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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Don't Bite on the Bad Apples Storyline 

Digby's comment on the latest torture scandal:


It's pretty clear that even our own highly disciplined military can lose their humanity without a whole lot of provocation. These weren't dipshit national guard hicks either. This was the 82nd Airborn. No excuses.


Because I am fond of repeating myself I'm going to repeat myself: "Don't blame the low-level individuals, blame the powerful officials all the way up the chain of command."

If there had been an explicit policy coming straight from the top (meaning the Commander in Chief and the Sec Def) that US soldiers were to follow the Geneva Convention to the letter and that any deviations would be severely punished, none of this would have happened. Soldiers follow orders. That's what they do. In Iraq they were ordered to "soften up" detainees. The word from the top was to "take the gloves off". If they had been ordered to treat detainees humanely at all times, they would have followed that order as well.

The "decorated former Captain in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division" quoted in Time (via Digby):

I witnessed violations of the Geneva Conventions that I knew were violations of the Geneva Conventions when they happened but I was under the impression that that was U.S. policy at the time. And as soon as Abu Ghraib broke and they had hearings in front of Congress, the Secretary of Defense testified that we followed the spirit of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan, and the letter of the Geneva Conventions in Iraq, and as soon as he said that I knew something was wrong.


More:

The Human Rights Watch report describes the Captain, in particular, as deeply frustrated by his attempts to report the abuse to his own superiors, who repeatedly instructed him to keep quiet, to ignore what he'd seen and to consider the implications for his career.

"I approached my chain of command." Eventually, the captain says, he approached his company commander, battalion commander and representatives of the Judge Advocate Corps (the military justice system), trying in vain to get clarification of rules on prisoner treatment and the application of the Geneva Convention. At one point, the Captain asserts, his Company commander told him, in effect, "Remember the honor of the unit is at stake," and, "Don't expect me to go to bat for you on this issue ..."


From day one, the White House tasked the Ashcroft Justice Department and Abu Gonzalez to find legal justifications for torture. Why would they do that if their intention was to prevent torture and abuse?

Digby again:

As much as Katrina revealed the ugly underbelly of poverty and race in the country, 9/11 revealed the ugly underbelly of sadism and blind fury. This is a sick culture.


I understand the impulse to focus one's moral revulsion on the perpetrators. And I agree they should be held responsible and punished.

But putting ALL the blame on the low-level soldiers is wrong.

The idea that US soldiers might be more sadistic and furious by nature than other countries' soldiers or than any other human being is wrong.

The Stanford Prison Experiment proved, scientifically, that even a sample of smart, presumably at least middle-class civilian college students will engage in torture and abuse if given the right conditions. Read the linked article. It looks like the same conditions were present in Iraq. So it has nothing to do with the Abu Ghraib perpetrators being "hicks".

And "our sick culture" has nothing to do with it either. Humans were torturing each other long before Internet Porn and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. If Digby is talking about our collective responsibility for what happens in Iraq, he might have a point. But that's not my culture, it's Republican/Neocon culture.

The responsibility of decent Americans is to pin the blame where it belongs: on the people giving the orders and setting the policies. It has less emotional appeal but it has the added bonus of inspiring Americans to force the Neocons out of office and force the Democrats to represent the decency and righeousness most Americans posess.

UPDATE: Unless you take a reality-based approach to the torture issue (that pattens of behavior by those employed by the US Government are the result of policies set by those in charge of the US Government), you fall into the trap of Right-Wing ideology: devolving all responsibility for everything to the individual.

This exempts the GOP government from any blame and it helps them to divide and conquer the masses. Pitting leftists and liberals against the soldiers who aren't in Iraq by their own volition. Fomenting tribal paranoia in the educated liberal/lefty set: "the soldiers and the redneck hordes are different from Us: they are innately violent, ignorant and racist". Change will only come about if US Citizens unite against the current leadership. When liberals/lefties talk about other groups of US citizens as if they were intrinsically incapable of intelligent or moral action, it accomplishes nothing. There are good and bad people in every group of humans. The bad people running the US government are the real problem.

corrente SBL - New Location
~ Since April 2010 ~

corrente.blogspot.com
~ Since 2003 ~


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