The Chains that Bind

I’m not fond of “conspiracy theories,” generally considering such charges little more than cliche´d arguments to exploit gullible people. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think that the Bush administration is using public-relation tricks to cover up the extent that they’re allowing businesses to exploit the environment. But the fact that such tricks are well-known by any who care to know reveals just how difficult it is to keep a secret when others are concerned enough to look for the truth.

I think the Bush Administration and the U.S. Army is about to find out just how difficult it is to maintain a cover up. Weeks ago while looking at the pictures of prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq I told Leslie that it was damn near impossible that only enlisted men were involved in that kind abuse. I’d been in the army too long to believe that, at the very least, lieutenants and captains didn’t know such abuses we’re going on and weren’t derelict of duty in allowing such behavior. It’s even difficult to believe that such rampant abuse could have gone on without encouragement from some officers.

A general’s recent findings that no orders had been given to allow such abuse, that only a few reserve enlisted men were actually guilty of such crimes and that only reservist officers were responsible for such a lack of discipline reeked of “good old boy” politics to me. Of course, reserve officers, particularly a woman general, probably aren’t one of the “good old boys” and are expendable, as Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski suggested when she charged that she and her fellow reservists were being scapegoated.

The army is well know, at least as far as the officer’s corp goes, for protecting their own, and perhaps with good reason. When the lives of you and your men are on the line, you have to have absolute faith that your fellow officers will do everything possible to save you and your men. In fact, this esprit de corp can serve the military well. At its best, it even toppled McCarthy and his communist witch-hunt when the Army stuck together after McCarthy accused a general of being a communist.

Unfortunately, I doubt that this esprit will serve the military nearly as well in the current case. Already, the New York Times suggests that an Army captain is involved in prisons in both Afghanistan and Iraq where abuse is alleged to have taken place:

At least one officer, Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, served in supervisory positions at the interrogation units both at the Bagram Collection Point from July 2002 to December 2003 and then again at the joint center at Abu Ghraib, according to Army officials. That center was established in the fall of 2003. In Congressional testimony last week, a senior Army lawyer, Col. Marc Warren, praised Captain Wood as an officer who took initiative in Iraq at a time when American commanders had yet to spell out rules for interrogation. But he also singled out Captain Wood and her unit as having brought to Iraq interrogation procedures developed during their service in Afghanistan. No one is known to have accused Captain Wood of any wrongdoing in connection with the abuses at Abu Ghraib or the deaths of prisoners there or in Afghanistan.

The same New York Times article reveals that at least two deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq had “been deemed a homicide by an Army pathologist.” This should have suggested to any superior officers who gave a damn that some extreme forms of torture were being used on prisoners. Surely the Army pathologist didn’t just file his report without reporting his findings to a superior officer.

The same article revealed that Afghan prisoners were demeaned in ways frightenly similar to the pictures we’ve seen from Iraq, leading to the assumption that reservist guards may well have been encouraged to treat prisoners this way, just as they argued early on.

As more charges are brought and cases are brought to trial, I suspect those further up the chain of command will be invariably be linked to the abuse, particularly if the media and concerned citizens demand that all those who are responsible be held accountable, no matter how far up the chain of command they may be.

Of course, in a democracy, it’s you and I that are truly accountable for what our military does, for we are bound to them as surely as their chain of command binds them to . We have the power and the responsibility to ensure that actions taken in our name truly represent our will, and, if they don’t, to make sure that those who acted irresponsibly are punished for their actions and prevented from committing such actions again.