Reasonably Ascertainable Reality

Thoughts and musings on current events and other random occurrences.

Location: South Jersey, United States

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Silver Bullet

I have mentioned before why I don't post updates daily on the progress in Iraq. I believe the day to day operations, while tragic OR successful will only make sense once we look back at the operation as a whole. However, I do post on the torture 'allegations' because I believe that the instances of torture or detainee abuse have the power, single handedly, to lose this war for the US. I say allegations in quotes because of new reports found here and here and 'allegations' seems too unsure a word for something we now KNOW:

The sergeant says that military intelligence officers would tell soldiers that the detainees "were bad" and had been involved in killing or trying to kill Americans, implying that they deserved whatever punishment they got. "I would be told, 'These guys were IED [improvised explosive device] trigger men last week.' So we would f___ them up. F___ them up bad ... At the same time we should be held to a higher standard. I know that now. It was wrong. There are a set of standards. But you gotta understand, this was the norm. Everyone would just sweep it under the rug ... We should never have been allowed to watch guys we had fought."

Are there still people out there who want to make excuses for why Americans are doing these things? Is there any viable reason that would make sense? Anyone else out there still want to say it is just a few 'bad apples' in the military? This is a systematic, devised POLICY by the Bush Administration, with legal cover provided by our Attorney General, to torture and abuse detainees. We will look back on this chapter of the war, win or lose, and realize it was one of the most shameful chapters in American History.

Hat tip, Andrew Sullivan


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9:31 AM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

I have faulted the Bush administration for not being clear on what our policies were regarding Iraqi Prisoners and Enemy combatants.

That mistake, and quite possibly gaps in training that have been problems for a long time, have no doubt exacerbated this problem.

However, there is a long way from that and claiming this was a systematic policy but forth by the Bush Administration.

It is a well known danger that putting one group of people in charge of another results in a huge liklihood that the group in charge will abuse the other. We see this consistantly in our domestic prisons (I think it a huge scandal as well, but not one that gains any press.) Training and discipline can help combat this tendancy, but of course having the subject group be people who have been previously fighting their captors makes it worse.

I think your idea that this is the 'one of the most shameful chapters in American history' reveals a pretty weak view of history. In WWII, many similar events occurred. (Read Band of Brothers sometime.)

Almost everyone agrees that that was a 'good war' and certainly our conduct toward prisoners was as good as the Germans, and much better than the Japanese, but horrible abuses nonetheless occured.

That doesn't mean we can't, and shouldn't do better, but an idea that under Bush American soldiers are uniquely sadistic is foolish.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Katinula said...

I don't think that under Bush American soldiers are 'uniquely sadistic'. I think the administration has purposely blurred the lines and made absolutely no attempt to construct a clear and consistent policy, thereby creating situations where this kind of conduct arises.
Also, this is clear and consistent policy from the administration.
Read this WashPo editorial:

The policy can no longer be in dispute. When you can't define 'inhumane'...something is wrong.

I personally feel this IS one of the most shameful chapters in American history. Giving up our ideals and deeply held beliefs, or sacrificing the honor of our military, to fight a war, to me, is NOT an even trade. You can disagree, but the opinion certainly doesn't come from a poor grasp of history.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

Very well. Define inhumane for me.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Katinula said...

I dont have to...the Geneva Conventions do it for us.

Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.

"Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity ... No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind."

I believe the administration has access to this information? Now, if you are going to make the arguement that these people aren't POWs, they are 'enemy combatents' thats fine. But I'm more interested in how they are treated versus the semantics of what they are called so that we can treat them however we want to.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

So you would support we follow the letter of the law on the Geneva Conventions? Including summary execution of people combatants who don't wear a uniform and operate under a recognized chain of command?

The Geneva Convention is not a 'moral guidline.' It isn't a philosophical treatise on what is good and what is bad. It is an agreement between nations that basically says, if you don't do this to us, we won't do it to you.

As such, I don't think you can use it to define 'inhumane.' At best, you can use it to define legal or illegal in certain circumstances.

I think we should strive to be as humane as possible regardless of what the conventions say.

However, being humane isn't always being nice to people we capture. There is a good reason that it is considered 'ok' in the convention to shoot combatatants out of uniform. It is to discourage that behavior, because that behavior makes it very dangerous for the civilians in the area.

Are we being more 'humane' in capturing these people and treating them as POWs, which would include their realease at some point even though their actions are endangering Iraqi civilians every day by making our troops have to suspect, and yes sometimes kill by mistake, otherwise innocent Iraqis or would it be more humane to do everything we can to discourage this behavior?

I especially don't think that the 'name, rank, and serial number' applies to insurgents or Al-Qaida types. That is a specific courtesy that extends to members of other professional military forces and simply does not apply. That doesn't tell us what lengths WE consider it permissible to go to obtain information, and I think we need to decide that, both in a Democratic fashion and with clear executive orders on this. There has been some improvement there, but not enough.

9:42 AM  

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