Friday, April 30, 2004

Defending The Unspeakable

Here's how they're apparently going to play it:
In neat, handwritten block letters, the son wrote a journal about his Iraq experience and sent a copy to his father.

Sergeant Frederick, who described the abuse Wednesday night on the CBS program 60 Minutes II, says in the journal that he saw Iraqi prisoners placed in intolerable conditions.

"Prisoners were forced to live in damp cool cells," says an entry said to be from January. "MI [Military Intelligence] has also instructed us to place prisoners in an isolation cell with little or no clothes. No toilet or running water, no ventilation or window for as much as three days."

In the journal, Frederick says the unit was in a strange, almost unfathomable land. Like improperly supervised children, he says, members wanted to do their jobs but were uncertain exactly what was expected of them. [...]

"A prisoner with a clearly visible mental condition was shot with non-lethal rounds for standing near the fence singing, when a lesser means of force could have been used," he wrote.
The article nicely sets up the picture of Frederick and the other Army reservists as victims led astray by their own inexperience, following - with reservations - the directions of unscrupulous interrogators, because they hadn't received the training to know any better. The poor troubled kids, huh. Except that the quoted journal entry is from January, which, according to the article, is about the time that other soldiers in the unit were calling home and telling their parents there was going to be trouble.

And a few months before he supposedly wrote this sensitive, compassionate, just-following-orders journal entry, Frederick apparently sent this letter:
"Military intelligence has encouraged and told us 'Great job.' "

"They usually don't allow others to watch them interrogate. But since they like the way I run the prison, they have made an exception."

"We help getting them to talk with the way we handle them. ... We've had a very high rate with our style of getting them to break. They usually end up breaking within hours."
Look at his use of personal pronouns and the active voice there - "the way I run the prison." "We've had a very high rate with our style of getting them to break." It's complete ownership of, and identification with, the situation in the prison. Compare that to the passive voice with which he fails to take responsibility for anything, in the journal he sent his father: "Prisoners were forced..." "A prisoner...was shot..." "MI has instructed us to..." Suddenly he isn't an actor or decision maker. He's not bragging about his authority and style anymore. He's suddenly "like improperly supervised children," not responsible for his own actions.

Sergeant Stryker ain't buying it:
The first rule of a coward, when caught, is to play stupid. The second is to blame someone else. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure I don't need a superior to tell me that attaching wires to someone's genitals or beating the living shit out of them is unacceptable. What are you, a fucking idiot? This guy's supposed to be a correctional officer at a Virginia prison, but apparently when it comes to performing his job outside the confines of the Commonwealth, he turns into Sergeant Stupid. "Duh, What do I do? What do I do? Wow, that translator's raping a prisoner and that soldier over there's taking pictures. I don't know what to do! Help, help, I need an officer!" [...]

wait, did anyone ever tell you that maintaning discipline and standards of conduct is your main charge as an NCO? Did this piece of training slip through the cracks as well? You know, I wear the same uniform. I'm an NCO as well. Not only have you disgraced yourself, your unit, your country and humanity, your actions have disgraced me and everyone else who wears that uniform. Your stupidity, ignorance, and cruelty have stained all of us, because of that uniform we all wear. It's the binding tie that connects not only all of us serving today, but everyone who has ever served and those who will serve in the future. That uniform is stained with the noble blood of those who've fallen in battle for their country, but you have smeared that uniform -my uniform!- with the excrement of malevolent barbarism.
Respectful of Otters' Military Advisory Board ain't buying it either. But unfortunately, as always, some other people are:
"I'm sure there is more than one side of the story, and we don't know all the facts," said Robert Hutcheson, a Cumberland resident and Allegany County commissioner. "In my mind, this is no blemish on their record."

Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 172 in Cumberland was been a strong supporter of the unit at the rally arranged by McClarran-Mizak along the pedestrian mall downtown.

"The little bit I have read about, it seems to me that it is being completely blown out of proportion," said Roger Krueger, who served in Vietnam and is the chapter's president. "When a person is in combat, they have to do whatever they have to do to stay alive."
And sometimes, apparently, when a person is not even remotely close to combat, in order to stay alive they have to take unarmed, helpless, locked-up men, strip them naked at gunpoint, pose them as if they're having oral sex with each other, and take pictures. Who are we to judge, who have not seen the hell that is war?

...Man, Frederick isn't the only one who's disgracing the uniform. I'd like to put Mr. Krueger in a room with Sergeant Stryker for a while.