the bad with the good
from the usa today
Egypt's Akhbar el-Yom newspaper splashed photographs of the U.S. soldiers posing by naked, hooded inmates on page one with the banner headline "The Scandal." Al-Wafd, an opposition paper, displayed similar photos beneath the headline, "The Shame!"
One of them showed a hooded prisoner standing on a box with wires attached to his hands. CBS reported the prisoner was told that if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted, although the wires were not really connected to a power supply. Other photos, with the genitals blurred, simulated sexual acts.
now of course, all the soldiers implicated are up for courts-martial, and hopefully spend a good long time at leavenworth making big rocks into little rocks. there is no excuse for this behavior, especially in a prison environoment. while i won't say that treatment of iraqis is always 100% by the books, there is absolutely no justification for this.
the american military is not a group of saints. alot of people seem to think that either a. the military is the root of all evil, full of bloodsucking baby killers; or b. the military is a sancified hand of god working only for all that is good on the earth.
the military is composed of human beings. sometimes, human beings do good, heroic things, and sometimes human beings do horrible, despicable things. the person doing them is generally just another person like you or i, put in a stressful situation, and reacting either positively or negatively. the trick of the military is to pull the ones that act negatively before this kind of atrocity occurs. unfortunatly, being a human institution, it isn't flawless, and bad things are going to happen.
now, my concern about this (aside, of course, from the larger issue of the treatment of the iraqis) is that it becomes a weapon to paint the entire military as being like this; the image is presented that this is the rule, rather than the exception. from the same article:
"They were ugly images. Is this the way the Americans treat prisoners?" asked Ahmad Taher, 24, a student at Baghdad's Mustansiriyah University. "Americans claim that they respect freedom and democracy — but only in their country."
In Syria, Damascus merchant Sahban Alawi, 45, asked "what's the difference between them and Saddam Hussein? They are doing to Iraq more than what he did."
"The brazenness with which these soldiers conducted themselves ... suggests they felt they had nothing to hide from their superiors," said Kenneth Roth, [amnesty international's] executive director.
this is the further vietnamization of the war in iraq, and i hope that people stay smart this time around, and realize that people, in uniform just as everywhere else, are just people.
the press is always bitching about how the right paints all muslims as terrorists (which we don't, but that's an argument for another day), and that we should respect the group but hate the derrangements of a few. hopefully, for once the press takes it's own line and maintains respect for the military, while dencouncing the cruelty of a few.