Friday, April 30, 2004

Pictures Show Americans Abusing Prisoners

I would really like to believe that this story is false, but it seems to have credibility at pretty high levels.


    In the face of international outrage, President Bush said Friday that he was disgusted by photographs that apparently show American soldiers abusing detainees at a prison outside Baghdad.

    "I share a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated," Bush said. "Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people. That's not the way we do things in America."


    CNN has not verified the authenticity of the images.


    The U.S. military said six U.S. soldiers have been charged with abusing inmates at Abu Ghraib, which was infamous under Saddam Hussein's reign.

    White House press secretary Scott McClellan described the acts at the prison as "despicable."

    "We cannot tolerate it, and the military is taking strong action against those responsible," McClellan said.

    He said the president had known about the images for a while but declined to offer further details.

    When asked about a potential worldwide backlash over the pictures, McClellan said, "It does not represent what we stand for, and I think the military has made it very clear that they are going to pursue -- to the fullest extent of the law -- these individuals."

NY Times:


    The State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, said that he hoped that the forthrightness of the American government and the Pentagon in dealing with the abuse would mitigate the damage.

    "We're very sorry this happened to these people, and we'll do everything in our power to make sure it doesn't happen again," Mr. Boucher said at a news briefing.


    A US military investigation has recommended disciplinary action against several of its officers for the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US troops.
    Brigadier General Janice Karpinski is among seven officers being investigated following claims that soldiers under their command mistreated detainees.

    The officers have already been suspended from duty.

    A US TV channel showed pictures of US soldiers humiliating naked hooded prisoners at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib jail.

It appears that the US is treating this appropriately by putting a stop to the abuse and investigating those responsible. These people, if guilty, must be publicly seen to be punished. The evidence that we are not on the same level of Saddam and his torture state must be clearly shown. Of course, the damage has been done and much of the Arab world will still see this as evidence of American corruption, no matter what we do to rectify the situation. But that does not release us from the responsibility of making the case.

As to these "soldiers" I hope they receive the maximum penalty that can be imposed. My heart tells me that what they have done is tantamount to treason, in that they have certainly given aid to our enemies, in the form of propaganda fodder, during a time of war. However, I know that this does not meet the legal definition of the word and would not like to see American justice compromised by vindictiveness, however emotionally satisfying. At minimum they will be expelled from the armed forces, which is good, but would probably not have the same salutary effect as it would if these people truly valued the uniform they wear.

More here, here, here, here and here.

Also, Little Green Footballs links to a Yahoo story without comment.

UPDATE: Instapundit now has commentary as well as more links:
    Of course, it's not the same as Saddam's torture -- which was a matter of top-down policy, not the result of assholes who deserve jail or execution, and will probably get one or both. As with other reported misbehavior, it should be dealt with very, very harshly. But those who would -- as Senator Kerry did after Vietnam -- make such behavior emblematic of our effort, instead of recognizing it as an abandonment of our principles -- are mere opportunists.

UPDATE: Citizen Smash also has some fine comments:
    THE UGLY TRUTH of warfare is that there are no “knights in shining armor” who will always fight for Good. Evil lurks deep in the hearts of all men, and it doesn’t care what flag you wear on your sleeve. We are most vulnerable when we suffer under the burden of tremendous stress – but the ultimate responsibility to resist Evil lies with every individual.

    Our soldiers sometimes do horrible things. Disgusting things. Cruel things.

    When they do, we must not hide from the truth. Those repsonsible must be identified, prosecuted, and punished appropriately. There must be a public accounting for these crimes.

    Because we are a civilized society, we must never give in to the temptation to brush aside such atrocities as “the way things are in war.” For if we fail in this responsibility, we will ultimately become no better than those we are fighting.

    And that would be the greatest tragedy of all.

If you read his comments section, take a look at Mark's post at 12:11 PM:
    The last story, regarding Lt Col Sassman, is the direct result of an Iraqi blogger at Click on his January archives for the whole story.

    It's terrible that the soldiers did this and it's clear to me that they WILL be punished.

    I'm glad, however, to see a good result of American skepticism. How likely would it be that a story published by one man on a blog would result in a full military investigation in other countries? In most countries (especially in that part of the world), it would have been ignored. Here, though it took a while, Americans chose to investigate and will follow it through.

Very well said.

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