Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Iraqi Prison Barbarism & Its Aftermath: To Veterans, and Anyone Else Listening, Part II

'How did this happen without the Secretary of Defense, the administration or the Congress not knowing about it?'

As Congress itself loudly debates the horrible actions of those responsible for the Iraqi prison outrage, let's get a few things straight. First, for a few minutes, stop listening to Fox News AND Air America and use your own brains and not the brains of others, because I have some choice words for BOTH sides of the political spectrum today. There's plenty of blame to go around, and symptomatic of today's society, no one will assume responsibility. So let's start assigning responsibility and accountability where it belongs, because many want to pontificate about our military, but 99% of those making the comments have never been in the military, and it is reported that only one Congress member has a family member now serving.

First, those directly responsible for the Iraqi prison debacle should be punished to the full extent of the law - and when we are talking military law, the punishments are geometrically more harsh, in terms of prison terms for example, than civilian courts and prisons. The Guardian reports this morning that they think this will happen:

The reports of American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners during interrogations are horrifying. Fortunately, there is a clear and proper legal response. Those accused will be court-martialled and, if found guilty, they will be punished.

But , if so, the Pentagon, Mr. Rumsfeld, and top level field commanders are off to a bad start:

(1) The prison thuggery has been known about for almost six months, and kept under a cloak of secrecy.
(2) The blatant and reckless disregard for the human rights of prisoners of war not only grossly violates international law, but casts a large shadow over the 99% + of the military who attempt to do the right thing in wartime under stress and threats of personal danger.
(3) The use of mercenaries and "outside agencies" (read CIA etc) have greatly contributed to this disaster
(4) The over-extended use of Reserves and National Guard in critical positions THEY WERE NOT TRAINED FOR has greatly contributed to this disaster
(5) The fact that many "non-judicial" punishments (e.g. letters of reprimand, minor hand-slapping) and less-than-honorable discharges have been handed out already, clearly shows that the military knew it had problems and were attempting to put the issues behind them. EVERY ONE OF THESE ACTIONS NOW NEEDS TO BE REVIEWED AGAIN to see if proper discipline and punishment were assigned, in addition to the impending courts-martial that are apparently in the works. This whole debacle reeks of the "gook" mentality present during the Vietnam war - the dehumanizing of the enemy to the point where judgment and wisdom no longer operate.

As has been called for on this blog at least half a dozen times before, heads do, in fact, need to roll, starting with Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Tenet, and in November, this administration. However, military commanders in charge will bear the brunt of the investigations for the administration (and some of them rightly so), but Mr. Bush & Company will distance themselves as much as possible from another election year Iraq "problem." Mr. Rumsfeld, according to ABC radio news this morning has reportedly said he knew nothing about the Iraqi prison cover-up, not realizing that this is a worse admission than his knowing about it - and doing something about it.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told reporters; he was "extremely hopeful that ... this was not a widespread pattern of abuse and that the conduct of the overwhelming majority of Americans is honorable and decent."... McCain, who spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, added, however that the abuses themselves would not be tolerated or excused. "The rules for the treatment of prisoners of war are very clear," McCain said. "There is no justification for this kind of treatment."

Sen. McCain is one of very few in the government who can speak with knowledge, authority, and wisdom on this subject, but his words not spoken, speak even louder:

We are officially now in a Quagmire, with a capital Q:
(1) We have lost the support of those Iraqis who supported us
(2) We have lost any chance for impacting the Muslim world
(3) We have created potentially long-lasting damage within the military that could take years (like Vietnam) to overcome
(4) Our pronouncements for freedom and democracy in the Middle East now mean little because we don't "walk-the-talk."
(5) Our country becomes more and more divided in half
(6) Our allies, many of whom we've blown off, can't help us

Who is responsible? You don't have to listen to any media to know that it's those in charge. It begins at the top:
(1) With a government that works in secrecy
(2) With a government that disregards human rights (e.g. Guantanimo)
(3) With a government that is throwing the baby out with the bath water in terms of our individual rights (Patriot Acts I and II)
(4) With Cabinet members who don't know what's going on during their watch or allow illegal or unethical activities to exist.
(5) With a disregard for the proper uses of our military in pre-emptive wars, and the personal (and now mental) dismantling of our citizen solders (the National Guard and the Reserves), the vast majority of whom do their best to assist our active duty troops.

Predictably, all of these examples inevitably had their impact below the top levels of government eventually, and worked themselves out in wrong ways, as has happened now.

But, I would be remiss if I didn't dish out some well-deserved criticism of a few liberal (even some progressive), vocal critics now also airing their dismay on various blogs. Some of you are taking this opportunity to come out of your military-hating closet that you've felt forced to be in throughout the Afghanistan-Iraq wars. That is exactly the wrong thing to be doing right now. Let's put the blame where it belongs and not spread it where it doesn't belong. I'll be reporting later this week on some other emails from Iraq, the ones you don't hear about - the ones that show the real character of the vast, vast majority of our military, of whom as a progressive, I remain very, very proud.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link