Wednesday, May 05, 2004

moral high grounds, and lack there of

it frankly does not surprise me much that american troops have been caught torturing (not that Donald Rumsfeld is aware of any torture) Iraqi POWs. this is not bismirchment of the american character, but a simple pragmatic look at the circumstances and who is in power.

we are certainly no means above torture, it is well documented that our "School of Americas" taught well to certain Central American militaries. i'm not sure the addage, "those who can't do teach" quite applies here. look at the stuff that we freely admit to doing: sleep deprivation, and cramped quartering -- described by some as "torture lite." no doubt helped along by not so kind words. we may not be inflicting bodily harm (although even that could be argued), but it is most certainly not a pleasant experience to go through mentally, and is explicitly meant to break the prisoner. "To break" is not a word indicative of just treatment. alas, however, the Geneva Conventions do not actually state explicitly what torture is or is not (or at least I could find no such reference).

back to circumstances though, our troops find themselves in a country where they can't speak the language, where they are prevented from having much contact with the populace, and where an unknown quantity of the populace is actively shooting at them. this is not a situation which is likely to breed mutual respect. add to this the nature of terrorism, which follows no Geneva Conventions, and you can expect that the soldiers are not above dealing harshly with the enemy.

just think of all the hollywood movies where you feel like cheering when the terrorist is finally getting his just deserts, and the protaganist is getting his revenge. now imagine being a soldier in Iraq where you have the opportunites to take out some of your frustrations.

i imagine there are americans out there that actually say, "torture? well duh! we got to get these bastards," "let god sort them out," etc. never mind the political niceties of actually wanting a stable middle east.

of course, the majority of soldiers probably do not act out on those impulses, i imagine our training (as well as our general cutural respect for human rights and innocence) is better than that. but still, the soldier who stepped forward with this story -- even in anonimity -- now there is a hero. just imagine being in his or her shoes ratting out your brothers (think of all the cultural respect we have for that).

the real travesty of this is again, we were not prepared for the aftermath. the accused -- military police -- did not know the geneva convention, in a wartime situation!? they should have seen this coming.


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