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Sunday, May 09, 2004

New Hersh. (nuts, there goes my hiatus)

The article details how Rumsfeld's changes to the "philosophy" of the military trickled down to, and were ultimately responsible for, Abu Ghraib abuses. Rumsfeld doctrine -- smaller number of troops, increased reliance on contractors, taking more chances. Hersh's article outlines the four steps to creating an Abu Ghraib situation:

1.) Prison understaffed
2.) Untrained reservists taking over duties for which they have little or no training
3.) MI officials trusting that untrained reservists can correctly "soften up" prisoners
4.) “we had call-up orders that languished for thirty or forty days in the office of the Secretary of Defense.” Rumsfeld’s staff always seemed to be waiting for something to turn up—for the problem to take care of itself, without any additional troops. The official explained, “They were hoping that they wouldn’t have to make a decision.", or wishful thinking.

It's a fairly potent refutation of the Rumsfeld doctrine, and taken in context with the rest of Rumsfeld's "portfolio" (the looting, Fallujah, porous borders, etc.) it forms a strong case that Rumsfeld's changes to the military should be scrapped. Some lightening of forces is good, but a full-blown occupation of another country requires substantial amounts of troops, well beyond the 135,000 in Iraq. The article talks about the disdain Rumsfeld has for uniformed Pentagon officials, and how he feels that nothing will get done using their methods.

Some other interesting quotes from the article:

'Not everybody went along. A company captain in a military-police unit in Baghdad told me last week that he was approached by a junior intelligence officer who requested that his M.P.s keep a group of detainees awake around the clock until they began talking. “I said, ‘No, we will not do that,’” the captain said. “The M.I. commander comes to me and says, ‘What is the problem? We’re stressed, and all we are asking you to do is to keep them awake.’ I ask, ‘How? You’ve received training on that, but my soldiers don’t know how to do it. And when you ask an eighteen-year-old kid to keep someone awake, and he doesn’t know how to do it, he’s going to get creative.’” The M.I. officer took the request to the captain’s commander, but, the captain said, “he backed me up".'

An interesting bit about the treatment of John Walker Lindh, note the interesting idea hatched by one of the soldiers:

'. . . Another told Mr. Lindh that he was ‘going to hang’ for his actions and that after he was dead, the soldiers would sell the photographs [Lindh was subjected to treatment similar to that which occured in Abu Ghraib] and give the money to a Christian organization.'

We get, also, a contrasting tale of two Major Generals -- Antonio Taguba (whose report is public and condemns the actions at Abu Ghraib), and Donald Ryder (whose report is classified and finds no wrongdoing among the MPs):

'Ryder may have protected himself, but Taguba did not. “He’s not regarded as a hero in some circles in the Pentagon,” a retired Army major general said of Taguba. “He’s the guy who blew the whistle, and the Army will pay the price for his integrity. The leadership does not like to have people make bad news public.”'

Update: I strongly suspect that there will be an effort to try to hold responsibility for this mess to the lower-level officers. I hope, really hope, that folks don't get diverted by the trials of those who actually participated in the torture -- in a modern military with a rigid command structure, these guys were just following orders. Already the media is turning its attention away from the larger picture and focusing on those who participated and their lack of training. It's the head of the chicken that needs to be cut off, not the feet.

Andrew 9:23 PM : |


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