Who's Responsible For The Iraqi Prisoner Abuse?

Who's Responsible for the Iraqi Prisoner Abuse?

            by Harry Browne
            May 7, 2004

            The revelations that Iraqi prisoners have been abused and
tortured have prompted the typical deep thinking by America's pundits.

            But, as usual, they are ignoring the central point:
Atrocities and war go together like ham and eggs.

            When soldiers - American, Iraqi, or of any nation - go to
war, they are transformed into different people. This is because of
the nature of war. Battles aren't fought in the clean, antiseptic
style of a John Wayne movie.

            In a real war, men's limbs are blown off, they see their
insides pour out onto the ground, and they die in excruciating pain.
Many "combat" deaths aren't caused by enemy fire; they result from
dysentery, pneumonia, shock, a comrade's mistake, or even just fright.

            The sight of these horrors is enough to transform almost
anyone into a person quite different from the one who went to war to
"defend freedom."

            Eugene B. Sledge wrote about his reaction when, as a U.S.
Marine fighting in the Pacific during World War II, he saw his
comrades hosed down by machine-gun fire:

            I felt sickened to the depths of my soul. I asked God,
"Why, why, why?" I turned my face away and wished that I were
imagining it all. I had tasted the bitterest essence of war, the sight
of helpless comrades being slaughtered, and it filled me with disgust.
. . .

            We were expendable. It was difficult to accept. We come
from a nation and a culture that values life and the individual. To
find oneself in a situation where your life seems of little value is
the ultimate in loneliness. It was a humbling experience.1

            In World War I, a French soldier wrote in his diary:

            Heaps of corpses, French and German, are lying every which
way, rifles in hand. Rain is falling, shells are screaming and
bursting - shells all the time. Artillery fire is the worst. I lay all
night listening to the wounded groaning - some were German. The
cannonading goes on. Whenever it stops we hear the wounded crying from
all over the woods. Two or three men go mad every day.2

            In this kind of environment, human beings become something
quite different - and less human. When the boy next door comes home
from Iraq, he won't be the same one who left. He will have lived in a
world completely different from that of you and me - and completely
different from the pictures shown on TV.

            The Atrocities Follow
            Quoting Sledge again:

            Our code of conduct toward the enemy differed drastically
from that prevailing back at Division CP. . . . We lived in an
environment totally incomprehensible to men behind the lines.3

            Thus we shouldn't be surprised to find soldiers taking
delight in activities that disgust us. As Paul Fussell has pointed
out, this is what happens "when you arm a lot of frightened boys with
deadly weapons."4

            It has happened in every army in every war.

            Fussell, in his book Wartime, wrote about atrocities
committed by both Japanese and American soldiers during World War II -
atrocities so repulsive they can't be described here in a family

            In a kill-or-be-killed environment, emotions run high. Men
don't just oppose the enemy, they hate him. And when they think
information might save a buddy, they will commit heinous acts to
extract the information from a prisoner.

            There's only one way to stop such things from happening:
don't go to war in the first place.

            So if anyone is responsible for the atrocities that were
recently revealed, it is the person that decided to send 150,000
Americans to a desolate area to kill or be killed.

            I believe that person's name is George W. Bush.

            But how can George Bush be held responsible for the crimes
of subordinates way down the chain of command?

            Well, Herman Goering was sentenced to death at the
Nuremberg trials for crimes committed by his underlings.

            According to Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush was informed of
the abuses back in January. Apparently, nothing significant was said
or done about the problem until CBS broke the story last week. Now
everyone in the administration is full of shock and awe about what

            But that's not the most remarkable aspect of this whole
brouhaha. As recently as May 1, three months after learning about the
torturing, George Bush was still justifying the war on Iraq on the
basis that Hussein had torture chambers.

            This indicates that, in addition to being dishonest, Bush
also is a bit dense. An intelligent knave would have quit talking
about Hussein's "torture chambers" the moment he discovered that his
own army was using torture.