A friend of mine came across this documentary and passed along the link. I’m studying Middle Eastern history as my major, so he thought it would be relevant to my interests. It’s 79 minutes and the audio gets steadily further and further out of sync with the video, but hey, it’s free, and it’s worth the information you’ll glean from it.
What I saw in this video is nothing more than what I expected. I have little faith in the US government anymore. I mean, seriously. They can’t fix our economy. They can’t stop giving tax breaks to huge corporations. They can’t take care of Americans. They can’t do anything but blow up other countries to hide their own deficiencies. It also bothers me how caught up most people are in glorifying war and the military in this country. I think Americans are losing sight of what this country is supposed to be about. War isn’t a destination. War was a means of achieving a free society where people have inviolable rights. All people. Not just the ones we like. War is not glorious, and just because someone is from another country, they don’t lose their human rights. They’re still human beings. Why would we take someone for whom we have no evidence of wrongdoing and then treat them worse than we treat serial murderers, rapists and child molesters in the US?
I can understand the situation that was created in these prisons and it’s completely absurd to blame the front-line soldiers. In the military, there’s a whole other culture, distinct from regular American culture, and there’s a separate legal system and even a different way of thinking about things. For the most part, you do what you’re told, even when things start to spiral into the absurd, because that’s what you get trained to do: follow orders. When soldiers question orders, they’re reprimanded, disciplined and sometimes humiliated in front of their peers. They can lose pay, rank or status. So, there’s a lot of pressure to just follow orders, and I’m sure first-hand experience with public humiliation makes it easier to take the first step towards severe humiliation of prisoners whom your told have no rights and are something less than human.
So, things just get done because that’s what was ordered, and because everyone else is doing it. What I’m describing is just based on what I remember from my experiences in non-combat units. I can’t imagine the added pressures involved in dealing with people that you’re told are enemy combatants. This whole situation seems like something Stephen King would have cooked up for a horror novel, rather than reality. In the end, though, the unit commander should be ultimately responsible for the actions of the unit, both good and bad. A common saying in the Army is that “shit rolls downhill,” meaning from the top of the chain-of-command to the bottom, but it should also roll back up when something goes wrong like this.
Instead of trying to find ways to justify unwarranted violence and illegal torture, our politicians should be finding ways to stop blowing up other countries, defend our own, and fix our financial issues.