Friday, January 14, 2005

New Link

I like this group blog, put together by three students in the UCLA history program, each of whom has a different perspective. Besides Chris Bray, who I referred to in my entry on "Here are the type of Conservatives I know", Michael Benson did a good critique of Heather MacDonald's article that I referred to earlier.

Of course, part of what I was doing with MacDonald's article was less a critique, and more an effort to figure out what happened. Once you get past the initial shock, then you have to start putting things together in order to explain it. As time goes by, I find myself more concerned with what happened in Guantanamo than in Abu Ghraib -- as horrifying as that was. But the abuses in Abu Ghraib can be explained by a breakdown in discipline, with untrained people letting their sadistic instincts run free in a situation where they had more prisoners and less supervision than expected, along with the message being passed down that they needed to go beyond Geneva Convention limits with suspected terrorists. (Today's news is that the jury's deliberating on Graner, who is definitely one sick puppy.)

But what's Guantanamo's excuse? I haven't seen a decent explanation for that. MacDonald's article ignores it entirely, even though the abuses went well beyond the kind of "stress techniques" that she was describing. And, as Michael Benson points out, even those techniques, which sound so moderate, can amount to torture if pushed too far. This is supposed to be a well-run prison, with a 1:1 staff-to-prisoner ratio. In some ways, it is scarier to think that a well-disciplined facility, obeying orders, was torturing people than a chaotic place where those soldiers were treating it all like a big, warped party.

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