There's no excuse for this :
Damn. Damn, Damn, Damn!
What the hell happened here? I know, we need to let the investigation complete. The first thing the Army can do is assure us that this is not continuing. The second is to make sure that this is addressed quickly and publicly.
I served six years in the U.S. Army Reserve in the 1980's. I don't comment much on or criticize those who serve or have served in combat because I never saw any. My MOS wasn't even in combat arms, I was a Pressman, 83F (As one friend who was a former tanker kids me: "Press from the Sky!"). But this hits on really basic stuff. Decency. Integrity. Honor. I believe that what we are doing in Iraq, the sacrifices our brave, decent, and honorable troops are making is important, not just for America and Iraq, but the rest of the world also. Truly evil people are being challenged and defeated. The cost is high, but the price if we succeed will be nothing compared to the price (and cost) we will pay if we fail (Price vs. Cost is another post. If you don't get the difference.....bummer.....and before you rip me for looking at the soldiers as a "cost", I understand the "price" they and their families pay).
From the time I was in Basic through NCO school and until my enlistment expired, it was drilled into me that I was accountable to the UCMJ and the Geneva convention. "Following orders" as a defense was not an option that would save my sorry ass if I was charged. Didn't work for the Nazi's at Nuremburg, wouldn't work for me. One of the drill sergeants in basic put it best as "treat civilians and prisoners as you would want to be treated", kind of a golden rule thing that made a lot of sense to me.
As I read the Fox story I became more and more enraged.
"Martha Frederick, of Buckingham, Va., said her husband, in Iraq since April 2003, told her his unit wasn't given proper training and equipment. "
So naturally he mistreated prisoners. Bullshit with a capital B. Simulated torture? Degrading conditions, nudity, hoods, sexual posturing? I don't like to judge people who's shoes I haven't walked in and maybe the legal process will bring out facts we don't know about now. But this...there's no way in hell I wouldn't have stopped what I saw, and if prevented from doing that, I would have gone up the chain until they listened or arrested me.
"Daniel Sivits — whose son, 24-year-old Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, is also facing court-martial — said the young man "was just doing what he was told to do."
You guessed it. Bullshit with a capital B.
All these soldiers had to do if they wanted to complain and were afraid of their chain of command was to go to the JAG. That's it. Would they pay a price? Probably, maybe certainly, at least short term. They wouldn't be facing the charges they face today though.
Two experiences in the USAR guide my perspective on this. Yes, they are Reserve, they are old (20 some or less years ago) and if you have different ones or think I am full of shit, please feel free to comment.
The first was when I was mistakenly given leave after Basic and when I arrived at my advanced training post I was a week late. Nobody gave me any grief because my orders were.....well....in order. But I was a week late and they sent me home until the next training cycle. The problem for me was that I technically had been released from "Active" to "Reserve" and "Active" was now not going to pay for my training. Since "Reserve" had expected "Active" to pay for my training and had no budget for it, they wouldn't pay for it. I was in Army Limbo. My personal catch-22 writ small.
After two months of human ping-pong ball, no job (Hi I'm applying but I could have to leave for 9 weeks any time.....will you hire me?) and living with the 'rents (Don't get me wrong, I love my parents but 22 at Home?....no) a bulb went off....JAG! They told me I could always go to JAG!
So I did. I called and a very nice Colonel called me back (keep in mind I was a PFC, two months out of basic, and all officers scared the shit out of me). He took the info down and promised he would look into it. About two weeks later at the next weekend drill a couple of Captains showed up from his office. You could have laid carpet with the tacks that were shitting out in HQ that morning. Two weeks later I was flying out to class at Ft. Belvoir. How much grief did I get for that......ever? None.
The second was a Summer training thing some years later when I was a buck Sergeant. We were on drill and went to full MOPP, chemical suit, gloves, mask.....and an officer wanted us to continue operating our presses. I had four pressmen in my charge and I refused his direct order. The reason was that it was dangerous to operate the equipment dressed as we were and it was unrealistic to think we would merrily keep printing materials in an NBC environment (you can't decontaminate paper...well you can but it's not paper any more, it's pulp). I was responsible for these people, they weren't going to be injured for some useless exercise.
He was pissed. For a couple hours I was pretty sure I was in deep shit. I had refused a direct order. Cooler heads prevailed though and how much grief did I get for that? None. In fact a few other officers privately ( a couple not so privately) praised me for sticking to my guns and doing the right thing.
I don't think things have changed since then. I and most Americans have faith in our troops. The Army should show us they do too by dealing with this quickly and firmly.