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Time to Get the Hell Out
Published on Wednesday, May 12, 2004 by Knight-Ridder
Time to Get the Hell Out
Prison Abuse Fuels Fanaticism and Invites More Brutality
by John Baer

Didn't take long, did it?

And can there be any American, especially any parent, not sickened, saddened and angered by the public beheading of Nick Berg?


The bastards made him say his name, his parents' names, his brother's name, his sister's name, where he lived, and then they cut off his head ... and held it up to a camera.


And even if (and what are the chances?) this is the worst of pledged al-Qaeda retaliation for U.S. abuse of Iraqi prisoners, then hopefully it's enough to start a chain of events to get us the hell out of that country sooner rather than later and stop this insane waste of young American lives.

A civilian communications contractor.

You tell me what contractor now wants to help rebuild the nation we unilaterally saw fit to "shock and awe" to get its weapons of mass destruction and make America safer?

Tell it to the Berg family, W.

Oh, wait. While you're at it, tell it to the families of 4,133 Americans wounded, 775 killed, including more than 600 killed since you declared an end to major military operations back in May 2003.

A young American, a son of Pennsylvania, beheaded for the world to see. Why? For what I believe is condoned, if not outright ordered, humiliation of prisoners, and for photos and videos taken for (what else makes sense?) intimidation of other prisoners. And all this in the same place, Abu Ghraib, where Saddam tortured and murdered Iraqis, one of the supposed reasons, I'd remind you, we invaded his sorry country.

Former presidential adviser David Gergen was right when he said we should have leveled that prison when we got there, taken it down the same way we took down Saddam's statue, as a vivid symbol of change.

Instead, we use it to violate a people and a culture and further fuel the fanaticism of terror, inviting more brutality.

Well, the invitation has been accepted.

"A barbaric atrocity," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa.

"Horrific and inhuman," said Gov. Edward G. Rendell, D-Pa., who added, "I don't think there's any question" that Berg's beheading and the growing war-death toll add pressure to move more swiftly to get troops and civilians home.

But I have a question: What will it take? More charred American bodies hung from bridges? More videotaped decapitations?

Just how much disgust and outrage must build before the White House and our "I'm-a-war-president" admit mistakes and face the ugly truth that so much in Iraq spins so wildly out of control?

Isn't it enough to squander every drop of international sympathy in the wake of 9/11 by attacking a nation with a "coalition" of Tony Blair and such international giants as Estonia and Honduras, the latter of which, by the way, is pulling its 370 troops out?

Isn't it enough to have waged war without that uranium from Niger or 9/11 ties to Saddam or WMDs or anything resembling a sensible exit plan - or even anything palpable gained?

Doesn't somebody somewhere along the line of command have to go? For misinformation about WMDs, for miscalculating costs (human and monetary), for misjudging outcomes, for supervising the sadistic treatment of prisoners.

A new Gallup poll shows 41 percent of Americans approve of the president's handling of Iraq, down 10 points in just three weeks; 58 percent disapprove, up 11 points in the same three weeks.

And that's before the beheading.

Gallup also puts the president's overall job-approval rating at 46 percent, the lowest since he took office and nearly half the 90 percent he held in the month after 9/11 - the highest of anyone in the White House since Gallup starting measuring back when FDR was president.

Which shows that events can change things.

Let's hope this event changes more than numbers.

John Baer is a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News

Copyright 2004 Knight-Ridder


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