May 9, 2004
A lot of people have been shocked at the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. I've been one of them. It's not so much the specific, horrendous acts that were committed as much as it was the evil irony of using one of Saddam's worst prisons to commit many of the same offences under the banner of "America is a friend of all the Iraqi people." We were supposed to be helping these people create a free democracy.This 6-page article in the NY Times answers some of the questions as to how such a thing could come to pass. It doesn't have all the answers, but is a good informational read nonetheless.
Posted by charr at 10:10 AM
The Abu Ghraib prison should be torn down and burned! It had such a brutal, evil history before we took it over that we shouldn't have used it as a prison. Who knows what sorts of dark, tortured spirits haunt the place?!
I am most surprised that women took part in the abuse, especially the ones who smiled for the camera.
Did you see the profile on last night's Peter Jennings newscast of the whistleblower who snuck a note under the commander's door and told him what was going on at the prison? He is not someone who LOOKS very brave on the outside but at least he had the guts to speak out. I hope he gets a medal for that. The other soldiers "followed orders" and hoped it would spare them from ever getting in trouble for their actions. Pretty sad.
I have a hard time drumming up any sympathy for the guards who said that they were "just following orders." Please. Basic decency should have been enough to stop them.
Jan: I don't know if it's that cut and dry. Soldiers are trained to obey the orders of their commanding officers. If they took every order as a suggestion that they had to rationalize themselves, they could easily be killed in combat.There have also been studies where people did shockingly inhumane things because they were told they wouldn't be held responsible.
I just read in Newsweek that the photos/video not released yet but that are going to be shown to Congress reportedly show a US soldier having sex with a female Iraqi prisoner, and US soldiers watching Iraqis have sex.
Dan, I understand your point. I understand that soldiers are often called upon to do horrible things. I understand that in the military, questioning your superior is often a dangerous thing to do, especially in combat situations. I understand that soldiers are trained to follow orders. I understand that it can be neccessary to deny EPCs sleep, etc to get information from them. But there was a point where thier actions became sadistic. That's what I was talking about. Depriving EPCs of sleep is one thing; what happened in those photographs is something else entirely. That's the basic decency I was talking about. And as for thier claims of "following orders," I'm going to wait for more information on that. It's been suggested in the media that they weren't exactly following orders. I also heard that they took thier orders beyond what was asked of them.
I think what they did was appalling. I am not surprised, if ordered, that they did it. I've known and dated men in the military. You do as your told or worse happens to you. I'd like to say I would stand my high moral ground but if I was a reservist who'd been told 3 times I'd be going home and told 3 times I wasn't, not to mention the pressure over there... I can't say that I wouldn't "just follow orders". God, I hope I wouldn't. It's just sick.Here's the thing though - who's to say it isn't widespread and that this and worse hasn't happened in previous wars and conflicts? If these pictures didn't turn up and Iraqis were saying that this abuse was going on, I would find it hard to believe and just chalk it up to lies from the enemy. Now we know that's not so.What really ticks me off is people who defend it by comparing it to abuse of our citizens and soldiers. Then there's Limbaugh spewing that it's nothing worse than hazing. As if hazing weren't demeaning in and of itself. Pulease.
By no means am I excusing what the soldiers did and I agree their actions were sadistic.What I wanted to point out was that during the Stanford Prison Experiment they found that given the right (or wrong depending on your perspective) circumstances, normal, good and mentally stable people began committing horrible acts.Like Renee, I can't say that I wouldn't follow orders either, but the scary thing from that experiment is that there were no orders to be followed or rejected. The students assigned to be guards began doing awful things (very similar to what was done in Iraq) to the prisoners even when they knew it was just an experiment.
Lord of the Flies... Human nature is very weird under duress or influence of others. I guess that is one of our shortfalls to overcome - to stand up for what is right in spite of being perceived as weak or weird. Ever seen those things where people are brought into a room and told to stay there until someone comes back - then smoke comes in under the door and they kill the air. People don't leave. If one person will have the guts to point out this might be a dangerous situation then others may follow. But we have this fear of being first.