Iraq's My Lai?

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The reports of abuse of Iraqi POWs by American troops are disturbing in the extreme. And, given the White House response, there seems to be little question of their veracity. From Reuters:

The White House denounced abuse by U.S. troops of Iraqi prisoners as "despicable" and called for disciplinary action against those responsible on Friday after photographs depicting the acts were published and broadcast around the world.

The photos showed U.S. troops smiling, posing, laughing or giving the thumbs-up sign as naked, male Iraqi prisoners were stacked in a pyramid or positioned to simulate sex acts with one another.

"We cannot tolerate it and the military is taking strong action against the individuals responsible for these despicable acts," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

The photos, which appeared on television and in newspapers, showed U.S. troops abusing some of the Iraqis held at the Abu Ghraib prison, a notorious center of torture and executions under toppled President Saddam Hussein's government.

One Iraqi man had a slur written on his skin in English. Another was directed by Americans to stand on a box with his head covered, and wires attached to his hands, and was informed that if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted.

Whole thing here. There's no excuse for this sort of thing.

Update: Especially worth reading in this context is Mark Bowden's October 2003 tour de force in The Atlantic, "The Dark Art of Interrogation," which not only surveys the methods of torture but actually makes a disturbingly strong case for its limited use.

More Update: From the comments section, my clarification of my title to this post: I should have been/meant to be clearer in my titular allusion to My Lai: I didn't mean to equate the actions of the two events, but rather their effects on American (and possibly world) public opinion. When news of My Lai came out, it helped solidify and broaden anti-war and anti-American sentiment. Clearly (and whether you're pro or anti-war in Iraq) this scandal has similar potential.

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  1. Did you read the part where the guy insisted it wasn’t his fault, because the military didn’t train him properly? Yes, you need very special training to realize that torturing people is wrong.

    We only know about these guys because they were dumb enough to take photos. How many smarter torturers are out there?

  2. Sick.

  3. Agreed. Appropriate military punishment, pronto.

  4. Another sort of excuse (this one given by a lawyer for one of the accused):

    “They [accused soldiers] came under the influence of the intelligence community, whose interests may not be necessarily consistent with good prison management. The prison was set up in such a fashion that the intelligence community had far too much influence.

    “They were instructing or advising the MPs to create ‘favorable conditions’ for interrogation. . . . ‘Favorable conditions’ were conditions where the detainees were susceptible to providing intelligence information, and that process involved techniques of humiliation.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A54540-2004Apr29?language=printer

  5. Apropos Simpsons quote: “Videotaping this crime spree is the best idea we ever had!”

  6. Yes….very sick-they should have shot the bastards instead!

  7. I guess the classic excuse “I was just following orders” will now be updated to, “Gee, nobody gave me any orders!”

    Late last night, when I came home from work and learned of this, I posted that, in lieu of military justice, these guys should be parachuted naked into Fallujah with the words “Fuck Allah” tattooed in Arabic on their backs, to see how they enjoy torture when they’re on the receiving end of it. Now, in the cool light of mid-day, I’m willing to forgo the tattoo.

    Why were they SMILING in those pictures? I could maybe, *possibly*, buy the idea that they thought they had to do these distasteful things as part of their jobs, if only they weren’t smiling! They actually enjoyed what they were doing! Furthermore, smiling for the camera implies a sense of pride in what you have done. I don’t think this attitude of pride developed in a vacuum.

    And now there will be even more anti-American hatred over there, which means even more Americans will die.

  8. How horrible. How embarrassing for troops trying to do the right thing.

    Full weight of UCMJ for these guys and no less. They had better not dismiss them from service and say, “Oh, well.”

  9. If things got that bad, they could’ve just used their safe-word…

    as an aside, I bet Lt. Boudreaux is happy the spotlight’s not on HIS picture anymore…

  10. i may be the only honest nigger left. when i saw these photos, i wasn’t “shocked” by these “atrocities” … certainly i was dismayed that this was on the teevee, and all the fan-hit-by-shit aftermath that such exposure assured, and we are now experiencing. i mean, hearts & minds … out the window; i don’t think the islamic world “gets” Jackass. documenting the hijinks was incredibly dumb. distributing the documentation — this soon — was even dumber. and now i guess these idiots will be punished for their inexcusable stupidity, and that may be just.

    but, that said, the truth is: i could totally imagine doing that sort of thing. i wasn’t in a frat, but i could totally imagine — or look up on google, if i had the time — the hazing rituals. and then, when you consider the context in which these events transpired, it seems to me even less “inexcusable,” verging on, indeed, the “excusable.” i mean, have you seen the stanford prison experiment?

  11. One of the alleged reasons we kicked the shit out of Iraq was to free the Iraqis from a brutal dictator who tortured and humiliated his people in prison. And what do we do? We torture and humiliate Iraqis in prison.

    So we’re not just there for the oil, right?

  12. need to append earlier post:

    PREVIOUS COMMENTS NOT AT ALL APPLICABLE TO RAPE

    (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1206725,00.html)

  13. There is a problem with having soldiers play prison guard or policeman. If we step back, we can ask if we really still need soldiers. The age of conquest is over. It ended at Yalta. Wars are no longer won, land not annexed, and the world knows it. So the populace of a country doesn’t fight the invader, because the invader isn’t conquering, merely invading, only to leave, eventually. Capitulation does not occur, because the invaded are not forced to assimilate into the successor.
    While we shouldn’t be there, since we are we needd cops, not soldiers.

  14. I don’t think the offenders’ excuses, and those of sternfan, get them off the hook. But they very well could put quite a few of their superiors on the hook with them.

  15. “Iraq’s My Lai?”
    Huh??? Let’s see, village killed, Army covers up, Calley sentenced and pardonned…

    Flash-Forward: No one dead. no cover-up UCMJ applied, to include suspension of a general… Mi Lai indeed? Try harder guys.

    Oh and Mr. We Don’t Need Soldiers Any More, inquire with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam about no conquering and no need for soldiers. Might also ask a number of Arab states about the use or utility of soldiers.

  16. It sounds like the Titan employee accused of raping a mid-teenaged (15-17?) Iraqi inmate can at least be brought up on pedophile or rape or statutory rape charges. If he is convicted in the states, he will find just how little respect pedophiles have in American prisons.

  17. Joe L.-
    Do the words “figurative language” mean anything to you?

  18. US Soldiers have been prison guards numerous times without abusing their power like these folks did. My grandfather guarded Nazi POWs during WWII, and he and the other guards treated them just fine.

  19. Soldiers don’t go from boy scouts to this overnight.

    Where the hell were the officers?

  20. Well Jenifer let’s call it the “Battle of Stalingrad” too… or “Bedtime for Bonzo” Figurative language is NICE, but it needs to be language that relates in some way or links the items denoted.

    And I think the idea was to link My Lai atrocity/Army as Baby-Killers to Iraq as atrocity… and since the two items are not similar I complain, I call shennigans.

  21. Joe L,

    I should have been/meant to be clearer in my titular allusion to My Lai: I didn’t mean to equate the actions of the two events, but rather their effects on American (and possibly world) public opinion. When news of My Lai came out, it helped solidify and broaden anti-war and anti-American sentiment. Clearly (and whether you’re pro or anti-war in Iraq) this scandal has similar potential.

  22. shawn smith: what sovereign has jurisdiction over the accused rapist? also, actually, i would imagine a man who asserts dominance via anal rape would be quite at home in an american prison. prosperous, even.

    joe: i’m not trying to make excuses for them. i think we should be honest and say that their punishment would be for their involvement & the subsequent leak and publicity, not for the acts alone. putting enemy POWs in funny poses is not torture. the electrocution box thing is certainly psychological torture, but more on par with what goes on in frathouse basements than with what apparently went on under saddam.

    Joe L is right in that this is in no way on par with My Lai, but he comes off as a wingnut Bush defender. I, on the other hand, detest Bush, but don’t deny that I have the ability to see the humor in what these GIs were going for.

  23. joe: All right, competence for a change.

    You’re absolutely right. This camp was actually the a feature story for 60 Minutes II back in late 2003. It was producer Leslie Cockburn(journalist, writer, producer, consultant, filmaker and wife of Andrew Cockburn, parents of Olivia Wilde) that first did a story on this prision with Steve Kroft nararating. They interviewed Brig. Gen. Janice Karpinski about some of the accusations of treatment at the prision as well as some people that were wrongfully incarcerated. She really had no answer to any critiques. Every answer was essentially “I’ll have to look into that”.

    It was likely that that interview is what led to the investigation by the military and the now active suspension of Karpinski’s duties.

  24. This doesn’t do much for the war to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, does it?

    Abject failure in our stated goals in Fallujah doesn’t command much respect either, and our withdrawl from Fallujah reeks with the stink of failure.

    Am I wrong, or weren’t the two stated objectives of the Seige of Fallujah to, first, find and punish the people responsible for murdering and mutilating the bodies of those contractors and, second, to arrest Sheik al-Sadr. Have we abandoned both goals?

  25. How can a libertarian, of all people, credit something with being “a disturbingly strong case for its [torture’s] limited use”?

    A strong case on libertarian grounds?

  26. I read the suggestion that the case was “disturbingly strong” as meaning that it was distrubing that anyone would make a strong case for it.

  27. Interesting that Reuters does not bother to report that the “slur” written on the prisoner was “Rapist” Guess that might have changed the complexion of the story.

    People need to get a grip. While not conforming to American standards and deserving of punishment all the up the command chain we need to remember that at present we know that: (1) nobody died (2) nobody was physically tortured (3) these people weren’t run of mill Iraqis but higher level Baathist and Feyadeen. This was not an “atrocity” of any kind.

    Incidents like this occur in every prison system, civilian and military, in the world. It says more about the American military that these people were caught investigated and no face severe punishment than that they committed the acts in the first place.

  28. sternfan,

    I would hope the state the guy lives in, if any, would have jurisdiction, assuming the Iraqis didn’t get him first. I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know. I’m just appealing to common human decency.

    Also, I guess I wasn’t clear in my previous post. I would distinguish between a pedophile and a sodomizer. The former usually has a tough time, at least according to my father, and the latter might actually be ok in the “prison experience.” Of course, if he’s used to being the man in those situations, he may have to “adjust” to being the woman.

    I would hope Titan would fire him and that he would have to look for another job, even if he weren’t indicted or convicted. When the HR person calls Titan to verify work experience and reason for leaving, they get a response, “Yeah, we had to let him go because he fucked a 16 year-old boy, and we just didn’t want someone like that on our payroll.”

  29. Uh Ken, Sadr’s NOT IN Fallujah, he’s in Najaf.

    The “failure” in Fallujah… well I am ambivalent about that, but let’s review there’s a cease-fire and the DARNEDEST cease-fire I’ve ever heard of. More shooting goin on now than when there wasn’t one. BUT, a LOT of insurgents are dead, more every day. The “retreat” is the replacement of a US Marine unit with an Iraqi unit. I don’t say it looks pretty, but I’d say the “siege” goes on. Betcha before two days have passed another hundred Iraqi insurgents die… I don’t know, the end result may be the exhaustion of the insurgents and all without an “assault” akin to Jenin, with all the attendant hue and cry about “massacres.”

  30. Your comments are sick and disturbing Shannon. These soldiers have American flags on their uniforms and thus they are representing you, me, and everyone else in this country. I sure as hell expect better behavior out of people who are representing me and who are supposed to be exemplifying what America is all about. And try as you might all your excuses fail to justify this kind of behavior.

  31. We torture and humiliate Iraqis in prison.

    “We” is shortsighted. Some idiots have done this, and should be punished. Unless you’d like to toss all Arabs under the “they” umbrella with al Qaeda and IJ, etc.? “They” hijack planes and crash them into buildings…”they” strap bombs to themselves and blow up buses…

    That our opponent is not above kidnapping and killing civilians buffets my disgust somewhat. I see our own sadly misguided jackass interrogators as a breed of humanity on the “moral spectrum” somewhere between our army and that of our enemy. It’s better than nothing, and our enemy should be grateful that we don’t treat them like they treat us.

  32. Joe L.: Speaking of Jenin and Fallujah, that’s the very analogy trumpted by Robert Scheer right now. At the LA Times Book Festival last weekend this was his main argument. Screaming “JENIN! JENIN!” without really mentioning the fabricated, reported or actual story of Jenin.

  33. Guys…..when they turn on the electricity it’s called torture. When a woman laughs at a hooded Muslim’s dick it’s called humiliation. See the difference?

  34. Ken Shultz:

    “the Seige of Fallujah to, first, find and punish the people responsible for murdering and mutilating the bodies of those contractors and, second, to arrest Sheik al-Sadr.”

    Al-Sadr is supposedly in Najaf not Fallujah. Ken, why don’t you stick to things you know.

  35. “Incidents like this occur in every prison system, civilian and military, in the world.”

    Oh, so everyone does it so it’s OK. Can you give me the name of your fifth grade teacher so she can teach you something about morals. Besides that, given that we are desperately trying to win the hearts and minds of the Arab world, this has to be one of the most damaging things that could be done. Besides attacking Iraq in the first place of course.

  36. Not that I agree with the behavior of the soldiers in question. But I’m certainly not going to lose my lunch over it.

    what America is all about

    What is America all about? Given the practical application of “liberty” and “justice” in this country I’d say this is in keeping with our traditions.

  37. Good to see the usual “Hey, our evil wasnt near as bad as THIER evil, so that makes it ok” excuse is in play.

    Id like to see what takes to qualify as an atrocity to people that can condone and even support actions like this from anyone.

    I believe there is a photo of forced oral sex as well.

    Torture as a means of gathering intelligence, while disturbing can be justified to some extent. I dont think anyone can make a case that these pictures were taken during any kind of interrogation. These prisoners were subjected to demeaning and cruel treatment, and if commited by anyone here in the US to anther person would likely see felony charges. I suspect a DA would likely find a torture statute to apply so to call this torture certainly applies.

    I wonder if anyone who can defend these actions would mind if I tied them up, stacked them naked on a pile of other naked men, go so far as to have him have a dick placed in his mouth and then accept me telling them, im not torturing you dude.

    Amazing sense of human decency some of you people have.

  38. Gawdamann:

    Which would you prefer: an electric shock or being humiliated? Would you like to be stripped naked and stacked on top of other nude men? Would you like your picture taken with you kneeled before another guy? Or would you just take the electric shock?

  39. Good to see the usual “Hey, our evil wasnt near as bad as THIER evil, so that makes it ok” excuse is in play.

    Id like to see what takes to qualify as an atrocity to people that can condone and even support actions like this from anyone.

    I believe there is a photo of forced oral sex as well.

    Torture as a means of gathering intelligence, while disturbing can be justified to some extent. I dont think anyone can make a case that these pictures were taken during any kind of interrogation. These prisoners were subjected to demeaning and cruel treatment, and if commited by anyone here in the US to anther person would likely see felony charges. I suspect a DA would likely find a torture statute to apply so to call this torture certainly applies.

    I wonder if anyone who can defend these actions would mind if I tied them up, stacked them naked on a pile of other naked men, go so far as to have him have a dick placed in his mouth and then accept me telling them, im not torturing you dude.

    Amazing sense of human decency some of you people have.

  40. sorry for the double post, the first one appeared to have never taken….

  41. Bush had the right response. The trick in a democracy is showing how to react to its failure otherwise than by cynicism. In this case, the perpetators wind up in prison after the machinery grinds a little, and I assume some sort of apology from Bush to the individual Iraqis.

    If a democracy doesn’t work with idiots in it, it isn’t going to work at all.

  42. I suspect that the people saying “this isn’t really torture” would be furious if Iraqis did this to American POWs.

    As for the comment “nobody was physically tortured” and “nobody died;” well, there have been a few cases of Iraqi prisoners in American hands being beaten to death. Also, at least one of the photos showed American soldiers setting dogs on the Iraqi prisoners.

    Everybody sing along with me: “Yes, I’m proud to be an Americaaaaan. . .”

  43. Hmmmmmm……assuming that we’re not talking the about the s&m chambers of San Francisco where the “boys” stand in line for this kind of stuff- I’d rather have the shock treatment, Mr. Nice Guy. I’d prefer that to being skinned alive or other Muslim torture techniques, I suppose.

  44. Gee, Mr. Hat, why can’t we be Iraqi POWs?

  45. From:http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/04/30/iraq.photos/index.html

    “Kimmitt said he has met with representatives of Iraq’s newspapers to discuss how to report the story. ”

    So that is what freedom of the press means?

  46. So in your world Jennifer, bad acts reported and punished make you UN-Proud? Are you saying if someone in your town of residence is arrested for murder your gonna hang your head in shame? Just wondered?

    I am pleased to see that the Army has learned from My Lai, “Bad news is not like wine, it does not get better with age.” So the Army is acting on the allegations. It wold be better if the acts had not occurred, but this is much better than what usually happens in the region, which is to say torture and a deafening silence by all.

  47. As a hawk, I am disgusted in the extreme by this behavior. As a former academic instructor on a military base, i am shocked that this occured. I’ve no crystal ball, but I cannot but help but beleive this is bad.

    I look forward to sharp and severe sentencing for the perpetrating scum. personally, as a poster on these boards supporting US actions, I am embarressed, as well.

    But lets be clear all: we are at war. These things happen, in all nations. our record of POW treatment is fairly good–certainly not impeccable–as Nick G’s asine headline references.

    But jennifer, I am proud to be American, very much. This despicable incident does not diminsh my belief that we are right to be there. Moreover, on balance, i beleive America’s actions are appropriate and just frequently.

    I find it sad that you are apparently not proud of your nation, on balance.

    best, Roddy

  48. Shannon Love,

    Because a practice is common is hardly a justification by itself for its continuance.

  49. excuse is in play

    It’s not an excuse for their actions so much as it is an excuse for my lack of outrage. The army has a process to handle this, it’s not like this is a shocking precedent in human or American history. Happens all the time to victims of nutjob cops the world over.

    Oh, so everyone does it so it’s OK.

    And where else would you get your morality from? Mommy and Daddy? God? Morality is a pleural judgement that changes based on the society that levies it.

  50. Jee-sus Key-rist!

  51. Joe L and Rod-
    Actually, my shame here is more for my American compatriots who are so quick to say “it’s no big deal, they’re not being tortured and besides other people are a lot worse!” That’s like excusing a murderer by saying, “Hey, he only killed two people; Ted Bundy killed dozens!”

    Although I of course cannot prove it, I suspect that those who are saying the Iraqis shouldn’t complain about this are the same cowards who would demand anesthetic for removal of a splinter from their finger.

  52. Shannon, what makes you so certain that the acts teh troops decided to photograph represent the worst acts that were committed?

    As for my question “where were the officers,” I should have looked further. “Brig. Gen. Janice Karpinski” Janice, eh? I wonder, is is possible that the sort of man who would get a rush from making prisoners perform gay sex acts, would also be the sort of person to disregard female authority?

  53. jennifer, I hear your clarification. Point taken.

    Most hawks that i deal with are pissed and disgusted about this.

  54. Incidentally, even George W. Bush is saying that this is appalling, rather than dismissing it with obscene statements like “Hey, it ain’t really torture! Hey, it’s worse in other parts of the world! Hey, at least we didn’t kill them!”

  55. My Lai might be a bit strong of a comparison. Only because it’s probably just a matter of time before a real My Lai happens. In which case you’ll have to call it “Iraq’s Batdambang.”

  56. That’s like excusing a murderer by saying

    Who is excusing this? Yeah, it’s horrible. But so what, these were the actions of a few and it’s not like there’s no process in place to punish them. Newsflash: sometimes people break laws.

    Do the actions of al Qaeda make every Arab in the M.E. a terrorist? Why then should I look with shame on the armed forces as a whole on account of the actions of a tiny few? Yes, bad soldiers. Stacking up naked terrorists, hooking up wires to their hands and *gasp* lying to them. I wonder if any got a broomstick in the ass?

    Moving right along.

  57. for all you kids out there rushing around the internet looking for free smut, contrary to what was posted here earlier, the photos in question don’t depict any forced oral sex; nobody’s dick is in anybody’s mouth. the prisoners were posed in humiliating positions, i.e., mouth at cock level, but the bags were, at least in the pictures we’ve been provided, securely shielding the nice man’s face from exposure to another’s penis. kind of like a condom in reverse.

    — still not convinced that i should be appalled by anything but the incompetence demonstrated by these pranksters in letting this leak to the press

  58. even George W. Bush is saying that this is appalling

    What else could he have said? Don’t mix PR and propaganda with the straight dope.

  59. WHo’s excusing this? Well, let’s just stick to examples from this particular post, shall we? Ah, the glories of cut-and-paste:

    People need to get a grip. While not conforming to American standards and deserving of punishment all the up the command chain we need to remember that at present we know that: (1) nobody died (2) nobody was physically tortured (3) these people weren’t run of mill Iraqis but higher level Baathist and Feyadeen. This was not an “atrocity” of any kind.

    our enemy should be grateful that we don’t treat them like they treat us.

    Not that I agree with the behavior of the soldiers in question. But I’m certainly not going to lose my lunch over it.

    _________________________________________________
    And this website is relatively mild. I’ve read commentary on other sites that is so vile I’m hoping they were posted by Machiavellian Al-qaeda sympathizers out to discredit us, rather than citizens of a nation which once prided itself on being a worldwide beacon of justice and commitment to human rights.

    On a related note, I wonder if overworked child-welfare social workers could reduce their workloads by taking abused children to the movies, showing them “Mommie Dearest,” and saying, “See? YOUR Mommy’s not nearly as bad as Joan Crawford, which therefore means you are not really being abused.

    “So what if you have a few bruises? I’m not going to lose my lunch over it–other children have had their bones broken by their parents!

    “So what if Daddy waved his dick in your face? Other children have been outright sodomized by their fathers–now THAT’S what I’d call sexual abuse!”

  60. our enemy should be grateful that we don’t treat them like they treat us.

    Not that I agree with the behavior of the soldiers in question. But I’m certainly not going to lose my lunch over it.

    Can’t speak for anyone else, but the first comment is on Iraqi reaction, the second is on my own reaction. At no point did I call for any less criminal punishment than would normally be meted out, nor did I ask any of you to “understand” where the soldiers were coming from. I’m just calling for less “shock and awe.” It’s naieve.

  61. rst,

    So Bush doesn’t really care about human rights; its all “spin.” Thank you for confirming my suspicions.

  62. So Bush doesn’t really care about human rights; its all “spin.”

    It’s not just Bush. It’s the position. When you’re a public official, what comes out of your mouth has to be a PR-friendly sound bite. Sometimes it’s close enough to the truth, sometimes it’s outright bullshit, most times it’s somewhere in the middle. Rest assured, Chirac does the same thing.

  63. RST:
    “Stacking up naked terrorists”

    Why are you calling them terrorists? They are fighting a foreign Army who invaded their country. I guess terrorists, now a days, are anyone who fights against the US.

  64. “even George W. Bush is saying that this is appalling

    What else could he have said? Don’t mix PR and propaganda with the straight dope.”

    Come on guys. EVEN George Bush? Of course he cares. Don’t you ever tire of the Snidely Whiplash caricature of the prez?

  65. Junufur,

    We’re only a nation which prides itself on being a worldwide beacon of justice and commitment to human rights when we’re talking about what we’re going to do. When we actually go ahead and do it…c’est la guerre.

    The fun part is when saying we should be a beacon of justice and human rights is enough to warrant a charge that you don’t care about being a beacon of democracy and human rights.

  66. “Ken, why don’t you stick to things you know.”

    Take a close look at this, anon, ?. It’s called a question mark. People use it to ask about things they don’t know.

    P.S. Piss off.

  67. Nice to see everyone in a lather. Torture seems a side-effect of war. Not every American soldier is able to restrain his pathological tendencies, and this being apparently an outrageous exception, by and large we are still well-intentioned people. Your indignation is noted. Please move along.

  68. Of course he cares. Don’t you ever tire of the Snidely Whiplash caricature of the prez?

    I’m not saying he doesn’t, I’m just saying don’t hold him up as the archetype of how your average American should react to this situation. He has an obligation to say the “right” thing. We on the other hand do not.

    I guess terrorists, now a days, are anyone who fights against the US.

    Not at all. We borrow a few pages from that book ourselves. I mainly called them terrorists because what we tend to define as terrorism is an accepted military tactic in that part of the world. These are the same guys who used human shields and put missile batteries next to mosques to maximize the PR impact of a direct hit by American artillery. Not so immoral there as we consider it here.

  69. Late for Boom, Jean Bart et al,

    You know, you are perfectly right. “Everybody does it” is no defense whether legally or morally. I don’t know why I thought it was. I don’t know why I wrote a post predicated on the idea that abuse of Iraqi prisoners was acceptable behavior because such abuses occur disturbingly often within all types of prison systems. I was completely and utterly wrong to write that.

    Oh wait, I didn’t write that. I didn’t even imply it.

    What I did actually write, had you bothered to actually really read , was that:

    (1) on the scale of bad things that happen to people this was pretty low on the scale. Comparing it to Mi Li where civilians were murdered is clearly over the top. Comparing it to a cruel fraternity hazing is more apt. I repeat, with facts before us now, nobody was physical injured and nobody was killed. (I would add that this level of psychological abuse needs to be punished because undeterred it will eventually lead to physical abuse.)

    (2) The psychodynamics of a prison are ripe for abuse. Guards are given arbitrary power over people they have valid reasons to fear may attack them at any moment. Guard work is mind numbingly boring and often physically unpleasant yet a moments inattention can lead to ones death. Combine these normal psychological hazards with the moral disgust anybody would feel towards these particularly loathsome prisoners and it is just a matter of time before some guards snap.

    THEREFOR

    (did you see that “therefor” above? It’s really important. You seem to have missed the implied one in my first post)

    It is more important to judge a prison system by how it responds when it finds abuses (note I call it abuse and not “totally acceptable behavior we should show absolutely no concern about”) than whether the abuses occur or not. A system that never reveals abuses must be lying. In this case, as soon as the photos leaked beyond the immediate circle of guards, the military command moved aggressively to fix the problem and hold people accountable. Further, they publicized the event with no outside prompting.

    So does this event indicate some massive flaw in the US military? No, not unless you set a utopian zero defect standard. By any real world standard was the abuses were relatively minor and more importantly were dealt with quickly. You can’t realistically ask for more than that.

  70. HA HA HA HA HA HA!
    Am I the only one left with a sense of humor?
    Oooh, the poor Iraqis: We EMBARRASSED them!
    Sure beats a bullet through the head.

    The hilarity of the prank is exceeded only by Jennifer’s underwrought attempt at political punditry. Keep ’em coming, J-Low. You really kill us!

    Nick, I guess you thought twice about “America’s Treblinka”? THAT would have been over the top.

    Anybody seen Virginia P?
    Come back, Virginia!
    Come back!

  71. Of course the activities in the picture are violations of IHL and military regulations, and those responsible must be disciplined. But I have to wonder, who were these prisoners? Were they perhaps the former masters of Abu Ghraib?

  72. “We only know about these guys because they were dumb enough to take photos. How many smarter torturers are out there?” –Jennifer

    That was exactly my reaction when the subhuman troglodyte Justin Volpe got caught in the Abner Louima case. How many crooked and sadistic cops out there are smarter than Volpe, and don’t get caught?

  73. Let’s make a list of nations that punish their own soldiers for abusing POWs.

    1. United States
    2. Great Britain
    3.?

    I volunteered to reenlist for one day if the army could find no one else willing to hang Calley, but I also wanted to see the rules of engagement for the Mai Lai action.

    The general in charge of these guards is a female lady woman.

    Incidently, I captured two prisoners and had to guard them several days until I could turn them over to MP’s.
    My orders were to toss a grenade into their hut if we were overrun, so they could not communicate our weaknesses to the enemy. At age 18, I knew this was illegal, but I also knew it was necessary, and I would have done it if we had been overrun. War offers poor choices sometimes.
    Of course, and enemy captured who are not in uniform should be executed immediately.
    Life is easier for people who never have to make a hard choice.

  74. Because a practice is common is hardly a justification by itself for its continuance.

    She didn’t justify the practice or call for its continuance.

  75. Walter Wallis,
    I helicoptered low over My Lai in 1969. That was quite a while after it had happened.

    The issue here is not atrocity.

    Nutcases are always ready, willing and able to produce an atrocity.

    The issue is “crusades” do not promote love and respect for fellow humankind.

    You are correct pointing out war calls for hard choices. We should not let off lightly “leaders” putting us in “war mode” in the first place.

  76. Solly, Cholly, but the issue is indeed atrocity, just not quite as bad as when Democrat presidential candidates and Senators were machine gunning villagers.
    These guys were jailers in real life. One wonders. I am not one for coddling prisoners, but I believe any authority must be exercized with restraint, and I do not want anyone who enjoys making someone else hurt to do so in my name. Of course, I detest Alan Funt, too.

  77. Apparently it is not only US soldiers that are engaged in this.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1207458,00.html

    “The Ministry of Defence launched an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the photographs, in which a prisoner appears to be battered with rifle butts, threatened with execution and urinated on by his captors.”

  78. more serious allegations:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1207458,00.html

    “The prisoner – thought to have been a thief – had his jaw broken and his teeth smashed during an eight-hour ordeal after being arrested near the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

    Bleeding and vomiting, he was eventually driven away from the army camp, still hooded, and thrown off the back of a moving vehicle. He was not charged with an offence and it is not known whether he lived or died. “

  79. What they did wasn’t that bad, but it is horrible from a propaganda standpoint.

    Rather than acting as Tokyo Rose’s Repeater Stations, perhaps the patriotic left could be of some use.

  80. “If democracy isn’t the goal, why continue the occupation?”

    Even if it was the goal; actually, limited government and individual liberty are more important but whatever, the occupation should end. Also, our government is discrediting the many good traits of America that the Iraqis would do well to emulate.

    “Liberating” one of the many nations of the world that has a brutal regime wasn’t sufficient pretext for this undertaking.
    Our government actually gives big money to some of the nations with brutal regimes.

    The original goal in this mission has indeed been accomplished. The very grave threat that Sadam’s vast arsenal posed has been made inert since our military has found destroyed the huge cache of WMD that it found…

    Bring the troops home now from this disgrace.

  81. I think that the soldiers who participated in the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners should receive the same penalty as if they had committed this outrage against Americans.

    We should be proud that ours’ is among the nations that that punish their own soldiers for abusing POW. Also, it’s no accident that nations which do so, also tend to have a much higher level of protection for the rights of their own citizens.

    It’s easy to envision those same people who try to mitigate the nature of this barbarity by labeling the prisoners as “terrorists” resorting to calling American victims of some brutal, unconstitutional, US government action; “traitors”, or some such.

  82. Bring the troops home now from this disgrace.

    Yeah, good idea Rick. We can watch the infrastructure collapse into the ninth level of hell. I’ll bring the marshmellows.

  83. This war crime committed by American solders was the only one videotaped, that’s mean what’s hidden is greater!!

    Now I can understand the reasons of the increasing hatred towards Americans among Iraqi people.

    I can understand why Iraqi children and teenagers dancing around American burning tanks

    I can also understand why did they burn the 4 Americans in Falluja

  84. Burned bodies hanging from bridges. Prison rape rooms. Specter gunships firing 105mm rounds into populated cities. 100+ dead Americans in a month (what do you think the kill ration is? 50:1? 80:1?)

    How exactly would I be able to tell the difference, rst?

  85. Backlash

    There some news coming from Saudi Arabia saying that 2 Americans and one British were killed today in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia. The Americans bodies were trailed along on the ground by the killer’s car.

    this seems to be a revenge of what they have seen on TV last night in Iraq.

  86. Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.

  87. Great! Now the Arabs are REALLY going to be angry with us. Just when we were about to (cliche alert! cliche alert!) win their hearts and minds. Let’s just pray they don’t resort to violence.

  88. “You are a moral degenerate.”

    Thanks, Slippery.
    I’m not, actually. Just stirring the drink, watching the particles go ’round and ’round.

    By the way, morality usually doesn’t enter into these discussions, this being a libertarian site and all. (There’s always that pesky “politics without philosophy” dilemma.) Thanks for bringing it up.

    War is hell.
    Embarrassing your prisoners? INEXCUSABLE!

    Time to pull your tits out of the wringer and get some sun.

  89. Polly Ann:

    OK, “hearts and minds” is a cliche, and Iraqis are already resisting the occupation.

    What, in your view, is the purpose of the occupation? Can a democracy be created without winning hearts and minds, cliche or not? Do we want an Iraqi government elected by people who hate us? If democracy isn’t the goal, why continue the occupation?

  90. Yes, Evil Twin, this was “embarrassing.” The same that forcing a woman to be pregant is “inconvenient,” or being pulled out of car and threatened by two cops on a lonely road at night because you’re black is “impolite.”

    I love the words right wingers make up.

  91. But we are punishing the perps!

    You never see portrails of other nations mistreating prisoners, because the world would say “So what?”

  92. Evil Twin –

    The actions shown on 60 Minutes and repeated everywhere else on earth violate just about every treaty we’ve ever signed concerning human rights, POW treatment, etc. You’re an idiot of the first order. Civilized countries attempt to hold themselves to certain standards. These standards are far higher than the standards set by regimes like Saddams. Just because we, at our worst, do not exceed the abuses of others does not make them any less wrong. You are a moral degenerate.

  93. David Tomlin,

    I don’t think it’s so obvious at all that “democracy” means to most folks, a bill of rights let alone an independent judiciary.

    There have been many governments that have had voting and a bill of rights but very little individual liberty. I think the distinction is an important one. Perhaps “free society” would be a better term.

    “Democracy” is the goal according to our President

    Bush didn’t choose the best word? No way! 😉

    But seriously; If that were the real concern, our government shouldn’t be supporting the regimes in, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Jordan and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land!

  94. To Rick Barton

    “Democracy” is the goal according to our President. And, in context, that obviously means a modern political system with an independent judciary, bill of rights and so forth. It’s tiresome for people to keep insisting that an archaic meaining of the word is the only “correct” one. Etymology isn’t meaning. Usage is meaning.

  95. Marianne:

    “When will we understand that these sub-human people, place NO value on human life what-so-ever. This is their way of life from eons ago, and will continue this untill the end of time. This is embeed in them at birth. This is in their genes and, part of their genetic make up.”

    ” Our military MP’s may (have) had enough of this …and said enough is enough all ready.”

    There is no need to refute your nonsensical post. Your post is self-refuting. I just put up one a couple of the most incriminating passages. You must be so proud Marianne.

    The sentiment you expressed in your post is so anti-American that you might as well be spitting of the flag, which is your right but then I don’t expect you to understand that.

    One of the enduring arguments for individual rights and keeping government small and its power restrained is in case people like you come ever to power.

  96. To Evil Twin:
    I just want you to know that I agree with you 100% plus. What do some of people out there think abouut our P.O.W. that were tortured, maimed, and killed by the Iraqis, and then were dragged through the streets, where even the little kids there would stone their bodies. We people at home in the U.S.A. are not aware of all of the ways our P.O.W. were tortured,and killed, and how their bodies were humilated, even after they were killed. The Bible says, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. When will we understand that these sub-human people, place NO value on human life what-so-ever. This is their way of life from eons ago, and will continue this untill the end of time. This is embeed in them at birth. This is in their genes and, part of their genetic make up. I believe in fighting fire with fire. We are not there to witness their crimes against our military, but are military is there to wittness what they are doing. They don’t like when the tables are turned on them! Oh, those poor sub-humans. It’s OK when they torture our P.O.W., but it’s not OK for us to turn the tables on them. Something is very wrong in this picture folks!! Our military MP’s may had enough of this combined with all of the stress and fear put on them, and said enough is enough all ready. A human being can take this stress, and fear for only so long, untill the fight or flight theory takes hold of them. They have taken the fight part of that theory, and I am 100% in supporting them! To all of you bleeding hearts out there duhhhh wake up and smell the coffee! I feel sorry for all of the bleeding hearts out there who are deaf, blind, dumb, and just plain ignorant.

  97. To Evil Twin:
    I just want you to know that I agree with you 100% plus. What do some of people out there think abouut our P.O.W. that were tortured, maimed, and killed by the Iraqis, and then were dragged through the streets, where even the little kids there would stone their bodies. We people at home in the U.S.A. are not aware of all of the ways our P.O.W. were tortured,and killed, and how their bodies were humilated, even after they were killed. The Bible says, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. When will we understand that these sub-human people, place NO value on human life what-so-ever. This is their way of life from eons ago, and will continue this untill the end of time. This is embeed in them at birth. This is in their genes and, part of their genetic make up. I believe in fighting fire with fire. We are not there to witness their crimes against our military, but are military is there to wittness what they are doing. They don’t like when the tables are turned on them! Oh, those poor sub-humans. It’s OK when they torture our P.O.W., but it’s not OK for us to turn the tables on them. Something is very wrong in this picture folks!! Our military MP’s may had enough of this combined with all of the stress and fear put on them, and said enough is enough all ready. A human being can take this stress, and fear for only so long, untill the fight or flight theory takes hold of them. They have taken the fight part of that theory, and I am 100% in supporting them! To all of you bleeding hearts out there duhhhh wake up and smell the coffee! I feel sorry for all of the bleeding hearts out there who are deaf, blind, dumb, and just plain ignorant.

  98. To Evil Twin:
    I just want you to know that I agree with you 100% plus. What do some of people out there think abouut our P.O.W. that were tortured, maimed, and killed by the Iraqis, and then were dragged through the streets, where even the little kids there would stone their bodies. We people at home in the U.S.A. are not aware of all of the ways our P.O.W. were tortured,and killed, and how their bodies were humilated, even after they were killed. The Bible says, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. When will we understand that these sub-human people, place NO value on human life what-so-ever. This is their way of life from eons ago, and will continue this untill the end of time. This is embeed in them at birth. This is in their genes and, part of their genetic make up. I believe in fighting fire with fire. We are not there to witness their crimes against our military, but are military is there to wittness what they are doing. They don’t like when the tables are turned on them! Oh, those poor sub-humans. It’s OK when they torture our P.O.W., but it’s not OK for us to turn the tables on them. Something is very wrong in this picture folks!! Our military MP’s may had enough of this combined with all of the stress and fear put on them, and said enough is enough all ready. A human being can take this stress, and fear for only so long, untill the fight or flight theory takes hold of them. They have taken the fight part of that theory, and I am 100% in supporting them! To all of you bleeding hearts out there duhhhh wake up and smell the coffee! I feel sorry for all of the bleeding hearts out there who are deaf, blind, dumb, and just plain ignorant.

  99. Fuck Bush

    Why doesn’t he send anyone of his relative to Iraq??

  100. joe:

    “How exactly would I be able to tell the difference, rst?”

    You really think our troops are doing no good whatsoever? You think you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the quantity of violence we see now and what we’d see without an armed presence?

    Similar arguments might run like, “Suspect shot 37 times in his own home with no weapon, and another sodomized at the station with a plunger. With all of this violence, how could we tell the difference if we got rid of all police?”

  101. The best case scenario for your side, Jason, is that the horrific violence being experienced in Iraq right now will someday, somehow result in a liberal democratic society and government. As of right now, our troops are putting a lot of hot metal into a lot of people.

  102. I cannot condone what these “brain deads” have done, but it IS (unfortunately) what soldiers have always done. Where these guys went wrong was to photograph it. There is nothing new here, just more publicity. next time you are in Saigon check out the photographs in the war museum. Americans were just as foul then as now.
    basically we are a foul species and the sooner mother nature rises up and expunges us from the planet the better it will be for all life left behind.

  103. Who cares what happens to a bunch of Iraqi terrorists arrested in connection with the death of US Troops during peace time?

    Are we forgetting that these freaks were arrested because of possesion of explosives and rocket launchers in the immediate vicinity of a deadly attack on American troops?

    I believe that any form of misconduct should get the military jailers fired but letting the USA take a “black eye” for some murdering,raping terrorist pieces of crap being hazed by some immature military jailers is absolutely retarded.

  104. Grow up Rick Barton.
    No caches of WMD have been found by anyones troops in Iraq. Rumourmongering does not help anyone or anything

  105. It seems that those in power in Washington are unaware of the fact that the Arab pride and dignity are something very precious and that only bloody revenge will bring the victims peace. Accordingly, the day of reckoning will be a hard one… the US must brace itself for more violent acts of retaliation. Families and relatives of the humiliated victims will not rest until they get their revenge on the culprits and their associates. As a revange, I belive More Americans will be killed and might be burned across the Medeast …

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