Act? If there are repressions to be endured over the actions of the Department of Defense, how is it that the ACLU is found accountable?

It is true that the release of additional photographs of detainees undergoing torture and humiliation, as requested by the ACLU, may lead to an increase in anti-American sentiment. Anti-American sentiment, in turn, may then lead to further attacks on American soldiers and terrorist attacks on American citizens by religious extremists. But the act that may lead to this endangerment was committed by the American government and Department of Defense when took part in the embarrassing and illegal interrogation that led to the photographs and videos now in question. To place the blame on the ACLU deflects this point.

It is the current administration that has engaged in the global war on terror. Was it ignorant of the ideology that American imposition in Muslim countries might invoke American resentment- especially when detainees are humiliated? Attempting to hold the ACLU responsible for any American resentment is like trying to hold the Sierra Club accountable for global warming. Why does O'Reilly not hold ultimate accountability with the administration and its military? Who here really has the agenda?

The same logic of deduction and assumptions can be applied to O'Reilly's perceptions of the ACLU to conclude equally damaging and misrepresented premeditated conclusions. It is a relatively easy exercise to perform:

O'Reilly believes that the ACLU is anti-American.
The ACLU believes in the freedom of speech.
Therefore, O'Reilly believes that the freedom of speech is anti-American.

Is this a valid argument? Does O'Reilly take a stance against the freedom of speech? The answer is, of course not. Could the same exercise be used to draw conclusions on other issues such as religion freedom and torture? The answer is yes, very easily. The problem is that it is this type of reasoning that allows people like O'Reilly to make such ridiculous statements about people and organizations that disagree with his perspectives. And in my opinion, it is misleading, self-serving, dangerous and wrong. What O'Reilly is counting on is that his viewers will not do any research, that they will not consider the validity of his arguments...that, ultimately, they will not connect the dots.

No comments:

Post a Comment