Pieces Fall into Place

Andrew Sullivan has a post today (er, I guess yesterday) about how we’re apparently kidnapping innocent people in Iraq in order to leverage them against their spouses or relatives. ABCNews has the larger story here.

Think with me back to the Abu Ghraib mess. Not the photos we all saw and the things we all heard, but the rumors of worse being kept from us.

Seymour Hersch talked about it in this interview:

SEYMOUR HERSH: I don’t know what it stands for, but out of Virginia. They just got a huge new contract. These are people who do hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business. They provide interpreters, among other things; that’s part of their business. The private companies were all over Abu Ghraib, and they had local — one of the people, one of the men from the private companies was — did have forcible sex with — there’s women in the prisons, which is also a big contentious problem for the Iraqi population. The women are held in a separate unit, but they have children; and one of the children and one of the women was raped by a boy. There are photographs. There is testimony —
AMY GOODMAN: Was raped by —
SEYMOUR HERSH: One of the guards, rather. And witnessed by Americans taking photographs. There is testimony that has not been made public about this. I know that there’s been statements made in various military proceedings. And the government’s been very chary about writing — putting out any information. People witnessed it. They had cameras, and I believe they were video cameras. They could have been still cameras. There were cameras photographing it, and the boy was screaming. But I don’t have a videotape of it. I haven’t seen a videotape of it. I know that such testimony has been given.

Now, there are some allegations that Hersch changed his story, that he claimed to have seen the video tape of the boy’s rape and that now he’s claiming he only heard about it. But I wondered at the time why there were even kids in the prison.

Were we, as a matter of course, kidnapping and detaining innocent family members of people we want to intimidate?

According to the Red Cross and people in the Army, yes.

The Red Cross also delineated eyewitness testimony of the abuse of these children. Provance, who was stationed at Abu Ghraib, told the media that interrogating officers had gotten their hands on a 15-or-16-year-old girl. Military Police apparently only stopped the interrogation when the girl was half-undressed. A separate incident described a 16-year-old boy being soaked with water, driven through the cold, smeared with mud, and then presented before his weeping father, who was also a prisoner.

We couldn’t get this kid’s dad to talk until we threatened his kid (I know some of you might argue that being soaked in water and driven around all muddy is no worse than some kind of college prank. I would argue that the point of the exercise was to show the kid’s dad that we had no moral hesitation about using his kid to force him to talk. It wasn’t what we did to the kid so much as that we did anything at all to him.).

So, I guess the difference between what we knew after Abu Ghraib and what we know now is that now we have official military documents showing that this was a wide-spread practice and not just the word of witnesses.

“It’s very hard, obviously, from some of these documents to determine what, if anything, actually happened,” says the Pentagon spokesman.

Gee, yes, if we just keep looking at each individual bit of information as having no relevance to other bits of information, it is hard to determine “what, if anything, actually happened.”

But if you step back and look at everything together, the picture becomes pretty damn clear. We kidnap and lock up children, putting them in situations where they might be raped by sadistic guards, as a way to intimidate their families.

If we’re going to do terrible things, let’s at least be honest about the terrible things we’re doing.

5 thoughts on “Pieces Fall into Place

  1. It’s a shame that this topic seems to have been pushed off the media’s radar. I certainly was expecting more indignation from the punditry. (Is that word?) Anyway, I wasn’t at all surprized by the revelations of torture and abuse. Look, right here at home, many States are contracting out their penal institutions. So, you have companies seeking to take advantage of fat Govt contracts, and while there may be a few who do this job well, more likely than not you will find underpaid, undertrained, and most certainly under screened guards. As a former police officer, I can tell you that while the Law Enforcement community has made strides in attaining “professional” status, the sad fact is that too many seek the career for the wrong reasons. I left because of the bunker mentality that was so pervasive amongst the rank and file street cops. Us vs them is the rule , and I never believed that the worse thing that could happen in a given situation was that we lost a fellow police officer, rather, the worst thing is that we failed to protect a civilian. That was, after all, the reason we got paid. Sorry I took so long to say that if it happens here, it should come as no shock that it would happen in a war-time setting.

  2. Allow me to remind you of past quotes:

    Contents include ….. more of this absurd sense of outrage based on some old-fashioned notion that there are “rules” to war and that those who don’t follow them are somehow more wrong than those who do,

    Aunt B said…

    Well, if your argument is that rules of war are stupid, then we are in complete agreement and I tip my hat to you.

    So is your beef that we aren’t more above board about it? Or do you just get squimish when your bravado starts getting into real wetwork?

  3. I think you know exactly my position, but it delights me that you want to hang me on my own inconsistancies.

    Yes, I do think that having rules of war, when war is the utter breakdown of civilization, is pretty hilarious.

    But the fact of the matter is that now we claim to have such rules. In fact, we want to hold people outside of the reach of the Constitution in part because we argue that, if they don’t follow the rules, we don’t have to extend to them the protections of the Geneva convention.

    So, on the one hand, we want to hold it against the people who hate us that they don’t follow the rules, and on the other hand, we don’t want to have to follow the rules when dealing with them. I’d like some internal consistancy.

    And I don’t think I need to point out to you how dangerous people with nothing left to lose are. Part of the reason you don’t take a man’s wife and kids are that he’s now got absolutely no reason to moderate his violence towards you.

  4. The rules of war are limited, but they make a difference. The Germans treated Western POW’s much better than Russians and Poles; the Russians remained very vindictive to their prisoners after the war.

    While this sort of stuff happens for specific historical reasons, it is based on a rough quid pro quo. We won’t if you don’t, with the geneva convention as a handy guide to setting it up.

    So if our mob in Iraq doesn’t obey the rules of war, then we put our own people in jeopardy.

    If we had obviously obeyed the rules of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, do you think the bad people would have behaved quite as badly as they did?

    After all, this is a psychological war for the affection of civilians.

    My particular bete noir about all this is the way the Coalition provided extremely competent medical aid for our own people, and let the locals die. That really concentrates the minds of the population.

    I’d better stop. I’m getting angry and its sunday in Australia and very hot and I’ve got a potato salad on the go.

    – barista (I’m going to start using a blogger thingy here, called billyhughes. He was a reprobate politician who led Australia in WW1.)

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