Tuesday, July 13, 2004

More Abu Ghraib

The Abu Ghraib story (again more precisely the Iraq torture story) continues to depress. Reading some of the documents from the Taguba report that were somehow not released earlier is not what you want to cheer you in the morning and yet it is something that needs to be done. US News has a story summarizing some of it, what they term 'Shining a light in a real dark place'.

Despite the rather dry and formal military language (chain of command, standard operating procedures, officer in charge, rules of engagment and the overload of acronyms, this is gripping reading (I suppose the military is the ultimate bureacracy although working at IBM has exposed me to the facelessness of process - see. Kafka, Orwell, Dilbert?). I can imagine the kind of horror that General Taguba must have felt as he investigated the morass and conducted his interviews. Even though he kept to his brief and didn't follow up many things that I'm sure he would have liked to; the way he wrote it made it impossible for the scandal to be avoided. (Taguba's background of course is ideal for this given that his father 'was captured by the Japanese in April 42 and forced on the ensuing death march'; prisoner abuse would lie very close to his heart. it must have been despairing to him that the whole military leadership were at the very least willing to turn a blind eye (I'm sure he'd have some choice words for General Miller and his Gitmo-izing if he could).

At a certain level I can understand the context in which the soldiers operated, but that doesn't mitigate my disgust. (Things like this might serve to reinforce my prejudices since I continue to have a low regard for the military - regarding the institution as at best necessary evil, certainly one requiring constant scrutiny: I point to the disastrous effect of the military in Africa and Latin America - maybe this is worth expanding on later since there's personal history there).

Of course the real villains have to be the civilians in the pentagon (Rumsfield, Cambone et. al) and the generals and intelligence who implemented their wants (and of course Bush) who deserve to be fired and bear a heavy responsibility.

There's almost too much to absorb in the Taguba Report but one shouldn't flinch from its insights. There's bureacratic bungling, incompetence, corruption, pettiness, evil; no one comes off good.

General Sanchez seems to have an ego and certainly didn't care about niceties for prisoners only about being caught. Again put in context, he was facing an insurgency that was heating up, and certainly took the admonition to take the gloves off and cut corners or look the other way, ostensibly to protect the men under his command getting blown up every day - and of course the mission. But that's were the corruption lies: there should not be any grey areas about torture; plainly put, it is a slippery slope to hell.

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