Limbaugh: Abu Ghraib was just a big frat party!

By Mark Follman

Published May 6, 2004 8:24PM (EDT)

While President Bush saw fit today to apologize for the appalling acts of torture committed by U.S. military personnel in Iraq, right-wing radio star Rush Limbaugh had already graced America's airwaves with his own special kind of forgiveness for the offenses committed. On Limbaugh's Tuesday radio show, titled "It's Not About Us; This Is War!", one caller likened the stacking up of naked Iraqi prisoners to a college fraternity prank -- Limbaugh was eager to go along, calling the behavior nothing more than "a good time" and healthy "emotional release":

"Exactly. Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You [ever] heard of need to blow some steam off?"

(Was it just a coincidence that he pointed to George W. Bush's former Yale fraternal order as his rationale?) The day before, on his May 3 show, Limbaugh had decided to focus on the connection he saw between the U.S. abuses and American pop culture:

"And these American prisoners of war -- have you people noticed who the torturers are? Women! The babes! The babes are meting out the torture ... You know, if you look at -- if you, really, if you look at these pictures, I mean, I don't know if it's just me, but it looks just like anything you'd see Madonna, or Britney Spears do on stage. Maybe I'm -- yeah. And get an NEA grant for something like this. I mean, this is something that you can see on stage at Lincoln Center from an NEA grant, maybe on Sex in the City -- the movie. I mean, I don't -- it's just me."

Obnoxious as they are, Limbaugh's off-kilter rantings (available via audio clip on Media are less troubling than his take on the veracity of the explosive torture scandal. He has the ear of many, many Americans -- and even with the presidential apology that's now been issued -- he was still essentially dismissive of the whole thing today:

"This is a pure, media-generated story. I'm not saying it didn't happen or that the pictures aren't there, but this is being given more life than the Waco investigation got. It's almost become an Oklahoma City-type thing."

American democracy endows its citizens with the privilege of free speech, but in the crucial battle for hearts and minds during this troubling time of war, you have to wonder if a guy like Limbaugh should be on the front lines, even here at home.

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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