Friday, September 16, 2005

ACLU vs the Army

Once again we have widespread evidence of abuse, of the truth, by those sorry misguided extremists at the ACLU. This time because they have no concept of what life is like in an infantry combat unit, whether in peacetime or in a war-zone. In the person of Executive Director Anthony Romero, they have seized on an internal Army document to further their agenda in the media.

The US Army has conducted a series of thorough investigations and reviews of alleged detainee abuse in Iraq. The ACLU sued the Army to gain the release of 1800 pages. The Army concluded that there is no systemic pattern of abuse. They did investigate 400 allegations, and pinpoint 200 cases where soldiers had been singled out for punishment by the Army for abuse. The ACLU of course is shrilly screaming about an Army wide failure.

It’s obvious to anyone with a pulse, that there have been incidents of abuse in detention settings in Iraq. Abu Ghraib is the case in point. But the Army has been extremely forthcoming about that case, as well as others. The keystone document in question here is one by the Army’s inspector general’s office. The Army’s point is that these numbers do not represent a systemic failure.

Thousands of Iraqis have been processed as detainees in Iraq, some for merely a few days, or even hours, as they are investigated, for insurgent ties. Some are held for longer periods of time, and some unfortunately go through the system repeatedly. The Army works so hard at providing a level of fairness that reflects American civil liberties that insurgents are often returned home within 30 days, to fight and kill again.

The ACLU however has chosen to focus on the few incidents when abuse occurs, rather than the vast multitude where it does not. This is not a problem peculiar to the Army. Prisoner abuse is an unfortunate side effect of any detention system. While liberal activists routinely try to portray this as result of conservatives in power, the problem is endemic to prisons.

This is not merely a US problem. Prisons in Europe suffer the same problems. Yes even France, Italy and Germany have seen substantiated cases of prison abuse. In the late 1990s the Beauvais prison was investigated and the director was was dismissed for an atmosphere that fostered abuse. An Italian magistrate issued 82 restraining orders against prison officials. Twenty one were taken into custody the rest placed under house arrest. German prisons have seen similar occurrences. This in the “Liberal” European countries, so often critical of America’s perceived failings.

The famous Stanford psychology experiments where students role playing as guards soon became abusive to the student “prisoners” demonstrates how human nature plays out in these circumstances. It is obvious that even professional prison guards and administrators have a hard time overcoming the temptation to enforce street justice.
American soldiers are not professional penologists. True, MPs are trained in correctional matters, but that is a small part of their overall training. And not all detention facilities in Iraq are maintained by MPs, some are small temporary jails, on infantry posts and other small bases. Even in larger facilities, like Abu Ghraib, and the prison at FOB Brassfield Mora near Samarra, MPs are supplemented by other soldiers.

All soldiers are briefed on the laws of war, and trained in basic detainee handling. Soldiers however are human beings. Some percentage will always forget or ignore their training. When deploying to a combat zone, soldiers tend to focus on training that will help keep them alive. But if soldiers were perfect, we would not need, small unit, administrative and judicial processes to correct them.

In understand the need for the ACLU. I virulently disagree with nearly everything they say, but I recognize the need for someone to challenge the limits of constitutional liberties. They are a necessary evil. Anthony Romero, should stick to defending American’s civil liberties. He and the rest of his crew have no idea what it takes to run an Army. They have no idea what it takes to survive a year in a combat zone. And they do America a great disservice by trying to tar the entire Army with the brush of a few soldiers that the Army has rooted out on its own.


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