With the Abu Gharib scandal widening rapidly (at least the available public knowledge), count me as one of the first to suggest that a May 19 trial date (ten days from now), is just a little bit too soon:
Stung by a worldwide outcry, the U.S. military Sunday announced the first court-martial in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse allegations, ordering a reservist to face a public trial in Baghdad on May 19.
Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits of Hyndman, Pa., a member of the 372nd Military Police Company, will face a military court less than a month after photos of prisoners being abused and humiliated were first broadcast April 28.
Both the speed of the trial’s scheduling and the venue in the Iraqi capital underscore the military’s realization that it must demonstrate resolve in prosecuting those responsible for a scandal that threatens to undermine the U.S. mission in Iraq and President Bush’s re-election chances.
The abuse appears to have been deeper and more systemic than most of usinitially thought, and I am not ready to start throwing soldiers overboard without all the facts available.
While I am at it, I do believe that this was systemic- soldiers do not behave this way without tacit approval from superiors, so let’s not focus on the small fish and forget the bigger picture- including this specialist. I agree with many aspects of this piece, but Mark Kleiman says it better:
The temptation will be to blame a small group of people and charge them with brutality. Yes, individuals should be held accountable for what they do. But a democracy cannot content itself with pushing blame downward.
Let me also note two things- there is some rot here, but I would hope that people will recognize the differences between the actions that occurred here and the wider US military. It can not be repeated enough that this does not reflect the true attitudes of most soldiers in the military.
Second, can we please stop with the Nazi comparisons? This abuse is shocking- it is painful to look at the pictures, like being punched in the gut and embarassed and deeply ashamed at the same time. I might also add that one of next reactions was one of fear- how many soldiers are going to die because of this?
Few (I am sure examples can be found) would attempt to diminish how wrong this behavior was, but it is not diminishing the magnitude of the evil to suggest that this is not Nazi-like behavior, nor was it on par with the fascist Ba’athist system of rule by torture, rape, and murder. Anyone who claims that this is Nazi-like behavior has no sense of the deep-seated, inhumane cruelty and total indifference towards human life and dignity that the Nazi’s andthe Ba’athist had as the centerpiece of their apparatuses to maintain political control.
What I find most amusing about the “Nazi” comparisons is that they come from predominantly liberal commenters, which is rather peculiar. As a conservative, I do not think I am mis-stating facts or history when I note that in modern history, it has been the liberals who often times have had a rather distinguished record on human rights issues, with the exceptions occurring only when their recognition of the sanctity and importance of human rights interferes with their fetish for socialist and communist dictatorships and governments. Even then, however, exceptions can be found. I don’t think many would argue with my assertion that few people did more to end the former Soviet Union than Lane Kirkland, who I do not think will be mistaken as a rock-ribbed conservative.
In short, liberals have a proud tradition of being on the right side of many civil and human rights issues, and should know better than to wantonly throw about the Nazi label.