My Two Cents: The high price of gas, bad PR in Iraq and Kerry's inconsistency

It wasn’t a milestone I was looking forward to, but last week – for the first time ever in my life – I paid over $2 per gallon for gas. How can this be, I thought to myself, if the critics of the war in Iraq are right and America is only in the Middle East for oil? In fact, if oil is this country’s prime motivation in Iraq, shouldn’t gas prices be going down?

Anyway, that got me thinking about the big story coming out of Iraq and the Middle East recently: the alleged torture, abuse and humiliation of prisoners in U.S.-run detention centers in Iraq. While I think this is a legitimate problem that must be addressed – there appears to have been a breakdown of professionalism at the very least – I’m more fascinated by the way the press is spinning this and the Arab world’s reaction.

Naturally, the mainstream press is giving the impression that they broke this story, when in fact the military publicly announced in January they were launching an investigation into allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers. It was the release of the photos of prisoners being abused and humiliated that’s received all the attention as of late. The bottom line is that while this is a black eye for the U.S. military and has made winning the trust of Iraqis more difficult, there doesn’t appear to be any sort of sinister cover up going on, and the process, though not perfect, is working.

The Arab world – as always – is outraged, more for political reasons rather than at what actually transpired. After all, this is a region that was largely silent when Saddam Hussein’s regime used torture and killing against its own citizens on a regular basis. The Arab culture in the Middle East also supports and/or gives tacit approval to treating women as second class citizens and terrorism, so I’ll take their sudden concern for human rights with a grain of salt.

Meanwhile, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry weighed in on the subject with regard to embattled Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, saying, “When I was in the Navy, the captain of the boat was in charge, and the captain always took responsibility.” Kerry demonstrated his own take on personal responsibility in a Wall Street Journal interview, where he blamed his speechwriters for his standard Benedict Arnold line about companies that outsource jobs!

“My Two Cents” is a weekly column where the author gets in his two cents worth in spite of the old saying that you only get a penny for your thoughts.