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The military has long been able to excuse and in various ways justify the abuses that occur, whether they are discriminatory, sexist, or even violations of basic human rights and dignity.
"Considering the number and temper of the mass ... together with the extent and fastnesses of the country occupied, it will readily occur, that simple indiscretions -- acts of harshness and cruelty, on the part of our troops, may lead, step by step, to delays, to impatience and exasperation, and in the end, to... carnage -- a result... utterly abhorrent to the generous sympathies of the whole American people."{1}
The Witnesses' accounts are frequently graphic, and disturbing, but until pictures are availible, they seem to have little or no effect, being dismissed as exaggerated or biased:
"I was sent as interpreter ... and witnessed the execution of the most brutal order in the History of American Warfare... Crimes were committed that were a disgrace to civilization... Men working in the fields were arrested and driven to the stockades. Women were dragged from their homes by soldiers whose language they could not understand."{2}

"Abuses... ranging from substandard food to alleged acts reminiscent of the Soviet gulags." {3}

The reactions, in this century at least, once confronted with photographic evidence and the gruesome nature of what has become almost a routine in world history, have been uniformly shocked, as the american public is no longer innured to sights involving abuse on this level and scale.

"So evil that they come across like a kick in the gut."
"I was really upset and sadden (sic) when I saw the photos and how people just stood around looking..."
"I have no word that can express how I feel inside. How a people who came here to escape prosecution, saw it fit to persecute another?" {4}

In the wake of Abu Ghraib, people all over the United States have asked; how could this happen? We are a civilized country, and it is inconceivable that this type of thing could happen.

Throughout World History, however, the public has seen, and condoned, even larger, less justified attacks against those who had no voice to protest; The Native Americans were forcibly marched hundreds of miles, with abuses occurring routinely. Lynchings of African Americans were routine throughout the southern United States for many decades, and in the last decade, we continue to see American citizens held in high-security prisons abused. It is amazing how similar the reports of these various abuses sound. The quotes above, however, do not describe Abu Ghraib. They describe centuries of torture of various groups that occurred throughout the United States; The Native Americans, African Americans, and those simply incarcerated for various crimes, who did not have a voice of their own to cry out with. Shocking how you'd never know what century it was without annotation.

Is this an aberration or the norm? You be the Judge.

Citations

{1}Gen. Winfield Scott's Order to U.S. Troops Assigned to the Cherokee Removal; Cherokee Agency, May 17, 1838
{2} "John Burnett's Story of the Trail of Tears; Birthday Story of Private John G. Burnett", Captain Abraham McClellan’s Company, 2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, Mounted Infantry, Cherokee Indian Removal, 1838-39.
{3} Sonoma County Jail abuse; http://www.metroactive.com/papers/sonoma/07.02.98/jail-abuse-9826.html
{4} "Gruesome exhibit recalls shameful era in America." By Joy Hakanson Colby / The Detroit News; Lynchings that occurred in America between 1890 and 1930, along with quotes from people who saw the exhibit, on the http://www.musarium.com/withoutsanctuary/ forums.

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