[lit-ideas] Re: What happened at Abu Ghraib?

  • From: John Wager <johnwager@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 13 May 2004 07:31:23 -0500

John McCreery wrote:

>. . . .
>There may be something to the argument that the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld
>doctrine of pre-emptive war and the current administration's contempt
>until bludgeoned over the head for international law and multilateral
>decision making parallels or anticipates the breakdown of moral and
>legal order at Abu Ghraib. There is something, too, to Luc Sante's
>observation that the attitudes displayed in the images we have seen are
>those seen previously in photographs of Southern lynchings. Taguba's
>testimony points, however, in another, equally damaging direction, the
>indifference to detail and isolation of the highest echelons of command
>and control from the feedback needed to be effective--not to mention
>moral and humane.

I was in training for a year before being sent to Vietnam. First 8 weeks
of "basic," then 13 weeks of "advanced infantry training," then six
months of "NCOCS" (Non-Commissioned Officer Candidate School).  In all
of that time, we had at most two hours of "training" on the Geneva
Convention.  It might have been only one hour; my memory is fading. But
it was no more than two hours.

I DO remember our "lesson" in military ethics from Basic Training,
though. It was taught as only an Infantry Drill Sergeant could have
taught it, and it was a perfect lesson, the kind of lesson you use as a
model of how to teach.

One slightly slow trainee inquired of the Drill Instructor if he could
go to the snack bar down the road. This had always been "off limits" to
trainees, reserved ONLY for cadre, with the promise of being able to
perhaps go to the snack bar at the very end of training. But much to
everybody's surprise, the DI said "sure you can go to the snack bar!"
We looked up in surprise, but that was all that was said. Later the
trainee who had asked the question returned, eating the remnants of a
hamburger and a milk shake. The DI saw him and started yelling, making
the trainee throw the food in the trash and start doing push-ups. The DI
told the trainee that the trainee was restricted to the company area for
the next two week-ends, the first week-ends that we would have been able
to go into town.

"But you said I could go" the trainee complained.

"I'm not punishing you for going to the snack bar; I'm punishing you for
getting CAUGHT going to the snack bar!" was the DI's reply.

THAT was my real training in military ethics.

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