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Re: Iraqi Prisoner Torture and Abuse

5/7/2004 6:51 PM
Tim Escobedo Re: Iraqi Prisoner Torture and Abuse
It's disconcerting to hear these incidents played down as akin to frat hazing by apologists. Or even worse, as "not as bad as Hussein".  
Why do such people feel compelled to judge the U.S. soldier character by Hussein's standard rather American standards. It's hypocritical and only hurts the U.S. stand in the region.
5/7/2004 9:07 PM
Mark L. Ingram
"frat hazing"
I hasdn't thought of that aspect, but, since you mention it, it does sound rather like frat hazing. The two major differences being (1)those being 'hazed' raised weapons against coalition troops, and (2)criminal charges were filed against the perpetrators the day after the incident(s?) became known to the commanders. I don't think any of Hussein's perpetrators had charges filed against them. Did they?  
"Why do such people feel compelled to judge the U.S. soldier character by Hussein's standard rather American standards"
By American standards, as you alluded, these (however repugnant and abhorent you and I may find them) are nothing more than extreme frat initiation rituals. It occured to me that they were like something you might see in a porno flick.  
The point of my previous post was that embasrrassment is preferrable to death/desecration of the corpse.
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5/9/2004 2:47 AM
Tim Escobedo
The big difference is that these weren't potential frat boys hoping to become a part of a exclusive club. By American standards, this would be exactly what they appear to be: abuse of prisoners. If you take issue with that notion, explain it to the president, who seems to view it similarly.  
When you make light of these abuses, you lose any moral high ground you may have had. This is something of which the Iraqis (the folks the U.S. is supposed to be saving) are extremely aware. Both the good ones and bad ones.
5/7/2004 11:02 PM
Mark Lavelle
"Do you *really* believe that it is better to be dead than embarrassed?"
Did you *really* read my whole post? That's not what I said at all.
5/7/2004 11:37 PM
Mark L. Ingram
Is this one of those times where we are arguing about what the meaning of the work 'is' is?
5/7/2004 2:49 PM
Mark Hammer

For me, a big part of the problem is that the war in Iraq is framed within the broader "war against terror". As such, those who are detained are not simply POWs that, once removed and in custody, simply reduce the numbers of enemy combattants by headcount. Rather, they are sources of information, which can justify a lot of things in the minds of captors/interrogators. In Canada, our first inclination is to think of the Maher Arar case - the guy who was illegally deported and spent a year in a Syrian prison being tortured because authorities thought he might have information pertinent to the WOT.  
Beyond being sources of "potential leads" in some Kafka-esque scenario, they are also a source of tremendous resentment by an American fighting force that has been overextended by an administration that underplanned. That's certainly no excuse for what we've seen, but if you water your tree and wait long enough, why act surprised when the apples start to fall to the ground and rot?  
Finally, it bears noting that people lose their perspective when put into certain types of situations. In the film "Shoah", an Oscar-winning 9-hour documentary on the Holocaust (in which there are no bodies and no archival footage), a former concentration camp guard (now in his twilight years) is interviewed. He notes that he and his buddies were posted somewhere on the Russian Front, or some other place I forget that was particularly boring for them (you have to remember these are a coupla guys in their early 20's, in the service, who, nazi or not, or still a coupla guys in their early 20's). Some officer offers them a posting at one of the major camps in Poland and describes the posting in glowing, interesting terms without really revealing the extent of what takes place there. The guy and his friends decide, "what the hell, sounds like more fun than here", and take the transfer. The guy recalls spending the first few days there vomitting, after which he walked around like a zombie, like it was all a dream, after which he just acquiesced and did what seemed like normal things to do there. You just got used to it, he said.  
Take a kid from, say, North Carolina, or Oklahoma. Train him/her up real good, send him/her somewhere that is completely dissimilar from anything they've ever known, with no language skills for communicating with the locals. That could be Bosnia. Could be Somalia. Could be Afghanistan. Could be Iraq. Places where the word "order" isn't even something you can do in a restaurant, where babies die with regularity, where people blow up in front of you, where people hate you even though they need what you can offer them. Now keep them far away from any sense of normalcy for a coupla months. Now promise them they're coming home, and reneg on that promise. Now promise and reneg again. Shake vigorously, heat, and serve.  
Incidentally, the Israeli military has taken an enormous amount of heat for reprehensible behaviour towards detainees over the years. Imagine you lived right next door to Baghdad, and about 4 out of every people you knew had to stop school and do military service, and it was this relentless, every-god***n-day "weight" hanging over your life all the time. At some point, some 25-year-old is gonna turn to someone in his custody and just beat the crap out of him and enjoy it because he sees his captive as having made his life miserable.  
Again, I'd be the last person to ask for sympathy for torturers, but I don't know why we are so surprised when we place people in certain conditions that we know will evoke reprehensible behavior and they do exactly what you'd expect. That we can become exactly like those we have seen as reprehensible, doesn't just mean we turned into them. It also means they probably started out just as good as we like to think of ourselves.
5/7/2004 5:29 PM
Cosmic Cowboy
"I don't know why we are so surprised"  
The western news about the war has been greatly sanitized by both the US government and the US media. The torture stories fly in the face of what the Bush Administration has been telling Americans at home about our mission in Iraq. Torture allegations have been raised before both with respect to Iraq and Guantanamo Bay but each time were denied or whitewashed.  
And today the Red Cross broke their silence and issued a statements alleging "Widespread Abuse" in Iraq on the part of US troops.  
If what the Red Cross is saying is true, then I suspect that higher ups closer to Bush either condoned illegal torture or at the very least turned a blind eye to it, probably out of eagerness to extract information from detainees to help the Bush cause. The Red Cross article says that the Red Cross complained about these abuses to the US, complaints that appear to have been ignored.  
In a very real way this war is unfolding in a manner similar to Vietnam:  
1. We now have a guerilla war on our hands. We are no longer fighting battalions of well equiped Iraqi forces but rather many small groups of insurgents.  
2. The Bush Administration repeatedly issues statements about the necessity for resolve. Same message from US leadership during vietnam, a message that eventually doomed Lyndon Johnson's re-electrion bid against Richard Nixon.  
3. The war is way over budget and is taking way longer to win than originally anticipated. The reality is that we are years away from having this thing done. All we have to look forward to is many more years of body bags coming back to the US as well as huge budget deficits to finance this quagmire.  
4. It appears that some US military persons have engaged in illegal torture and perhaps even murder. Same things happened in Vietnam.  
5. As in Vietnam, the US is seen internationally by many nations as being the bad guy in this war. The torture claims only make this view more visible and convincing.  
Cosmic Cowboy, AKA AngelBoy
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