York Times editorial published on May 5th and entitled 'The
Torture Photos' begins with the following words. "It seems
gloomily possible that in years to come, when people in the
Middle East recall the invasion of Iraq, they will speak not
of lost American lives or the toppling of a brutal dictator.
The most enduring image of the occupation may be those pictures
of grinning American soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners."
I don't know who the author of this piece is, because the Times
on-line edition doesn't include the name of the author... maybe
the print edition does, but I don't actually pay to read this
sort of tripe, so I wouldn't know. Be that as it may, while
the author could be one of several people on the editorial staff,
the individual responsible for its publication is the editorial
page editor, Gail Collins, so I will treat her as if she actually
Ms. Collins asserts
that the people of the Middle East may have stronger remembrances
of images of American soldiers "torturing" Iraqi prisoners
than lost American lives. In the first place, let me just point
out that it's highly unlikely American sacrifices will ever
be their primary concern, no matter what happens in Iraq. Oh,
they may well remember the deaths of our soldiers, but I doubt
those memories will be accompanied by a sense of regret or sadness
on the part of most Middle Easterners.
Secondly, anyone who looks back on this time in history and
gives these few isolated incidents of abuse by Americans a superordinate
place in their memory, above the multitude of other events surrounding
the invasion and rebuilding of Iraq, is not someone who's opinion
I very much value. While the incidents in question are not something
I condone, when one compares them to the countless atrocities
perpetrated by our enemies against both coalition troops and
innocent civilians alike, I find it difficult to feel lasting
sympathy for the enemy prisoners who were mistreated.
Sure, it shouldn't
have happened, and the people responsible should be punished,
but let's not forget who we're talking about here. The victims
of this abuse were un-uniformed enemy combatants, who were caught
fighting on the side of Saddamite guerillas and terrorists!
Do I need to remind this woman what these people are all about
or the sort of acts they are capable of committing?
The article continues
with the assertion that such potential abuses by our soldiers
were things that "the Bush administration should have worried
about long ago, and taken far more care to avert." Excuse
me, but I think this administration has had a few more pressing
concerns than the welfare of our enemies up to this point. Clearly
it is not the policy of the United States to abuse prisoners
of war, but the fact remains that it happens. It has happened
in every military conflict in world history and it will continue
to happen in the future. Heck, even John Kerry admitted to committing
war atrocities during his short tour in Vietnam. The dynamics
involved aren't too hard to wrap your brain around. You see,
soldiers HATE THEIR ENEMIES! Sometimes that hatred overwhelms
people in high stress situations, and they act out in unprofessional
and even contemptible ways.
President Bush is
not responsible for the wrongful acts of these individuals.
They knew damned well that what they were doing was wrong, and
even the claim by some that they were ordered to commit these
acts does not excuse them from responsibility. No soldier is
compelled to carry out an illegal order. Everyone of them knows
that, and frankly, the soldiers in the photographs which started
this whole controversy don't look like they were acting under
duress. In fact, they look downright pleased with themselves.
Should the president have drafted an order to every man and
woman in the military reiterating the rules of prisoner treatment,
even though they are all aware of those rules?
At some point you
have to leave soldiers alone to do the jobs they have been trained
for. When one of them screws up, you punish them and move on.
What you don't do is run around pointing the finger at everyone
else for the misdeeds of that individual. Unless it is clear
that someone of a higher rank ordered them to commit a crime,
they alone are responsible for what they do. Of course, the
concept of personal responsibility doesn't sit well with the
liberal media. People like Gail Collins seem to think that the
president should be held accountable for what a small percentage
of soldiers do. That's sort of like blaming Bill Gates when
your local computer store salesman overcharges you for the latest
version of Windows.
Ms. Collins also
remarks in her article that Bush has characterized the incidents
in question as "the aberrant work of a handful of men and
women", although as many as 20 investigations into abuse
claims are currently underway in Iraq and Afghanistan. Considering
the fact that we're talking about a fighting force of around
150,000 soldiers, I'd say that the president's portrayal of
these events is pretty accurate. A larger percentage of college
students commit serious crimes every year than our soldiers
in the field do, if these numbers are any measure.
I also noticed that
Ms. Collins questioned the veracity of Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld when he stated that accusations of a cover-up
were unfounded. While she admits the military announced to the
public in January that it was investigating prisoner of war
abuse claims, Collins seems to be under the impression that
because she and her Bush-hating cronies at the New York Times
were not given specifics about these cases, Rummy has been trying
to pull a fast one. Perhaps it never occurred to her that allegations
of abuse, primarily by terrorists and their sympathizers, does
not mean that such acts actually took place in most of those
cases, and that prematurely releasing sensitive information
about these investigations might unnecessarily inflame the already
unstable situation in Iraq.
In the final paragraph
of her editorial, Gail Collins goes so far as to say that the
Bush administration has been "cheerfully denying"
that it has made miscalculations concerning it's execution of
the war. This sort of rhetoric is just plain idiotic. Suggesting
that the president or any person in his administration has behaved
in some way other than seriously when it comes to addressing
the countless life and death issues surrounding the war in Iraq
is childish at best. It's just another cheap shot taken at the
president for political reasons by a person with no viable point
of view and no sense of decency.
Edward L. Daley is the owner of The
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