Sunday, January 16, 2005

Following Orders

Graner is claiming that he followed orders when he was torturing prisoners, and that he complained repeatedly about it. To me, it's important to find out if this is true, and how far up the ladder it went. Was he told just to "soften up" prisoners in a general way, or was he told to do things like make the prisoners masturbate, or to sic dogs on them? Who knew and approved that this was going on? According to the army report, Karpinski didn't have a clue, and it primarily condemns her for negligence, not for approving or encouraging abuse.

I find it hard to believe that Graner was doing this reluctantly; he's just making excuses for himself. Even if he is a fall guy, it's tough to feel sorry for him. If you really feel that something is wrong, then you don't just say "Yes, sir" and keep it going. After all, the whole reason we know about this is that someone with a conscience leaked the photos.

It looks to me like an environment was created where the prison staff felt that they could get away with virtually anything, since these prisoners were supposed to be given a rough time -- and it's that vague green-light that higher-ups should be held responsible for, but they probably won't be.

Word on the street is that
Iraqis feel the sentence was too lenient
, and that he should be on the receiving end of the kind of torture he dished out, or even be given the death penalty. On an emotional level, that's completely understandable, but when law and order reigns, Americans don't get to do stuff like that. Ten years in a military prison is no picnic anyway; I think prisoners still do hard labor in those places.


Anonymous said...

Hi Karen,

The top news story in Britain at the moment is about three soldiers who are being court-martialled for prisoner abuse. They too are offering the "just following orders" line. I'm less inclined to believe this than in the American case - unlike in the Bush administration, Blair is not known for promoting people who think the Geneva conventions are "quaint", in fact, I think he quite likes the UN. So it's curious to imagine how some similar abuses could have gone on in the British controlled zones to those at Abu Graib.

Maybe, as the trial continues we might find out some more about what happened...


Karen said...

Thank you, Paul. I've been thinking the same: It doesn't seem plausible that for non-American troops to be doing the same kinds of things to prisoners would be entirely accidental. Somehow, the idea migrated that this was o.k., or was necessary to handle prisoners suspected of being terrorists or insurgents. I need to look into further, before I say more than that.