Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Chain Chain Chain

(you fill in the rest)

Apropos of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal...

  • The general of the 800th clearly deserves to be cashiered for failure to maintain the chain of command properly. But somebody sent the 800th to duty for which it was, by accounts of General Toguba, completely untrained. That general officer also ought to be cashiered for egregious negligence.
  • The dual chain of command, between intelligence and the military police unit, shouldn't exist anywhere.
  • The reservist SSGT who was apparently at the center of handing out the abuse was a prison guard in civilian life. This leads to the interesting question: is what he lead the other enlisted personnel into reflective of how he did his job as a prison guard? Or did something about the situation in Iraq lead him to become a sadist?
  • While much is being made of the US Army report on the Abu Ghraib incident, little attention is being paid to the International Committee of the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch reports. There's a strange game of who's crying wolf going on -- the irregularities and indeterminate status of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and the Jose Padilla Case (currently before the Supreme court, where a US citizen arrested on US soil as a terror suspect was designated an enemy combatant and not entitled to any rights, either as part of the regular judicial system or under the Geneva convention) present a slippery slope that, if not necessarily directly contributing to this particular abuse, has created an aura where rights are not absolute but "granted". In this particular instance, Secretary Rumsfeld, for example, stated to congress that 'detainees' in Iraq aren't prisoners of war but they decided to treat them under the Geneva Convention, anyway. These kind of nuances were probably lost in translation down the chain of command, since I don't really understand how you can 'grant' a 'right'.
  • Why don't we just call them 'prisoners'? 'Detainees' and 'Detention' sounds like they're being held after school for throwing spitballs.
  • I am pretty sure there's some sort of screening process at play here, but it hasn't been made public. Having some openness about how the accused Iraqis are separated into guilty and dangerous vs. not guilty but dangerous vs. innocent, and what the 'sentencing' is for prisoners in various categories, would go a long way towards restoring confidence in the quasi-judicial system in play.
  • I've heard it suggested that the Iraqi judicial system start taking over Iraqi prisoner processing. What Iraqi judicial system? How can you invent a system of justice where none existed before? My feeling here is if we're going to have an imperial presence, apply the full weight of the US judicial system and checks and balances to the system -- impose the judicial system, let the Iraqis pick a political system.
  • Apropos of internationalization, I don't see how intelligence goals would be hurt if we figured out a way of turning over the current judicial and detention system to a third party -- let's get the Swiss or Swedes in here. That's the kind of ceding of power in a meaningful area that might help our profile in Iraq and the world that wouldn't affect our ability to act as a police power. Very much the way that (at least, in theory) district attorneys operate independently from the police in prosecution, if you had an international "DA" and warden of prisons, then we could focus on the bad guys.

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