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Ladies and Gents Who Lunch photos
Lake Merritt area in Oakland

May 3rd, 2004

I Do Hope Not
I went into work this morning, driving into work as it happens, parked, walked into the office with my left leg dragging and was told don't be an idiot, go home, come back Wednesday if you're feeling better. OK. I can do that. I'm home now, another Vicodin to the wind, feeling pretty good as long as I'm sitting or lying. Life is good, the sun is shining, no one has blown up the downtown for political or personal reasons, the rent is paid, I've had breakfast (a large, one-third lower calorie Jamba Juice) and lunch (two "light" tuna fish sandwiches). Time for a nap. Time for another nap. Time to scrounge up a picture I can run at the top of this thing.

Later. I've just watched a public television News Hour segment on the photographs that have surfaced of Iraqi prisoners being tortured at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. I don't know if tortured is the correct term, everyone from the President on down has publicly, at least, denounced it, but if it isn't torture it's the word you think of when you see the pictures. What I hadn't known and learned from this segment was the pictures were a component of an internal investigation conducted by the US military, one of three investigations of allegations of this kind that have been undertaken since we invaded Afghanistan.

This latest investigation, finished three months ago in February, called the treatment "systemic"; treatment that is the norm, in other words, and the only difference in this particular instance is the fact it was photographed. The report and the photographs were obtained by Seymour Hersh and appear in his article in the current New Yorker.

The argument you hear, stated or unstated, is the government needs to torture prisoners to get information otherwise unobtainable under the law in order to prevent "terrorist", "military" or "whatever" action by people who want to kill us. The law, in other words, doesn't work when the going gets tough and we should all look shamefully away and not ask questions. It's an old argument. In times of real trouble democracy and equality under the law don't work.

It's reported the prisoners in Abu Ghraib are civilians who've been scooped up at roadblocks and in house to house searches. Most agree many are probably innocent of any wrong doing other than being at the wrong place at the wrong time and not speaking English and that many are probably guilty of serious wrong doing of a kind that means you want to keep them inside forever; all of them scooped up helter skelter in half assed "roundups of the usual subjects": without bail, without lawyers, without kin being notified.

Sounds like Guantanamo, doesn't it? My guess is whatever we end up calling this - torture, maltreatment - is a high level policy of our government: don't tell, don't say, look the other way. This is not how you win hearts and minds. This is not how you advertise yourself to the world as a bastion of freedom and democracy come here to save you from the devil.

I went through this in the Vietnam period: was there ever a time you attached the wires and cranked the generator? Your platoon in the field, an enemy captured who may know the location of a man you've lost in the last ten minutes of fighting? I decided I'd answer that question on the day the situation was presented. As a national policy, however? As something you do (wink! wink! nudge! nudge!) as a matter of policy? I do hope not.

The photograph was taken in the Lake Merritt area in Oakland with a Nikon F5 mounted with a 70 - 200mm f 2.8 Nikkor lens on TMax-400 and processed by Tony Molatore in Berkeley.