Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Who's minding the store?

I've been waiting to comment on the Iraqi "torture scandal" until I could get access to enough hard information to be able to make some sense of it. Thanks to MSNBC's posting of the full US Army report, I feel ready to say a few things.

First, the 800th MP Brigade is a disgrace to the uniform. I know that it's only a small number of soldiers who are going to be guilty of this idiocy, but they have stained the entire unit's reputation and their county's reputation as well. I sincerely hope the promised heads roll, and very publicly.

The report makes note of insufficient training, and that's a good point, at least in terms of keeping this from happening again. However, as I was taught in the Army, the effective range of an excuse is zero. Besides, I have to think that any reasonalbe person, in uniform or not, would know that this kind of behavior was wrong.

I'd also like to make note of some media reports I've heard in which some of the accused claim that they were ordered or encouraged to "soften the prisoners up" for interrogation. I seem to remember a class that I had in basic which lasted nearly an entire day on the rules of war and a soldier's right and duty to refuse to obey an illegal order. If they were indeed ordered or encouraged to commit these actions, let me note something for them--"I was just following orders" went out with the Nuremburg trials.

At the end of the day, it appears to me that what we have here is a poorly trained and led US Army Reserve unit that was put in a the position of performing duties outside it's normal mission profile. I suspect that this is a symptom of the long-standing secondary status of the Reserve and National Guard when it comes to resources and the lack of a large enough military, thanks to the phony "peace dividend" cuts of the 90s.

The entire report makes interesting if depressing reading.

Given our less than stellar performance in the last 2 months or so, you have to wonder if anyone planned for what would happen after we won the shooting war. We started planning for the occupation of Germany and Japan 2 years before we won WWII. I guess we missed that little step this time--and it should be to our shame.

However, we're there, and we're going to have to clean up our mess. We also need to stop making stupid mistakes, like sending mixed messages such as the on again, off again attack on Fallujah and abusing the locals. So let's get it figured out and get it done in an orderly and proficient military manner.

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