For too long our culture has said, "If it feels good, do it." Now America is embracing a new ethic and a new creed: "Let's roll."
-George W. Bush, State of the Union, 1/29/02
This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off?
-Rush Limbaugh, in response to prisoner detainee torture at Abu Ghraib, 5/4/04
And now we can add kidnapping
to the list of things accepted under the culture of permissiveness at the Pentagon:
The U.S. Army in Iraq has at least twice seized and jailed the wives of suspected insurgents in hopes of "leveraging" their husbands into surrender, U.S. military documents show.
In one case, a secretive task force locked up the young mother of a nursing baby, a U.S. intelligence officer reported. In the case of a second detainee, one American colonel suggested to another that they catch her husband by tacking a note to the family's door telling him "to come get his wife."
Well, this is of course completely sick. The apologists (including Rushbo) will now come out, I suppose, and say that these were vital operations to keep US soldiers alive, and that anyone who doesn't agree with them wants the US to lose in Iraq. Well, I'm pretty much against aping the practices of terrorists in order to stop the reach of terrorism. As Andrew Sullivan
Sure, it's against the Geneva Conventions. Sure, those Conventions are supposed to apply in Iraq. But this is the Bush administration. King George doesn't have to obey the law; and his military can do anything they want. The Pentagon has gotten used to denying hard evidence of abuse - and no one, of course, has been disciplined for following the instructions given ultimately in Washington. "It's very hard, obviously, from some of these documents to determine what, if anything, actually happened," says the Pentagon spokesman. No, it isn't. And so we slowly descend toward the level of the enemy. Because King George can.
Which is a pretty shrill statement for a right-of-center pundit.
The problem is that such petty conceits as morality, ethics, and a need to be held to a higher standard than butchers and killers has been thrown out with the culture of permissiveness in the Pentagon. Over there, if it feels good, do it. I'm sure that in the fog of war, it feels really great to kick the shit out of the guy who just strafed your best friend (or the guy that you think MIGHT have strafed him, or the guy that has the same skin color as the guy who strafed him). It probably feels good to kidnap a woman who's married to a terrorist who just blew up one of your Humvees. It's up to the civilian leaders to lay down a "new ethic and a new creed." The grunts on the front lines need rules of engagement, in the absence of which they'll simply resort to whatever tactics they think might work. They don't have the luxury of distance, where right and wrong can be sufficiently analyzed. To date not one member of the officer corps has had any official punsihment for Abu Ghraib. Just last week an Army Chief Warrant Officer
was given a REPRIMAND for putting a detainee in a sleeping bag, wrapping him in electrical tape, and sitting on his throat until the detainee stopped breathing and died. Like, TOTALLY don't do it again, 'kay?
And his lawyer in the case spelled out the current culture of permissiveness:
“What he was doing he was doing in the open, and he was doing it because he believed the information in fact would save lives,” said Frank Spinner, Welshofer’s civilian defense attorney, according to the AP. Spinner added that he was disappointed with the verdict. “The verdict recognizes the context in which these events took place. It was a very difficult time in Iraq. There was confusion, and they were not getting clear guidance from headquarters.”
Exactly. No clear guidance. And by design, I imagine. The "whatever it takes," "if it feels good, do it" mentality has led to physical abuse, rape, murder, you name it, in the horrors and chaos of Iraq. It has destroyed our global standing for a generation. Even the President,
albeit a couple years late, understands this:
He declined to predict whether the United States would still have large numbers of troops in Iraq when his successor takes office in 2009 but discussed the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Graib prison.
"We were disgraced," he said.
"I know it caused a lot of people that want to like us to question whether they should, and equally important it gave the enemy an incredible propaganda tool — no question," Bush said.
We were disgraced because of the anything-goes mentality that starts at the very top, with you, sir. We were disgraced, and continue to be disgraced, by the debased mindset that allows for sin in the service to wipe out a supposedly greater sin. In the war or terror, we've discovered that terror is a pretty powerful tool. So much so that we've used it to defeat what we've become.
The Heretik has the final word:
IF MEN STILL HAVE the power of words, some will forever speak of why we must pause before we go to war. We send men off to carry our burdens in war and before they come back, some are made into beasts. Mowhoush the animal is dead forever, Welshofer will live with that death until death itself removes his burden for him. Is it unfair to ask Weshofer to carry that burden alone and how is it others are not held responsible for what these men made beasts do? It is not some unkind god uncaring who made Welshofer participant in putting the animal Mowhoush to death. It is not some abstract cloud of war that told Welshofer what he must clearly do. Welshofer was put to task and Mowhoush put to death by men responsible for all that is unclear, but to their benefit, the beasts who paw this earth, but will not show their faces.