Massacres in Iraq unfortunately have acquired an aura of normality, justified as collateral damage. Recently the massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians, including children by Marines on Nov. 19th 2005 in Haditha, Iraq came to light. In response, the US commander in Iraq has ordered a refresher course in ethical conduct for 130,000 US soldiers in Iraq. This massacre is not the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. This response is a band-aid to the back that was wantonly broken a long time ago by the Bush administration.
There have been dozens of similar incidences in Afghanistan, some of them documented; and many more in Iraq, some of them with photographic evidence. The best known incident of killing and torture was in Abu Graib prison about a year ago. The atrocious treatment of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay is well known and condemned by the whole world.
The routine, like a broken record goes as follows –” A massacre occurs. For obvious reasons, those involved do not report, or report it as collateral damage. The military first suppresses it. Occasionally the details of the massacre seep out because of the stricken conscience of a decent soldier, a reporter or boasting by a rogue macho perpetrator. The white-washing of the atrocity and the original cover-up starts in full gear. An inquiry is instituted, which takes time and inevitably absolves the culprits. True to norm, the military just cleared US soldiers accused of killing up to 13 civilians in Ishaqi on the 15th of March 2006.
The case of Abu Graib was one of the miniscule exceptions, because dozens of very graphic photographs. It could not be completely covered up. Some very low-level soldiers and sergeants received a slap on the wrist, while those from the top of the government, from the President down, who formulated the unethical policies, suffered no consequences.
On June 11th, three inmates of Guantanamo were found dead, accused of committing suicide. The commander of the prison gave the most bizarre, mindless and heartless explanation possible,” I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of warfare waged against us.” The State Department calls it a public relations ploy by those who killed themselves. With that kind of inane logic, perhaps Bush supporters also believe that the blundering unethical behavior of the top echelon of this administration is actually a clever ruse to lull the enemy into complacence.
The prisoners at Guantanamo, including some 13 and 14 year old boys, were arrested in Afghanistan four years ago, often turned in by the warlord for a bounty. Only 10 out of some 600 prisoners in four years have been formally charged of a crime. All have been kept in the most watched ‘state of the art’ concentration camp. It is clear that many of the prisoners are innocent and the administration has no case against them, therefore does not know what to do with them.
All independent national and international bodies have accused the US of terrible treatment of the prisoners in violation of US and International laws. The Bush administration refuses to even admit that they deserve humane treatment under the US laws or the Geneva Convention, flouting the progress of the past fifty years of human rights laws under the US leadership.
The military code of conduct taught in boot camps is clear enough. They are made even clearer under the Geneva Convention. The best way to make the laws work is to implement them.
All societies have fringe elements, naturally prone to violence and criminality. Such people are more likely to join the military, where an important requirement is fighting and killing. A majority of soldiers want to do a good ethical job mindful of their training. The criminal elements get the upper hand when they are urged and rewarded for unethical behavior in violation of the codes.
Many private contractors have been paid vast sums to do what the soldiers used to do in other wars. This allows the generals and Rumsfeld to feign ignorance of many of the extra judicial killings by them.
It is obvious that the policy of this administration is the problem. It pays lip service to ethics and morality while cavalierly violating them and refusing independent inquiries, with the blanket excuse of national security. Actions speak louder than words.
The US soldiers in Iraq do not need a refresher course in ethics; they know what is being done by some in their name is wrong. People who sorely need a course in morality and ethics are Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the top of the military and the civilian leadership in this administration. That of course is impossible. To paraphrase my mother, you can not wake those who pretend to be asleep.
That is why the nation that used to be the world leader in preaching ethics and morality and was the main force in devising the Geneva Convention is now bracketed in the eyes of the world with those whom the world considered to be beyond the pale of civilized behavior. A recent survey indicated that more Europeans consider the US to be more dangerous to world peace than Iran or any other country.
We elected this rogue administration. As Pogo would say,” We have found the enemy and it is us.”