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There's a nasty thought that's been stuck in my mind over the past… - John [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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[May. 5th, 2004|10:30 am]
There's a nasty thought that's been stuck in my mind over the past few days regarding the abuse of prisoners in Iraq. That thought is that the situation for abuse of prisoners was made ripe by a set of ideas and attitudes that have been handed around unquestioningly already.

In Guantanemo Bay, we're holding some 600 people, and used to hold another 150. People have proudly bragged about the shitty things being done to try to 'break' them for interrogation. We've heard stories about people picked up by the police and FBI, and questioned using similar techniques. And, those few people who've spoken up against this have been, for the most part, shouted down because, after all, a group of hateful people managed to murder nearly 3,000 people.

Because US intelligence and law enforcement was caught bareassed, it's okay to grab people, treat them like shit, and not worry about whether or not what we're doing is right. No, because the people in charge of intelligence and law enforcement fucked up, we should trust those fuckups without any oversight, without any checks on their power, because *WE ARE FIGHTING THE BAD GUYS*... even if the specific people that we have in custody don't happen to *be* the bad guys, as we know has happened about 20% of the time, and *that* is with people siezed on the battlefield... let's not even talk about how many visitors to the US (some of whom, admittedly, had violations of their visas... but some of them were technical violations that no one would have cared about pre-9/11) were unjustly targetted, because we'll never find out.

Okay, okay, I'm getting a little too testy to write clearly, but, see, that's what's going on.

Granted, we're fighting the bad guys, or at least trying to. But that doesn't excuse being nasty to anyone and everyone who might have information we want. It doesn't mean throwing our principles of fairness and justice out the window.

And that's what happens when we trust any entity's judgement, without oversight and without any check on its power.

It doesn't matter if there's no malice involved; it doesn't take malice to cause unfairness or injustice. All it takes are mistakes, and mistakes are easy when you must be predisposed to take a certain viewpoint. The administration is not going to take a chance of letting someone go unless they are sure the person is "safe"; that means that they need someone to provide oversight, and bring them back to reality, and remind them that the law of large numbers *demands* unusual coincidences from time to time.

But anyway: the administration has insisted on the power to detain anyone, for any reason, without any check on its power, and people have bragged that we can do some pretty shitty things to those we've detained, though, of course, these do not amount to "torture", because they only touch on the fine line between legal and illegal methods... they don't cross over it, at least, not in the opinion of those who have no oversight, and no check on their power.

Okay, now, put alll that together, and is it any surprise that, after the Iraqis are pushed as being the moral equivalent of Al Quaeda, that some of our soldiers take the administration's views to heart?

"They are the bad guys; we try to break the bad guys, and wring any information we can from them, doing some pretty shitty things to them in the process". The soldiers' own words indicate that they were sometimes pushed towards some of these actions by interrogators.

I believe I can hear a certain style of conservative brain[1] working now - don't work it too hard, mate! you got to build up to these things! - and I can guess what the response is going to be. "Typical liberal; nothing is anyone's fault."

No. See, that's the thing. I'm saying that it's been wrong all along; I'm saying that the Bush administration is doing wrong in their declarations of who is, or isn't, an enemy combatant, and who is, or isn't, to be held without any rights at Guantanemo Bay. I'm saying that they've been trumpetting that as right and good for so long that it's not surprising if they've led some people down the wrong path in another circumstance as well.

I guess, in the end, what bugs me about this is that it's going to become about certain specific soldiers who did something wrong, and energy won't be directed towards attacking the real poison that caused this. It's not going to remind people that there's a reason we have to fight to make sure we're treating all people properly, and that the bleeding hearts calling for oversight and checks on power are doing so because this is exactly what they've been worried would happen, sooner or later.

[1] Please note, when I referred to "a certain style of conservative brain", I was referring to specifically that... not "conservtives" nor "conservatism", but a certain type of stupid person with a certain set of political beliefs.

[User Picture]From: tsjafo
2004-05-05 05:50 pm (UTC)

Questioning authority is everyone's responsibility

And that's what happens when we trust any entity's judgement, without oversight and without any check on its power.

And that has been one of the strengths of this country, the fact that we question authority. It isn't a perfect form of government, but it is not yet fatal or illegal (in the main) to speak up, to ask questions, to require that someone answers. We see Americans committing atrocities and we call them to account. We need to do so much more often, admittedly, but we do hold people accountable.

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[User Picture]From: kightp
2004-05-05 06:16 pm (UTC)

Re: Questioning authority is everyone's responsibility

Certain recent government actions - the USA Patriot (*spit*) Act, for one example - are gradually making it feel riskier and riskier to question authority. Ask the wrong questions, about the wrong authorities, and wind up in "detention" yourself.

I also fear that the current prisoner abuse scandal may reflect some fundamentally ugly things about our culture and the kind of attitudes it engenders in its young men and women, regardless of whether they're in the military. I find it deeply distressing that any young American would consider sexual humiliation to be an appropriate interrogation tool, regardless of what they remembered or didn't remember about their training in the rules of war and the Geneva Convention.
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[User Picture]From: tsjafo
2004-05-05 07:01 pm (UTC)

Re: Questioning authority is everyone's responsibility

I think of the USA Patriot act would be more appropriately titled the "AntiAmerican" act. I know the Supreme Court is considering the President's supposed right to incarcerate anyone without charges, without counsel, without timelimits and without rights of any kind, but to me that should be a no-brainer. Either the system works and we allow it to work, with full rights and protections, or we become just another dictatorship subject to the whims of a petty tyrant.

I saw a cartoon that showed someone playing a virtual reality game saying that VR was an excellent teaching and training tool, but violent VR games were just good fun. I gotta wonder.
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[User Picture]From: wolfette
2004-05-05 06:17 pm (UTC)

we've all met the comments on the internet..

"they're just barbarians - buncha towelheads".

and with that we (though I don't mean you personally, John, or me, or any of our friends) set the stage for things like this to happen.

We reduce the "enemy" to less than human.

And you can bet the Iraqis have heard these comments and others like them, time and again in the last year, and it must grate upon them - Americans claiming to be so superior to them. Now with these revelations they must feel vindicated - their .... occupation forces..... are no better than Saddam's lackeys after all.

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