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true american idols
defending the defenders
by tracey l. kelley (@TraceyLKelley)
5.26.04
news


Starting around age 16, I think every one of us received a pamphlet or two, at least until we graduated high school. And we’ve certainly seen and heard the ads, voiced with deep resonance, promising purpose and adventure.

The closest I came to being in the military was dating a Marine.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

There was a time not too long ago when many chose not to go in the military. They protested the draft, escaped to Canada, and once the official draft was abolished, some units resorted to a new type of recruitment for criminal offenders: jail or the military. This went beyond being a “conscientious objector”, for at least those with that distinction still willingly served, just while holding a pen and clipboard, not a gun or torpedo switch.

As long as the United States claims to be a free nation based on democracy, there will always be a need to defend it. We manage this not by becoming an occupied military state, but by calling forth men and women who have selected, at least in the past 30 years, the military as a vocation. And like firefighters, police officers and teachers, those who opt to further the civility and well-being of humanity often do so at personal sacrifice.

For anyone who has ever placed a hand over the names etched in black granite, or stood side-by-side with a stalking bronze figure, it’s difficult to describe that feeling of reverence, the internal whisper of “there but for the grace of God go I.” Just in the past two years alone, the faces of hundreds of casualties have passed before us, in newspapers, magazines, across the TV screen, beseeching that we remember, demanding we accept the purpose. All known to us against the red, white and blue backdrop, even if unknown.

Lately, we’ve been inundated with the faces of the unfamiliar.

The pictures released from Abu Ghraib prison show horrendous acts of humiliation, torture and inhumanity. The cries of the true victims are barely heard above the wails of other “victims”: the families of the guards, stating that “she loved being in the military” and “they were under extreme duress” and “many people in that situation…may do the wrong thing.” Some even say that the atrocity was justified, considering what has recently happened to civilians conducting business and members of our military in the hands of the enemy.

And that’s just wrong.

Regardless of what you think of President George Bush, or Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry; regardless of what you think are the true motives for the war in Iraq, or the purpose of removing Saddam Hussein; regardless of what you think of people from the Middle East or just the terrorist fault line of al Qaeda: as human beings, as Americans, we should all be disgusted over the behavior of those military personnel (and their commanding officers) at Abu Ghraib prison, assigned to the post of caretakers of their prisoners but acting like...

…dare I say it?

Infidels.

They soiled the uniform, stripped bare the honor and courage of literally thousands of others before them, and left the white hats shrouded in dust.

We cannot demonstrate the success of democracy to the rest of the world when a handful of soldiers choose to act this way, so it’s up to us to accept what’s been done, make no excuses and exact swift justice. No matter the level of power, with it comes responsibility, and a sense of duty that holds all to that responsibility. Our enemy is no more faceless than we are, and we must never forget that.

The last thing America needs is unthinking, unfeeling, operatives of war. The soldiers, the airmen, the sailors, the Marines: it’s not their ability to fly a helicopter or rig a bomb that shields the rest of us. It’s their sense of ethics, the proverbial code of conduct, their humanity that we use as a compass when the right in the world is too dark to see.

This weekend, reflect, for just a moment, on anyone you’ve ever known who served in the armed forces. Maybe it was your grandfather in World War II, your father or mother in the Korean War or Vietnam, your cousin in the Gulf War, a college friend deployed after 9/11. Maybe it was a co-worker stacking sandbags against the flooding Mississippi, or your neighbor rescuing a floating raft of refugees in the Atlantic Ocean.

Chances are, the character of that person can not be compromised. Which leads to this question: does being in the military define character, or do those with indefinable character choose the military? Either way, a mere handful of wrongdoers cannot upset the apple cart of integrity manuevered so well by thousands of others.

As I run my fingertips across the names of the past and current servicemen and women I know, their faces gaze back at me as examples of upstanding morality, not just in times of war, but also in life. Loving their families. Guiding their children. Caring for their friends. Participating in their community. These men and women are my relatives, my friends, my business associates. I rely on their influence, their sagacity of duty.

I trust them to be as honorable as Spc. Joseph M. Darby, defending not only their country, but reinforcing the bastion between right and wrong that encourages society to maintain order, and find peace.

Corporal Ralph R. Bailey, United States Army
E-4 (Spc.) Richard B. Bayles, Louisiana Army National Guard
Sergeant Henry F. Bayles, Army Air Corps
2nd Lieutenant R. Todd Borden, Iowa Army National Guard
Major Jeffrey A. Borland, United States Army/United States Army Reserve
Seaman 2nd Class John B. Burnham, United States Navy
Lance Corporal Michael D. Coffin, United States Marine Corps
Seaman 1st Class Anthony Coppola, United States Navy
Major Daniel D. Darland, United States Army/Iowa Army National Guard
Major Orville E. Gardner, United States Army
Major Teresa Gardner, United States Army
Sergeant Otis M. Kelley, United States Marine Corps
Staff Sergeant Larry G. Kelley, United States Air Force
Colonel Robert C. King, United States Army/Iowa Army National Guard
1st Lieutenant G. Sean McGuire, United States Army
Sergeant Barry M. Pace, United States Air Force
Staff Sergeant John “Jack” F. Page, United States Army
Airman 1st Class John R. Page, United States Air Force
ET2 (SS/DV) Douglas A. Ridley, United States Navy
Captain Gary L. Thull, United States Army/ Kansas Army National Guard

More importantly, I am humbled to know what they’ve done for me, especially since I didn’t choose to go the way they did.

And, because of them, I have that right.


ABOUT TRACEY L. KELLEY

Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou

more about tracey l. kelley

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COMMENTS

lisa r
5.26.04 @ 7:49a

Wow. Very profound.

jeffrey walker
5.26.04 @ 1:37p

I don't blame the guards for what they did at all. This is a prison in Iraq, after all. How is a guard supposed to control the population of a prison where prisoners are used to being treated much more harshly than anything alleged against the U.S. guards?

Consider this; many prison guards in America admit to turning a blind eye to the drug trade within the inmate population. Why? Without giving some "positive" (or at least desired) items to the prisoners, it becomes very hard for guards to control inmates when the inmates outnumber the guards at alarming ratios. In other words, they let the drugs in so as to keep the masses passive.

In Iraq, what method could American guards hope to maintain order within an unruly prison population without harsh treatment? Ask them to "please be nice?" They’re used to much worse than most Americans could even begin to imagine, much less carry out. These guards probably did what they had to do given the circumstances. The alternative would likely have been prisoners actively resisting guards who they would see as "weak" in their eyes, and perhaps even the inmates running the asylum. I guarantee the number of assaults on U.S. guards would have been higher than it was. And frankly, I say: better them than us.

matt morin
5.26.04 @ 1:45p

Bullshit, Jeff. The guards weren't doing this to "maintain order within an unruly prison population." They did it to get information. And even if they did have to maintain order, that's what a fucking cell is for.

I blame the guards as much as I blame the higher ups (all the way to Rumsfeld and Bush) who devised and OKed the plan to torture prisoners to get information. Becase the last time i checked, a superior officer's orders do not override the Constitution or the Geneva Convention.


jeffrey walker
5.26.04 @ 2:07p

Oh course you blame everyone up the food chain, Matt.

But while there is speculation that some guards may have been looking for information, the fact remains that their foremost job was to maintain order within the prison. And whatever methods that takes, so be it. These aren't saints we're talking about, but prisoners.

The Geneva convention -- where were you with that when Iraqi guards were torturing their own prisoners (or worse, outright murdering them) for the last 15 years? You're allegations are delayed until now simply to serve your leftist political agenda. I suspect you only make such arguments now because this is a military operation under Bush. Do you make the same complaints about the treatment of American prisoners out in Arizona who are forced to sleep in tents and wear pink underwear as humiliation? My guess is no -- you're only pointing to this situation because it serves you politically.

Nothing these guards did amount to a hill of beans given the conditions of Iraqi prison before. If anything, this treatment was an improvement.

matt morin
5.26.04 @ 2:23p

There's no "speculation" that the guards were looking for information. The press has published the direct orders from the Pentagon and DOD that explicitly tell guards how to get around the Geneva Convention to get the information you want. No one's even bothered to come out with a "we were trying to maintain order" excuse.

Have you even been listening or reading the news? Sure doesn't seem like it.

Speaking of reading, maybe you should read the Geneva Convention. It's all about how you can treat prisoners during war. So where was I when Iraq was mistreating its own prisoners? Well, last time I looked, that has nothing to do with prisoners of war.

It doesn't have anything to do with Bush. It doesn't have anything to do with my "agenda." It has everything to do with upholding a human rights document that pretty much every single country in the world has abided by for decades.

I'll just leave the "it's an improvement" argument. As dumb as you are, even I know you don't believe that one.

So if the Iraqi prisoners were having their hands cut off under Saddam, that means it's ok to only cut off a finger or an ear? Because hey, that's an "improvement" over losing a hand, right?

russ carr
5.26.04 @ 2:32p

Whee! Congratulations for pissing on another column, boys!

matt morin
5.26.04 @ 2:41p

Whee! Congratulations for standing on the sidelines and not even trying to contribute to the discussion, Russ!

matt morin
5.26.04 @ 3:01p

Ok, let's change course. How many of you, if the draft were reinstituted and you were drafted to go to Iraq or Afghanistan, would go?

sarah ficke
5.26.04 @ 3:03p

In her column, Tracey says that soldiers should be "defending not only their country, but reinforcing the bastion between right and wrong that encourages society to maintain order, and find peace."

Part of the reason that Bush gave for going into Iraq was to break up an abusive regime. We should be encouraging them to rethink their treatment of people, in prisons as well as everywhere else, and not perpetuate the cycle of abuse.


jael mchenry
5.26.04 @ 3:04p

"They did it first" is never a good defense. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Or, at a minimum, the Geneva convention.

As Tracey said in the column, "Some even say that the atrocity was justified... And that’s just wrong."

matt morin
5.26.04 @ 3:17p

T., who is Spc. Joseph M. Darby?

jeffrey walker
5.26.04 @ 3:51p

Watch who you're calling dumb, Matt. If the reports are accurate in the so-called news you've been watching, then the reports say that the orders, as you said, "explicitly [told] guards how to get around the Geneva Convention." Well, if it told how to get around that, then there's no use to me reading it. And your pointing to it is fruitless. So what's the point?

Your concern of human rights is bologna. If you cared, you won't have opposed going to war there in the first place. The situation is better for most Iraqis now in a human rights sense. Even YOU can't pretend that the situation was better for prisoners (or any other Iraqi citizen) before the war. Only when we go in and actually make it better do you complain. Too little, to late, too lame, Matt. Human rights are improved, and your concern is a blatent sham to attempt to place the current administration in a poor light.

[edited]

sarah ficke
5.26.04 @ 3:57p

Matt, Darby is one of the soldiers credited with getting the investigation going by reporting the abuses.

tracey kelley
5.26.04 @ 3:59p

Darby was one of the first guards to mention something to other commanding officers about the pictures taken of the treatment of the Iraqi prisoners. He did not participate in that kind of treatment, and found the pictures to be offensive.

Maintaining order is one thing. Posing for the camera with a cockeyed grin and a pile of naked prisoners is a completely different matter. Being stupid enough to pass those pictures around? Completely asinine.

No honor or glory in that.

I will be the first to say that I can't imagine what I would do in the same circumstance, especially if I felt that the need to humiliate someone was the only way to maintain order. In fact, I wish some of our military buddies would jump on and talk about it in as basic of terms as they can or are allowed to, because none of us truly understand the situation until we are in the middle of it.

How is a guard supposed to control the population of a prison where prisoners are used to being treated much more harshly than anything alleged against the U.S. guards?

1) Photographic proof is not "alleged". While not solid evidence against the poser, there are hundreds of pictures. There's only so much you can do with Photoshop. And if you're there, and have any moral fiber or common sense, you might be inclined to stop it.

2) So Suddam did so many things really bad, and we are allowed to do things only a little bad? No way. Sarah nailed it: the US is required to lead by example.

The My Lai massacre of Vietnam is an example of how "many people in that situation...may choose to do the wrong thing" - and if not for a few other US soldiers who didn't think it was right, who turned their own guns on their own soldiers, it could have made an already volitile situation completely catastrophic.

A friend and IM contributor, Rob McDonald served in the Navy (and I forgot his name. Sorry hon!) He wrote this to me this morning:

"It has sometimes proven difficult to maintain that course in the treacherous waters which have seemed to define the past few years. After my limited experiences in the Navy, I remember the complete immersion to which one must cling in order to retain some sense of personal safety in the intensely stressful situations faced by young military members. As much as I despise their actions, I also pity them for the lifelong personal destruction they will suffer; these once-patriotic American kids who are now international villains. I have personally seen far lighter sentences for far worse crimes."

My positioning on this column is not so much to condemn the guards, but to refocus the attention on the hundreds of thousands of service men and women who do things right.

And what defines right? Not doing it as bad as the next guy? Easy work if you can get it.

jeffrey walker
5.26.04 @ 5:14p

My positioning on this column is not so much to condemn the guards, but to refocus the attention on the hundreds of thousands of service men and women who do things right.

of course, and that is good. And, I think many of us would not know what we would do in this circumstance.

I will say that, these photos depict behavior that is about as inflammatory as a fraternity prank. I suppose that's why I don't find it a big deal. And I don't fault these guards.

And I certainly don't see any link between these guys and the White House as Matt would like to think exists. A report saying how to not violate the Geneva Convention is a responsible item to pass around to the guards, and wholly demonstrates the White House's desire that things be done right over there. If it is determined that these guards violated those provisions, then they acted in contradiction to their directions.

And even then, it doesn’t bother me in the least – given the alternative (Iraqi prison guards), these prisoners had it easy. And if the shoe was on the other foot, I suspect that the treatment of American prisoners under the control of Iraqi guards would be far more harsh.

matt morin
5.26.04 @ 5:31p

Jeff, the report was on how to circumvent the Geneva Convention.

From an MSNBC Report: "A Newsweek investigation shows that, as a means of pre-empting a repeat of 9/11, Bush, along with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft, signed off on a secret system of detention and interrogation that opened the door to such methods. It was an approach that they adopted to sidestep the historical safeguards of the Geneva Conventions, which protect the rights of detainees and prisoners of war. In doing so, they overrode the objections of Secretary of State Colin Powell and America's top military lawyers—and they left underlings to sweat the details of what actually happened to prisoners in these lawless places."

matt morin
5.26.04 @ 6:03p

My positioning on this column is not so much to condemn the guards, but to refocus the attention on the hundreds of thousands of service men and women who do things right.

I often forget that there are 130,000 troops in Iraq (and I'm not sure how many more in Afghanistan). That's three times the entire population of the town I grew up in.

Even if you subtract out the bad apples from Abu Ghraib, that's still a ton of people correctly doing their duty for their country.

[edited]

jeffrey walker
5.26.04 @ 6:09p

Jeff, the report was on how to circumvent the Geneva Convention.

Yeah, Matt, I'm sure there was a report on that. get me a copy of that on the White House letterhead it's on.

If anything, the White House has stated that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to this situation. I will not debate if this is a fair statement or not, but it doesn't go on to elaborate on "let's do this now."

Also, there was a report that indicated that the the war on terrorism "renders quaint" some of the provisions of the Geneva Conventions concerning humane treatment of prisoners [quote from Newsweek].

And I can't say that I disagree. This is a situation where certain prisoners may have information about ongoing activities against the United States. If a sexual photo of a man keeps a soldier from dying, if a fraternity style prank keeps a plane from flying into a U.S. building, then say cheese, bitch.

[edited]

mike julianelle
5.26.04 @ 6:55p

My issue with this whole thing is a more fundamental one. It's all well and good to praise the soldiers that are "doing the right thing" etc, and I'm sure that 95% of those who enlist in the army go in with patriotic and positive intentions. But the issue is not with the individual soldiers, because, in a mechanism like the armed forces, are expected and trained not to necessarily do the right thing, but to do what they are told. Of course, following orders and doing the right thing aren't always mutually exclusive, and during a war, especially one as nebulously defined as The War on Terrorism, the definitions "right" and "patriotism" are a hell of a lot sketchier than the orders coming from the mouths of the COs, so the burden lands on those in charge.

I do not blame any of those soldiers for what they did, whether they were malicious and aggressive about it, or timid and uncertain. They did what they were told, or what they knew was "sanctioned", by those in charge. And, to be honest, that's what I want out of the people in the military.

Let's get serious: we don't need loose cannons. We need a unified, no-questions-asked type of unit. I applaud Darby for speaking out, and I'd love to say that were I there I would have balked at any orders I was given to do those things, but in the end, after years of being trained to march in step and follow orders, and years of cementing my faith in the rectitude of those orders and the mission and country for which I enlisted, how can I be expected to do any different?

What we need is a stronger backbone and a better administration supporting them. I admire their sacrifices and praise their courage, but I can neither praise them for following orders anymore than I feel right condemning them for it.

dan gonzalez
5.26.04 @ 8:23p

Nice column and good thoughts in the discusston above.

I will quibble with some and say it's not very likely that they were following direct orders. If anything, they were totally misinterpreting them. The scenes shown in the pictures are not condoned interrogation methods, and all intelligence analysts that I've heard agree that those methods can not produce reliable information. Furthermore, recent reports on statements attributed to the defendents indicate that these actions were for 'fun', not information. The press has massacred this, in one article suggesting that US soldiers were accused of raping a teenage boy, when in fact the accused were amongst the prisoners shown in the fake electrode incident and the naked pyramid pictures-both of which were harmless and nowhere near rape or torture.

Snapshots are not worth any words, much less 1000: they tell nothing of what occurred before or after the incident that is frozen in time. This wholse story isn't even news: There are always a minority of soldiers who have problems, go awol, and behave abhorrently. It is a frickin' constant.

In this particular case, the number of malfeasant soldiers divided by the total number in Iraq roughly equals one-thousandth of one percent. In other words, 99.999% of soldiers are apparently doing their job correctly. I have to assume that only partisans would call for resignation and blame at the top-levels at this premature stage in the proceedings, because nothing else explains that position.

matt morin
5.26.04 @ 8:38p

Plenty else explains it. I will reiterate this: Bush, along with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft, signed off on a secret system of detention and interrogation that opened the door to such methods. It was an approach that they adopted to sidestep the historical safeguards of the Geneva Conventions, which protect the rights of detainees and prisoners of war.

The partisanship comment is a cop out. That's how Republicans deflect all controversy and refuse to answer anything. "Oh, you're just being partisan again."

I'm not. I'm saying that anyone who purposely tries to circumvent the Geneva Convention should be held accountable. That has nothing to do with Democrat or Republican and has everything to do with human decency.

I'm honestly shocked that people don't consider this stuff torture. If some occupying force grabbed you off the street, stuck you in a cell, stripped you naked, put a hood over your head, attached electrodes to your body, and told you if you fell off the bucket you were standing on you would be electrocuted - I'm sure you wouldn't be laughing about the "fraternity prank" when it was all over.

jeffrey walker
5.26.04 @ 9:05p

Hey, melodramatic Matt: these aren't people grabbed off the street and stuck in a cell for no reason. These are criminals. In a prison. They're there for a reason, and honestly have a lot of culpability for their situation.

Even if this is interrigation (which, several people I hold in much higher esteem than you seem to believe these photos are not), I say it serves them right. You're making out like innocent people are being tortured horribly. This is more similar to a prank in the locker room! If you want shock, stick your tongue in a light socket.

tracey kelley
5.26.04 @ 9:20p

What concerns me the most is this: "prank" or not, "accepted" behavior under certain circumstances or not - a public release makes things more difficult for the upstanding soldiers still there, and, as recently witnessed, for certain civilians.

Talk about a need for "don't ask, don't tell". Would we all be better off if we had never known these pictures existed? In some ways, unfortunately, yes. Am I so naive that I believe this sort of thing has never happened before? No. I'm sure a few American soldiers pounced on a few Nazis once after the discovery of Daschau or Auschwitz, as one example.

But...two things:

1) Society has lost some of its honor code anyway. Certain behaviors and moral standards cannot just be taken for granted any more. The "do unto others" - available in some type of belief system everywhere - is no longer enough of a guideline to maintain relations.

2) What ramifications result when this stuff gets out? We're seeing it. Blame the "liberal" media, the anti-Bush machine, blame whoever you like, but I think I for one would have preferred that the military could have been able to keep this within the military and deal with it accordingly. Guess that makes me the ostrich.

But - it got out and there it is and now we all have to own up to it.

It still goes back to what Sarah said, and what I eluded to: if we're John Wayne in the white hat, riding in to save the day, we have to act like it, especially since much of the purpose of the war has been humanitarian based. This whole situation, parked within an election year, is a powder keg. Surely a directive could have come from somewhere stating the standards of conduct when dealing with prisoners, and the consequences if those standards aren't upheld.

tracey kelley
5.26.04 @ 9:26p

To Matt's point: HBO recently ran a mini-movie starring Maggie Gwenleenthall (you know) and Glenn Close called "Strip Search." Quite intriguing: it was a dual script, in which Maggie's character was a student in China, with all appropriate visas, forcibly taken off the street, her apartment ramsacked, and she was being interrogated by the Chinese military for no apparent reason.

Glenn's character played an FBI interrogator of a man of Middle Eastern descent, whose character mirrored Maggie's American character exactly. The Middle Eastern man and Maggie's character had the exact same lines, as did the Chinese interrogator and Glenn's character, and the viewer bounced back and forth between the two simultaneously. Absolutely fascinating, and stressing a very strong point: it could happen to you, no matter where you are or who you are.

robert melos
5.26.04 @ 10:38p

I'll start off by saying I do believe the soldiers when they say they were following orders. Maybe they enjoyed following those orders, but I definitely believe they were following orders.

The section of the prison where these photos were allegedly taken was not under the control of standard military. The general in charge of the prison reportedly was not allowed to inspect this section of the prison.

I am personally tired of seeing Bush and company apologizing to every Middle East leader everytime I turn on the television. If he wanted to present America as a strong world power all he is showing me is his ability to kiss ass and present a country with a weak willed leader.

As for the military handling things within, or not revealing to the general public the atrocities and keeping it internal, I firmly disagree. Secrets of any type, for any reason, are never any good and only lead to problems. Every secret eventually comes out.

Our military is currently a volunteer army. This is a chosen job. I respect them for the job they do. I don't always respect the actions or the orders they carry out, but I respect the employees. My problem is with the CEO.

tracey kelley
5.26.04 @ 11:30p

Every secret eventually comes out.

"You can't HANDLE the truth!"

Sorry - it had to be said.

I raised that point only from this perspective: would our efforts be safer, more efficient and less of a political firestorm if this had been dealt with internally? We all agree it was a few bad apples, and Dan and Matt did the amazing quoting number and percentage thing. But how is our knowing truly making a difference, aside from the more public court-martial of those involved?

Again, that's a question I wish the military people would answer.

Mike made a good point: They did what they were told, or what they knew was "sanctioned", by those in charge. And, to be honest, that's what I want out of the people in the military. I recall having a conversation with one of our military friends, and we asked him a pointed question about whether or not he believed that he was doing what he was supposed to do -

- he did not hesitate in his reply: "You do not question the Commander in Chief." When we said, "Hey, come on, we're friends having dinner - what do you think?" He didn't blink and just repeated, "You do not question the Commander in Chief."

I've never forgotten that. It was a better explanation than anything else he could have said. (and Orv, if you read this, that was you.)

I doubt, however, that the COs received a prime directive from Rumsfeld to have guards pose for pictures. So while they may have been allowed to strip the prisoners, knowing that would cause them personal humiliation culturally and hopefully extract information, I seriously doubt the CO then said, "And pose like a monkey next to them! That would be good for the newsletter!"

So people can go after the Bush administration with torches and pitchforks all they want to on this - I just don't think that's where it was coming from, anymore than it would if Clinton were in office.

[edited]

robert melos
5.27.04 @ 12:45a

I raised that point only from this perspective: would our efforts be safer, more efficient and less of a political firestorm if this had been dealt with internally?

Now this I agree with. Given the fact we are at war, a lot of the information we see daily is information I would think the military did not want released, either for safety issues or simply because it could impede efforts to bring the whole situation to a full halt.

Now on the pictures thing. Not to reveal my true evil nature, but, it would make perfect sense to me to not only have photos taken of the prisoners but to furtuer humiliate them by having the enemy, especially an enemy of the opposite sex, photographed mocking them. Then to threaten the prisoners with the possible release of these photos to their families and friends, and maybe even a news service. The fact the photos were released may just have been a slip up on someone's part, but the threat of the humiliation in this manner in a culture where nudity is a taboo is definitely fair play if it comes to psychological warfare.

Terrorism really is about psychological warfare, more so than any other war in the history of the planet. We didn't "shock and awe" Germany, and frankly we went overboard in Japan. A lot of what was happening at the beginning of the war was grandstanding. We put on fireworks displays and blasted loud music. In our culture we call that "The 4th of July."

The photos were not something that should've been released, but I don't exactly discount their effectiveness or their use.

One last point. The world has changed so much since the wars of our grandfathers and fathers, mosting in the areas of communications, that the media is broadcasting information in many cases which would not have come to light in decades past. It wasn't until we began to roll into the concentration camps in WWII that we had a clear picture of the Holocaust.

With all the ways of transmitting images and information today, I'm truly surprised we aren't seeing things far worse. I'm also surprised communications can breakdown so easily, as they did before 9/11, in our government agencies. Now I think we are over-compensating by releasing terror threats as John Ashcroft did today. Being forewarned is being forearmed, but temper the news with reality or you've got panic where there need not be panic.

matt morin
5.27.04 @ 1:59a

Jeff. Read the Red Cross report. 90-95% of the people in Abu Ghraib are innocent people picked up in dragnets. They had no reason to be there. They were not criminals at all.

And yes, the photos did need to be released. Because without the public seeing them, there's no outrage. And with no outrage, either the torture is still going on or the people involved don't get punished.

That Red Cross report was out for months, but it was only when the pictures were released that there was an uproar.

tracey kelley
5.27.04 @ 9:10a

Now I think we are over-compensating by releasing terror threats as John Ashcroft did today. Being forewarned is being forearmed, but temper the news with reality or you've got panic where there need not be panic.

Ahhh, but we don't have a choice in the matter, do we? Because after the 9/11 trials, the "people" demand to know. "Why didn't you tell us," they cried. It's our right to be scared shitless, looking around every corner, anticipating an attack by al Qaeda at our neighborhood drugstore...or ballpark...or federal office. So where's the next one going to be? Chicago's Hancock Building? At the corner of Hollywood and Vine? During the Democratic or Republic National Conventions? Las Vegas MGM Grand? In a MARTA terminal? The Golden Gate during rush hour? Great Mall of America?

Our "knowing" accomplishes nothing, except the impact of psychological warfare you spoke of earlier.

I forgot names. I can't believe that I just spaced on a couple of more people, but it's my column and darn it, I'm listing more:

Captain Michael Ossana, United States Military Academy/United States Army

Corporal Don Andersen, United States Marine Corps

Thanks, guys.

tracey kelley
5.27.04 @ 9:16a

Back to what Matt said - if called out now, would I serve?

Well, first is the reality that I have nothing to truly offer the military in a skill set capacity except my ability to communicate across the airwaves. While that might put me in the heart of the action, it does not necessarily put me at great risk, so I probably would.

To take more of a risk, would I "embed" myself as a journalist? Probably. Not for the glory, but for the purpose. Cronkite, Murrow, and their ilk were the last great war reporters, and if I could do that history justice while serving my country, I would.

Would I hold a gun?

No.

rob mcdonald
5.27.04 @ 9:20a

Tracey, I am happy to share your sentiments. It's good to see that your compass still points in the direction of fairness and morality (!). It has sometimes proven difficult to maintain that course in the treacherous waters which have seemed to define the past few years. After my admittedly limited experiences in the Navy ('89-'93), I remember the complete immersion to which one must cling in order to retain some sense of personal safety in the intensely stressful situations faced by young military members. As much as I despise their actions, I also pity them for the lifelong personal destruction they will suffer; these once-patriotic American kids who are now international villains. I have personally seen far lighter sentences for far worse crimes.

[edited]

tracey kelley
5.27.04 @ 9:21a

Heh heh - I've quoted you already, but it sounds so much better coming from you!

dan gonzalez
5.27.04 @ 9:36a

I'm saying that anyone who purposely tries to circumvent the Geneva Convention should be held accountable.

The geneva conventions do not apply in this situation, since they were drafted to cover the captivity POW's, which are soldiers in the service of a state. There are no POW's at Abu Ghraib, and extending that status to them is an insult to a any captured service-person in the history of war who kept their uniform on, gave their name/rank/serial to their captors. These bastards dropped their uniforms and changed into civvies, so refencing the G.C. is a moot point. Also, everybody in the administration has legally and on the record stated as such going back 2001. Why would they circumvent something that they have legally proven to be irrelevent? Why should they be accountable for doing this when they've rightfully asserted from the beginning that it didn't apply?

I am personally tired of seeing Bush and company apologizing to every Middle East leader everytime I turn on the television.

Well, you need to get on the phone to tell them when to apologize and when not to, because apparently they can't figure it out. Funny how during the 9/11 hearings, you faulted them for not apologizing, and now you're faulting them for doing it.

That Red Cross report was out for months, but it was only when the pictures were released that there was an uproar.

And the uproar has done nothing but focus the entire world's unqualified, inarticulate outrage on this. Meanwhile, the UN is doing this in Africa and nobody gives a crap. Nobody gives a crap that France, Germany, and others were skimming BILLIONS out of the UN's oil-for-food program in a nice little scam that Hussein helped out with, profiting while faking weapons inspections and allowing his regime to subject Iraqi's to actual torture and death. Yeah, let's turn it over to them, because they couldn't be more corrupt than the US, Christ, didn't you see those pictures?

sandra thompson
5.27.04 @ 9:58a

Interesting how the righties think it was on the order of a fraternity prank and we lefties (and many moderates) think it's a blotch on our national honor. Do the ends justify the means? I don't believe so, but that's just MFO. Now we're hearing that the information yielded by such disgusting treatment wasn't even reliable, so the ends didn't even get accomplished. Torture, however you define it, is not what we like to think we do in the USA. Why should we when there's Syria and we can send 'em there to be tortured? (That's a joke in case you wondered.)

matt morin
5.27.04 @ 10:54a

The geneva conventions do not apply in this situation.

Bullshit. You can't have it both ways. You can call it a war, run for reelection on a war ticket, ask for billions of dollars to fight the war, use hundreds of thousands of troops, and then say "Oh, but these people we captured aren't really POWs." It's all semantical bullshit they used to...once again everyone!...circumvent the GC.

Why would they circumvent something that they have legally proven to be irrelevent?

I'm sorry. I'm not sure I've every heard that torture has been proven to be legal.

And the uproar has done nothing but focus the entire world's unqualified, inarticulate outrage on this GOOD! You think it shouldn't be? You think we should have just let this slide? Sweep it under the rug? People SHOULD be outraged about this.

Once again, am I shocked that some people seem more upset that the pictures got out than they are at the content of the pictures themselves.

[edited]

dan gonzalez
5.27.04 @ 11:09a

Righties and Lefties are so caught up in their fallacious dogmas that they robotically assume anyone who disagrees with them on any self-important point is one of the others. I'm a disenfranchised indepedent who espouses libertarian ideals and individual rights, the same ones lefties and righties are busy trampling out of existence. Righties and Lefties are ruining this country, and I don't support either, but you can call me whatever you want: I don't care. It says more about you than me, and you can't really offend an out-of-the closet jackass like me anyway. ;-)

I happen to think this is a blotch, just not a giant, earth-shattering, traumatic one that dominates all others like perspective-lacking liberals seem to believe. I see it as being no worse than the sheer lack of honor and honesty that our partisan media, the UN, the Republicans, and the Democrats constantly display. It's actually less dishonorable than what France, Russia, and Germany have done this entire time.

You lefties invoke honor when it's convenient for you to attack a president that you hate, but you shit-canned it to keep a president that you liked. That is corruption of first rank and people who are not stupidly assimilated into either of the two extreme camps see right through it.

jeffrey walker
5.27.04 @ 11:18a

I like this disenfranchised independent status already!

tracey kelley
5.27.04 @ 11:51a

I completely agree, Dan. Independents may be lashed as fence sitters, but the more I meet, the more I am heartened by their vision, their focus on true issue resolution, their lack of pointless blame and the desire to unify, rather than divide.

At least, that's how I like to view it. :)

Dan, the points you bring up about UN issues are vital. Nevertheless, when so much negative attention is focused on the occupation of Iraq by US troops, the scrutiny will be there. How we rectify the situation will speak more for us than anything else.

matt morin
5.27.04 @ 12:25p

Rob, (I hope he's still around!) I'm interested to know, as a Navy man, what you think you would have done if a superior officer orderd you to do something you knew was illegal and wrong.

It's easy, from the outside, to say (as I have) that an officer's orders do not supercede the Constitution or the Geneva Convention. And truthfully, that's correct. But are military people so trained to follow orders that no one would ever question something like torture?

mike julianelle
5.27.04 @ 12:30p

The Nazis were. And Matt, you are at least right about the outrage you're expressing (although around here you could maybe tone it down a bit), because when we count on the military to follow the orders that we civilians are in no position to, it's society that has to be the conscience. In Germany that didn't happen, not to raise the stakes quite so high...but dissent is a powerful, proper thing, and the current administration needs to hear it more than ever. Especially since they seem so intent on quashing it.

dan gonzalez
5.27.04 @ 1:02p

The geneva conventions do not apply in this situation. Bullshit. You can't have it both ways.

POW's are uniformed soldiers. Period. It's you that can't have it both ways. Also, I never said torture was legal. It is not, and any REAL occurances of it should be punished with maximum harshness. The courts are currently looking into this, and we shall see the outcome. Of course, our liberal courts aren't even harsh on convicted child molestors, so I'm not sure that this outcome will be harsh enough.

And the uproar has done nothing but focus the entire world's unqualified, inarticulate outrage on this GOOD! You think it shouldn't be?

Outrage should never be unqualified or inarticulate. It is of no use in either case, buries reason, and promotes irrationality. Congratulations if you really want a nation of dogs that salivate whenever a bell is rung, because you've got one. Might as well just socialize the dumb mutts out of all free thought. Just send them pictures without qualification or descriptions, and they won't know what to make of them, but they will be outraged on behalf of your benefactors. Of course, they won't be outraged that 7-year-olds can walk up to USA Today boxes in broad daylight and see them, that's the price of the so-called 'freedom' that they dictate to us.

The pictures never should have come out. Congress and the President run the military, we dumn mutts do not. We didn't need to see them yet, and you can't prove -without abandoning logic altogether- that any good has come from those pictures being splattered in the consumer media. You'll take the illogical route that outrage somehow fomented the investigation, but because the pictures were obtained in the course of said investigation, this is a thin assertion. The investigation was public knowledge and not concluded, and only partisans with a vested interested in micro-managing it to smear their political enemies are glad to have seen those pictures. I saw a picture, clearly Rumsfeld must resign! Good,uh, thinking I guess you'd call that?

matt morin
5.27.04 @ 1:20p

Dan, here's my logic:

Red Cross report comes out. What happens? -- There's no news coverage on it. Rumsfeld admits he didn't even read it. Very few people know what's going on. The torture isn't stopping, in fact, it's continuing. No one's being investigated or punished.

Months later the pictures come out. What happens? -- There's tons of news coverage. Everyone knows, and is outraged about it. All of the government knows about it. Suddenly (surprise!) people care about the torture that's going on. There's investigations. The torture stops. People are courtmarshalled.

Without those pictures coming out, none of that happens. It just gets sweeped under the rug.

And for about the 5 millionth time, context has nothing to do with it. If, prior to those pictures, those prisoners had killed millions of people, tortured your grandmother and shot your dog, they still don't deserve to be tortured while in prison.

No amount of context justifies those pictures.

matt morin
5.27.04 @ 1:26p

By the way Dan, you're wrong about the Geneva Convention. Here's Article 3:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; (emphasis added)

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

And since 70-90% of the people at Abu Ghraib are innocent, I think I've just completely proven my point that the Geneva Convention was violated many, many times.

Also, here's article 13:

Article 13

Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.

Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.

Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.

[edited]

dan gonzalez
5.27.04 @ 1:35p

Matt, ::sigh::.

Context doesn't justify, it qualifies which is required to properly analyze and administer justice to the transgressors. If you insist that context has nothing to do with it, then you insist that we are dogs that should be led around by partisans.

The Red Cross stipulates that the progress in the investigation was adequate, and they prefer for such things to remain confidential because 'public scrutiny interferes with the process'. It is a long-term policy of theirs from years of experience, and leftists and the partisan media are re-writing that policy for them.

The rest of your comments are blatant generalizations "Everyone knows, and is outraged," "Suddenly people care about the torture", etc. The only thing you're right about is that there was tons of news coverage, very little of which has bothered to explain what torture is, how much and of what occurred, or much less any details of the summarily ILLEGAL fashion by which the media obtained the reports and pictures.

We are off topic, back towards topic: Who here believes any officer directly ordered any of this, and why do you believe that?

Officer: "Soldiers, strip those men naked and stack them in a pyramid and then take snapshops without me in them!"

MP's: "Yes, Sir!"


lisa r
5.27.04 @ 1:54p

At the risk of the ceiling falling on my head for saying this, I have to take issue with labelling the Abu Ghraib (why can't other languages follow logical spelling conventions?)as persons taking no active part in the hostilities....a significant number of the people we're holding have been rounded up as insurgents. If they're innocent, then get them out of the prison. If they're insurgents, they're enemy combatants whether they wear a uniform or a pair of cut-offs.

I must point out that I'm sickened by the abuse. No one should be treated that way, and Americans in particular have no business engaging in such behavior in a war or any other situation. Everyone who has any responsibility at all in the matter should be punished severely. I can say that---I'm a taxpaying American, and therefore they work for me because their salaries come out of my pocket. I expect a certain level of behavior that I'm not receiving on my investment.

However, I'm also disgusted by the fact that while Arab media are stirring up hatred against Americans (most of us of whom only engage in murder, mutilation, and torture of members of the Insectidae family), they are at the same time applauding the public torture, mutilation, and beheadings of coalition forces and even people who are only over there trying to help the Iraqis get back on their collective feet. Furthermore, most of the guilty parties involved in those actions against coalition forces and civilians are not even Iraqis...they are foreign jihadists who came in solely to cause trouble. I'm not into Old Testament punishments, but I have to admit that it would not bother me one iota if the person who beheaded Nick Berg suffered the same fate--with a rusty, dull sword. I suppose that makes me a horrible, vengeful person.

As much as I hate the idea of the US leaving a job unfinished and as much as I believe we have an obligation to get Iraq back on track, I experience moments when I also believe we should let them have it and fix their own mess. They certainly aren't making any effort to help themselves.



[edited]

matt morin
5.27.04 @ 2:15p

Think about it this way:

Iraq (who we already dislike) marches into our country, destroys our cities and infrastructure, overthrows Bush (who most of us hate), rounds up several thousand people (70-90% who are completely innocent) and throws them in jail/tortures them, tells everyone they're going to make us convert to a dictatorship, and oh by the way, we're going to make you do it by some arbitrary deadline in a few months.

Wouldn't you fight back? You may be glad Bush is gone, but wouldn't you want to be able to run your own country? Wouldn't you want Iraq to leave?

What Bush started is a Crusade for Democracy - by force if necessary. Does anyone else see how wrong that is? Where do we stop? Something tells me we're not going to invade Saudi Arabia to force democracy on them.

[edited]

jeffrey walker
5.27.04 @ 4:12p

Matt: I can't believe you can even begin to compare what the U.S. has done to some imaginary invasion of the U.S. by Iraq.

Iraq, who had a host of human rights violations before the invasion FAR GREATER than anything even CLOSE to what is being alleged by our soldiers.

Iraq, who if they did invade the U.S. would do a hell of a lot worse stuff than anything alleged against any U.S. soldier, without regard to any conventions (which they had no regard for in the first place, or do you doubt that?)

The fact you even make up such a scenario in an attempt to evoke sympathy makes me see even clearer that no one is home in your feeble head! IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS, THE SITUTION IN IRAQ HAS IMPROVED. But you seem to ignore that. Your complaining about a few, when the population as a whole is in a better place. YOUR LOGIC IS WARPED!!!!!!!!!!!!

[edited]

dan gonzalez
5.27.04 @ 4:19p

Lisa: Good thoughts, I like 'em.

Matt: Good grief, there is so much generalization, speculation, faux statistical ranges, twisted reasoning, and loaded rhetoric (Crusade for Democracy, beauty!)in that last post Matt, that all I'm gonna say is that the whole thing is bunk. Sorry, but you gotta be pulling our legs.

matt morin
5.27.04 @ 4:48p

I was just responding to Lisa's comment that the Iraqi people aren't doing anything to help themselves.

Recent polls show that most Iraqis don't trust us or want us in their country - which kind of raises the "Duh" factor when we wonder why they're not embracing us with open arms and helping us out.

jeffrey walker
5.27.04 @ 5:09p

recent polls my ass! they'd prefer it the way it was with Saddam, right? That was better.

The "duh" factor clearly doesn't apply to anything in your mind, or else it would have gone off long ago!

jael mchenry
5.27.04 @ 6:23p

Jeff, all of your arguments are based on the idea that relativism is important. Getting three fingers cut off is better than having all ten cut off, being raped and tortured is better than being dead, that sort of thing.

I'm a big fan of shades of gray, but some things aren't gray. Killing is wrong. Torture is wrong.

I don't see any way around that.

No matter who is involved.

tracey kelley
5.27.04 @ 6:28p

The fighting in Iraq isn't directed so much at us as to what were are trying to support: something less feudal and oppressive than they've already had. But many radical factions of Shiites want the country for themselves - which is not what the US wants.

Oh, we may want their oil, but logically, we're still going to have to buy it.

Any country that allows a dictator to come to power is:

1) struggling for industry
2) financially weak
3) non-unified

Sounds a lot like Germany in the 1920s, doesn't it? Hitler did not look so bad to the large group of Germans needing jobs, country pride and a place in the European council. And just like the factions in Iraq, there were many splinter groups, divided along political and religious lines, that were more than willing to attempt power, especially if someone fearless like Hitler was willing to lead them.

As long as these Shiite factions and terrorist threads continue to dominate the region, the true Iraqi people will never know freedom. And, in the meantime, the change they've experienced is unsettling enough to make them point at the most obvious target: the United States, because we don't have the capabilities to free them from their neighbors.

robert melos
5.27.04 @ 6:49p

I am personally tired of seeing Bush and company apologizing to every Middle East leader everytime I turn on the television.

Well, you need to get on the phone to tell them when to apologize and when not to, because apparently they can't figure it out. Funny how during the 9/11 hearings, you faulted them for not apologizing, and now you're faulting them for doing it.


Dan, I'm a person with major trust issues. I'm talking MAJOR trust issues. I have very complex ways of looking at things and base most everything on personal or gut feelings.

I fault Bush and Company for not apologizing to the American people and for failing in protecting them. However, the failure was inevitable, because no country can go for very long without some major disaster or horrible act of war happening to it. The attacks on 9/11 were inevitable.

I fault Bush for apologizing to every Middle Easterner, and continuing to do it, because I, and I know this is prejudice so don't even tell me I'm a bigot because I already know it, don't not trust 99% of the Middle Easterners involved in this war. For a personal reference, I am currently employed by Egyptians who are naturalized American citizens but who proudly hold duo citizenship since they did not choose to give up their citizenship in Egypt. And for the record, I trust my employers as far as I can throw them, and have told them so on many occasions.

Simply put, I don't trust anyone completely, and I trust the people of the Middle East less. Yes this is prejudice, and it may be wrong, but it is real, and it existed in me long before 9/11.

I feel Bush went out of his way to apologize to foreigners, but neglects the people he is supposedly serving. He wants to "free" the poeple of Iraq, but is pushing to deny a segment of the population of his own country the rights associated with marriage. If he can have it both ways, so can I. Of course I don't have his money, or connections to the royal families of the Middle East, as he seems to have.

I do have a recipe for baked camel that serves 100.


matt morin
5.27.04 @ 7:24p

Here's your polls, Jeff:

From the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies: Six months ago, only 1% of Iraqis backed Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The new nationwide survey of 1,640 people finds 32% strongly support al-Sadr, and 36% support him somewhat.

The same survey, conducted in late April, shows that 88% of Iraqis now view U.S. and other foreign troops here as an occupation force; only 7% consider them liberators.

dan gonzalez
5.27.04 @ 7:49p


Robert: Fair enough, I gotcha. Often, people in third-world countries can't afford to be trustworthy, so I wouldn't be so harsh on yourself as far as the prejudice stuff goes.

Matt: Those polls are weak: 6 months ago nobody knew who Al Sadr was, and scared poor people always support the bullies they fear. You don't and won't mention the polls that overwhelmingly say that average Iraqi's feel safer now than under Hussein. What does it matter if they think of us as liberators or not? One year ago, they didn't even have polls in Iraq, and nobody can say we're liberators or not until the whole thing's over.

nancy brookshire
5.27.04 @ 8:16p

Nicely said. I have run my fingers across the names in the granite and it brings tears to my eyes now and every time I think of it. When I was about 8 my brother, who was in ROTC, had a friend, who was in ROTC with him, come to our house to see a nest of bunnies that were in our yard. He was a animal and nature lover. His name was James Johnson and he was a very kind and friendly person. When my mom asked him in for ice tea he declined. I questioned this and did not quite get it until years later. It was explained to me later that his reason for this was to not cause us "any problems, if I remember correctly. Even though I lived in a small town there were some very dominate racial tensions there, to say the least. Those I did not really understand until later as well. As an adult I went to the wall in Washington and looked for this young man's name. Not only had he died for a country where he felt it would cause my family problems to enter our house, which always bothered me, but I did not know which of the multiple James Johnsons I found on the wall was him, which knocked me for a loop. I post this message in his honor and I will never forget that moment. To him and all the others who have served and are serving that represent our country well I give thanks whether I believe in the military action or not. Tracey great job on the article and I agree it is one of your best. We do not support such behavior in our own country and should not anywhere else. Thanks for saying it so well.

[edited]

matt morin
5.27.04 @ 8:42p

...scared poor people always support the bullies they fear.

Wow is that a generalization. And if the Iraqis are so happy to have us there, given the option of supporting the U.S. or supporting a Shiite cleric, why do they overwhelmingly choose the cleric.

What does it matter if they think of us as liberators or not?

It matters everything. If we're liberators, we're welcomed and the Iraqis will make things easy for us. If we're occupiers, we're not welcome and more and more American soldiers will continue to die.

Our government gives all this lip service to making Iraq free and democratic. Well, how can they be free if there's an occupying force in their country, who they want gone, that won't leave?

[edited]

lisa r
5.27.04 @ 8:42p

Robert--I'm sure the camel recipe is delicious but I'm afraid one won't fit in my oven, so I'll have to pass.

Matt--Earlier today I had a really nice diatribe going on the Iraq situation, and all the hot air in my rant balloon just disappeared. I don't think I see the same polls you do, but then I've been away from the news for a few days to fret about someone a little closer to home. What came out of that experience was the realization that I, personally, cannot do anything about the situation in Iraq but I CAN do something to make someone else's life a little better back here. I feel for the innocents caught up in the madness, I alternately cheer our troops while staring in consternation toward D.C., I fervently pray that we'll get the people responsible for every atrocity against coalition citizens and soldiers and at the same time clean house in the intelligence and military agencies that allowed and/or encouraged the events at Abu Ghraib--but beyond prayer it is out of my hands until Election Day.

Ranks should be stripped, demotions and/or dismissals should occur, and all punishments should be set to have the maximum fear factor among our remaining military and intel groups that Americans will not stand for anything even remotely resembling torture coming from our people. They represent us, and we aren't a nation of barbarians...even if Americans created rap. We're supposed to be the good guys, but some folks forgot they were wearing the white hats.

I have a friend whose son joined the Marines last year. I have the utmost confidence that she raised him to be better than that. Also, I know that if he ever got involved in such behavior her displeasure would make the military brass's actions look like a slap on the wrist.

[edited]

matt morin
5.27.04 @ 8:48p

Lisa, very nicely said. I agree with everything you just wrote.

Well, except for thinking the camel recipe is delicious.

lisa r
5.27.04 @ 9:02p

Matt, you're slipping! That was a southern girl's polite way of saying "That is NOT happening in my kitchen in this life!"

I went to grad school with a guy from Iran. Very intelligent, and very much an accepted part of our group of research assistants from hell (I STILL want one of those t-shirts!). He had a great sense of humor and kept us all on our toes. (Keep in mind that I was pursuing my doctorate during Desert Storm). Prior to that war, he had to go back home to Iran to deal with family issues, as he was the eldest son. While there he was very nearly conscripted into the Iranian army, then denied re-entry into the US because of problems with his student visa, which he ultimately got straightened out. He had to take a roundabout journey back to the States, but he got back before Desert Storm broke out (I think...I'm getting old and my mind isn't what it used to be). At any rate, not once in the entire time we were students together did I ever have any reason to be uncomfortable or suspicious. Last I heard he was married and working in the States.

I've thought about him often in the days since 9/11, wondering if people he encounters look at him with suspicion, or treat him horribly simply because he's from the Middle East. I hope not, because he truly does not deserve to be treated badly at all.

[edited]

dan gonzalez
5.27.04 @ 9:50p

Nancy and Lisa: Good thoughts, well-taken.

Matt: This is it for me, we have a basic disagreement on cause and effect, but I'm done after this.

Every death and instance of physical harm is tragic. No one's twisted opinions or any number of polls cause RPG's and mortars to be lobbed over prison walls or at military or civilian convoys. All of the people who have attacked us since the first three weeks of combat are criminal terrorists, and calling it an insurgency is negligent. The overwhelming majority of our forces have performed above and beyond the call of duty with no malfeasance and should be honored and deserve repect.

That's all, the rest is just right or left partisan horse-puckey. I'm tired of being summarized as pro-war or right, or as supporting prison abuse, but I've wasted too much of everybody's time trying to elaborate. I'm not going to sully this good column further by fomenting any more nonsense.

[edited]

robert melos
5.27.04 @ 10:06p

I'm sure the camel recipe is delicious but I'm afraid one won't fit in my oven, so I'll have to pass.

The camel thanks you.


Often, people in third-world countries can't afford to be trustworthy, so I wouldn't be so harsh on yourself as far as the prejudice stuff goes.

This is one of the things I don't like about myself, but changing it is very hard. I do understand the prejudice against homosexuals, because of my own prejudices against Middle Easterners. I know not all Middle Easterners are deceptive,but the thought is still there.

My prejudice is irrational. It would be like mistrusting all Mid-Westerners. Or All North Jerseyans, or New Yorkers. It's something I work on, the trust issues, not mistrusting New Yorkers.

However, the main points of the column do make an impression. Our military is taking a beating in the media because of this incident, and it isn't fair to those people who truly believe they are helping by enlisting and serving their country without question. Those people have earned our respect, even if we don't agree with the war.



jeffrey walker
5.27.04 @ 11:46p

I like to eat camel toe. And Matt's a schmuck.

[edited]

tracey kelley
5.28.04 @ 1:34a

snort.

Camel toe. A Southern delicacy, eh? Y'all are just too much.

Leave it to Lisa to bring out the frying pans!

but I did not know which of the multiple James Johnsons I found on the wall was him, which knocked me for a loop. I post this message in his honor and I will never forget that moment. To him and all the others who have served and are serving that represent our country well I give thanks whether I believe in the military action or not.

Nana, this is just beautiful.

Our military is taking a beating in the media because of this incident, and it isn't fair to those people who truly believe they are helping by enlisting and serving their country without question. Those people have earned our respect, even if we don't agree with the war.

Nicely said, Robert. We have to understand (and wish Rob and Rachel would help us moreso!) what it's like to be in that situation, and how that plays against individual beliefs, and what risks you take.

Sgt. Samuel Provance said he "knew what was being reported was not true" , and had been personally told by the interrogators what was happening in the prison. He was ordered by his CO not to talk about what went on, but he went to the media anyway. Now, he's lost his security clearance and has been disciplined by the military.

He still wants to serve, he still believe in what he's defending, and is trying to demonstrate moral fortitude by coming forward... but at what cost?

[edited]

lisa r
5.28.04 @ 9:51a

I cannot understand the American mentality that makes it acceptable to castigate the whistleblowers and applaud the wrongdoers. It occurs to me this morning as I sit bleary-eyed at this infernal machine that we cannot wear the proverbial white hat in ANY situation until we change that attitude. We also must be more vocal and absolutely sincere in our outrage as a nation before the rest of the world will believe us.

dan gonzalez
5.28.04 @ 9:52a

Moral fortitude? He knew the costs. He was insubordinate, disobeying direct orders, which is grounds for flagging his career. He violated his clearance, and he had to know what that meant: you can't get clearance without a witnessed signature that acknowledges the federal crimes involved with compromising it. These include a long stretch the federal pokey with no possibility of parole.

What boggles my mind is that security clearances have been severely violated no less than 3 times during this fiasco, but nobody cares about that (Didn't you see those pictures?) even though it is arguably the most disturbing element. (How in the hell did the pictures get out? One wonders, but the media does not reveal it's source, the one secret they always keep.)

Why doesn't anyone care? because the media jackals have us hornswaggled that all secrets (besides their own) are bad, and that they are really freeing us by compromising them, the typical kindergarten morality they invoke when it's convenient to advance their agenda.

There are very many things that are very wrong with this whole thing, and number 1, I think, is how we're handling it. Up there in the discussion, someone wiser than me said that how we handle it will be the true measure. We're doing a piss-poor job so far from what I can tell.

lisa r
5.28.04 @ 10:11a

I don't see how we as a nation CAN handle it well, Dan. A really good case of outrage requires focus. American attention is split between the war in Iraq, a political race which we regard mostly with fatalistic horror, skyrocketing gas prices, a rotten job market (don't let the rosy unemployment figures fool you--they've dropped because more and more people are not able to file for benefits, not because fewer people are looking for work), floods, tornadoes, and staggering healthcare costs.

There just isn't enough outrage to go around.

sloan bayles
5.30.04 @ 11:32a

Thinking about Memorial Day, and focusing on what I perceive to be the point of this column, I am grateful and humbled. Grateful for living in a country that has the greatest military force in the world, and humbled knowing it's 100% voluntary personnel. Grateful for those who've laid down their lives for the plight of others near and abroad. And humbled by this as well. I know I would fight, die and even kill to protect my son, my husband, my mom, all those I love, but would I do it for a stranger. I don't know. Members of my family have served, including my husband. On 9/11/01, at the age of 40, he stood ready and very willing to re-up. It was his scared and selfish wife who talked him out of it. On that day, I saw the patriotism and pain in his wet eyes, and felt humbled. The men and women of our military forces who have and do voluntarily put themselves in harms way will forever have my humbled gratitude. We, as a nation, may not see the action as a just cause. As a necessary fight. Those called to duty may not agree with the cause either, yet they go. They, and their ilk have given us the right to protest the very war in which they're fighting.
Tomorrow I will call my husband and say "Thank You", I will tell my father-in-law, "Thank You", and I will say a silent Thank You to all of those who have served.

dan gonzalez
6.1.04 @ 10:45a

Well, Sloan's, Lisa's, Tracey's and many others' poignant thoughts remind me of how much I'm struggling with these issues. I'm handling it no better than most of the people I've pointed my finger at, and worse than many. Matt's compelling points about the Geneva convention are beyond my grasp. Crass hypocrisy thwarts me, as well as unresolved anger at my daughter seeing a picture in a USA today box and the fact that I cannot forget about 9/11/01. I remember well my first thought watching the buildings fall: "Now we have to flatten the Taliban, Palestine, and Iraq."

Did any body else immediately think of Iraq that day? I mean, of you good people, not Bush and co.

lisa r
6.1.04 @ 12:06p

I did. The Taliban and Osama Bin Laden did not occur to me at all when it first happened. All I could think of was "Saddam Hussein is getting revenge on Bush for what his father did during Desert Storm."

jael mchenry
6.1.04 @ 12:39p

I only thought it was terrible. It made me heartsick. It took hours to even start wondering why, or who. And when I did, Osama was the only person on the list. And still is.

robert melos
6.1.04 @ 3:46p

I thought of Egypt, not particularly Saddam Hussein. I also thought of Lybia and Syria. Actually Hussein was the farthest from my thoughts on who did it.

Also that was the first time I'd heard the name Osama Bin Laden. I didn't follow international affairs at that time, so his name meant nothing to me.



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