Prisoner abuse is abhorrent, but isn't it inevitable?

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Can we reasonably expect military personnel to run prisons that comply with the Geneva Convention?

Yes.
16
94%
No.
1
6%
Yes, but only if...
0
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Total votes: 17

roguequijote
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Prisoner abuse is abhorrent, but isn't it inevitable?

Postby roguequijote » Mon May 10, 2004 9:45 am

I have never served in the military and I have great respect and appreciation for almost everyone who has. Please do not misconstrue this post to imply derogatory things about them.

On the battle field, when thier unit is taking fire, military personnel have to prioritize following orders above their own personal safety or tending to injured members of their own unit. Absent orders, I imagine they have default rules that include neutralizing threats and securing the unit's safety. Often, the necessities of battle take precedence over healing the wounded or mourning the dead.

You cannot expect the same military to provide effective battle training and prison guard training consistent with the Geneva Convention. Part of preparing people for battle is helping them see this killing as a job well done and the adversary as something less human than the person giving the orders. The people fighting the war on the ground have to believe this and the people training them have to believe this.

Perhaps most importantly, the people giving the orders have to believe this. An effective commander (all the way up to the Commander-in-Chief) must tolerate casualties and violence on both sides. On paper, you can create separate units, with some units in charge of fighting battles and other units in charge of guarding prisons. In reality, this can never be more than the thinnest, most artificial distinction. Both units are part of the same military and part of the same command structure. The people giving the orders know that their decisions result in the deaths of armed combatants, innocent foreign civilians and their own countrymen subordinates. The commanders would hardly be human if they did not want to finish the fighting as quickly as possible. The people in Iraqi prisons are people that U.S. forces had plenty of opportunities to kill. Maybe we kept them alive for no other reason than information and entertainment. If we could have killed prisoners before they became prisoners, can we expect U.S. commanders to crack down on troops torturing them today?

Many historians believe that Truman knew that the Japanese intended to surrender before dropping the second atom bomb. As we learned more about the horrors of atomic warfare, we relied increasingly on the argument that it would have cost many thousands of U.S. lives to invade Japan mainland. If military personnel believe that torturing Iraqi prisoners will help them extract information they consider useful in neutralizing threats, can we really expect them to refrain? If we really wanted the Geneva convention to be respected, would we hand over the prison guarding to people not connected to U.S. military or U.S. intelligence operations?

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Postby Magill » Mon May 10, 2004 10:23 am

I find the whole argument that some of our soldiers "didn't know" what they were doing was wrong to be bullshit.

In college, one of my roommates was in the National Guard (her schooling got interrupted twice so she could be sent to Kuwait). She used to let me go through her military pamphlets, and I found one that was very explicit about the rules of the Geneva Convention and also that a soldier was not obligated to follow the orders of a superior officer if they were contrary to that document.

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Postby Dennis » Mon May 10, 2004 10:32 am

The Geneva Convention and the Code of Conduct is taught from the very begining of Boot Camp. There is no excuse for what happaned in that prison. It was a clear breakdown of basic leadership and discipline. We should expect the rules to be followed because they are taught so well and ground in from the begining. We should expect MP's to understand the rules even better from their advanced training. There is a reason that duties are seperated in the military. The MP's who detain the EPW's (Enemy Prisoners of War, POW are our guys that the other side holds, EPW's are the guys we capture and hold) are not the ones who capture them and might have a reason to be pissed at them. The Military Intelligence folks are just supposed to deal in the interrogations NOT the detention aspect. By seperating the duties and roles, breakdowns should not happen. Here it appears that the leadership allowed a breakdown of the separation of the MI and MP duties. If the system is run and adhered tothe way it is supposed to be, these problems will not happen.

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Postby Dennis » Mon May 10, 2004 10:37 am

Magill wrote:I find the whole argument that some of our soldiers "didn't know" what they were doing was wrong to be bullshit.

In college, one of my roommates was in the National Guard (her schooling got interrupted twice so she could be sent to Kuwait). She used to let me go through her military pamphlets, and I found one that was very explicit about the rules of the Geneva Convention and also that a soldier was not obligated to follow the orders of a superior officer if they were contrary to that document.
Totally agree, they have no excuse. If they were ordered to do what they did they should have rufused, and as MP's they would have been trained to know that it was wrong. If they were on their own just "messing around" they should have known that not only what they did was wrong, but EVERY SERVICEMAN/WOMAN knows that taking pictures of EPW's/POW's is strictly forbidden! A order from higher ups easily implicates the leadership of the unit in the crimes, but even without giving the order, the lack of supervision to stop such an occurance shows a serious dereliction of duty.

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Postby jammybastard » Tue May 11, 2004 9:42 pm

yes, it is inevitable.

You don't pull out a the heavy artillery unless you are prepared for the consequences. There hasn't been a war fought that hasn't had it share of rape, torture, humilation and ultimately death. That's why it's war.

The problem here of course is the present "war" (and it's never officially been declared one by Act of Congress) was never viewed by it's planners as anything more as a police action or simple excursion and was illegal, immoral, and unjust to begin with.

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Postby NathanAllen » Wed May 12, 2004 8:39 am

If the chain of command is working then it's not possible.

Officers are responsible for the actions of men and women beneath them.

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Postby Henry Vilas » Wed May 12, 2004 8:49 am

NathanAllen wrote:If the chain of command is working then it's not possible.

Officers are responsible for the actions of men and women beneath them.

Unfortunately there is a separate chain of command for military intelligence and they are basically unaccountable for their actions.

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Postby Dennis » Wed May 12, 2004 10:57 am

Henry Vilas wrote:
NathanAllen wrote:If the chain of command is working then it's not possible.

Officers are responsible for the actions of men and women beneath them.

Unfortunately there is a separate chain of command for military intelligence and they are basically unaccountable for their actions.
Yep someone messed up by messing witht he system. Keep the system intact and you won't have these problems. This was a case of morons coming in contact with piss poor leadership.

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Postby snoqueen » Wed May 12, 2004 8:09 pm

The Bush Administration created an environment that made the Geneva Convention and other international standards appear irrelevant. They found a loophole that left the Guantanamo detainees with no rights of appeal or due process at all, declaring them virtually non-persons. They also refused to participate in the creation of the ICC, probably figuring it would cramp their style since they had no intention of following any standards but their own anyway.

Rumsfeld admits he had lawyers go over the instructions he issued for prisoner (mis)treatment to be sure they arguably fit the letter of the law in cases to which he couldn't find an exemption. That's like when Ford has their lawyers go over the instruction manuals for their cars to catch any loopholes under which people could sue when the cars catch fire or come apart at high speeds.

The intent of the Geneva Convention was not to create classes of people protected under the law and other classes who are fair game. The intent was to prevent abuse of human beings following the gross horrors and mistreatment of people in World War II. Rumsfeld has treated it like a game and tries to find clever holes in the wording so he can do whatever he wants.

Here's a link to the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/91.htm
It's remarkably readable. I'm no lawyer, but it's hard to see how what's been going on complies with the intent of this document or the spirit in which it was written and signed over 50 years ago.

The kids at Abu Ghraib say they never were schooled in international standards and never received printed material to study. This could be an oversight or it could be a deliberate omission on the grounds the US of A is above having to bother with that folderol. Whether their lack of training was deliberate or accidental, they were left without a moral compass and we cannot be surprised they showed no respect for common standards of decency. The Administration set them a fine example.

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Postby Dennis » Thu May 13, 2004 8:02 am

snoqueen wrote:The Bush Administration created an environment that made the Geneva Convention and other international standards appear irrelevant. They found a loophole that left the Guantanamo detainees with no rights of appeal or due process at all, declaring them virtually non-persons. They also refused to participate in the creation of the ICC, probably figuring it would cramp their style since they had no intention of following any standards but their own anyway.

Rumsfeld admits he had lawyers go over the instructions he issued for prisoner (mis)treatment to be sure they arguably fit the letter of the law in cases to which he couldn't find an exemption. That's like when Ford has their lawyers go over the instruction manuals for their cars to catch any loopholes under which people could sue when the cars catch fire or come apart at high speeds.

The intent of the Geneva Convention was not to create classes of people protected under the law and other classes who are fair game. The intent was to prevent abuse of human beings following the gross horrors and mistreatment of people in World War II. Rumsfeld has treated it like a game and tries to find clever holes in the wording so he can do whatever he wants.

Here's a link to the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/91.htm
It's remarkably readable. I'm no lawyer, but it's hard to see how what's been going on complies with the intent of this document or the spirit in which it was written and signed over 50 years ago.

The kids at Abu Ghraib say they never were schooled in international standards and never received printed material to study. This could be an oversight or it could be a deliberate omission on the grounds the US of A is above having to bother with that folderol. Whether their lack of training was deliberate or accidental, they were left without a moral compass and we cannot be surprised they showed no respect for common standards of decency. The Administration set them a fine example.
The "kids" were rangeing from PFC's to Sgt.First Class, aged 21-40somethings. Don't tell me you believe they were unaware of the Geneva Convention, it is taught in boot camp and stressed in basic Military Police School, they knew all about it, i have no idea what sort of reason they are using to deny it but as MP's they knew the rules. Little PFC England might not have had the more indepth training on the subject as those others with MP as an MOS, but she had the basic understanding of it from boot camp. There is no excuse for this conduct, and no evidence yet that any orders came from above the brigade level that the rules should have been ignored.

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Postby roguequijote » Wed May 19, 2004 12:45 am

Dennis wrote:There is a reason that duties are seperated in the military. The MP's who detain [Enemy Prisoners of War] are not the ones who capture them and might have a reason to be pissed at them. The Military Intelligence folks are just supposed to deal in the interrogations NOT the detention aspect. By seperating the duties and roles, breakdowns should not happen. Here it appears that the leadership allowed a breakdown of the separation of the MI and MP duties. If the system is run and adhered to the way it is supposed to be, these problems will not happen.

I understand the separation that exists on paper. Ultimately, though, the chains of command merge. Everyone answers to the President. The soldiers in this story answer to Rumsfeld and the Secretary of the Army. The accused also answer to General Abizad. To do his job in war time, each of these men must give orders that will result in the accidental killing of innocent, unarmed bystanders as well as armed opponents. The commanders are bright, capable men who thoroughly understand the intellectual distinctions between armed opponents in combat and unarmed prisoners. The commanders know what the rules are and how to apply them. The military mentality positively requires them to regard human rights rules as obstacles to navigate around rather than primary objectives to defend at all costs. If I know that my captors were more than willing to kill me on the battle field with little or no thought, I cannot expect them to guard my life as sacred once I am captured. To me, it seems to require a remarkable feat of doublethink to truly believe that a commander can be effective in defeating an enemy on the battle field and equally effective in guarding human rights.

Sure, boot camp may tell you that you are required to disobey any order that would violate the Geneva Convention. The bulk of the military experience places much more emphasis on following orders and conforming to group norms. Questioning authority and standing out in a crowd are not highly desireable traits in the military. We cannot rely on military commanders or their subordinates to guard human rights. If we really wanted the Geneva Convention observed, we would put the prisons under the supervision of someone who is not subordinate to a commander or a commander in chief who must be able to order military attacks.

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Postby sims » Wed May 19, 2004 11:15 am

Actually, it IS inevitable. Check this out...
http://www.prisonexp.org/

I would like to believe that I'm incapable of committing such horrible acts, but research shows I (and you) probably would have done the same thing.


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