Thursday, March 02, 2006

# Posted 12:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORAL BLINDNESS IN THE WHITE HOUSE: On Tuesday morning, a WaPo editorial stated that:
One of the most shocking photographs from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq shows a grinning guard giving a thumbs-up sign over the bruised corpse of an Iraqi detainee. Subsequent investigation showed that the deceased prisoner, an Iraqi named Manadel al-Jamadi, died of asphyxiation on Nov. 4, 2003: He was tortured to death by Navy SEAL and CIA interrogators who took turns punching and kicking him, then handcuffed his arms behind his back and shackled them to a window five feet above the floor. Nine SEALs, a sailor and several CIA personnel were implicated in the killing...[but] no one involved in killing Mr. Jamadi has suffered serious penalty...

The Army itself has labeled 34 prisoner deaths as homicides, but in more than half of those no charges were brought. In close to half of the 98 cases it surveyed, Human Rights First reported, the cause of death remains officially undetermined or unannounced. "In dozens of cases," the report says, "grossly inadequate reporting, investigation and follow-through have left no one at all responsible for homicides and other unexplained deaths." Commanders, starting with President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and extending through the ranks, have repeatedly declined to hold Americans accountable for documented war crimes.
I have a fair amount of confidence that President Bush never wanted or authorized any of the disturbing and shameful behavior in which members of our armed forces have engaged. There is no question that he has been aware of it, however, for almost a full two years.

There is no other way to describe this situation other than a major failure of leadership. And of values.

The President often seems to understand that his strategy of promoting freedom throughout the world depends intimately on the moral capital of the United States of America. Yet somehow, he seems to have blinded himself to the damage that evidence of torture is doing to his own foreign policy on so many fronts.

Half-measures are not enough. The President should have been leading the charge against torture from the moment the severity of this problem became apparent.

Even now, it is not too late. This president has three years left in office. If the Presdient can accept responsibility, at least in his own heart, for the failure of his leadership, then he can bring the same moral clarity to the issue of prisoner rights that he has to political freedom.
(11) opinions -- Add your opinion

David, you need some stronger coffee in the morning.
Talk about assuming your conclusion! Documents don't necessarily make a crime a 'war crime'. And Abu Ghraib again and still? Will the whining never stop? Why not another piece on how the Supreme Court stole the election from Gore in 2000? That would be almost as relevant as saying Bush and Rumsfeld couldn't care less how many prisoners die. And as much of a lie.
Robert wrote: "Will the whining never stop?"

Is it whining to point out that the US is torturing and murdering prisoners in our custody, and doing nothing to hold the perpetrators responsible for this? The US used to be above this. We used to excoriate other countries for doing this. It used to be (and not that long ago) that no one could suggest in polite company that we should torture our enemies, because everyone knew beyond question that torture was wrong and the US doesn't do such things.

When did we change?
Two separate issues- moral and strategic. Cleary many "patriots" can get over the moral qualms. The clear strategic cost of this policy however has no rationale defence.
Anon 10:42 "because everyone knew beyond question that torture was wrong and the US doesn't do such things."

It is hard to torture prisoners that you didn't bother taking. I don't know when we changed but your comment reminds me of an anecdote told on the history channel by a Marine who served in the Pacific. This is not the exact transcript of the story but I think you will get my point

"I took the japanese prisoner to HQ to turn him into the commanding officer. I walked in with the prisoner and the commanding officer told me that we don't take prisoners. I asked him what I should do with the prisoner and he told me to take him to his commanding officer and be there by 11:15. His CO was six miles away and it was already a little past eleven. There was no way we could march six miles in under 15 minutes so I took the prisoner out behind the HQ and shot him in the head:)
Spirit of 1942: If you are saying that the US has never, to this day, followed the Geneva Conventions, then I will readily grant that point. But that is not an argument in favor of torture - it is an argument against war. Think about it.

And also explain why President Bush keeps lying about this.
I think spirit of 1942 is making the argument that Roosevelt has fared pretty well in the history books (I don't recall any Oxblog comments trashing him for prisoner abuses, of which there were many), so why should Bush take David's advice seriously?
Sean also agrees that the Geneva Convention is a crock, that everyone in every war (and even in undeclared wars, natch) tortures, abuses, and murders their enemies. Is this an argument in favor of torture, or is it an argument that war is hell and should be avoided in all but the most extreme circumstances?

And someone needs to answer my other question: why does Bush keep insisting, in defiance of all evidence and common sense, that "we do not torture" and "we will follow the terms of the Geneva Convention."
Anon 4:42, you can make an arguement against a war, but not war in general. You don't live on that planet.

I was a little dissapointed when I watched the show. We were fire bombing cities, some battalions never took any prisoners and it was just a brutal nasty war (see Okinawa and Iwo, not to mention Hiroshima and Nagasaki). It is one thing pour gasoline down a hole with enemy soldiers hiding in it to burn and kill them and a whole other to smell burning flesh from six miles in the air while you incinerate a city.(Notice that wishy-washy babyboomers never make movies about the Pacific, but I digress.) Then I watched the next show about Imperial Japan's crimes. They deserved everything they got from us and more. That is why he gets a :) for shooting that guy in the head.

The Geneva conventions are sort of like the speed limit. It is best to follow them even though nobody we are fighting now or will fight in the future will give a damn about them. The prisoner abuse in Iraq was a disaster (even though it was probably tame in comparison to every arab nation.) and it shouldn't have happened. However, if you have a top level Al Queda member in custody and he has information I am not opposed to rough treatment. If having a dog bite him on the ass will cause him to give up his buddies go ahead. In other words I consider Al Queda and other similar groups an extreme circumstance.
Why does Bush keep insisting "We do not torture."? Well, clearly, from a PR perspective, it is vital that we make this claim; it would be a PR disaster if Bush said that we do torture. (It would be a PR disaster if Bush said that American soldiers committed war crimes in World War II, though it would be true.)

Given that the point of the original post was the importance of PR in the current war, it seems that Bush's statements are quite easily explicable. They aren't explicable on the basis of their truthfulness, but I doubt that all of Roosevelt's statements are explicable on that basis either. So what? If all your statements are oriented towards truthfulness as their highest value, you are a very unpleasant person to be with, and you sure can't work at my company.
I suppose you could say that "we do not torture" refers to a policy. No policy that we do torture has been unearthed,despite the hysteria.

To take the word of various Human Rights groups is like reading the horoscopes. No connection to reality. Might be true, might not.

Homicide is not necessarily murder. Shot while assaulting a guard is homicide, but hardly an atrocity--unless you suffer from BDS.

More detail is necessary. What does "no serious penalty" mean? That's far too broad a word to trust an advocate's use of it.

There is no doubt that in war, even among US forces, bad things will happen. Probably did here, in some fashion.

But the point to the argument is not that bad things happened, should not have happened, should be punished. IN the meantime, let's win the war because our opponents are the real bad guys.

The point of bringing up AG again and again is to damage the war effort. Nobody with an ounce of sense can think there's any value in it. Since most folks have an ounce of sense--I'm feeling charitable--then when they say stuff which is bogus, it follows they know better.
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