Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Really Bad Apples were at the top

We are all reeling from the news that many in high places have swindled the public. But I am still grieving over the last great swindle, perhaps the greatest in American history, that betrayed America’s stated values and took the lives of thousands of faithful American warriors, all for a lie that was repeated over and over again.

Most of us, I suppose, who were alarmed about the invasion of Iraq without reasonable cause felt so helpless at the time. I at least felt betrayed by my duly elected government. Now the reality of the abuse of power and the misrepresentations of the truth that were promoted in order to justify it are coming out. But I fear that the public may not be able to hear it. Other news occupies the front pages.

The report issued yesterday by the Senate Armed Services committee at least stated for all to see that the lie, having been put into place, had many ramifications. Now Donald Rumsfeld is named for authorizing torture in the report produced by Carl Levin and John McCain on behalf of the Senate; the report is described as “the most thorough review by Congress to date of the origins of the abuse of prisoners in American military custody.”

Note that the report “explicitly rejects the Bush administration’s contention that tough interrogation methods have helped keep the country and its troops safe.”
“The report also rejected previous claims by Mr. Rumsfeld and others that Defense Department policies played no role in the harsh treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 and in other episodes of abuse.”

It says that the abuse of prisoners “grew out of interrogation policies approved by Mr. Rumsfeld and other top officials.”

In a sense, this is not news, as several publications by troopers on the ground made it clear that they were expected to torture prisoners (See, for example, Tony Lagouranis and Allen Mikaelian. 2007. Fear Up Harsh: An Army Interrogator's Dark Journey Through Iraq. New York: New American Library). Those practices in the American military reveal what the military was encouraged to do. The American military is a well trained highly disciplined machine. That such things were taking place indicates that they were known and approved by higher ups. That those same officials denied that they had approved of torture was a betrayal of those under their authority. For them to claim that it was done by merely a few “bad apples” when these soldiers had been given orders to torture was a cowardly escape. It was a way that those in power could absolve themselves while getting things done their way. Pinochet and his generals who absolved themselves of all crimes in Chile was hardly worse.

Such a betrayal can break morale and discipline in an army that has has been trained faithfully to fulfill orders. Those young people who went to jail or were discharged dishonorably for obeying orders were betrayed by their own government. It is the yokels at the top who should have gone to jail. Rumsfeld was named here, but could he have given such orders without higher authority?

How much higher could the culpability go?

No comments: