Friday, January 29, 2010

Facing the presence of the past

There is no explanation of how each of the detainees, much less all three, could have done the following: braided a noose by tearing up his sheets and/or clothing, made a mannequin of himself so it would appear to the guards he was asleep in his cell, hung sheets to block vision into the cell—a violation of Standard Operating Procedures, tied his feet together, tied his hands together, hung the noose from the metal mesh of the cell wall and/or ceiling, climbed up on to the sink, put the noose around his neck and released his weight to result in death by strangulation, hanged until dead and hung for at least two hours completely unnoticed by guards.
The Economist's Democracy in America blog has more more details:
All three men were found to have rags inserted in their throats to a point where it would have impeded breathing. The camp commander, after first ordering guards to make sworn statements, retracted his order and forbade them to make sworn statements, instead holding a group meeting that appears to have been intended to get their stories straight. And these are just some of the most glaring inconsistencies; there's much, much more in the report.
How do you deal with the aftermath of war crimes, murder, torture? In most countries, for most people, the answer is simple: pretend such things ever happened. It's even easier if you won the war, or have an enemy whose own atrocities you can focus on. McNamara describes the firebombing of Tokyo he helped plan, long before Vietnam: "In a single night we burned to death a hundred thousand Japanese civilians – men, women and children." It's hard to believe that these actions have no consequences, no impact: the the people who ordered such actions don't disappear from government, the people who executed the orders eventually go home to their families.

Of course, Japan lost their war, and were both perpetrators and victims on a vast scale. So maybe it's not surprising that Japanese culture has created shows like Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood whose themes would be unimaginable in the US. It's completely horrifying... and one of the best shows on TV today (far better than the first series).