General Sanchez has indeed, to
our great non-surprise, been found guilty of authorizing abuses of prisoners
at Abu Ghraib, yet marvelously innocent of having anything to do with those
Mr. Sanchez has been freed by Mr. Bush's Pentagon of any responsibility for
the brutal and bizarre tortures and killings made possible by the good general's
decisions. Why? Because, poor thing, the devil made him do it:
"Gen. Sanchez, who commanded U.S. troops in Iraq until the summer of
2004, authorized tougher interrogation techniques during a brief period in September
2003 during which the abuses are alleged to have been carried out. But the inspector
general's report says it has found no evidence that he was guilty of dereliction
of duty. Among the mitigating circumstances it lists:
Initially, U.S. military command was short of senior officers
Gen. Sanchez had to focus on an upsurge of insurgent violence
He was under pressure to find ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein."
Brass Cleared Over Iraq Abuse," April 23, 2005
As the Church
Lady would say, "Well isn't that convenient?" Yes, it does
smack of yet another moral-relativism whitewash, doesn't it? But lest we be
unfair in holding military officers accountable to the same laws, regulations,
and moral standards to which low-ranking GIs are held, let's examine these "mitigating
circumstances" with a sympathetic eye:
"Initially, U.S. military command was short of senior officers."
We are given to understand that staff shortages forced Gen. Sanchez to authorize
"tougher" (torture) interrogation techniques. Poor little thing,
he couldn't be expected to make ethical decisions when he didn't have enough
senior officers available!
"Gen. Sanchez had to focus on an upsurge of insurgent violence."
Sure, torture violates long-standing human-rights law and what used to be
the American conscience, but gee golly gosh, he had to "focus"
on upsurges of insurgence and so forth – surely we can't expect a high-ranking
military officer to stick to the law under those conditions?
"He was under pressure to find ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein."
Now we get to the heart of the matter: Gen. Sanchez was "under pressure,"
and that's why he had to authorize torture. We all know what peer pressure
can do to good kids and generals. Gen. Sanchez would never have authorized
torturous abuses of helpless prisoners if not for that darned peer pressure!
"Pictures of Iraqi inmates abused by U.S. soldiers caused an outcry
last year. Five U.S. soldiers have been convicted."
Brass Cleared Over Iraq Abuse"
Let us now examine the lessons learned from this
exoneration of Gen. Sanchez and his three top aides, made possible by the Bush
administration's military moral relativism. Current and incoming soldiers,
please take note: You may need this later on, when you find yourself getting
blamed for carrying out orders, suggestions and hints made by your commanding
Mitigating circumstance #1 shows us that we can't expect military personnel
to abide by military regulations, international law, and human rights standards
whenever they feel that staffing levels are inadequate.
Mitigating circumstance #2 teaches us that military personnel can make
up the rules as they go, so long as they feel they must focus on upsurges
of violence and the like.
Mitigating circumstance #3 demonstrates that military personnel cannot be
held accountable for immoral, unethical, and/or illegal decisions/conduct
in situations where they feel under pressure to achieve a particular goal.
While none of this is taught at boot camp, it's the way things really work
in today's military. Military men and women should be aware of the fact that,
as long as they're not low-ranking, promoting torture and violating international
law can be quite helpful to their careers.
"'What this decision unfortunately continues is a pattern of exoneration
and indeed promotion for many of the individuals at the heart of the torture
scandal,' said Amnesty International spokesman Alistair Hodgett."
Brass Cleared Over Iraq Abuse"
But to escape all accountability and maybe even get a torture promotion, military
personnel must first make a good case for believable "pressures" that
made them do it. As mentioned earlier, peer pressure is always a winner. So
are pressures to accomplish things. Ditto with pressures caused by staffing
However, not all pressures will work for GIs who take the blame for wrongdoing
suggested or ordered from above. For instance, the pressure of having to follow
strange, illicit, or illegal orders won't get much sympathy when
the top brass have made sure they'll be protected by expendable scapegoats.
Neither will it work to note that one's higher-ups merely suggested
that abuse is okay or admirable, even if that's exactly what they did. Top commanders
know very well that statements promoting violence against prisoners can be expressed
privately, encouraging low-ranking soldiers to be particularly brutal and inhumane,
with no repercussions whatsoever:
"[L]t. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez allegedly said of the detainees, 'Why are
we detaining these people, we should be killing them.' The unidentified soldier
who reported the comment added that it 'contributed to a command climate' where
'deeds not consistent with military standards would be tolerated if not condoned.'"
Released Army Documents Point to Agreement Between Defense Department and CIA
on 'Ghost' Detainees," March 10, 2005
America's young people, within the military and without, are learning from
Mr. Bush and his stage-managed administration how to look righteous and escape
all accountability. Whenever his violence-prone enforcers are caught doing something
dreadful and/or illegal, George simply praises the evildoers all the more passionately,
pointing out to us numbskulls what a great men they are. When the Bush administration
agrees with religious values, they shout it from the rooftops. But when actual
religion gets in the way of what they want, they shrug off the conflict by noting
that the they must make "hard
choices" – choices such as killing tens of thousands of people, or
torturing prisoners of war, that sweet-but-unrealistic religious folks can't
be expected to understand.
Bush supporters are told to stop thinking and just have faith – faith not in
God, but in men like Sanchez, Gonzales, and Rumsfeld. Mr. Bush portrays these
men, so dangerous to all of us for the global anti-Americanism their words and
actions arouse, as innocent babes pressured into breaking the law and victimized
by a godless nation of antiwar nuts. What's really tragic is that so many American
kids, in the military and out, are buying it. Our young people – including the
children of conservative Christians – are learning their values from these men
and our exoneration and glorification of their misdeeds.
"'Symbolic conduct' is the term coined by David
Perkins, Ph.D. of Harvard University to describe how our behaviors communicate
our attitudes, assumptions, and values…. [C]hildren read between the lines of
your behavior – your symbolic conduct – to discover your true values and priorities."
on Parenting: 10 Essential Principles That Will Transform Your Family