Thursday, February 16, 2006

Unable to distinguish

The cartoon riots, the firebombings following the Last Temptation of Christ, the controversy which (matched with mediocre quality) scuttled "Book of Daniel" all reflect an inability of some people to distinguish between a representation of a thing and the thing itself. Drawing Muhammad this way or that (or at all) is not an insult to the Prophet, it's ink on paper. A dude dressed up in a fake beard and loin cloth isn't Jesus, it's an actor.

Apparently, the Pentagon is confused about the issue as well. Speaking about the newly released images from Abu Ghraib:
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Defense Department believed the release of additional images of prisoner abuse was harmful and “could only further inflame and possibly incite unnecessary violence in the world.”
What inflames and incites violence is the fact that American soldiers were brutally abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and that many of the people in Abu Ghraib were there for no reason. The images don't incite and inflame, the acts do. The images are just ink on paper or electrons on TV screens. But they don't just represent something, they document something that actually happened.

Until the United States does more than slap a few wrists at the lowest levels, this will fester and reduce our credibility with the Iraqi public. If we want a secular, democratic, pro-Western Iraq, we need to do better, not just look better.