No one can accuse Christopher Hitchens of lack of moral scruples when it comes to torture. I find this piece on Abu Ghraib, inspired by the Colombian artist Fernando Boteros’ paintings on the subject, to reflect my own thinking almost perfectly. Abu Ghraib was shameful to every American. Compared to what transpired there under Saddam Hussein, however, it was a lost sequence of La Dolce Vita.
No one seemed to mind when Saddam murdered innocents in Abu Ghraib, and released hardened criminals from the place to prey on the people of Iraq. I have no knowledge of a Botero cycle on the many deaths at Abu Ghraib under Saddam: his paintings are about the evil wrought by Americans.
The Colombians have great artists, but their moral compass has lost true north. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, possibly the greatest novelist of our generation, is also the greatest admirer and friend of Fidel Castro. Botero is a famous painter. His country is ravaged by violence, and one would think he could understand the difference between a regime of mass murderers and a few lost souls corrupting a prison while serving in the U.S. Army. Clearly, he can’t, and we should be thankful for writers like Hitchens, whose political ideals are little different from Boteros’, but whose moral bearings lead him to far different conclusions.