Sunday, September 25, 2005

New allegations...

As I mentioned in my other blog, For The Dream, there's a new story about prisoner abuses in the military. The story is here.

It's a captain, and two seargents, claiming they witnessed the abuse. The captain tried to go through his chain of command for a long time, and went to Human Rights Watch and some Republican Senators only after he was unable to get anything done through his superiors.

Now, the last time this came up, it was blown off as a few bad apples, and any suggestion that there was a policy of mistreatment of detainees was said to be liberals trying to score political points on Bush.

This isn't about points.

The Bush administration set up Guantanemo Bay in a manner that they thought left the detainees out of the reach of US courts... and loudly stated that they did not believe the detainees were covered by the Geneva Conventions.

Forget the Geneva Conventions for a moment. My feeling is, why on earth would you go to this much effort to hide something, if you haven't got something to hide? Why put it on foreign soil, that is nevertheless under US command, if everything you're going to do is legal?

Now, lets talk about the Geneva Conventions. We were assured that it was okay that these people were not accorded POW status, because they were the worst of the worst... and then, it turns out, some of them have been released. Why? Well, gee, it turns out that they weren't all the worst of the worst, after all. Oopsie, someone made a mistake, locked some folks up, and did who-knows-what to them, trying to get them to give up information that they never actually had.

The Geneva Conventions state that we are not supposed to make declarations about who is or isn't a POW unless judged by a competent tribunal. First, you made double-damn sure that a person is an unlawful combatant, and then, only then, do you say the person does not deserve the protections of a POW or civilian. Clearly, since we had to release scores (maybe hundreds) of prisoners from Guantanemo, that wasn't done.

Now, remember the torture memos, which the Bush administration claims to have repudiated... repudiated or not, they were written, and they weren't written for no reason.

So we have two things to consider now. Either the military, acting alone, came up with policies of mistreating prisoners. This violates everything I know about the military. Or, this West Point graduate, and these two seargents, are lying. That isn't impossible, but it doesn't seem all that likely.

Or the policy has come from above, from the Bush administration.

Now, the last time the issue of prisoner abuse has come up, Senator Durbin complained bitterly that the reports we have from the FBI sound like reports that would come from, for example, Nazi Germany. I admit he overspoke; Nazi Germany did much worse than we've heard from Guantanemo Bay and Abu Ghraib, but the stories I've heard were bad enough. Nevertheless, Senator Durbin was attacked for insulting our soldiers. That's been a common defense when these types of things come up... "how dare you attack the brave men and women defending this country!"

Let me explain something. Our soldiers do not set policy. They follow lawful orders when they are given them.

If the Bush administration has said to start roughing up prisoners, to do things that we'd call torture if they were done to us, and has assured the soldiers that these actions are legal (say, by legal memos written by Bush administration lawyers), then the soldiers will do their jobs.

No, I'm not attacking our soldiers for following orders that they've been told are lawful. I'm attacking the people who I believe gave them their orders... the Bush administration.

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