I was going to have my initial post at Parablemania be a nice little levelheaded piece about "seeking a healthy balance". But then I read the news for the first time in about a week (I've had finals and the stomach flu), heard about Abu Ghraib, and my blood got boiling. I have something to say and it needs to be said now, so so much for my nice levelheaded first post. (I guess that tells you something about me as a blogger, for what it's worth.)
Tacitus suggests, among other things, that the US Army disband the 372nd Military Police Company, as punishment for the atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib. Matthew Yglesias thinks that the suggestion is a good one.
I think that it is a good start, but doesn't go far enough.
One of Matthew Yglesias' commenters points out that while this will certainly sent our troops the message that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated, it may be a bit too "inside baseball" to get that message to the rest of the world, Iraqis in particular, who in my opinion could possibly see that as being too much of a wrist slap and not enough of a real punishment.
So what should be done? May I suggest that those involved be considered war criminals?
Or even better, terrorists? And then we should try them and treat them as such. That would show the world that we truly do not tolerate this s**t.
Moreover, it is not enough to disclaim knowledge of the events and assure the world that torture was isolated and sporadic in nature. Nobody seriously thinks that and the Army brass isn't going to convince anyone with that story. What needs to happen is that the Army brass, or even better--the White House, needs to say "This is a real and serious problem, and we are going to root it out, right here, right now, in full view of the world." Then they need to find everyone who was involved in this kind of activity--and they really have to want to find all of the perps--and punish them as harshly as the law allows (hence my call to have them charged as war criminals
Do I think any of this is likely? No. But it is what I think needs to be done if we really are serious about "winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people". Only by us taking as much, or more offense at the injustices done them, and demanding maximum (legal) punishment, can we ever convince the people of Iraq that our military is in their country for their good more than ours.
We have a very short window of opportunity to do this right before it is too little, too late. I really think that is our last chance to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. I will be deeply ashamed of our country and military if the right response is discarded in favor if CYOA.
[Updated to strike out the suggestion to have the perps charged with terrorism. I can't really find a way to make these crimes fit that bill. I suggested it because that is pretty much the worst thing we can charge someone with as our laws currently stand (as far as I can tell), and I wanted our response to show that we could not take this any more seriously. But if it doesn't fit, then we shouldn't charge them with it.]
UPDATE: I ran across this article. It seemed like a normal news report without much new information. But in the middle of the article are these two paragraphs:
White House officials disclosed that Bush was made aware in late December or early January about allegations of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad .Wait...What???!!!!? The White House has known about this for five months??!?!!?! Bush demanded that the responsible parties be held responsible and only now have they (whoever "they" are) gotten around to charging six people with crimes and reprimanding six more???? What the heck is going on? Can any else confirm that the White House has known this for five months?
On Tuesday, national security adviser Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made statements condemning the abuse, saying the president had demanded that those responsible be held accountable.