The NY Times has a big story (and, I might add, a careful one) on the abuse/torture cases and the move to deal swiftly with those charged. Finally, though, they are getting to the question that I am interested in:
Along with other information that has emerged, trial testimony has underscored a question long at the core of this case: what is the responsibility of more senior military personnel for the abuses that took place?
Many former Bagram officers have denied knowing about any serious mistreatment of detainees before the two deaths. But others said some of the methods that prosecutors have cited as a basis for criminal charges, including chaining prisoners to the ceilings of isolation cells for long periods, were either standard practice at the prison or well-known to those who oversaw it.
None of the nine soldiers prosecuted thus far are officers. The 18 others against whom Army investigators have recommended criminal charges include two captains, the military intelligence officer in charge of the interrogation group and the reservist commander of the military police guards.
In the first interview granted by any of the accused soldiers, a former guard charged with maiming and assault said that he and other reservist military policemen were specifically instructed at Bagram how to deliver the type of blows that killed the two detainees, and that the strikes were commonly used when prisoners resisted being hooded or shackled.
“I just don’t understand how, if we were given training to do this, you can say that we were wrong and should have known better,” said the soldier, Pvt. Willie V. Brand, 26, of Cincinnati, a father of four who volunteered for tours in Afghanistan and Kosovo.
In interviews and statements to investigators, soldiers who served at Bagram have at times echoed the defenses offered unsuccessfully by the soldiers charged with abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, saying they were acting on instructions from military intelligence personnel or on the authority of superior officers.
But documents from the Bagram investigation and interviews with military officials suggest that at least some soldiers implicated in the two deaths may be able to make such arguments more forcefully than their counterparts from Abu Ghraib, who were unable to prove any authorization for their actions.
Many of you have stated that you think this is nothing more than the Nuremberg defense, and that the lower level soldiers are the only problem. I am not buying it.
Who’s saying it’s the Nuremberg defense? They’d better be ready for the full Durbin treatment.
Maybe I’m wrong, but there seems to be consistent behavior over multiple theaters of operations. Doesn’t that alone suggest (prove?) the abuse is systematic?
Also, anything post Abu Ghraib could not be justifed. Our govt has said it has made it clear that abusive behavior will not be tolerated. Therefore, no one can claim that they didn’t know it wasn’t okay.
I would be interested if there is research on the effectiveness of torture. This is beyond the moral question, but does it work? Most of the professional military crowd I’ve seen interviewed says it doesn’t. It seems just the armchair military supports it.
It is a tough call on the Nuremberg defense. Way back when I was in the Marines we were told we were obilgated to disobey any order we thought was illegal. But if the order turned out to be legal, then we were pretty much screwed.
One person asked, “Who eventually determines if the order was legal?” the answer…”The military” (so you can see the mindset they wanted to instill on us).
If these people received TRAINING on these techniques then they would be hard-pressed to actually make the decision that these orders were illegal. It is easier to make the call with a ‘shoot the civilian prisoners’ order than an order when training is provided.
Tactics from Gitmo were grafted onto Abu Ghraib at the recommendation of Gitmo’s commandant.
Has the military EVER stood for the proposition that responsibility extends up the chain of command?
I’m only speaking from experience so I could be completely wrong, but from a doctrinaire standpoint the obvious place to start in answering Mr. Cole’s questions would be the relevant Operations Order, its attachments and it’s attached Fragmentary Orders for the detainee facility. The treatment of detainees would be detailed in either the coordinating instructions (for what to do with them when a unit takes a detainee), but for all I know detainee treatment at a standing facility for their incarceration is in a separate appendix. The problem with getting that information is that the OPORD and all of its parts are sensitive material, so how do you get an independent agency permission to look at the relevant documents without compromising security? As it is, would critics of detainee practices be satisfied with only internal investigations?
The other area of inquiry that seems to be providing cover for all relevant parties is command & control. Does MI have the authority/duty to recommend tactics in the handling of detainees? The possibility of non-DA sources being involved in detainee treatment (such as the CIA) suggests that the relevant policies might be described in memoranda outside the OPORD. The same sensitivity issue related to the OPORD would still apply to memoranda.
Geek, the answer is sometimes.
The examples that I can come up with right off-hand are Navy, but that just might be my bias showing ;)
Not too long ago a Navy ship ran aground. IIRC, the CO got the boot. When that sub sunk the Japanese shipping boat, the CO again got the boot.
That is all I can come up with.
Terry A. Ward
At least at Nuremberg, the officers were prosecuted.
If you are interested in the “maybe torture works” argument, try “The Interrogators.” Through out the book you can see his ideas morphing until the final chapter.
This is not saying I endorse this in any way.
Also, keep in mind they probably prosecute the lower guys first in order to “roll up” to the officers. At least that’s how they do it in NY State.
I think torture does not work. Why engage in something disgusting that will fail?
The Daily Show had a short blurb with Bill O’Reilly explaining about torture to Sen. John McCain.
That is the same thing I was thinking/hopeing.
I really like the interest you all show in The WOT. Ideals are great, but when you focus on the past, the enemy just moves around you. If you don’t understand that Islam sees no place for non-believers all is lost already. Condeming imperfection while ignoring true atrocities is intellectual masterbation. As Ed says don’t lose site of the target, only it’s already on your back.
Feel free to rip away.
Not “ripping away,” WTF, but allow me to point something out:
If you don’t understand that Islam sees no place for non-believers all is lost already.
I’ve been reading the Qur’an lately (haven’t gotten far), and this is simply not accurate. “People of the Book” (Jews & Christians) are sources of frustration to Muhammed, but there’s no question that they are wayward siblings, not “infidels.” We worship the correct God but fail to understand the true nature of his emissaries, particularly Jesus (prophet, not God) and Muhammed.
Accepting the notions about Islam of Osama and his ilk is showing them a respect which they do not deserve.
And of course, try substituting “Christianity” for “Islam” in the above. Lots of supporting evidence, both scriptural and historical.
Anderson, I’m not sure WTF isn’t in favor of substituting “Christianity” for “Islam” there. He sees no place for Muslims, after all, and perhaps he thinks of himself as Christian while he’s calling for genocide.