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April 30, 2004

Torture In Iraq « GWOT »

By now, you've already heard about the torture of Iraqis at the hands of US Soldiers in Iraq

There's some commentary at Balloon Juice (warning: graphic pictures), Hog On Ice, King of Fools, Slapnose,

I don't really have anything novel to say, I don't think. Obviously, this is unacceptable. Obviously, the complaints about "lack of training" are ridiculous, because every military servicemember gets mulitple training iterations about the Laws of Armed Conflict and the Geneva Convention agreements. Obviously, everyone involved needs to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Obviously, these soldiers failed the Iraqis and the United States by perptrating these evil acts.

I would like to provide a few of my thoughts, though. Maybe you'll find something useful in them.

First, the General is absolutely responsible. She will probably get away with a reduction in rank and an option to retire, but she should be subjected to a court-martial. Some might say she didn't know what was going on, and couldn't have known what was going on. Bull. It's her job to know what was going on. She is to ensure her orders are carried out, and even the distance of the chain of command should not be allowed to prevent her from knowing the conditions of the people in her charge.

Second, this is going to add fuel to the campaign to get the US, and particularly the US military, subject to the International Criminal Court. This was the worst possible thing to have happen, and the worst possible place and time.

Third, this is the face of humanity. Everyone looks at what the Germans did to the Jews and points fingers at the evil of the Germans. They would never do such things themselves, of course. Again, bull. We are all part of the mob, and we do things in groups that we would never do alone. We do things in anonymity that we would never do in front of our mother or our kids or our friends.

I'll tell you how this happened:
Most of the people involved in this are not any more evil than you. It got out of hand, and when it started going too far, no one spoke up and said, "Hey, knock it off!" It was always easier to go along with it than to speak up.

Well, then, would someone like LT Smash have done this? No, but not because he is anything special, rather because he has shown (if you remember one of his first stories he wrote about from Iraq) that he has the courage to stand up to bullying tactics by superiors. Would I have done this? I don't think so...not because I'm anything special, but because I have the courage to stand up in my workplace and tell people to knock it off when the language becomes unprofessional or the jokes become I think I would stand up to and stop the abuse.

But it's Mob Mentality, folks. It brings out the worst in all of us. Most people in the same situation would have done the same things. Think about it. Search your heart. Have you ever made fun of someone because everyone else did? Have you ever been so frustrated you hit the wall? ...or a pillow? ...or yelled at your kid? Then you have within you the character flaw that helped these soldiers take out their frustrations on the Iraqis.

So am I excusing them? No. Not just no, but Hell no. Character flaws can be eliminated once you admit them. You can develop the courage to do the right thing, even if no one else is. These people lacked the moral courage to stand out, do what was right, and stop what was wrong. They need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If they can single out the people who thought up some of the more depraved acts, I wouldn't object to capital punishment. Sure, it would suck to be executed or in prison for life for making an error in judgment on what was okay to go along with....but I don't care. We need to use this tragedy as an opportunity to show everyone (other soldiers, citizens back home, Arabs, Iraqis, the world community, everyone) that actions have consequences.

One commenter at John Cole's Balloon Juice said we need to root this out of the military. We can't. It's in human nature. Does anyone think that for some reason all the sickos just happened to be assigned to the same unit? No. Take any group of people, and if no one has the courage to stand up and say, "Knock it off! This is wrong!", then it would happen with anyone.

On the other hand, I don't think the US Army or the US Military at large is full of sick, depraved individuals like this. I think all the people involved followed the path of least resistence, and things sank to the lowest common denominator. That's why I recommend the harshest punishment possible, because the punishment needs to serve as a deterrence and a reminder to anyone and everyone else that they must have the courage to stand up.

I admit, part of my reaction is from seeing the young female soldier in one of the pictures posted in the Balloon Juice post. She doesn't look evil, and females are supposed to be gentler and kinder and more empathetic. Her face shows that it wasn't one depraved individual corrupting others, it was the group effort of a group that had lost perspective. I blame the leadership for failing to provide the sufficient supervision that would have nipped this in the bud.

Moral Courage can be taught. Moral Courage must be taught. We have another opportunity to start now. I pray we don't drop the ball again.

Posted by Nathan at 11:22 AM | Comments (3)
» Accidental Verbosity links with: Torture in Iraq
» blogoSFERICS links with: War Crimes by Americans
» King of Fools links with: Punishing the Bad Guys
» damnum absque injuria links with: 'Hat of the Day: Chip Frederick
» Welcome to Castle Argghhh! The Home Of One Of Jonah's Military Guys. links with: On the Mistreatment of Iraqi Prisoners
» Little Miss Attila links with: Abuse of Iraqis

My blog post (Try a visit!)
notes that there was a dual chain of command, with military police & military intelligence. Headed by a female Gen. & a male Col., respectively.

Bad, bad mistake, to have an unclear Chain of Command; and the woman vs inferior man stuff is bad, too.

Posted by: Tom Grey at May 3, 2004 03:59 AM

Hmm, can't seem to find the trackback option. However, thought you would like to know that I mentioned your post at

Great post especially when you said:

One commenter at John Cole's Balloon Juice said we need to root this out of the military. We can't. It's in human nature. Does anyone think that for some reason all the sickos just happened to be assigned to the same unit? No. Take any group of people, and if no one has the courage to stand up and say, "Knock it off! This is wrong!", then it would happen with anyone.

I've been trying to tell people just that.

Posted by: Messy Christian at May 4, 2004 09:49 PM

i'm sure we all agree, the war in iraq
was not to free iraq it was purely
for profit .oil.
the u.n.pulled troops from
from what was 8,ooo leaving 800 knowing
about the planned invasion that
resulted in the massacres in rwanda.
why? because had nothing to
offer the west in the form of resources
bush is a joke.his campaign financed
by energy companies,pulling out of
the kyoto summit,the florida votes.
need i say more?
bush and his patsy president tony
blair have lost it.
in england we have an impressionist
comedian called john culshaw,he has
a show called dead ringers.check it
out.he parodies bush and blair for
what dickheads they are

Posted by: alan jones at May 10, 2004 02:02 PM
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