Creative Double Standards

Friday, May 20, 2005

Creative Double Standards

A few top stories today all revolve around U.S. treatment of detainees and POWs.

First there's this, the story about a London tabloid publishing somewhat embarassing pictures of Saddam Hussein in his underwear and doing his laundry, pictures they claim they got from "U.S. military sources." The Sun defends itself by claiming that they thought they were helping the war in Iraq by showing that Hussein is "not superman or God. He is now just an aging and humble old man. It's important that the people of Iraq see him like that to destroy the myth." But here's the kicker-- the U.S. is "angry" and forcefully "condmens" this act and promises to "aggressively investigate" because the photos might "possibly Geneva convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals." [emphasis mine]

Right, because showing the video of Hussein being examined or inspected for lice after being found in his dirty spiderhole isn't nearly as humiliating as publishing pictures of him in his underwear or doing his laundry.

Also, since when do we giving a flying fig about the Geneva Convention's standards for treatment of evildoers? Oh, that's right, after a little scandal called Abu Ghraib. Now it seems we actually understand the real world implications of getting a bad reputation for torturing POWs. After all, it's a little hard to be considered liberators by the world when you're caught torturing-- or killing-- your prisoners.

There is no irony whatsoever that the other top stories today are the release of more reports and documentation of prisoner abuse in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
More than 2,500 pages of documents just released by the Army reveal instances of detainee abuse, including mock executions, by U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

The Army released the documents this week as part of a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU. The same request resulted in the release of several thousand pages of similar documents earlier this year.

"The Army does not tolerate detainee abuse and will continue to aggressively investigate all allegations of abuse and hold individuals accountable when appropriate," an Army spokesman said.
There is also what is soon to be known as the Bagram files, a study of abuse and murder in an Afghan prison.
The story of Mr. Dilawar's brutal death at the Bagram Collection Point - and that of another detainee, Habibullah, who died there six days earlier in December 2002 - emerge from a nearly 2,000-page confidential file of the Army's criminal investigation into the case, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

Like a narrative counterpart to the digital images from Abu Ghraib, the Bagram file depicts young, poorly trained soldiers in repeated incidents of abuse. The harsh treatment, which has resulted in criminal charges against seven soldiers, went well beyond the two deaths.

In some instances, testimony shows, it was directed or carried out by interrogators to extract information. In others, it was punishment meted out by military police guards. Sometimes, the torment seems to have been driven by little more than boredom or cruelty, or both.
Our initial response to correcting the perception that POW abuse is commonplace is to prosecute a handful of lowly grunts in Iraq-- especially female grunts-- and characterize the whole issue as unique and isolated. No higher ranking military have been held responsible despite the fact that they are supposed to be accountable for what happens on their watch, for that is the military order. (But since this principle doesn't apply to the Bush Administration, so why should it apply to our military?) But Newsweek mistakenly reports that they are flushing the Koran down the toilet and the Bush Administration gets all high-and-mighty and demands an apology? What do they have to say about these stories?

Nothing wrong here, just "a few bad apples" abusing prisoners in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It's more important that we express out outrage as we aggressively investigate the possible violation of the Geneva Convention for taking pictures of Saddam Hussein in his underwear.

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