Wednesday, August 29, 2007


In today's military, if you're an enlisted person or an NCO who happens to be dumb enough to get photographed abusing a detainee, you can expect to spend some time in prison. If you're an officer who permitted or encouraged such abuse to, not so much:

Yesterday at Fort Meade, a jury consisting of nine colonels and one brigadier general rendered a verdict in the case of Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan. He was acquitted on all charges related to the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. He was convicted of disobeying an order that he not speak with third persons about the investigation of abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Accountability, it seems, is something which applies to enlisted personnel and noncommissioned officers who make the mistake of being caught in photographs. The officers who were supposedly in charge of the facility and giving them guidance escape without serious punishment.

Never mind that repeated investigations and inquiries by intrepid journalists have revealed that our torture and abuse policies were generated at the highest levels of the Bush administration, all the way up to the President. If you happen to be Secretary of Defense, you'll just lose your job. If you're President, you'll be re-elected for office.

Of course, these are civilian personnel. Military personnel in all branches pride themselves on a discipline, professionalism, obedience, integrity and willingness to serve their country that marks them as superior to the "soft" civilians who've never experienced a military regimen or combat. Military officers in all branches adhere to a strict doctrine of responsibility for the actions of their subordinates...except apparently if they've risen high enough in the ranks and they can get away with evading responsibility for the actions of the enlisted personnel and NCOs that serve under them.

The implementation of torture policies that were made with deliberate ambiguity so that the civilian drafters could avoid any criminal liability, have also enabled military commanders to avoid any liability under criminal law or the standards of military justice. And thus has the moral framework of our military officers been eroded as well, and our armed forces and nation suffer as a result.

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