I’ve been dreaming of a time when
To be English
Is not to be baneful
To be standing by the flag not feeling
Shameful, racist or partial …
— Morrissey, from "Irish Blood, English Heart"
This got buried in the previous post, so let me highlight this again, from President Bush's remarks to a small group of religion writers:
I said I am sorry for those people who were humiliated. That's all I said. I also said, "The great thing about our country is that people will now see that we'll deal with this in a transparent way based upon rule of law. And it will serve as a great contrast." But I never apologized to the Arab world.
I don't really mind that Bush does not apologize to "the Arab world" — "the Arab world" is an abstraction and the apologies that Bush owes are not abstract.
He owes an apology, foremost, to the particular individuals who were subjected at Abu Ghraib to the torture that his administration refuses even to call by that name. ("Abuse and humiliation" is their preferred euphemism — when you begin using euphemisms for torture, you're in pretty deep.) He has said he feels sorry for those people — that's not an apology. It sounds more like the "I wish you hadn't made me do that" of a wife-beater.
And the president owes an apology to many other groups — to the families of these individuals, to the people of Iraq, to the allies of our little coalition.
And President Bush owes an apology to me. And to every American who would like to feel proud of our country without our president and secretary of defense always make it so difficult.
The pictures from Abu Ghraib — and the revelation that this goes far, far beyond the actions of a few "bad apples" or "morons" — has forced every American to react in one of two ways. We are either made to feel ashamed of our country, or else we are forced to rationalize away that shame by reassuring ourselves that we can condone torture and still be good people, and that anyway Saddam was worse.
Somebody owes us an apology for that.