You can find them in every small town and urban metropolis: the bullies that composed the antagonists in the 1986 movie Stand by Me. They were present in my home town in the 50s, and I can’t imagine they haven’t been a part of the human condition from the time we left the trees to roam the African svelds. And when the world saw the Abu Ghraib photos of young American soldiers holding the control end of leashes tethered to the necks of those we held prisoner and pointing mocking fingers at the pyramid of naked prisoners the proof was manifest they were loose in our Army: the bad apples President George Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld prosecuted . . . then jailed.
You know full well they are going to be there, in every venue and in every circumstance, especially in that of war, and after extended deployments. The task of leadership must be to erect sufficient disincentives to reign in their impulse to bully. That’s something, whether the organization is an urban gang or the military, that the organization’s leadership can certainly manage . . . if it wants to. Varying levels of punishment for transgressions, especially as urban gangs have demonstrated, are highly effective management tools. Everything depends on what the leadership wants.
There are just so many despicable, dark corners of the tawdry Bush presidency, none less tawdry than the torture theater that has found new release life and is playing across the land. The unasked and unanswered question that comes to my mind is how can it, how could they, get any more unseemly?
I don’t know whether it is “more,” but, from what the evidence now makes clear, we now know the way the Bush administration pinned 100% of the blame on a “few bad apples” sinks to unseemly equivalency. With the exception of perhaps only Powel and Col. Wilkerson, who were not participants in the “enhanced interrogation techniques” scheme, the heavy bulk of those in the administration, from Doug Feith to John Woo to Jay Bybee through to Dick Cheney and President Bush himself composed the most despicable of running, yellow-dog cowards, each and all having done whatever they could to avoid genuine military service, to escape putting themselves in harm’s way, while enthusiastically sending the sons and daughters of lesser Americans to bear the full brunt of their diabolical Machiavellian intrigues. And once caught, rather than accept full responsibility, which requires acceptance of whatever the consequences of their actions might be, they once again demonstrated the depths of their loathsome pusillanimity by putting it all on a handful of lower-grade soldiers.
“The United States does not torture,” the president, who, with full aforehand knowledge, had signed off on torture techniques, lied to an angry country and world. What we saw in the Abu Ghraib photos, he told us was “the acts of a few bad apples,” and not US policy.
Like it or not, in a dangerous world like this one, we need men and women willing to serve in our military. How dare we then entreat any to volunteer if, by doing so they face not only the threat to life and limb and psyche from potential hostile elements from beyond our borders, but from their Commander in Chief as well? More than any other American citizen, those who don the uniform, and who swear to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” deserve to be protected from a government run amok, trampling both the letter of the law and the spirit of it.
We must investigate fully and without trepidation the Bush administration. As with any grand jury inquiry that strongly points to criminal conduct, if the evidence suggests crimes were committed, we have no choice but to put on trial those suspected of criminal acts. If we fail to move with dispatch and courage there, we most assuredly have an obligation to all future military volunteers to affix a bold-print health warning label to the enlistment contract they sign:
“Following the lead and/or orders of those above you in the chain of command, can prove hazardous to your liberty and citizenship rights.”
As to Sean Hannity volunteering to be waterboarded, how about this? We say, okay, but after advising that the job has been contracted out to genuine terrorism specialists on the south side of the US-Mexican border (either that, or put in the hands of MS-13, somewhere in the dead of night on one of the streets in Compton, CA.), and that we’ve gotten what we feel were reasonably believable assurances that he would not be permitted to suffer organ failure.