Democrats & Liberals Archives

Bad Apple or Bad Tree?

The prisoner abuse scandal continues to widen, just a day after Bush went on arabic language television to condemn such actions.

Now, additional photos showing abuse have surfaced. Many are even worse than those previously released. Included in the latest batch include a photo of a female soldier holding a leash attached to the neck of a naked Iraqi prisoner and a photo of a prisoner chained to a bed frame with women’s panties over his head.

The finger-pointing has increased as this scope of this story has grown. So far, nobody wants to take the blame but there are many to blame. On CNN last night, Paula Zahn interviewed Guy Womack, the lawyer for one of those facing court marshall for his participation. He blamed President Bush for going on Arab TV and saying that those responsible will be dealt with, because he feels his client cannot get a fair trial. He also was adamant that his client was innocent despite photographic evidence!

A brief except from Paula Zahn's show:

ZAHN: Mr. Womack, I want to start off tonight by all of us looking at a picture of your client with his arms folded behind the pile of naked Iraqi soldiers. Are you going to tell me tonight there is an innocent explanation for your client's actions?

WOMACK: Yes. Yes, there is.

ZAHN: And what are they?

WOMACK: He was complying with orders that he believed to be lawful.

How could sexual abuse EVER be believed to be lawful!!! It's not lawful when a pedophile does it. It's not legal when fraternity hazing involved this type of behavior. Sexual abuse is sending dozens of priests to prison and costing the Catholic Church hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements. The Geneva Convention forbids sexual abuse. And yet these soldiers are claiming they were "simply following orders?" Womack stated in the interview that, "You can only refuse to obey those orders that you know must be unlawful. We don't want soldiers debating the niceties of an order during time of war. If an order appears to be lawful or could be lawful, you have an obligation to obey it."

But first, how could anyone possibly think that such actions would be lawful, in spite of what he had witnessed in the prison prior to taking part himself. And while it may be a "time of war" this was certainly not an active combat situation. Maybe one could justify actions in the heat of the moment on the battlefield. But these events took place within a prison and against restrained prisoners.

But certainly, not only those shown in the photos are to blame for the abuse. There clearly seems to be orders from above which lead to this behavior. While it's not known how explicitly the orders were -- were they told to sexually humiliate the prisoners or simply "soften them up" for interrogation -- orders were not given that ensured the Geneva Convention would be followed.

The breakdown in control goes higher, however. These events took place because there was not an adequate level of training for the troops and officers deployed to the region. Many are National Guard who never expected to face combat or war situations and whose training reflected that. In addition to the lack of battlefield training, they also received inadequate training on rules of international law and local customs. These oversights go all the way back to the Pentagon, which did not adequately prepare their plans for war and the ensuing rebuilding process. Somebody needs to take the fall for this, probably Donald Rumsfeld. Bush has already chastized him for these acts, but it is not enough to demonstrate to the global community that we are in fact outraged. If Rumsfeld is not held accountable for these latest acts, then Bush's support pretty much implicats himself and the rest of his administration in these acts as well.

The world view of the United States has been greatly tarnished by these events. Already stung by the global anti-war sentiments, we've greatly harmed our credibility as the world's "liberator" and "bearer of democracy."

And as the world no longer looks to the U.S. as it keeper of peace and instiller of values, our global influence wanes. The world will no longer passively sit back and simply tell us not to do something. They will begin to act against us. We may have the resources and the will to fight the Taliban or even Sadam Hussein. But what about when the entire Middle East actively declares war on us? What about when our allies of Europe are on the other side of a conflict?

The hubris of past empires have caused their rapid declines, as the continuation of their ambition causes the military costs to strain the general economy. Ancient Greece and Rome, Nepoleonic France, Great Britain, Third Reich Germany, USSR, etc. Paul Kennedy outlines these downfalls in his book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. We also learn that history repeats itself time and time again. It's beginning to look more and more like the Unted State's time is coming to a close as well.

Posted by blipsman at May 6, 2004 11:40 AM