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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Did we do war crimes?

William F. Buckley writes on the torture memo and Abu Ghraib.

The best evidence of the incongruity of Abu Ghraib with American standards is the universal revulsion felt by the American people when those photographs were published. But right now there are only seven soldiers being prosecuted, and the sense of it is that that does not go deeply enough. If what happened was odious, but what happened did so under the auspices of a well-organized military, then you scratch up against the lessons of Nuremberg, which held superiors responsible for misconduct by subordinates. And people are wanting to know what are the relevant jurisdictions, and what tribunals do we have in mind to convoke in order to satisfy ourselves — and the world — that America wants more the merely to punish the people who did it. We need to punish also the people who let it happen.
I agree with this completely, but I don't want to see anyone scapegoated or punished in a way that is inappropriate for the crimes they committed. The commander of Abu Ghraib, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, obviously deserves some punishment, but did she simply not run a tight ship and allow a few rogue soldiers free reign to abuse prisoners or did she actively take part in causing these abuses to occur. Similar questions apply up the chain of command. I want the truth in this, not just a cover-up. Similarly with the torture memos, what if any changes in policy did they cause? The media is implying that somehow a memo pertaining to the legal status of Guantanamo Bay prisoners influenced policy at Abu Ghraib. Maybe so, but the existence of the memo is not enough to cause that by itself, orders would have had to be given along the chain of command for this to occur. So far there is no evidence of that, although investigations are occurring. It is also important to remember in all of this that the Abu Ghraib abuse story was not broken by the press, but by a military investigation.


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