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War Crimes

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My country is dying.

My country has become cruel, and dangerous, and fraught with corruption. The promise that was America has dwindled from a blazing fire to a pale fluorescent flicker...

Once upon a time, the world looked to us for leadership, for strength and integrity, for hope, for compassion. This image has been shattered. When the United States invaded the nation of Iraq on March 19th, 2003, we shattered that image. When the first photos of prisoners being tortured at Abu Ghraib prison were broadcast on April 30th, 2004, the shards were shattered further. Yesterday, the image finally evaporated.

Yesterday, Australia's SBS TV broadcast additional, more brutal and disturbing, images of prisoner torture by the United States.

While the US media was having a good old time getting hopping mad about Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident, it gave this far more important story much less coverage. I too was complicit in this, and for that I am deeply ashamed.

My government has allowed clear human rights violations to take place in my name and in the names of my countrymen. It has made excuses, and allowed a few soldiers to take the blame for a systemic problem, and quibbled about the wording of the Geneva Conventions, and meanwhile, human beings were being beaten and humiliated and tortured at its behest.

This has to stop. The world needs to know that the American public does not support torture. The American people must stand firm and demand accountability from our government, and we must demand that the rest of the world not bow down to the power of the United States.

As an American citizen, and a citizen of the world, I beg for this.

The United States government didn't want the world to see these photos, because they were worried that seeing them would fuel anti-American feelings abroad. What they should be worried about is that the United States is violating the sacred rights of its prisoners to live free of torture and coercion.

The problem lies not in the world seeing these photographs. The problem lies in the policy of the US government to commit war crimes against its prisoners.

Some Americans believe that anything that could potentially hurt al Qaeda is worth doing. Some Americans, especially those in the highest offices of our "democratic" government, believe that anything goes so long as it supports our "war" on terrorism.

The world needs to tell these Americans that this abuse will not stand. Please, hold us accountable. We have invaded, and murdered, and destroyed, and tortured, and we need to be shown that we are not all-powerful. We need to be told that we do not have the right to abuse the world just because we are a powerful nation.

With great power comes great responsibility. The United States is wielding its power without one shred of responsibility. This government is supposed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people--it's time for the people to speak and demand that our leaders be tried in a court of law for what they have done.

Without the rule of law, we have no justice. Without accountability, we have no hope.
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Katherine Brengle is a freelance writer and activist.
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War Crimes

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