Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Just Following Orders

Abu Ghurayb Prison has never been a pleasant place. It has a history of atrocity since its inception. Under Saddam Hussein it was a place of vast and vile torture, of flesh and blood being torn from "criminals" of all types and strewn about helter skelter. A grisly place, at best.

Several soldiers of a National Guard military police (MP) unit are being investigated and censured for abuses of enemy combatants being held there. The photographs they took show the disgusting, humiliating scenarios, which the detainees were forced to participate in. It is an abomination of the laws of warfare and needs to be punished - severely. On the flip side, at least their bodies were not charred beyond recognition, beaten while being dragged through the streets and hung from the support rafters of a bridge - but that is another article.

Several of the members of this MP unit are corrections officers back in the land of the Big PX, yet they claim not to have direction or training enough to know this was inappropriate. There are claims these disgusting actions were performed at the direction of intelligence gathering agencies - the soldiers were "just following orders".

Part of a soldiers initial training and yearly continuity training of mission essential tasks consists of treatment of captured enemy combatants (Silence, Segregate, Safeguard). The last paragraph of The Code of Conduct, which is a part of the daily uniform in every command I have been in, states: "I will never forget that I am an American fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free..."

"Just following orders" doesn't wash - orders must be lawful in order to be considered an order at all. Certainly, these soldiers realized an order to place naked prisoners in humiliating positions and then enjoy having their pictures taken with them would be unlawful - especially the professional corrections officers, right?

"Just following orders" is a cop out. The officers, non-commissioned officers and enlisted soldiers who knew what was happening, knew better. Their parents taught them better. Their basic training taught them better. I am certain their MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) training taught them better. This is a group of people who found themselves capable of taking advantage of someone who was weaker than they were and the pictures showed they were enjoying it.

That is not what America stands for!


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