The NGOs Who Cried Wolf

I hate to say it, but I think Charles has gone over the edge concerning the mistreatment of the Iraqi prisoners.  Yesterday he linked a parody piece that made fun of the situation.  Today he says it isn’t torture, although it may be a war crime.  I’m not willing to make these kinds of distinctions, nor is it something to be taken lightly.  I can almost understand how it would be easy to not understand the seriousness of the allegations, though.  So many groups have been accusing the US of torture, murder, etc at every step of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns that like the boy who cried wolf no one will take him seriously when the problem turns out to be real.

But when you get right down to it, any mistreatement is unacceptable.  Dammit!  We’re Americans, we’re supposed to be better than that!  Or at least we strive to be.  At least we’re starting to get this mess into the open so that the guilty can be punished.  In that respect we have an opportunity to show the Iraqi people how this is supposed to be done.

However, there are several things I’ve heard that simply leave me scratching my head.  The first is that somehow the guards didn’t have sufficient training.  There’s a simple, concise response to this: Bullshit!  It doesn’t take a directive from a general to let you know that it’s wrong to strip prisoners and take degrading pictures or wire their genitals.  I would have thought that general rules of civility (which should have been hammered into their heads as pre-schoolers) would have been sufficient.  I also heard somewhere that they were understaffed.  This dog won’t hunt, either.  If they were so understaffed, how did they have the time for this nonsense?

But responsibility starts at the top.  I find it interesting that the commander just didn’t understand her role in all of this.

During the course of this investigation I conducted a lengthy interview with BG Karpinski that lasted over four hours, and is included verbatim in the investigation Annexes.  BG Karpinski was extremely emotional during much of her testimony.  What I found particularly disturbing in her testimony was her complete unwillingness to either understand or accept that many of the problems inherent in the 800th MP Brigade were caused or exacerbated by poor leadership and the refusal of her command to both establish and enforce basic standards and principles among its soldiers.

This is particularly damning given all the carping in the world media that had gone on by this time about Guantanamo.  She had to have known that the political aspects of the situation demanded accountability with regards to the treatment of the prisoners.  Because regardless of whether any actual abuse occurred, there would be groups screaming loudly to the world press that it had.  Someone at the level of Brigadier General should have understood this and issued orders that anticipated such scrutiny.  That she’s now trying to squirm out of responsibility for actions that occurred under her command would seem to show that she was not fit for that command.

Update:  Upon reading the U.S. Army report on Iraqi prisoner abuse I changed the link above (with the quote concerning Karpinski) from The Command Post to the actual report. 

For those who say what happened was not torture, I would think that these incidents (taken directly from the report) would tend to argue against their position.

6.  (S) I find that the intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel included the following acts:

a.  (S) Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet;

b.  (S) Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees;

c.  (S) Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing;

d.  (S) Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time;

e.  (S) Forcing naked male detainees to wear women’s underwear;

f.  (S) Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped;

g.  (S) Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them;

h.  (S) Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture;

i.  (S) Writing “I am a Rapest”  (sic) on the leg of a detainee alleged to have forcibly raped a 15-year old fellow detainee, and then photographing him naked;

j.  (S) Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee’s neck and having a female Soldier pose for a picture;

k.  (S) A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee;

l.  (S) Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee;

m. (S) Taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees.

8.  (U) In addition, several detainees also described the following acts of abuse, which under the circumstances, I find credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses (ANNEX 26):

a.  (U) Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees;

b.  (U) Threatening detainees with a charged 9mm pistol;

c.  (U) Pouring cold water on naked detainees;

d.  (U) Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair;

e.  (U) Threatening male detainees with rape;

f.  (U) Allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell;

g.  (U) Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.

h.  (U) Using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.


  1. Outlaw3 says:

    The no training and understaffing are contributors to what happened.  I am not making excuses for these soldiers, what they did was wrong, and they should have known better.  Many of the things on the list are in the general abuse category rather than torture.

    The lack of training holds for maybe the first month or two (remember, they had been there about a year when all this happened), but over time it holds less and less.  Leaders in the unit failed to do something to enforce standards of treatment about prisoners that is part of EVERY soldier’s basic training (and reinforced yearly).  Leaders failed to do their jobs about running the prison and their units.  Some of the anger the soldiers felt probably came as they saw themselves extended way past what was “promised,” no understanding or explanation about why, and then no basic improvement in living conditions that other units got.  As the units got smaller, but the number of prisoners got larger, it increased their tiredness, stress, and individual poor decision making.

    Remember those soldiers always assume the orders they receive from superiors are legal, proper, correct… unless the order fails the Constitutional, legal, morale and ethical test.  The soldiers failed to test what they were doing to that standard.  There were soldiers who saw this stuff, knew it was wrong and reported it – but the people they reported to ignored the reports!

    Definitely a lot of blame to go around, but not just the 6-8 lower ranking people in the photos!

  2. Outlaw3 says:

    Some news organization found one of the Iraqis in the photos.  How do they know?  He pointed out his body in the photos, recognized by scars and tattoos… isn’t it against Islam to tattoo your body?  Even if this isn’t the “ultimate” shame for an Arab/Muslim (why isn’t the defeat of their military in a 3 week long drive-by shooting an ultimate humiliation?), again, where is he going to go now that everyone has seen him humiliated?  Bets on his new destination, to live in freedom and make a lot of dirty capitalist infidel money, as the U.S. anyone?

  3. Outlaw3 says:

    Sorry… info overload on this thing…

  4. Outlaw3,

    No problem.  There’s a lot of stuff coming out.  And that Army report is quite long.

    Anyhow, you’re right that tattoos are forbidden in Islam.  I guess this is just one more reason I’m a proud infidel (and I like alcohol, and movies, and women who show skin…).

    I also found this related prohibition interesting:Allah has cursed those women who practise tattooing and those who get themselves tattooed, and those who remove their face hairs, and those who create a space between their teeth artificially to look beautiful, and such women as change the features created by Allah.

    Apparently Allah likes his women hairy and hidden away…

  5. Outlaw3 says:

    I could do without the hairy women, gap teeth, and tattoos myself.  Ugh.  Now if it was “hidden away” like “kept in private reserve like the most expensive painting or an exceedingly excellent bottle of wine” I could see it.  But it seems more like “hide them away to avoid having anyone tempted with unpure thoughts because none of you guys can control yourselves.”