Our Dirty Little War

By now you’ve undoubtedly heard about the latest news from Iraq, where U.S. Soldiers have been accused of torturing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners in Baghdad. Unfortunately for the people who would like to deny this or say it’s being blown out of proportion, those responsible actually took photos (warning, extremely graphic) of themselves happily defying both the Geneva Convention and basic human decency.

(Story here, you can use the username and password of “legomancernyt” to read.)

One of the soldiers, Staff Sgt Chip Frederick is accused of posing in a photograph sitting on top of a detainee, committing an indecent act and with assault for striking detainees – and ordering detainees to strike each other.

He told CBS: “We had no support, no training whatsoever. And I kept asking my chain of command for certain things … like rules and regulations.”

One wonders what sort of person assumes, since he hasn’t been told he can’t do these things, that it’s okay for him to do so?

The excuse this time is that this is an isolated case of a few bad apples who will be sufficiently punished, and I’ve no doubt that’s probably pretty close to the truth. I think the vast majority of our soldiers no doubt know how to treat human beings like human beings, even if our leaders and society make our enemies out to be animals. Remember how evil Saddam was for torturing prisoners? Take a look at those photos again. This is not what we’re supposed to be fighting for. And if the roles were reversed, if the prisoners were Americans, our people would be screaming for the heads of those responsible.

It’s frightening enough that even a handful of our soldiers think so little of these actions that they photograph themselves smiling as they do them, as though they’re just having a good time. What’s more frightening is that the story is developing further, and it looks like they may have been trying to break the prisoners’ will under orders from independent military contractors. Or, in non-Pentagon-speak, mercenaries.

It’s strange that the government doesn’t seem to have enough money to provide our soldiers with the proper training or equipment, or to help them out financially other than allowing them to raid their own retirement savings without penalty, yet can somehow afford to hire civilian mercenaries to do sensitive work such as interrogating prisoners. Not only do these mercenaries not come cheap, they’re not accountable under any kind of military or civilian law. Which is good or bad depending on what you’re having them do, I suppose.

I grant that Iraq ain’t no dinner party. Of course, this is largely because we were go gung-ho to get in there that nobody had time to figure what we’d do with the pieces. Some people have noticed that Iraq isn’t Vietnam — it took years for Vietnam to degrade into an inescapable mess that no one believed in anymore. Iraq is setting new records in alienating people. Despite attempts to hide it, soldiers are over there dying. And they don’t seem to be dying for peace, for freedom, or for democracy. They’re dying because of greed, ineptness, and lies. They’re dying while mercenaries make some sweet cash having people treated like animals. There are a lot of decent soldiers over there trying to do what’s right, a lot more than the handful grinning as they photograph themselves committing war crimes, but that handful are enough to make this whole ill-fated venture somehow look even more questionable than ever.

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