T Nation

Abu Ghraib Update

[quote]makkun wrote:
I guess in these scenarios it is really hard to find the really responsible. As I have stated in many threads, and following the line of argument of The Economist (which supports the war, but criticises Rumsfeld for how it is conducted and especially the treatment of detainees), I don’t believe Rumsfeld or Bush “ordered” the abuses.

But they did set the stage by creating 2nd class prisoners, with less rights than others. That is indeed a questionable, but not really punishable thing - and socialpsychological literature is full of examples for how wrong this can go (check Zimbardo or even Goldhagen for example).

Are they legally responsible? No. And if the article is correct, I am relieved, as it seems to indicate that the checks and balances put into the system seem to be working.

Are they morally responsible? In my book, yes: Political responsibility exceeds legal responsibility - politicians are indeed responsible for how the policies they set, are conducted.

In that sense, I would find them “guilty”. I found it quite interesting that alledgedly Rumsfeld had offered his resignation more than once during the scandal (which was alledgedly denied by Bush) - given the fact that I don’t like the man, I would have to concede that he perhaps tried to take a responsibly, which he himself felt was his.

Makkun[/quote]

Makkun,

I appreciate your serious reply on the topic.

I definitely think moral and legal culpability are different things. There’s no evidence of any top-down orders for legal culpability, 100meters’ hysteria notwithstanding. No one has had serious criticism of Major General Taguba’s findings and report. However, the question of being responsible for creating an atmosphere in which such actions were more probable is another question.

I think that to get to the heart of that matter you’d have to define a baseline of what is actually acceptable practice during war time – it cannot possibly be perfection, or realy even close to the acceptable standard for civilians in peace time, just given the nature of what is going on around at the time and what gets bumped higher on the priority scale – and then look at the resources that were available to be partitioned among the various priorities. Of course I won’t argue that nothing could have been done that would have prevented the abuses – that would be ridiculous. There is almost always something that could have been done in any such situation that would have significantly reduced the probability of its occurrence – the question, in my mind, is whether it would have made sense at the time to have taken that action (whatever it may have been), given competing concerns.

In this case, you have brought up making two classes of prisoners – I would want to know why they did so – what harm they were trying to avoid or strategic objective they were trying to achieve – and then see at what level the decision was made, and whether other things would have necessarily been shorted resources in order to do things differently (I assume it’s a zero-sum game, at least in the relatively short/medium terms).

Overall, I think moral culpability is an increasingly difficult question as you move further and further away from the people who did the abuse, or who had direct supervisory roles.

Now, political responsibility is another matter entirely removed from both moral and legal responsibility. Political responsibility, in my mind, is all about giving people someone important to blame. Kind of a “blame the boss” mentality that is sometimes perfectly right, and sometimes misplaced. Basically, the guy at the top (or close enough to the top to be really important) is politically repsonsible simply because he was at the top of whatever organization had the problem. In that case, I’ll definitely grant you that Rumsfeld was politically responsible.

[quote]BostonBarrister wrote:

I definitely think moral and legal culpability are different things. There’s no evidence of any top-down orders for legal culpability, 100meters’ hysteria notwithstanding. No one has had serious criticism of Major General Taguba’s findings and report. However, the question of being responsible for creating an atmosphere in which such actions were more probable is another question.

I think that to get to the heart of that matter you’d have to define a baseline of what is actually acceptable practice during war time – it cannot possibly be perfection, or realy even close to the acceptable standard for civilians in peace time, just given the nature of what is going on around at the time and what gets bumped higher on the priority scale – and then look at the resources that were available to be partitioned among the various priorities. Of course I won’t argue that nothing could have been done that would have prevented the abuses – that would be ridiculous. There is almost always something that could have been done in any such situation that would have significantly reduced the probability of its occurrence – the question, in my mind, is whether it would have made sense at the time to have taken that action (whatever it may have been), given competing concerns.

In this case, you have brought up making two classes of prisoners – I would want to know why they did so – what harm they were trying to avoid or strategic objective they were trying to achieve – and then see at what level the decision was made, and whether other things would have necessarily been shorted resources in order to do things differently (I assume it’s a zero-sum game, at least in the relatively short/medium terms).

Overall, I think moral culpability is an increasingly difficult question as you move further and further away from the people who did the abuse, or who had direct supervisory roles.

Now, political responsibility is another matter entirely removed from both moral and legal responsibility. Political responsibility, in my mind, is all about giving people someone important to blame. Kind of a “blame the boss” mentality that is sometimes perfectly right, and sometimes misplaced. Basically, the guy at the top (or close enough to the top to be really important) is politically repsonsible simply because he was at the top of whatever organization had the problem. In that case, I’ll definitely grant you that Rumsfeld was politically responsible.[/quote]

Hysteria?..well I’d hate to think that pointing out the public record contradicts an opinion piece(in the WSJ) is hysterical. Again, the Schlesinger report contradicts the WSJ and for that matter B.B.

from the report:
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/2004/d20040824finalreport.pdf
The pictured abuses, unacceptable even in wartime, were not part of authorized interrogations nor were they even directed at intelligence targets. … However, we do know that some of the egregious abuses at Abu Ghraib which were not photographed did occur at interrogation sessions and that abuses during interrogation sessions occurred elsewhere.

The report actually goes on to detail, contrary to the WSJ editorial, how decisions made by Bush and others picked by him at the pentagon (Rummy) and the justice dept (Gonzalez) contributed to the abuses at abu ghraib.
There weren’t 2 classes of prisoners in Iraq. This is where the confusion is. Gonzalez gave Bush the “memo”
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB127/02.01.25.pdf
the memo states roughly that the geneva conventions don’t apply to Guantanamo. Rummy approved the techniques for guantanamo here:
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB127/03.04.16.pdf
base on the opinions formed at the justice dept. The report shows how Gen. Miller went to Iraq from guantanamo, bringing the interrogation policies with him, that Sanchez then adapted. Prisoners in Iraq are said to be protected by the Geneva conventions as stated by:

MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely not. First of all, the memo you’re referencing related specifically to al Qaeda and the Taliban. It did not reference Iraq, at all. We have made it clear that we are bound by the Geneva Conventions in Iraq.

Surely the Editors at the WSJ could have googled the Report, so either they are totally ignorant, or they are misleading readers. (probably both)

JeffR

[quote]JeffR wrote:
makkun wrote:

“I guess in these scenarios it is really hard to find the really responsible. As I have stated in many threads, and following the line of argument of The Economist (which supports the war, but criticises Rumsfeld for how it is conducted and especially the treatment of detainees), I don’t believe Rumsfeld or Bush “ordered” the abuses.”

“But they did set the stage by creating 2nd class prisoners, with less rights than others.”

Here is where many Conservatives/Republicans/Responsible Democrats (Lieberman) diverge from your thinking. Terrorists don’t have rights. They have abrogated their human rights. [/quote]

I get that. But this is exactly why so many liberals like me get their panties into a twist over this issue: If you dehumanise a certain group of people, you open up to unpunished abuse of them. I will restrain from wielding historical arguments here (you know what I mean :wink: ), but experience shows that a) this tends to gradually dehumanise the treatment outside of this group and b) a lot of people get hurt who were falsely accused.
Check out how many British Guantanamo detainees have been released after like 2 years of imprisonment - and then set free by the UK authorities, because there was no evidence to support any further prosecution. So - neither legally, nor morally, these men can be called terrorists. Hence - they should not have been treated this way.
As for Abu Ghraib: Most of the prisoners in there are “normal” criminals (thieves, rapists, murderers…), not declared “terrorists”. So the “moratory” on applying human rights on these people cannot be justified with the terrorist argument at all.

I understand that there is strong motivation to be vigilant against terrorists. But conservatism is about, well conserving certain values - suspending human rights hurts both the fight against terrorism and conservatism.

[quote]“That is indeed a questionable, but not really punishable thing - and socialpsychological literature is full of examples for how wrong this can go (check Zimbardo or even Goldhagen for example).”

We are drifting into the: “Hey, everyone knows its wrong, but the system is set up so that you don’t get caught.” Not too far from this to my favorite: George H.W.Bush bought W into/through college, out of Vietnam, and has bought every vote for W. ever.[/quote]

Ah, what? Sorry, I didn’t get that one. And I would never say that about W (as I can’t find any credible source for it… :wink: ). I was just trying to say that there is empirical and even experimental evidence that dehumanising a group invites abuse.

[quote]“Are they legally responsible? No. And if the article is correct, I am relieved, as it seems to indicate that the checks and balances put into the system seem to be working.”

Ok.[/quote]

Thanks. I don’t wish to bash W. just because I don’t like him. I am just really worried about some of his policies.

[quote]“Are they morally responsible? In my book, yes: Political responsibility exceeds legal responsibility - politicians are indeed responsible for how the policies they set, are conducted.”

Terrorists are responsible for terrorism.[/quote]

Yup. And we are responsible for torture if we indirectly condone or enable it.

[quote]“In that sense, I would find them “guilty”. I found it quite interesting that alledgedly Rumsfeld had offered his resignation more than once during the scandal (which was alledgedly denied by Bush) - given the fact that I don’t like the man, I would have to concede that he perhaps tried to take a responsibly, which he himself felt was his.”

Far more likely is that a loyal lieutenant was willing to fall on his sword.[/quote]

That is exactly my point: If Rummy & Co. would have made it very clear in the first place how inacceptable any dehumanising treatment for any prisoner is, the loyal lieutenant would have understood that his/her duty is to defend humanity by practising it, not perverting it. Hence my view on their moral/political responsibility.

[quote]I still have nothing but LOVE FOR YA.!!!
JeffR
[/quote]

Awhh Jeff, fighting side by side (at least on the religious front) - it’s just too good to be true…

:wink:
Makkun

BB,

[quote]BostonBarrister wrote:
makkun wrote:
I guess in these scenarios it is really hard to find the really responsible. As … Bush) - given the fact that I don’t like the man, I would have to concede that he perhaps tried to take a responsibly, which he himself felt was his.

Makkun

Makkun,

I appreciate your serious reply on the topic.

I definitely think moral and legal culpability are different things. There’s no evidence of any top-down orders for legal culpability, 100meters’ hysteria notwithstanding. No one has had serious criticism of Major General Taguba’s findings and report. However, the question of being responsible for creating an atmosphere in which such actions were more probable is another question.[/quote]

As a politician and especially war-time leader, if you take our own values serious, you have to understand that you act as an example to the people that are being led. A few blatant and careless statements (“worst of the worst…”) can have a pretty bad effect.

The Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Convention and the concept of due process cover these quite well. I don’t see why there are to be exeptions. Allowing a list of unpleasant treatments, niftily not defined as torture and locking people up for years without open trials does not. Call me a conservative, but I think that just betrays the values on which we alledgedly founded our democracies on.

Nope. I don’t see a reason at all to do that under any circumstances. When it comes to human rights issues, there is no compromise in my books. When it comes to how a democracy processes hostiles, it has to have due and transparent process. How can I review if my trial is fair, if I can’t see the evidence? “National Security” is too thin an argument when tampering with more fundamental rights. Yeah, I’m pretty conservative on that one… :wink:

[quote]Overall, I think moral culpability is an increasingly difficult question as you move further and further away from the people who did the abuse, or who had direct supervisory roles.

Now, political responsibility is another matter entirely removed from both moral and legal responsibility. Political responsibility, in my mind, is all about giving people someone important to blame. Kind of a “blame the boss” mentality that is sometimes perfectly right, and sometimes misplaced. Basically, the guy at the top (or close enough to the top to be really important) is politically repsonsible simply because he was at the top of whatever organization had the problem. In that case, I’ll definitely grant you that Rumsfeld was politically responsible.[/quote]

Thanks. And that is why he should have stepped down. “Blame the Boss”? Yup. This is not another corporate scandal - this is about basic rights and the believability of a governmental institution. People in that high a place must be beyond question in human rights mattters.

Makkun

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
Who the f**k cares who gave the orders?

The “torture” was the level of frat boy hazing. They ought to be doing a lot more than this and instead they will now be doing a lot less.

This is a f**king war we are in and assholes like Ted Kennedy are more worried about who ordered who to put panties on someones head than about winning.

Pure politics. Anyone that uses this incident to attack the administration is playing dirty politics. If anyone is willing to play politics when our soldiers are in harms way I will question their stance on every issue from now on.

[/quote]

Common hippies. Respond to this.

Time for a real article about Abu Ghraib:

The facts…enjoy.

And one more for the road:

I’d like to point out something blindlingly obvious which, nevertheless, will fail to dawn on the vast majority of you: The two articles I linked are packed to the brim with sources, whereas the WSJ had none. If you want to go off and start questioning the credibility of my articles, you had better be prepared to repudiate every single source cited therein - and provide just as many to back up the WSJ version of events. Anything else would be flagrantly partisan and idiotic. We’re all above that here…right?

[quote]BostonBarrister wrote:
Seems that Rummy wasn’t issuing orders concerning stacking Iraqi prisoners in naked pyramids after all…

Obviously Abu Ghraib was bad, but I think the editorial is spot on in saying it didn’t implicate people up the chain of command…
[/quote]

Ah. So Rummy is not malicious and cruel, but only clueless and incompetent?

Is it really a “chain of command” if it’s missing so many links that the head doesn’t know what going on below?

It sure would’ve saved a lot of spit and ink if the administration had specified that “Secretary of Defense” is only an honorific title…

I’ll respond to this. Bullshit. Sure, a lot of the officially described and allowed activity is of this nature.

Unfortunately, the fact that some of the prisoners don’t actually survive their hazing might indicate there is sometimes more to it.

Now, honestly, it is one thing to simply not care. I know some of you really don’t give a damn what type of treatment these people receive.

However, if you do actually have a shred of human decency you’ll realize that people in these prisons do not go through any type of process to determine innocence or guilt.

Savaging them, or letting them be savaged, because we can and it soothes our wounded pride gives the measure of America. Oops.

[quote]vroom wrote:
The “torture” was the level of frat boy hazing.

I’ll respond to this. Bullshit. Sure, a lot of the officially described and allowed activity is of this nature.

Unfortunately, the fact that some of the prisoners don’t actually survive their hazing might indicate there is sometimes more to it.

Now, honestly, it is one thing to simply not care. I know some of you really don’t give a damn what type of treatment these people receive.

However, if you do actually have a shred of human decency you’ll realize that people in these prisons do not go through any type of process to determine innocence or guilt.

Savaging them, or letting them be savaged, because we can and it soothes our wounded pride gives the measure of America. Oops.[/quote]

The “torture” was far below the levels under Saddam or any totalitarian regime.

It is below the levels frequently seen in prisons in America and across the world (including Canada).

This does not make it right, but it is the real world. Grow up.

This is politics pure and simple. If you are “against the war”, fine but it is too late, we are in it, let’s win it.

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
vroom wrote:
The “torture” was the level of frat boy hazing.

I’ll respond to this. Bullshit. Sure, a lot of the officially described and allowed activity is of this nature.

Unfortunately, the fact that some of the prisoners don’t actually survive their hazing might indicate there is sometimes more to it.

Now, honestly, it is one thing to simply not care. I know some of you really don’t give a damn what type of treatment these people receive.

However, if you do actually have a shred of human decency you’ll realize that people in these prisons do not go through any type of process to determine innocence or guilt.

Savaging them, or letting them be savaged, because we can and it soothes our wounded pride gives the measure of America. Oops.

The “torture” was far below the levels under Saddam or any totalitarian regime.

It is below the levels frequently seen in prisons in America and across the world (including Canada).

This does not make it right, but it is the real world. Grow up.

This is politics pure and simple. If you are “against the war”, fine but it is too late, we are in it, let’s win it.

[/quote]

Zap

I agree with your position. This type of hazing is more about control then anything else. The guards are supposed to have control. Much worse happens in any prison for civilians.

As for these type of abuses not being acceptable in wartime. Please spare me. The troops see far more death, maiming and destruction after any firefight.

As anyone who has served in the military or a large organization can plainly see, it is highly improbable that anyone in authority knew what was going on. They would have stopped it so as not to be culpable and because it is wrong. If any senior officer should be held accountable, it stops at Karpinski for allowing it to happen in her command.

[quote]hedo wrote:
… If any senior officer should be held accountable, it stops at Karpinski for allowing it to happen in her command.

[/quote]

I agree. Her behavior has been the worst. She blames those above and below her for the problems and takes no responsibility.

When I saw her showing up on TV with a lawyer blaming everyone else I was sickened.

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
The “torture” was far below the levels under Saddam or any totalitarian regime.

It is below the levels frequently seen in prisons in America and across the world (including Canada).

This does not make it right, but it is the real world. Grow up.

This is politics pure and simple. If you are “against the war”, fine but it is too late, we are in it, let’s win it.
[/quote]

Exactly. This is just the same ongoing attempt by the “Blame America First” to criminalize our efforts in the WOT.

We’re supposed to be held to a ‘higher standard’ because We are supposed to be an example.

I’m sorry - but our example should be “fuck with us and we’ll kill your mother and your sister and anyone else you know or love.”

I could give a shit what the America hating peaceniks have to say on this issue. They have chosen their side, and regardless of the verbage, or the veiled attempts at being objective - It’s way past time for these pussies to sit down and shut up.

Just like Zap said - we are in this thing, like it or not. I say we kick their asses with impunity, take their damn oil, and piss on them when we are done.

But I’m always cranky when I wake up.

Guys, hell, if you are right and all that has happened is “hazing”, I wouldn’t give a shit at all.

People don’t usually die by hazing however.

I wasn’t there, so I don’t know the real truth, but it is very possible that more than mere “hazing” has occurred.

I’m not sure how you can be so sure nothing untoward is happening.

[quote]vroom wrote:
Guys, hell, if you are right and all that has happened is “hazing”, I wouldn’t give a shit at all.

People don’t usually die by hazing however.

I wasn’t there, so I don’t know the real truth, but it is very possible that more than mere “hazing” has occurred.

I’m not sure how you can be so sure nothing untoward is happening.[/quote]

There must be something sinister going on, after all this is a republican administration!

[quote]hedo wrote:
Zap Branigan wrote:
vroom wrote:
The “torture” was the level of frat boy hazing.

I’ll respond to this. Bullshit. Sure, a lot of the officially described and allowed activity is of this nature.

Unfortunately, the fact that some of the prisoners don’t actually survive their hazing might indicate there is sometimes more to it.

Now, honestly, it is one thing to simply not care. I know some of you really don’t give a damn what type of treatment these people receive.

However, if you do actually have a shred of human decency you’ll realize that people in these prisons do not go through any type of process to determine innocence or guilt.

Savaging them, or letting them be savaged, because we can and it soothes our wounded pride gives the measure of America. Oops.

The “torture” was far below the levels under Saddam or any totalitarian regime.

It is below the levels frequently seen in prisons in America and across the world (including Canada).

This does not make it right, but it is the real world. Grow up.

This is politics pure and simple. If you are “against the war”, fine but it is too late, we are in it, let’s win it.

Zap

I agree with your position. This type of hazing is more about control then anything else. The guards are supposed to have control. Much worse happens in any prison for civilians.

As for these type of abuses not being acceptable in wartime. Please spare me. The troops see far more death, maiming and destruction after any firefight.

As anyone who has served in the military or a large organization can plainly see, it is highly improbable that anyone in authority knew what was going on. They would have stopped it so as not to be culpable and because it is wrong. If any senior officer should be held accountable, it stops at Karpinski for allowing it to happen in her command.

[/quote]

Hedo, Zap,

are you being totally honest, or are you being apologists? Surely, you should be able to see that the public perception of a christian nation sexually demoralizing muslims has a different reaction than a arabic leader torturing arabs? This only goes to show a lack of cultural respect, that is obviously counter-productive to our goals in Iraq and the middle-east. Also if the president tells the arab world that Iraqi POWs are protected by Geneva, and then we are torturing or “hazing” as you say, you should be able to see how that would also be counter-productive to our goals of building trust and credibility in the arab world (again its been pointed out time and time again that U.S. policy is the prime reason for terrorist attacks against us). It would seem to me that regardless of what side of the war you were on, we do have to win the war (on terror) and I would think you’d be going through leaps and bounds to make sure nothing questionable happened to POWs, especially considering the power of arabic media- you can only imagine how al-jaazera portrayed abu-ghraib, and how many young muslims have been inspired to hate us. Don’t you think part of the strategy of winning the war would be creating fewer people to fight a war against?

There couldn’t be anything untoward going on, after all this is a republican administration!

[quote]vroom wrote:
Yes, I know, I’m dreaming. Wake me when I get to the gym.[/quote]

I’ll wake you when you decide to start training.

Aw Cream, I know you are my biggest fan! Progress takes time buddy, progress takes time…

[quote]100meters wrote:
hedo wrote:
Zap Branigan wrote:
vroom wrote:
The “torture” was the level of frat boy hazing.

I’ll respond to this. Bullshit. Sure, a lot of the officially described and allowed activity is of this nature.

Unfortunately, the fact that some of the prisoners don’t actually survive their hazing might indicate there is sometimes more to it.

Now, honestly, it is one thing to simply not care. I know some of you really don’t give a damn what type of treatment these people receive.

However, if you do actually have a shred of human decency you’ll realize that people in these prisons do not go through any type of process to determine innocence or guilt.

Savaging them, or letting them be savaged, because we can and it soothes our wounded pride gives the measure of America. Oops.

The “torture” was far below the levels under Saddam or any totalitarian regime.

It is below the levels frequently seen in prisons in America and across the world (including Canada).

This does not make it right, but it is the real world. Grow up.

This is politics pure and simple. If you are “against the war”, fine but it is too late, we are in it, let’s win it.

Zap

I agree with your position. This type of hazing is more about control then anything else. The guards are supposed to have control. Much worse happens in any prison for civilians.

As for these type of abuses not being acceptable in wartime. Please spare me. The troops see far more death, maiming and destruction after any firefight.

As anyone who has served in the military or a large organization can plainly see, it is highly improbable that anyone in authority knew what was going on. They would have stopped it so as not to be culpable and because it is wrong. If any senior officer should be held accountable, it stops at Karpinski for allowing it to happen in her command.

Hedo, Zap,

are you being totally honest, or are you being apologists? Surely, you should be able to see that the public perception of a christian nation sexually demoralizing muslims has a different reaction than a arabic leader torturing arabs? This only goes to show a lack of cultural respect, that is obviously counter-productive to our goals in Iraq and the middle-east. Also if the president tells the arab world that Iraqi POWs are protected by Geneva, and then we are torturing or “hazing” as you say, you should be able to see how that would also be counter-productive to our goals of building trust and credibility in the arab world (again its been pointed out time and time again that U.S. policy is the prime reason for terrorist attacks against us). It would seem to me that regardless of what side of the war you were on, we do have to win the war (on terror) and I would think you’d be going through leaps and bounds to make sure nothing questionable happened to POWs, especially considering the power of arabic media- you can only imagine how al-jaazera portrayed abu-ghraib, and how many young muslims have been inspired to hate us. Don’t you think part of the strategy of winning the war would be creating fewer people to fight a war against?[/quote]

100-

I will agree that we should try and create less enemies to fight. I also think it would be better for all concerned if it didn’t happen. I just don’t think the top administration officials had anything to do with it. I don’t even think the general in charge knew about…although she should have.

Abu Gharib is a very minor incident in the scope of this war. It was siezed on by the media for a political reason rather then for any alutisitc feelings towards the Iraqi’s.

I am not apologizing for what happened. I don’t see it as being all that meaningful. If we got any information that saved an American life then it was worth it. That’s a personal opinion and I am sure I have a different set of morals then others.

I don’t think the Muslims in the Middle East will ever love the US. Not in this century. They will one day respect us and if necessary fear us. If that’s what it takes to live together so be it. I think we are all better of with the US being a superpower as opposed to Iran etc…