If the world’s oldest profession is prostitution, then the oldest hobby must be the abuse of power. Or maybe it’s adopting the mob mentality. They often go hand-in-hand, I guess.
So I don’t know why I’m surprised at the story and photos of the American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners. But I am. I had heard the story — when was that, a few months ago? — that allegations had been made. But I think I either forgot about it or buried it in my brain’s denial cavity, because I only had a vague recollection of it when the story broke again this week.
I guess I like to think that we really ARE the good guys. That our military does the right thing, even when faced with people who are doing the wrong thing to them or people they know.
All the photos are offensive, and even bizarre at some level: they remind me of fraternity and football hazing incidents I’ve read about, including one in neighboring NH about two years ago. In that story, a freshman football player returned from summer football camp telling his parents how he’d been sexually abused and humiliated. The “antics” involved anal penetration and “tea-bagging”. So this Iraqi stuff has a familiar, uncomfortable, “the adults are away and we’re in charge for the first time, so let’s abuse somebody” ring.
The photos of the female American soldier especially disturb me. It’s just hard for me to understand how a woman would find sexual assault and humiliation funny, since women are so often the targets of it. You’d think she’d be more tuned in to how much of a violation it is. But I guess the mob mentality kicked in for her, too.
I realize that soldiers in a combat zone have to develop some level of hatred for “the enemy.” Otherwise, how could they do what they have to do? How could they kill other human beings? I’ve heard stories, some told by an uncle, of how in WWII, American soldiers just had a blind hatred for German and Japanese soldiers. They needed the hatred to survive. At least they had Pearl Harbor and the Final Solution to work with. I’m not sure what our soldiers today are using for fuel.
You Gotta Do Better Than THAT
I am sure the military is nothing without its rules and regulations. There’s a procedure for everything, isn’t there? So I’m not buying the explanation that the soldiers hadn’t read the Geneva Convention before being assigned to the prison. I haven’t read it either, but somehow I know that forcing prisoners to simulate sex acts or otherwise humiliating and abusing them physically is just wrong and violates SOME rule or another. Obviously, at least one soldier knew it was wrong, because he reported it.
And I had to laugh at Ann Clwyd, Tony Blair’s envoy. After stating she was shocked by the photos, she added that the Americans acted badly, but hey, they’re no Saddam Hussein:
A small number of cases, horrible though they are — you cannot compare that with the tens of thousands of people Saddam Hussein was responsible for executing and torturing.
Yes, I’m sure those Iraqi prisoners feel much better now that they’re being tortured by Americans instead of their own leader. Lucky for us, Hussein raised the torture bar pretty damn high, so our boys and girls over there have a lot of work to do before they can catch up to him.
The situation makes me wonder about the chain of command at the prison. I would think that someone, somewhere up that chain knew what was going on and either ordered it, condoned it, or turned a blind eye to it. The question then becomes: How prevalent is that attitude?
Of course, there will be no convincing anyone in the Middle East that this is an isolated incident, or that these soldiers don’t represent the entire American military or even us civilians. So I’m sure this little PR event won’t slow down the “insurgents,” nor will it reduce the percentage of Iraqi citizens who want us out of there immediately.
Unfortunately, this handful of soldiers put their comrades in more danger by gift wrapping more “justification” for Arab/Muslim/Iraqi hatred of us. Let’s just say it’s not going to help us win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. Or any of their neighbors.
I’m sure the people at home who know those American soldiers are shocked that they’re involved in an incident like this. But to a certain extent, it’s to be expected. But why is it part of human nature to gang up on the weak and to abuse power?
[Sorry for the rambling post. I just wrote and that's what came out.]