Friday, May 20, 2005

On doing what I say, not what I do

Okay, so this week's award for Most Egregious Use of Unrecognized Irony in a Newspaper Headline has to go to today's Washington Post for their story "Army Warns Iraqi Forces On Abuse Of Detainees."

In other news, Ann Coulter addresses the ACLU on the importance of religious tolerance and Lindsay Lohan lectures high school girls on the dangers of eating disorders.

Unfortunately, it's far from unusual to see pictures of Iraqi detainees cut and bruised from beatings with fists, sticks, and electrical cords, or to hear reports of confessions coaxed out by choking or electrical shock. We just haven't heard about the abuse coming from Iraqi security forces. And of course we're shocked. Just shocked!

Anyone with a couple of hours of Dr. Phil viewing in their past understands the flat basics of armchair psychology: abusive parents tend to raise abusive children. A kid who was beaten by his father will certainly recognize that beating your kids is bad, but is also more likely to resort to that same behavior when his own kids misbehave. It's the only way he knows to deal with kids; he knows that the beatings hurt, but he hasn't been shown an example of how to express his frustration/anger/disappointment any other way.

So now we have the very men responsible for the security of Iraq behaving exactly the same way. Interrogations and coerced confessions by beating and electrocution were status quo during Saddam Hussein's regime, so these Iraqi officers just assume that's the way things work. Unfortunately, the US has missed a great big opportunity to come in and show them how it's really done. Allegations surface every day about detainee abuse, most famously at Abu Ghraib, most recently at Guantanamo Bay.

How are these Iraqi officers going to learn acceptable interrogation techniques if not by example? So far, the US has a pretty good reputation for whacking the crap out of detainees while telling Iraqi officers, "Don't do this." Human Rights Watch says that since the first allegations were made back in October, little progress has been made to "enforce existing laws and put an end to" the abuse. Well, duh. The Iraqi officers have no reason to take the laws seriously if their US counterparts continue abusive behavior that has been condemned by their own superiors.

Army General George Casey wrote recently to his troops that "[i]t is very important that we never turn a blind eye to abuses, thinking that what Iraqis do with their own detainees is 'Iraqi business.' Nor can we wink at suspected transgressions." The job may be far harder than he expects. The Bible, proposed rulebook for good behavior in our supposedly Christian nation, tells us to remove the planks from our own eyes before going after the specks in our brothers'; the US military has to do both simultaneously, or "justice" in the newly democratic Iraq will be same playbook, different team.

No comments: