LCDR Smash comments on the reports of atrocities in Iraq done by American soldiers. This hurts to discuss, but it is necessary to squash. Civilized people do not torture. Warriors in our society have limits that need maintained, and it is hard to do.
This is the difference between this “small war” and the “small war” that gave us the popular description of Balangiga. The difference here is that the truth will out, and it will be correctly addressed as long as we keep focusing on it. (Iraq Now points to a Drudge report that an American blew the whistle.)
I still remember some law of war training I went through that discussed how to avoid My Lai situations, which is different but underscores the importance of top down leadership in maintaining standards. Jason van Steenwyk also showed how he upheld such standards, in the midst of contrary tendencies.
We are dealing with unpleasant people who violate civilized rules and want to kill us. The natural response is to hate and to depersonalize Others. However, this urge can be suppressed with effective leadership, if not always eliminated.
I still want to hear the outcome of Zeyad’s story, though. Last I heard there was disciplinary action, but I have no more data and don’t know if Zeyad has gotten a sufficient answer.
Per Max Boot, these wars only get nastier and nastier. Expect more pressure on the ground to act like the enemy. This will be tough.
This article from the inestimable Mark Bowden is long but discusses some pressures different from the ones I describe with the same effect.
Professor Richard Shultz of Tufts has several things available that touch on this:
- A power point on HUMINT that describes the ethical slide. Like the Bowden article, it’s not an exact analogy but still somewhat germane.
- Prof. Michael Levin’s “The Case For Torture“, sure to get a good discussion going.
- Alyssa Solomon’s “The Case Against Torture” that helps this discussion along.
- A discussion from the Yale Herald on torture.
Like I said, this is only tangential to the atrocities as far as I can tell–this isn’t a question about intelligence gathering so much as a failing of ethical standards by jailers, if I read the charges correctly.
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