Sunday, September 25, 2005

A few more bad apples?

Those who dismissed the Abu Ghraib abuses as "pranks," no worse than frat initiations, or the unauthorized conduct of "a few bad apples" should get ready with a few more denials.
Seems like Human Rights Watch has released another report indicating a more systemic issue.

One sergeant told Human Rights Watch: "Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC tent. In a way it was sport… One day [a sergeant] shows up and tells a PUC to grab a pole. He told him to bend over and broke the guy’s leg with a mini Louisville Slugger, a metal bat."

The officer who spoke to Human Rights Watch made persistent efforts over 17 months to raise concerns about detainee abuse with his chain of command and to obtain clearer rules on the proper treatment of detainees, but was consistently told to ignore abuses and to "consider your career." He believes he was not taken seriously until he approached members of Congress to raise his concerns. When the officer made an appointment this month with Senate staff members of Senators John McCain and John Warner, he says his commanding officer denied him a pass to leave his base. The officer was interviewed several days later by investigators with the Army Criminal Investigative Division and Inspector General's office, and there were reports that the military has launched a formal investigation. Repeated efforts by Human Rights Watch to contact the 82nd Airborne Division regarding the major allegations in the report received no response.

The soldiers' accounts show widespread confusion among military units about the legal standards applicable to detainees. One of the sergeants quoted in the report described how abuse of detainees was accepted among military units: "Trends were accepted. Leadership failed to provide clear guidance so we just developed it. They wanted intel [intelligence]. As long as no PUCs came up dead it happened. We heard rumors of PUCs dying so we were careful. We kept it to broken arms and legs and shit."

"PUC" means "person under control." I suppose that designation has to do with some legal distinction among various prisoner categories.

No, I haven't studied the whole thing in detail. I already have a bad attitude and I don't think it would help. Just skipping through I came up with "C is an officer with the 82nd Airborne Division and West Point graduate who served in Afghanistan from August 2002 to February 2003 and in Iraq from September 2003 to March 2004. HRW spoke with him more than two dozen times in July, August, and September 2005. "

An officer, it says.
West Point.
Damn. Just damn.

I'm waiting for a truly authoritative source to firmly and clearly discredit this report. I'm not interested in spin or counter-charges or "they-do-worse-than-that" crap. Of course they do. But I like to think that we are better than that.

Sunday morning...

I blogged the report as soon as I found it yesterday. Via Crooked Timber here is an early response from Scott Horton at Balkinization,

...Military commanders owe their soldiers clear, unambiguous guidance on how interrogation is to proceed and how detainees are to be treated. Instead, the most charitable way we could characterize the situation would be to say they have created a fog of uncertainty in the area (whereas until 2001, the sun had shone with exemplary brightness) it really credible to talk of a "few rotten apples," when the number of those concerned goes from six, to a dozen, to nearly a hundred, and now to several hundred, operating in installations around the world and engaging in suspiciously similar patterns of conduct?...the [internal] investigations [of abuse] proceed with the highly implausible assumption that these policy decisions had no effect on what happened on the ground in Iraq. Since the U.S. Army's command-and-control structures are the envy of the world, this assumption lends an element of the surreal to these reports.

The introduction of torture and abuse as interrogation practices has badly corrupted military intelligence and is undermining morale and discipline throughout the service. The decision to scapegoat the "grunts" for decisions that clearly were taken at or near the top of the chain of command has further undermined confidence in the chain of command and in the integrity of the Army as an institution. The systematic denial of the doctrine of command responsibility threatens the ethic of the military on the most fundamental level. One must wonder when and where this whirlwind of destruction that now engulfs our military and threatens to undermine our national security will end.
Outstanding piece of analysis. Make this one required reading.

Monday, September 26...

Andrew Sullivan got it.

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