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June 17, 2007

Comments

At moments like these it is quite difficult NOT to violate the posting rules.
That Rummy will probably never have to pay for this is especially sad.

"A few bad apples."

"We don't torture."

Lying anti-American criminal scum have been running this country.

But it looks like he lied to congress--why can't they charge him with perjury and obstrucgtion of justice?

Not to sound naieve or anything but the dems really need to think strategically about this and it would be a huge public revelation to have taguba and others testify in detail about whta was known when. It would make libby's trial look pale in comparison because of the sex angle.

aimai

This gets worse if you actually read the full Taguba Report.

I had occasion to go through it again just the other day. I was using it to counter a claim that only a single soldier came forward about Abu Ghraib.

LTG Sanchez requested an investigation of detention and internment operations by the Brigade from 1 November 2003 to present. LTG Sanchez cited recent reports of detainee abuse, escapes from confinement facilities, and accountability lapses, which indicated systemic problems within the brigade and suggested a lack of clear standards, proficiency, and leadership. LTG Sanchez requested a comprehensive and all-encompassing inquiry to make findings and recommendations concerning the fitness and performance of the 800th MP Brigade.

Following our review of MG Ryder’s Report and MG Miller’s Report, my investigation team immediately began an in-depth review of all available documents regarding the 800th MP Brigade. We reviewed in detail the voluminous CID investigation regarding alleged detainee abuses at detention facilities in Iraq, particularly the Abu Ghraib (BCCF) Detention Facility. We analyzed approximately fifty witness statements from military police and military intelligence personnel, potential suspects, and detainees. We reviewed numerous photos and videos of actual detainee abuse taken by detention facility personnel, which are now in the custody and control of the US Army Criminal Investigation Command and the CJTF-7 prosecution team.

dmbeaster: On “a few bad apples” – if I have the numbers right about 5 times as many soldiers were reporting the abuse as were directly involved in it. Even that ratio is appalling (we don’t know how many may have been aware but kept quiet), but there were plenty in the lower ranks doing exactly what they should have: report it.

And the real problem is that when soldiers report something like this and then see that nothing is done about it they are less likely to report something similar in the future or to even take it as tacit approval.

I don’t generally take Seymour Hersh as my most trusted source. But in this case I believe him. This is the biggest failure of command at the highest levels I have ever heard of. These people should be criminally prosecuted starting with Rummy and Wolfowitz and working down. On the generals, to use the best words that apply here they are a disgrace to the uniform. They have brought shame to their service and to their country. I hope that MG Taguba steps forward and assists in prosecuting these people.

This makes me physically ill.

I've been staring, numb, at this article since yesterday. I'm not really sure how to respond to it. Am I cynical because I believe that nothing, literally nothing will cause the still-faithful to reconsider their support of this administration and the machine that birthed it? Am I cynical because I believe that the people who read it have either already decided to oppose these trends or already bought into the narrative that 'Anything is justified to save our skins?'

Am I cynical because I believe this man would be eaten alive in the public sphere by a well-oiled noise machine, primed to label anyone who dissents from the Eternal War By Any Means party line, and label them an embittered ex-employee trying to score points and land a book deal?

Sorry, that came across as more cold blooded than I really feel about this. I'm very upset and even more sickened by all the double speak "I never saw" "I don't think I recall" "pictures, what pictures?" One of the things we know is that when the Iraqis shelled abu ghraib it was to rescue women who had been imprisoned because of smuggled documents from women pleading to be killed for their own honors sake. Now it appears to be true that not only does Iraq's "honor/shame" society kill women for minor infractions of laws on modesty but that american soldiers who have committed violent acts of rape and harrassement have essentially legitimized Iraqi misogyny and contributed to the hell of Iraqi women both in and out of the prison.

Rumsfeld and every one of those officers who refused to look at, or acknowledge, the photos and the crimes must be held accountable. They are all co-conspirators and co-rapists of Iraq and our constitution.

aimai

And the real problem is that when soldiers report something like this and then see that nothing is done about it they are less likely to report something similar in the future or to even take it as tacit approval.
Yeah. That, I think, is what angers me the most. The idea that large numbers of line soldiers were reporting these abuses while the chain of command played see-no-evil, makes me sick to my stomach. 'A few bad apples' was a lie, not because all the soldiers were doing it, but because it implies that the 'tree' of the military command structure itself was unsullied.

Shame!
Thanks Sy!

That's the part that's the most damaging of all, in the long run: that people who believe in loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service, and who try to act accordingly, are being punished and/or forced out.

Red rot effects much more than just the military. My understanding is that something similar happened during Vietnam, and it took a while for the military to sort it out. This time around, the rot has spread--DOJ leaps to mind--and it's going to take longer to sort out.

OCSteve: that's part of what I was getting at at the end of my post. I truly love the number of people in uniform who completely believe in honor, duty, country. (It's not that I imagine that they constitute the entire army, or that soldiers are better than anyone else, blah blah. I just love people like that wherever they exist.) And I also think that it's a hugely important part of having an army to encourage people to think that way, and to create an institution in which that's as much part of the atmosphere soldiers breathe as it can be.

I mean: an army takes people and removes a number of the normal constraints on them, like the idea that they shouldn't kill people. And it provides them with enough weapons to be real, serious bullies to any civilians they encounter, which would be a huge temptation in any circumstances, but all the more so when you factor in anger, exhaustion, the possibility that civilians just like these might have recently killed your best friend, etc.

This is a very dangerous thing to do, and I would think that the best way to counter it is to create an institution that emphasizes not just discipline, but also a set of norms that are genuinely worth believing in, and that will, hopefully, act as a counterweight to what must be the huge temptations to abusing the power that serious weaponry gives you. Besides, as I've said before, I think it's the responsibility of leaders to protect those under them not just from physical harm, but also, insofar as possible, from moral harm: from doing things that they will regret for the rest of their lives.

The idea -- the very idea -- that Rumsfeld et al have in any way weakened this aspect of the army, let alone just trashed it, as they seem to me to have done, makes me absolutely furious.

OCSteve is shrill!

We analyzed approximately fifty witness statements from military police and military intelligence personnel, potential suspects, and detainees.

This does not imply any particular ratio between abusers and reports of abuse. Weren't the MPs prosecuted for actually participating in the abuse limited to those that were in published photos? Note that there were soldiers who were probably not directly involved who used some of the photos as screensavers, and multiple soldiers sent CDs with photos and videos home to relatives. It sure looks to me like a whole lot of people didn't see anything wrong going on.

Even if fifty soldiers honestly reported what they saw as witnesses, after the third investigation started, that says nothing about how many reported the problem to begin with and got slapped down for it. Estimates for that might have or might in the future come out some other way.

Oops!

We analyzed approximately fifty witness statements from military police and military intelligence personnel, potential suspects, and detainees.

This does not imply any particular ratio between abusers and reports of abuse. Weren't the MPs prosecuted for actually participating in the abuse limited to those that were in published photos? Note that there were soldiers who were probably not directly involved who used some of the photos as screensavers, and multiple soldiers sent CDs with photos and videos home to relatives. It sure looks to me like a whole lot of people didn't see anything wrong going on.

Even if fifty soldiers honestly reported what they saw as witnesses, after the third investigation started, that says nothing about how many reported the problem to begin with and got slapped down for it. Estimates for that might have or might in the future come out some other way.


oops!

Ugh: I’ll just echo Hartmut and say that was about the best I could do staying within the confines of the posting rules.

J Thomas: Whatever. I won’t be having that discussion.

J Thomas: Just to be clear, I really don’t want to attempt to pick apart how many out of 50 (and approximately 50 is what they analyzed, it does not say 50 is all there were) were witness reports vs. detainee reports. On the detainee reports, how do you think they got into the hands of the CID? They received it only because someone accepted the complaint and passed it on.

I’m not kidding when I say this makes me physically ill. I’ve always been damned proud of my service and my Army. These soulless, horrible, unaccountable SOBs have besmirched my Army - the ones wearing the uniform most of all. Worst of all I supported them for years. I’m torn between crying and puking. So excuse me if I don’t want to engage in nitpicking the report.

I've read all the annexes to the Taguba report, I think. The 50 witness statements includes a lot of the soldiers (& a couple of the civilians) accused of the abuse, as well as a lot of soldiers in the chain who deny (truthfully or not) that they knew or saw anything. I'd also put the soldier who testifies truthfully when directly asked in a somewhat different category than the whistleblower who starts the investigation. The latter is a lot harder; I think there's serious pressure not to rat out people in your unit & even Darby hesitated for some time before he turned the photos over to CID. On the other hand, it's quite true that Darby wasn't the only whistleblower. I know of at least two others who saw something & reported it to their superiors before Darby turned over the photos, but their superiors didn't do anything--off the top of my head, Matthew Wisdom & Ken Davis. There are also soldiers who refused to participate in &/or stopped abuse: a dog handler named William Kimbro, MPs who stopped an interrogator's sleep deprivation program after the detainee had a panic attack, an MI sergeant who insisted that a detainee get medical treatment.

I'd guess the majority of low ranking soldiers stationed at Abu Ghraib neither participated in abuse nor actively tried to report or stop it (& of course, plenty of them weren't even aware). You can guess what I think of Rumsfeld, Cambone et. al.

OCSteve, I sympathise with your feelings.

Remember that the Abu Ghraib thing in particular was a low-morale Reserve unit. They weren't getting adequate supplies, they were low-priority on everything, they had an impossible job, and their commanding officer didn't have enough clout to get much fixed. Not representative of the more elite units.

However, some of the other stuff looks like standard practice. The Reuters reporters who got captured by a high-morale unit didn't get brutalised as much, but some. They were stripped naked and forced to hold stress positions, and when they fell out of position they got kicked around until they got up and got back in position. Some people have talked as if stress positions don't involve physical violence, but how do you hold somebody in one of them when it starts hurting? You can restrain them in position so they'll hurt themselves if they fall down, or you can hurt them worse when they disobey.

They were threatened with sodomy but it didn't actually happen. They got kicked around until they ate ham and alternated their thumbs between anus and mouth. Sleep deprivation etc.

It looks like these relatively mild forms of abuse were in use a lot of places. I thought it was encouraging that when those contractors got detained for shooting at iraqi civilians and at US Marines (which they said was done by somebody else) they didn't particularly get interrogated. They thought they were being treated just like iraqis but it wasn't any more than a little bit of kicking around and nudity and playing loud music to keep them from sleeping.

OCSteve: I am, trust me, not normally an angry person at all -- I am probably one of the least angry people I know in normal life -- but just thinking about what they have done makes me furious. And one of the things that makes me furious is that you have to write "I’ve always been damned proud of my service and my Army" as though that were called into question -- which it never should be.

I can't imagine what I would feel like if I had your connection to the army. And that, also, makes me furious.

Iirc a significant part of the abuse at Abu Ghraib was committed by "contractors" that were neither under military nor civil jurisdiction. I don't know how much of that is in the Taguba report (because I have only read the excerpts available when the scandal broke).
While soldiers involved in it can in theory still be prosecuted for some time (don't know after what period limitation sets in), the "contractors" are to my knowledge still in a favorable (for them) legal limbo.
What can be done about that?

If your war is dishonorable from the start you can't really expect anything different two years down the line.

"the "contractors" are to my knowledge still in a favorable (for them) legal limbo.
What can be done about that?"

Sue them!

That article was written before my time, but I'm the lead associate on the case...Actually, currently the only associate.

OC Steve:

dmbeaster: On “a few bad apples” – if I have the numbers right about 5 times as many soldiers were reporting the abuse as were directly involved in it.

The point is that the "few bad apples" line was the false story told to explain why it was happening at all -- i.e., that it was allegedly the inevitable random noise of a few miscreants that occurs in any organization with hundreds of thousands.

Instead, we now know the extent to which torture, or ahem, "enhanced interrogation," was official policy and encouraged by those seeking intelligence out of detainees -- to "Gitmoize" Abu Gharib. That this was official policy at the highest level of the White House and Pentagon, which was obfuscated with the "few bad apples" line.

That is the significance of Taguba's observation that he knew Rumsfeld was lying during his Congressional testimony.
_________

As for the reporting/abusing ratio, I want to believe that you are correct, but I doubt it. The more likely scenario is a level of abuse occurring far more than it should if "bad apples" was the cause, and far too much official denial of it so that even when reported, there is a significant likelihood of reprisals against the "finks" rather than those who abuse. If Rumsfeld can belittle Taguba for his role in reporting it, imagine what is going on lower in the chain of command. The example to diss those who report it was set at the most senior level, with predictable ugly results.

I am reminded that the soldier most responsible for reporting Abu Gharib, Joseph Darby mentioned in hilzoy's post, was hazed out of his unit and community for reporting it.

What really makes this horrible is that the problem is entrenched to a degree that the military can't fix it itself. Too many of the military's senior officers (who select the next generation of senior officers) don't seem to care about doing what's right, and they're the only ones who could investigate higher-ups. Unless Congress steps up and investigates, the problem will only get worse.

Which is why Harry Reid really annoys me. He can throw out 'so-and-so is incompetent' but he can't articulate any reasoning behind his assertion, so all he does is make it easy for those who want to defend the military at all costs to ignore those arguments.

Also the fact Darby has been treated so awfully; it makes me ill to consider what America has come to when the guy who speaks out against torture is considered the bad guy by so many.

Rumsfeld outed Darby on national television by "thanking him" during his Congressional testimony, whil Darby still in Iraq & his identity was still supposed to be kept confidential.

There's a shock. Such a sweet guy.

Taguba says at one point that he "thought [he] was in the mafia." Lovely.

G'Kar: for all that people talk about 'the left being blinded by Bush hatred', there are very few people in this that I actually even come close to hating. Bush and Gonzales don't somehow rise to the level where hatred could be the right response; Cheney is, somehow, too much of a mystery to me for any determinate emotion other than 'please make him leave my country alone'; etc.

Rumsfeld has always been the one I can come closest to hating. There's something about the combination of doing massive damage to so many people, the baseless conviction of his own rightness, and the willingness not just e.g. to press for his views, not just even to steamroll over his opponents even when (Shinseki) they plainly deserved much, much better even if they were wrong, which they weren't -- not just all that, but the fact that he has such a large streak of downright meanness (“Here . . . comes . . . that famous General Taguba—of the Taguba report!”; the mocking of people who raised human rights concerns early on, etc.), and that he was so snide and contemptuous while being so utterly, totally wrong.

(Would ridicule and contempt be better if one were right? Clearly they wouldn't be good, optimal, whatever, but they would be a lot more understandable.)

Note: when I wrote: "even when (Shinseki) they plainly deserved much, much better even if they were wrong" I meant this to come out: he would have deserved better even if he had been wrong, which he wasn't.

Mafia:

A recently retired C.I.A. officer, who served more than fifteen years in the clandestine service, told me that the [military] task-force teams “had full authority to whack—to go in and conduct ‘executive action,’ ” the phrase for political assassination. “It was surrealistic what these guys were doing,” the retired operative added. “They were running around the world without clearing their operations with the ambassador or the chief of station.”

"There's a shock. Such a sweet guy."

I wrote about him here, here, here, and here, and here, among other places; long articles linked at each link.

Hilzoy, you mentioned:

people who believe in loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service, and who try to act accordingly

I don’t doubt that most of the soldiers serving in the Middle East do believe in those things, and are doing their best in a difficult situation. Both of my grandfathers served in the military, and I have enormous respect for them. But I think you hit the nail on the head here:

[A]n army takes people and removes a number of the normal constraints on them, like the idea that they shouldn't kill people. And it provides them with enough weapons to be real, serious bullies to any civilians they encounter, which would be a huge temptation in any circumstances, but all the more so when you factor in anger, exhaustion, the possibility that civilians just like these might have recently killed your best friend, etc.

This is a very dangerous thing to do, and I would think that the best way to counter it is to create an institution that emphasizes not just discipline, but also a set of norms that are genuinely worth believing in, and that will, hopefully, act as a counterweight to what must be the huge temptations to abusing the power that serious weaponry gives you.

The problem is that the primary objective of the U.S. armed forces is not to protect Iraqi civilians, but to protect U.S. civilians, of which there are precious few in Iraq. Those norms and values you mention, while admirable, are not meant to benefit non-Americans in any significant way, and in each instance of conflict between the interests of Americans and non-Americans, the armed forces are duty-bound to give preference to American interests. As Matt Yglesias likes to point out, the military doesn’t even count Iraqi civilian casualties, so how high on the list of priorities can protecting Iraqi life be? The military is designed to kill enemies, destroy the places they live, and protect the soldiers who are doing these things, all as efficiently as possible. No amount of sugar coating can obscure this essential fact. This is what it does, and our military does it better than anyone.

I don’t know why it comes as such a surprise each time some new atrocity emerges when we have an occupying army, with goals and interests that are utterly mismatched with those of the Iraqi people, a near complete imbalance of power between Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers, and no clear idea of what we are doing there or who the enemy is. In circumstances like these, abuse of power is the entirely predictable outcome. You act as though this had never happened before, even after My Lai, Agent Orange, carpet-bombing Cambodia, Dresden, No Gun Ri, Hiroshima, etc., etc. By some estimates, we’re at half a million dead Iraqis and counting. When will we realize that murder, abuse, and injustice on all sides in time of war are the rule, not the exception?

I saw Taxi to the Dark Side Friday night, which focuses on the murder in detention of an innocent Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar (whom I believe I first heard about here at ObWi a couple of years ago). I'm still suffering from disgust and anger with the Bush regime above my usual levels, especially because I have little hope that any of these scum will ever be held responsible for the immense stain they have put on my country -- something that the United States likely won't recover from during my lifetime, if it ever does.

Hilzoy, I don't see what in your description of Rumsfeld and why he's especially hatable doesn't apply equally well to Bush and Cheney.

J Thomas, Katherine, dmbeaster (others) – Denial ain’t just a river… I have to admit it was more wide spread and less reported than I thought. I still blame it on the upper ranks but you are not wrong either.

G'Kar: I agree with you that this rot has to be ripped out like a root canal (not your words, mine).

I want these bast*rds punished. I want Congressional hearings and I want Darby & Taguba as star witnesses. I am so furious I am not even coherent and my wife is like WTF is up with you today…

OCSteve: just tell your wife this:

"I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not honor more."

And then say that honor is making you grouchy, but that the alternative would be much worse ;)

And, KCinDC: I dunno, somehow being an object of hatred seems to demand a certain substance and weight that, well, I don't really see in Bush or G. With them, I get stuck somewhere in the contempt range -- contempt isn't right, exactly (for one thing, it's got too much 'looking down on', and my views of them don't seem to me to involve any particularly lofty view of myself), but somewhere around there.

I'm encouraged to see OCSteve's anger. I hope there are a lot of people like him out there. My fear is that far too much of the country is still in a 9/12 mentality and can't be bothered to care about whether we're acting like the good guys anymore -- and then there are the ones actively cheering on the atrocities and saying the reason we're losing in Iraq is that we need to take the gloves off.

KCinDC: I can’t think of anyone I served with who would not be furious over this, who would not want to make it right. The same goes for anyone I know serving today.

Again, Hersh is not the most reliable source IMO, but I believe him in this case because I have followed MG Taguba for a while and Hersh’s quotes here strike me as being reliable, as something I can readily see Taguba saying. I’d love to see a reliable source prove Hersh is full of it again, but my gut feel is that this won’t happen here.

OCSteve: just wanted to give you a heads-up: my next story will also make you mad. Should be up within half an hour. Get a nice soothing back massage now ;)

Thanks (really). I have to get out of here now and walk it off.

They were stripped naked and forced to hold stress positions, and when they fell out of position they got kicked around until they got up and got back in position.

They were threatened with sodomy but it didn't actually happen. They got kicked around until they ate ham and alternated their thumbs between anus and mouth. Sleep deprivation etc.

It looks like these relatively mild forms of abuse were in use a lot of places.

The fact that the treatment J Thomas outlines here can credibly be called "relatively mild" pretty much says it all.

We've achieved Arendt's banality of evil. Full stop. Show me where I'm wrong.

Fortunately, we have political and legal tools and resources available to us that the good Germans of the Nazi era did not. If we fail to use them, we share the guilt of those who torture in our name.

And no, I'm not saying Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al are Nazis. They're not. They are inventing their own, American version of authoritarian lawlessness.

Thanks

Anyone who is tempted to think that the torture and abuse of detainees was restricted to Abu Ghraib, or solely the result of low-level grunts in impossible positions, or anything of the kind:

Please read the whole Hersh article. Focus on the 'Task Forces' section. Read the NYTimes article linked in my post of a year and a half ago about the task forces. Read Tara McKelvey's new book on how widespread the U.S. torture of detainees was and is throughout Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and secret prisons all over the world (Poland, Romania, Ethiopia, Diego Garcia, Morocco, Mauritania...)

Anyone who is tempted to think that the torture and abuse of detainees was restricted to Abu Ghraib, or solely the result of low-level grunts in impossible positions, or anything of the kind:

I think it's plausible that many of the particular events at abu ghraib were invented by low-level reservists who were told to use their imaginations.

Contractors at abu ghraib did rape women and young boys during actual interrogation, etc, but the revealed photos were taken by unprofessional low-level people after hours.

I think it's plausible that the more generalised torture actually did fit the official guidelines that Rumsfeld published, and fit the descriptions by victims who got to the mass media. Threats of anal rape but probably very little actual anal rape by US servicemen. Waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation, limited beatings (mostly consequences of failure to follow orders), nudity, temperature extremes including very cold water, dog attacks, exposure to partly-undressed women, exposure to menstrual blood, verbal abuse, verbal abuse by women, defacing religious texts, etc. Not particularly sexual degradation.

The specifics that so shocked US civilians -- artistic arrangement of naked prisoners shackled to hold them in position, encouraging prisoners to sodomise and fellate each other, and gleeful photography of US soldiers looking like they were having a lot of fun -- those were probably not so common. US soldiers having sex with each other in the presence of prisoners -- probably uncommon.

The waterboarding was very effective at getting confessions but it took some equipment. The stress positions took much longer but didn't need as much supervision. The sleep deprivation was slow and gave obviously-uncertain results.

Getting women to show their breasts and talk dirty for patriotic reasons had obvious side benefits.

Written descriptions of the methods that were certainly accepted as standard practice (and that were likely what was mostly used) are far less inflammatory than the photos that got out of low-level reservists using their imaginations. There's strong reason to think that the photos that got out were much less inflammatory than some of the photos and the videos that didn't get out.

I thought it was interesting that the ones at abu ghraib had no concept they were doing anything wrong until after the scandal broke. If they thought it would cause trouble they wouldn't have taken photos and given them away to their friends. One of those group-think things. They had no concept how scandalous their behavior was. As far as I know all the photos and videos came from abu ghraib. The guys at the other sites were more careful, so that all we have from them are hearsay accounts with no shocking visual proof. As of a few years ago americans wouldn't take the word of a confessed insurgent over that of US interrogators, without clear proof.

I thought it was interesting that the ones at abu ghraib had no concept they were doing anything wrong until after the scandal broke. If they thought it would cause trouble they wouldn't have taken photos and given them away to their friends.

Handing out video souvenirs because you don't think you'll get caught has little if anything to do with having "no concept" that what you're doing is wrong.

If we've gotten to the point where American servicemen and women will rape women and boys, or will expose themselves and have sex with each other for an audience, as part of an intelligence interrogation, it's time to close the door and turn out the lights, because we're done.

How would you like to come home from a war and try to integrate yourself back into normal life with the memory of having raped young boys as part of your daily duty? How would you like your husband, father, son, or brother to be that person?

Likewise, if we've gotten to the point where we spend time parsing the relative badness of raping prisoners vs only threatening to do so, or only making people alternately put their thumbs in their anus and then their mouth as opposed to other, presumably worse things, or only kicking folks around a little vs beating them to death, it's time to pack it up and call it a day, because we no longer have anything to offer the rest of the world other than our own callous brutality.

Some days I read about this stuff and say to myself, this is a joke, right? But then, it isn't.

In short, this is one seriously f'd up situation. I don't think it's possible to overemphasize that. It's hideous, and the people who brought it about are criminals. It will bring us nothing but harm.

Thanks -

Russell, I agree, the situation is very bad.

I say there are two different bad things involved. On the one side we have the bad apples at abu ghraib, who were told to use their imaginations and who came up with some perverted things.

On the other hand we have a banal bureaucratic torture that has rules and regulations for how it should be done.

Almost all of the uproar was about the first. A lot of people say the second kind is OK for terrorists and iraqis.

The first was obviously perverted. Photos. Big uproar.

The second has regulations about how it's done. It's banal. Some fraternities have done the thumb-in-anus thing, sometimes with other pledges' anuses. There's a fundamental difference between doing that because you want to get into the fraternity versus doing it because you're naked and scared and somebody with heavy boots will kick you and scream at you until you do it. But some americans say it's just a fraternity prank.

Similarly, lots of americans say it's no big deal to make a muslim man look at a woman's breasts, or put bloody panties on his head, etc.

And things that really are a big deal -- waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation, dog bites, kicks and punches -- don't sound that *interesting*. They aren't a sex scandal. Yes, it's a real bad situation we have.

For what it's worth, Graner was a former prison guard. He got accused of various bad behavior toward prisoners, but he was fired for absenteeism, tardiness, etc. Some sorts of prisoner abuse were tolerated in the pennsylvania prison system.

KCinDC--where did you see Taxi to the Dark Side? I want to see it ASAP, or failing that get a list of the soldiers they interview--I know it played at the Tribeca Film Festival but I didn't think it was still playing anywhere.

As awful as this is, I'm more worried about the future. Hersh and Taguba suggest that the senior officer corp has "forgotten honor, duty, loyalty and integrity." That seems like a fairly big problem, completely separate from the problem that the United States cannot deal with prisoners in a civilized manner.

I don't see any clear mechanism for "reminding" senior officers of the most basic values. And I don't really think that any one reminder will be sufficient. Someone, please tell me I'm wrong.

I'm not saying this is all their fault. They were clearly under a great deal of pressure from the civilian leadership. On the other hand, the whole point of having principles is that you don't abandon them at the drop of a hat just because Rumsfeld orders you to do so. You resign or you stonewall or you do something. If we as a nation are not capable of fielding a military force whose senior officers have, um, integrity, then maybe we shouldn't be blowing all this money on the DOD.

Do we have any options at all for fixing the integrity problem at the top of America's military hierarchy? Or are we forced to accept what we've got, no matter how bad it gets?

Some context: I’m not sure how you describe a First Sergeant to someone who has never experienced it. He/she is the senior non-commissioned officer at the company level. He (Sorry, I never knew a she) is in ultimate charge of about 200 people. You call him “Top”, and much much worse behind his back. He is father, mother, spouse, brother, and sister. He is your worst enemy and your best friend. He is all seeing – nothing gets past the First Sergeant. You can think you got away with something for months, then he will drop it like a bomb when you least expect it. You may well hate his guts, but you will always respect him. There is a love/hate relationship that could be the topic of many PhD papers.

He can do no wrong; he is the ultimate example to be followed. No offense to you officers in the audience, but I think you would agree with the old cliché that the NCOs are the backbone of the Army.

I wasn’t always the best soldier. ;) Not even close. The fact that I made it at all is due to a couple of First Sergeants, my last in particular.

We have kept in touch: nothing more than a letter (and now an email) about every 2-3 years. He retired the year I got out. I can honestly say that there has never been a more consummate or professional soldier.
I emailed him about this, this morning. He replied tonight and there is pretty much no way to translate his response without every second or third letter being an asterisk.

That doesn’t mean much in the larger picture, but it confirms what I thought and felt. When echoed by one of the men I have most respected in all my life, it is enough for me.

Katherine, I saw it at the Silverdocs festival in Silver Spring. It's also showing tomorrow at the Take Back America conference in DC. The director was at the screening and said he had a distributor, so it should be in theaters soon. Also, he said it's going to be on TV -- can't remember which cable network.

Katherine: At the IMDB listing, the only credited cast member in 'Taxi to the Dark Side' is a soldier named Brian Keith Allen. Variety's review lists Willie Brand, Glendale Walls, Anthony Morden, Ken Davis, Damien Corsetti, and Tony Lagouranis (not at Bagram).

I'm not sure if Ken Davis was at Bagram, either.

OCSteve, I sympathize with your anger. My father, who passed away before any of this business became common knowledge, was very proud of his military service. Not a day goes by when I don't think both "I wish I could discuss this with him" and also "Christ, I'm glad he didn't live to witness this."

Thanks Nell. I think the 519th MI soldiers on that list are Brand, Walls, Morden & Corsetti. There was a reservist with the 372nd MP Company at Abu Ghraib named Ken Davis; I assume that's the same guy.

The Washington Post review is also worthwhile, though it gives no additional names of Bagram soldiers.

Both Larry Wilkerson and Scott Horton have used the film in their classes.

As awful as this is, I'm more worried about the future.

I'm too lazy to google the link, but Jane Mayer's article in the New Yorker about the 24 TV show, IIRC, mentioned that West Point cadets are skeptical when older guys tell them that torture doesn't really work. "Worried about the future" is exactly right.

Next time I hear the phrase 'bad apple' I swear I'm going to scream. Anyone who thinks that serious abuse of prisoners in custody wasn't SOP -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, and otherwise, is either (a) willfully uninformed or (b) a damned liar.

The higher ups wrote memos to the effect that this was OK, and not because someone asked a hypothetical question.

OCS, I feel your disgust, but take a walk down memory lane, and see what was in the public record on this in the summer of 2004, before the Accountability Moment. A whole lot of people -- and a non-trivial number of them vets or in uniform -- cared a whole lot more about the intricate details of what swiftboats went where on what day 30+ years earlier than they did about the obvious evidence that what was visible at Abu G was the tip of an ugly and sanctioned all the way to the top iceberg. I couldn't think less of Rumsfeld, but in him, a whole lot of people got exactly what they wanted.

Some fraternities have done the thumb-in-anus thing, sometimes with other pledges' anuses.

You know, I could have lived my whole life, happily, without ever knowing that.

But some americans say it's just a fraternity prank.

Maybe the first fact helps explain the second.

Thanks -

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