Abu Ghraib Story Leaked to Seymour Hersh

More ominous news about conscription:

The chief of the Selective Service System has proposed registering women for the military draft and requiring that young Americans regularly inform the government about whether they have training in niche specialties needed in the armed services. The proposal, which the agency’s acting Director Lewis Brodsky presented to senior Pentagon officials just before , also seeks to extend the age of draft registration to 34 years old, up from 25.

The Los Angeles Times published excerpts from the Army’s investigation of abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib.

The official Best Possible Spin is in. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, despite having not read the Army investigator’s report describing the abuse, said “categorically” that “there is no evidence of systematic abuse” and blamed the scandal on “just a handful” of abusive guards whose actions “besmirch maybe the reputations of hundreds of thousands.” Fafblog summarizes:

  • The activities that occurred at Abu Ghuraib prison are not to be compared to those of Saddam Hussein’s rape rooms and torture chambers. After all, those were rape rooms and torture chambers. These were merely rooms in which rape occurred, and chambers in which individuals were tortured.
  • In war, atrocities will happen, as dew on the grass in the morning, or flower blossoms in the spring. The dew gathers. The buds open. The atrocities bloom. It is all according to the mysterious, ever-unfolding cycle of life — a cycle too vast and complex for mere mortals to comprehend.
  • These were isolated incidents, and the behavior of these prison guards should in no way reflect upon the military superiors who endorsed and promoted such behavior. This is because atrocities are supervenient on subordinates, but not on command structures. Those with greater learning will understand.

What sort of conclusions do I mean to draw from this ongoing chronicle of badness?

Certainly not “look! here’s proof that this war is brutal!” I agree that in the context of the reign of Saddam and the brutality of the invasion of Iraq, the torture and humiliation of a handful of prisoners is a footnote. Not to the prisoners themselves, of course, but the same can be said of the victims of so many other footnotes and those who will remain uncited even there.

This is a war in which Americans deliberately and rationally shot ten-year-olds (for very good reasons) and bombed residential neighborhoods (for very good reasons). Were U.S. personnel torturing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners, perhaps for very good reasons? Did we have to see pictures to know?

Rest assured, though, that appropriate reprimands and admonishments will be meted out now that official denial is no longer an option.