“From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor,
integrity, and selfless service,” Taguba said. “And yet when we get to the
senior-officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army
will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of
land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We
violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The
stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those
civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.”
A powerful statement from a retired General. With more and more Generals coming out and exposing the right wing lies and rhetoric of this war, confidence in Neo-conservative Republican leadership is declining as well.
Hersch describes the conditions and the rampant abuse that took place at Abu Ghraib, the circumstances which were well known throughout the Whitehouse and military leadership circles.
"It's when they learned how serious it was. They were told in memos what the
photographs showed... They showed other, more sexual abuse than we knew, sodomy of women prisons by American soldiers, a father and his son forced to do acts together. There was more stuff [than] was made public. You didn't need a
photograph if you had a verbal description of it. "It's quite implicit," he added. "They knew very quickly this was bad."
Forcing a father and son to engage in a sexual act? Years after the scandal broke, American's are just getting this vision of what occurred as our nation "liberated" Iraq.
Forced sodomy by "liberators"? Wow.
Dehumanization is the tactic used by Drill Instructors to break soldiers down from being a civilian and build them back up as a soldier.
When we fought the Germans they were "Krauts".
The Japanese were "Japs" and "Slant eyes".
The Vietnamese were "Gook", "Cong", and "Yellow people".
The Iraqi's were "Towel heads", "Camel jockey's", and even more disgusting references.
Soldiers are trained to view those that we fight in these dehumanizing terms. We loudly and proudly sung cadences as we ran and marched that utilized many of these derogatory terms, we did it for years on end.
Most may have a very difficult time understanding how something like incidents at Abu Ghraib or My Lai occur. Why do we train our soldiers using such frightening methods.
It works. It's not human nature for one man to want to kill another man. A study I have read indicates that less than 20% of soldiers during World War II fired their weapon when ordered to be superiors. The study indicated that soldiers also fired deliberately high, low, left and right, deliberately missing targets.
The military then changed their marksmanship training. Instead of a paper target at a close range, to determine marksmanship, the military installed known distance ranges with pop-up targets, from 25 to over 300 meters. Soldiers were trained to shoot at targets that popped up in front of them.
Firing a weapon and killing became a conditioned response. Kind of like that duck hunt game. See the duck fly across the screen, shoot it!
In Vietnam, more than 75% of soldiers fired their weapons when ordered. In following conflicts, the rate is in the high 90's.
Using hatred of a dehumanized enemy, our forces respond to orders to kill at a remarkable rate.
The psychology of dehumanization extends beyond the killing. When we see people as inferior to ourselves, especially in a far away deployed place, bad things are bound to happen.
It's not an excuse. There is no excuse for the widespread abuse of prisoners of war and others detained by our forces. But knowing the psychology of killing and the psychology of dehumanization allows us to understand why these things happen.
It's also why greater comprehensive mental health services should be available to returning soldiers and Veterans alike. Post Vietnam, its estimated that more than 250,000 Vietnam Veterans have committed suicide.
Gulf War Veterans are committing suicide in very high numbers as well. Helping soldiers deal with what they witnessed and what they have experienced while deployed needs to be a top priority.
Cases like Abu Ghraib will be more common as more and more leaders come forward and discuss the atrocities of war...I will never excuse these actions, but can understand the psychological issues surrounding why these atrocities happen.