Tuesday, May 11, 2004

I'm posting off the cuff--no references, no citations. But I need to get this out.

A few US troops in Iraq did some stupid things with Iraqi detainees (prisoners, if you prefer). They humiliated the detainees. Took pictures with them in humiliating poses. What they did is against US regulations, and a violation of the Geneva Accords, which the US never signed but agreed in principal to abide by. And we always have abided by the Geneva Accords, except in isolated incidents where junior leaders, out of the control of their seniors, have managed to create a tiny number of incidents.

Let's keep things in perspective. Abuse of prisoners goes back almost to the dawn of warfare--or at least as far back as people began taking prisoners.

Allied prisoners suffered abuses in Germany. And far worse abuses at the hands of the Japanese. The Koreans were hardly benevalent in their treatment of UN prisoners. We have all heard stories of the treatment of prisoners at the hands of the North Vietnamese. The most notorious prison in the US Civil War, Andersonville, was overseen by an Austrian immigrant.

Now, all of this is not meant to point fingers at others, but to make the point that the US doesn't hold a monopoly on abuse of prisoners. But we stretch the definition of "abuse". Yes, our people humiliated some prisoners. But you want abuse??? Keep trying.

Abuse is taking a knife and sawing the head off of a hostage. The Iraqis just did that, claiming it was "retaliation" for our "abuse" of Iraqi prisoners. That's tit-for-tat? Some people take embarrassing pictures of detainees and you retaliate by sawing a guy's head off with a knife?

They didn't hack his head off with an ax or a guillotine--They sawed it off with a knife. That action alone must have required a sub-human to carry out. I saw a film of that being done to a Soviet prisoner in Afghanistan. I won't elaborate.

The United States is currently involved in the exercise of pretty damn near disembowling itself, all over the humiliation of Iraqi detainees. It is right, and a measure of our own strength that we prosecute those responsible for this and take steps to ensure that it doesn't happen again. But to raise this to the level that some want to raise it is absurd.

Some people did things to embarrass detainees. Those detainees being people who may well have participated in attacks on US forces. Or who quite frankly may be indistinguishable in our eyes from others who attacked US forces. A guard absolutely should not take that knowledge into his or her dealings with detainees, but it happens. It's human nature. Imagine--My best friend just got killed in a ambush, now I have to be civil to you and lead you to the shower. You step out of line and I may just club the shit out of you---but that never happened. Instead a few prisoners were "humiliated".

Big deal.

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