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Are American Troops Unethical?

Yesterday's Washington Post reported on a survey of U.S. Army troops that found a significant percentage of American soldiers support the use of torture or tolerate abuse of civilians. "Less than half of Soldiers and Marines believed that non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect," according to the report.

Interpretations of the results differ. Human rights advocates say the survey gives credibility to claims of abuses. Military officials view the results differently.

Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock, the acting Army surgeon general, cast the report as positive news. "What it speaks to is the leadership that the military is providing, because they're not acting on those thoughts," she said. "They're not torturing the people."

But human rights activists said the report lends support to their view that the abuse of Iraqi civilians by U.S. military personnel was not isolated to some bad apples at Abu Ghraib and a few other detention facilities but instead is more widespread. "These are distressing results," said Steven R. Shapiro, national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union. "They highlight a failure to adequately train and supervise our soldiers."

For more thoughts on this story, check out my colleague Amos Guiora on AIDP Blog and Richard Reeb at The Remedy, and don't miss this comment by Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters.

wuzzagrunt (mail):
"These are distressing results," said Steven R. Shapiro, national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union. "They highlight a failure to adequately train and supervise our soldiers."


The results may indicate a failure to make soldiers and Marines think what the ACLU wants them to think, but nothing more than that.
5.6.2007 11:11am
byomtov (mail):
The results may indicate a failure to make soldiers and Marines think what the ACLU wants them to think, but nothing more than that.

Yeah. Nobody but the wusses at the ACLU thinks "non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect."

Tough guys don't care. Beating up innocent people is the way to stop terrorism. Absolutely.
5.6.2007 12:05pm
wuzzagrunt (mail):
Define "non-combatant".

5.6.2007 12:15pm
Justin (mail):
Morrisey's argument is sort of silly, no? Isn't Morrisey confusing "okay with torture" and "actually have tortured?" And given that we have so many troops in Iraq, isn't it actually HORRIBLE that 10% will have openly admitted to having tortured Iraqis? Not sent people to be tortured, but performed torture themselves? This when the arguments for torture by the pro-torture sid has included the fact that we specifically train (not 10% of!) soldiers to "torture" correctly.

I find that 10% shocking and repulsing, and hope that its just a sampling error. Granted, 10% includes breaking possessions (which is still terrible, but certainly not on the level of torture) - but how on earth could you have favorably linked to a post whose logic is so obviously wrong?
5.6.2007 12:26pm
18 USC 1030 (mail):
I'd like to know which soldiers and marines said that they didn't believe non-combatants should be treated with dignity. I find it VERY hard to believe, from the conversations I've had with people over there, that more than half believe that non-combatants should not be treated with dignity. Unless by non-combatant, they actually mean combatant--but not combatant as defined by, say, the Geneva Conventions? I think there would be a lot more acting on those thoughts if more than half the guys over there believed non-combatants deserve no respect or dignity.
5.6.2007 12:39pm
Oren (mail):

Four in 10 said they approve of such illegal abuse if it would save the life of a fellow soldier.


I am consistently confused by these sorts of statements because they presuppose an omniscient hindsight in knowing whether or not torturing a suspect did indeed save a life. The real unknown is the threshold of certainty that a suspect knows and will divulge useful information before you will torture him.
5.6.2007 12:45pm
BGates (www):
Justin, you should invite the guy who wrote your first paragraph, "isn't it actually HORRIBLE that 10% will have openly admitted to having tortured Iraqis?", to read your second paragraph, "Granted, 10% includes breaking possessions (which is still terrible, but certainly not on the level of torture)".

Certainly the Post story is terrible if it's accurate. Does anyone have a link to the survey itself?
5.6.2007 1:06pm
Stating the Obvious:
A simple thought experiment makes these results unsuprising:

Imagine the US territory was occupied by foreign soldiers. They came in because we had, admittedly, some problems in political leadership (widespread allegations of a fixed election). They claimed their country was concerned we were planning on attacking them, though in retrospect it seems this was a sham argument, with no facts in support.

In our country of many million people, some do not take well to foreign occupiers. Many of us have guns and access to explosives. Some use them against the occupiers. Although only a small fraction of us attack the soldiers, the soldiers are taking on casulties they find significant. They are frightened. They feel frustrated their leaders at home seem at times unsupportive and at times committed to keeping them here, in harm's way, for the indefinite future.

Is it really so suprising that some (a minority, but a significant minority) of these foreign soldiers, not chosen for their jobs due to their deep appreciation of legal nuances or high scores on advanced tests in political philosophy and world history, might be willing to strike out against us--any of us (we all look alike)--even while believing they are here to help us?

If you put people in an unescapable dangerous environment, don't be suprised if they break rules in order to (they think) survive. This is not an excuse or justification for torture. It rather obviously is yet one more reason to get the f-ck out.
5.6.2007 1:14pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
If one did such a survey in other wars, would the results be any different, either for Americans or foreign soldiers? Perhaps the soldier's attitudes about this matter comes from their knowledge and experience in having to deal with the people in Iraq.
5.6.2007 1:15pm
Stating the Obvious:
Morrisey at Captain's Quarters makes light of the 10% claim, rightly noting that breaking peoples' personal positions (even priceless heirlooms) and kicking them around a bit, does not constitute torture.

But I think Morrisey makes too light a concern of it. Granted, not torture. Yet when in America peoples' homes are broken into by home invaders, their homes vandalized, they themselves beaten up or possibly worse, we do not think this is nothing to worry about simply because it did not rise to the level of torture.

Or perhaps the better analogy would be if anti-drug-warrior cops busted down your door, shoved you to the floor, threatened you with a gun to your head to divulge your sources while destroying your possessions looking for a non-existent ounce of pot (by mistake, they got the wrong house), would Morrisey think nothing was wrong because the cops did not engage in torture? VC readers know that such incidents occur in our country, far too often in the minds of libertarians. If we oppose this, we should oppose it in Iraq as well (as we no doubt did when Saddam ran things).
5.6.2007 1:25pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
Fewer than half of U.S. soldiers and Marines serving in Iraq would report a fellow service member for mistreating an Iraqi civilian,

No Snitching isn't just for rappers apparently.
5.6.2007 1:40pm
taney71:
So everyone Americans are killing in Iraq are "innocent"?
5.6.2007 1:51pm
wuzzagrunt (mail):
I don't approve of actual torture but is "illegal torture" defined as yelling at suspected terrs? Shoving them? Forcing them to stand for long periods? Sleep deprivation? Stress positions? Poking them with a finger? AFAIK, the JAG Corps defines most or all of those things as torture. Those things sound like the Parris Island Spa Treatment, so I'd have to know more about the particulars before I get hysterical. If you are one who always assumes that American military personnel run around acting like Jenjis [sic] Kahn, the answers to those questions won't matter.

Any or all of those things may be wrong, but they are a couple of clicks short of actual torture. If you define something broadly enough, you're guarateed to see a dramtic increase in its occurrance. 'Zall I'm sayin'
5.6.2007 1:52pm
glangston (mail):
Has the ACLU ever interviewed parents of kidnapped children? I bet a few of them would hint at being OK with "torture".

This "enemy combatant" is a little different than what soldiers are used to. We're asking them to be policemen when they can and then switch into SWAT mode at a moment's notice. We need a few volunteers from the ACLU to show how it's done.
5.6.2007 2:55pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
The WP article really doesn't define torture. It makes a vague reference to disturbing civilians' personal possessions but not much more. If torture is equated with pushing a civilian aside to quickly determine if that is the tip of an AK-47 sticking out from under the mattress-bed or a plow implement than I don't consider that torture. To me, torture is slowly sending a live person through a wood chipper or grinder. If someone has their head pushed under water a few times, well, that sounds more like a high school "swirly" to me than torture. If someone is kept awake for seven days straight, well, that sounds like finals week at law school for me. My point is that I don't think there is a consensus on what torture is amongst policy makers and yet our soldiers are being held accountable for alleged torture.

The problem with this war from the very beginning is that the neocon geniuses who hatched this so-called liberation of Iraq forgot General Sherman's adage that "war is hell" and General Lee's adage that "it is well that war is so terrible lest we should grow fond of it." Our soldiers are, or at least should be, primarily trained to kill people and destroy the enemy. Unfortunately, we've given them a rifle and told them to perform pseudo peace corps duties in the middle of a war amidst a population where one cannot distinguish friend from foe. The foregoing is not logical or possible in the Middle East. It is a totally different environment from other wars America has fought in.

Historians will tell you that wars in the Middle East since ancient times have always been conducted whereby a prince and his army would enter a land and liquidate all opposition including their extended families and then vacate the land only to return if ever the new leadership got out of line whereupon they too would be liquidated along with their extended families. The extended families, including women and children, had to be liquidated because of the blood code whereby any surviving male heir was obligated to avenge the prior deaths of his family members. (This is why Haman the Agagite from the Book of Esther was on a mission to exterminate the Jews throughout the Persian Empire during the reigh of King Xerces nearly 500 years after King Saul and Samuel the Prophet exterminated nearly all of Haman's ancestors, the Amalekites.) Unfortunately, this is how we should be conducting war against the Jihadists: hunting them down like animals and liquidating not only the Jihadists but also their extended families. Any village in which a Jihadist is found must cooperate in turning the Jihadists in their midst over to the allied forces or else the entire village is razed to the ground including all of its inhabitants. That is how you fight a war in the Middle East. However, the U.S. cannot bring itself to conduct a war in such fashion because it is considered barbaric. So, the U.S. is in a quandry and are armed forces remain in a quagmire in the Middle East.
5.6.2007 3:24pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
Oh come on. Asking a soldier in the middle of a war if he feels his enemy deserves to be treated with dignity and respect - yes or no - is incredibly disingenuous and about as skewed a 'poll' as can be done. It's laughable as an example of a poll which cannot possibly produce unbiased answers and is designed solely to make the questioned subject look bad. I'm surprised more than 10% said yes to dignity and respect. They're in the middle of a war with IEDs being exploded left and right. They don't even know who the 'enemy' is.

Ask the commanders and Bush and you'll get a more meaningful answer, theoretically. But they are all politically savvy enough to know to answer the question in the affirmative and then, when the reporter is gone, call in a waterboarding.
5.6.2007 3:28pm
egn (mail):

Has the ACLU ever interviewed parents of kidnapped children? I bet a few of them would hint at being OK with "torture".


I'm always annoyed when people make this move, since all it proves is that parents of kidnapped children shouldn't be in the position to make these decisions.
5.6.2007 3:44pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Garbage poll. Garbage question. Cops aren't required to treat our own citizens with dignity and respect. They are, in the words of one of Joseph Wambaugh's characters, required to be civil, not courteous.
When uniformed troops are fighting the ununiformed who choose to fight from among civilians, the civilians are going to have a hard time. That's why it is against the Geneva Convention to set up to fight from among civilians. The terrorists don't, of course, care about the GC. So the civilians are caught in the middle. This is a Good Thing for liberals, since they need to have as many dead and outraged civilians as possible. If this war were fought in the trackless desert, the dems and libs would be seriously annoyed. The current situation suits them just fine.
And the poll is great, too.
5.6.2007 3:46pm
taney71:

How would we know?

The slaughter is occuring, innocents are dying.
Let's not be associated with that. Get out while there's time and they have a shot at autonomy.


I agree, we will never know but I have a hard time not taking shots at liberals on this issue. In my lifetime, I have been against the first Iraq war, Kosovo, and the Second Iraq war. I seem to remember many liberals defending Clinton in the late 1990s because it was a "moral" war. I call bullshit. Liberals are fine with wars their presidents start. Same with conservatives. Personally, I can't stand either side. I'm not against war, just opposed to the U.S. becoming the moral authority of the world. Bringing democracy to the world isn't something I want my government to do.
5.6.2007 4:02pm
Russ (mail):
This question is garbage. I've been over there, and yes, we don't always look kindly on the people we capture, but we don't "torture" them. This is brought up far too readily by those who want to tar us as baby-killing nazis so they can feel better about opposing what it is that we soldiers have been ordered to do.

My company took several dozen prisoners during my time there, and never once did we slap/beat/flog with a wet noodle any of them. We reacted with just as much revulsion as anyone by the Abu Ghraib story, but took comfort that it wasn't the NYT that first saw the photos and prompted an investigation, but another soldier who was also disgusted by what was done.

As to the "would have tortured if it would have saved lives" question, that is disingenuous. It implies 20/20 hindsight, which we never have in the heat of the moment. Want to see what we do to those who act in such ways? Go look up LTC West.
5.6.2007 4:13pm
Stating the Obvious:
David Maquera: If someone is kept awake for seven days straight, well, that sounds like finals week at law school for me.

I guess that would make sense if one were forced to attend law school...

David Maqera: Unfortunately, this is how we should be conducting war against the Jihadists: hunting them down like animals and liquidating not only the Jihadists but also their extended families. Any village in which a Jihadist is found must cooperate in turning the Jihadists in their midst over to the allied forces or else the entire village is razed to the ground including all of its inhabitants. That is how you fight a war in the Middle East. However, the U.S. cannot bring itself to conduct a war in such fashion because it is considered barbaric. So, the U.S. is in a quandry and are armed forces remain in a quagmire in the Middle East.

Such barbarism, and so easily recommended (albeit "unfortunately"). Gee, if only we had known about the history of the Middle East before we invaded. All this could have been avoided. Shame on David for keeping it to himself... (In case anyone's counting, this is one more reason to get the f-ck out NOW.)
5.6.2007 4:55pm
BornInTheUSA:
Unfortunately, this is how we should be conducting war against the Jihadists: hunting them down like animals and liquidating not only the Jihadists but also their extended families. Any village in which a Jihadist is found must cooperate in turning the Jihadists in their midst over to the allied forces or else the entire village is razed to the ground including all of its inhabitants. That is how you fight a war in the Middle East.

Why, that's exactly it seems how Israel conducts herself in war in the Middle East.

Tell me, how are those Sharon tactics working out? He's half alive in a stroke coma, they're building a mighty wall legitimating confiscating even more Palestinian land just to make themselves safer after all those "hit us once, we'll liquidate your family" tactics. Funny, I don't think we want to emulate Israel's "success". When they finally got into a "real" war in Lebanon, how did their fighters measure up? You get soft when you start thinking that pushing around innocent civilians, and enforcing collective liquidation punishment is actually fighting. No thanks. Americans don't want that kind of "success" nor have we yet stooped so low as to endorse those kind of tactics. Once America is gone, I suspect Israel will wise up and change her game plan. Or maybe they're a more suicidal nation than the US, believing another Holocaust in in G-d's plan for them or something. It's not the Christian way though, and America is still a Judeo-CHRISTIAN nation, right? The "liquidators" just don't have the numbers here, thankfully.
5.6.2007 5:09pm
BornInTheUSA:
The U.S. is in a quandry and are armed forces remain in a quagmire in the Middle East.

Not for much longer.
Our homeland is here, not there. We'll defend our homeland, just as others will have to fend for themselves. Sad that we destabilized a country, then skip off, but you can thank the planners and politicians for that. Gamble big, sometimes you lose.
5.6.2007 5:13pm
JustSaying:
I'm glad to see that VC is a place where the most ethical and upstanding congregate. Anyone who views this poll as a positive thing has lost touch with reality. At the least, it tells us that the troops who are in the 2nd and 3rd rotations are taking a toll that we should not ask them to bear.
5.6.2007 5:13pm
BornInTheUSA:
Amen JS, Amen.
5.6.2007 5:21pm
wuzzagrunt (mail):
Unfortunately, this is how we should be conducting war against the Jihadists: hunting them down like animals and liquidating not only the Jihadists but also their extended families. Any village in which a Jihadist is found must cooperate in turning the Jihadists in their midst over to the allied forces or else the entire village is razed to the ground including all of its inhabitants. That is how you fight a war in the Middle East.

Why, that's exactly it seems how Israel conducts herself in war in the Middle East.

When you say "exactly", I take it you mean that in the metaphorical sense.
5.6.2007 5:33pm
Federal Dog:
""Less than half of Soldiers and Marines believed that non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect," the Army report stated."


I am completely skeptical of this claim, especially stated in total isolation like this. I wonder what people actually said and in what context.
5.6.2007 5:46pm
BornInTheUSA:
When you say "exactly", I take it you mean that in the metaphorical sense.

Close enough.
5.6.2007 6:36pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Federal Dog. You suspect the WaPo and the ACLU?
You need a mind scrub.

We can't talk about dead civilians since the terrorists are deliberately slaughtering them in large numbers. Torture went away when the libs hauled in stuff that doesn't raise an eyebrow in Basic in order to punch up the numbers and others noticed the put-on.
Now we're reduced to viewing with alarm and horror what is certainly a bogus poll of ATTITUDE?

There comes a point, I used to think, when crap like this was too embarrassing even for its purveyors. I was wrong, again.
5.6.2007 6:38pm
LM (mail):
Here's a transcript (.pdf) of the May 4 Army briefing releasing the survey results.
5.6.2007 8:37pm
rc:
I've decided to translate this survey, so that civilians and screeching hippies can take the same test.

1. Would you punch a guy in the face and steal his car if that was the only way to rush your pregant, hemorrhaging wife to the hospital?

2. If you discovered that your son, age 17, had sex with his girlfriend (statutory rape), would you refrain from notifing the police and the local media? Keep in mind that rape is a serious crime, and previous offenses are the best way to tell if a sex predator is going to strike again.

3. When parking at the grocery, have you ever dinged someone's door and not notified the owner?

If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, you are a horrible, evil person. You are obviously under pressure by the Bush administration, generally less educated and more ignorant than the average person, and also in need of further sensitivity training. I would totally understand it if a terrorist blew you up tomorrow. You disgrace us all.
5.6.2007 8:51pm
LM (mail):
By the way, I don't know the etiquette for this sort of thing, but the link to the survey transcript is from militarytimes.com.
5.6.2007 8:52pm
Eli Rabett (www):
I really dislike your use of the word unethical to describe US troops. What is shown is that they need more training especially on the interface between their loyalty to their fellow soldiers and the their responsibilities to the civilian populations where they are serving. This is a difficult line to walk especially in combat situation, but a necessary one, and one where the example set by superiors (Rumsfeld, Feith, Cheney and Bush) have been very bad, especially about treatment of those in custody (torture light good, torture heavy acceptable).
5.6.2007 8:58pm
rc:
I read the briefing pdf. It's no surprise that the survey used absolutist, trick-question language. It is also no surprise that this readily-apparent fact was not mentioned in the news articles.

QUESTION 1: "All non-combatants should be treated with
dignity and respect"

All. ALL. Have you ever met, in the expanse of your entire life, a unarmed person who is not worthy of your respect? If you answered yes, you an evil person. Report to the education camps for reprogramming.
5.6.2007 8:58pm
Ken Arromdee:
QUESTION 1: "All non-combatants should be treated with
dignity and respect"

All. ALL. Have you ever met, in the expanse of your entire life, a unarmed person who is not worthy of your respect?


There were several misleading points that were obvious from just the article itself. For instance, the part where they report on the levels of depression, etc. among soldiers without giving the corresponding figures for the general population so we could see if it is more or less and if so, by how much. Or the part which mentions low morale without asking what factors reduced their morale (I can easily imagine them saying "we'd have better morale if the news media didn't keep reporting only bad news".)

If someone were to ask me "do you believe witches exist" in a poll, I'd have to answer "yes", but I just *know* someone would use that poll to show that the public has a high incidence of belief in the supernatural.
5.6.2007 9:16pm
Stating the Obvious:
KA: If someone were to ask me "do you believe witches exist" in a poll, I'd have to answer "yes", but I just *know* someone would use that poll to show that the public has a high incidence of belief in the supernatural.

Bad example. The public DOES have a high incidence of belief in the supernatural. But I take your point...
5.6.2007 9:50pm
LM (mail):
I read the briefing pdf. It's no surprise that the survey used absolutist, trick-question language. It is also no surprise that this readily-apparent fact was not mentioned in the news articles.

rc,

I'm sorry, but are you saying you're not surprised that the biased left-wing media failed to report absolutist, trick question language used by the biased, left-wing U.S. Army?
5.6.2007 10:41pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I'd say I wouldn't be surprised. Tests find what tests are designed to find.
Somebody wanted to make up for losing the slaughtering of civilians issue and losing the torture issue.
When I was in, we had several command requests to cooperate with civilian agencies--not the government--in various surveys.
I sure as hell hope some of those guys tried to use the data to defend a thesis. Bastards. The intent was clear as hell.
5.6.2007 11:24pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
I'm sorry, but are you saying you're not surprised that the biased left-wing media failed to report absolutist, trick question language used by the biased, left-wing U.S. Army?


Um the Military Times (who conducted the "survey") is no more affiliated with the US military than the Salvation Army or Old Navy. Your first clue should have been that the URL linked to the story uses a "dot com" rather than a "dot mil."
5.6.2007 11:57pm
TyWebb:
rc:

I read the briefing pdf. It's no surprise that the survey used absolutist, trick-question language.

This poll asks inherently flawed questions, frames certain answers as proxies for others, and probably stands for very little. RC, Richard Aubrey, et al., thanks for the Poli Sci 101 lesson. I'll be sure to dust off my notes so I can keep up. Of course, those notes are from a "dem/lib", "screeching hippie" school, so maybe they won't help. Do they sell Rush Limbaugh transcripts anywhere, or am I stuck with Powerline archives?

Just Saying:

it tells us that the troops who are in the 2nd and 3rd rotations are taking a toll that we should not ask them to bear.

Stating the Obvious:

If you put people in an unescapable dangerous environment, don't be suprised if they break rules in order to (they think) survive. This is not an excuse or justification for torture. It rather obviously is yet one more reason to get the f-ck out.

These are the correct responses (together with Federal Dog's assertion that the numbers are likely inflated). Seriously, folks, Occam's razor. Which of the following is more likely? 1) This war thing, being the violent, brutish thing it is intended to be, has begun to wear on our troops such that some of them are a little testy, and have either acted inappropriately, been tempted to so act, or at least exaggerate such thoughts in a poll. 2) A vast, left-wing conspiracy, created by the Military Times, the Washington Post, Moveon.org, Michael Moore, Nancy Pelosi, 88 Duke Professors, Al Gore, and most of Hollywood minus the guys that made Fahrenhype, has found its best move would be to finally show their cards and reveal how much they truly hate the troops, through a bogus poll that makes them look like monsters.

I come to the VC to read intelligent conservative commentary because sometimes I agree with it, and even when I don't I feel more well-rounded having considered it. Diatribes against MSM do not live up to the billing. I'm sure the survey is flawed. That doesn't mean it's not to be considered, and it certainly doesn't have much if anything to do with a bias in the media against the troops.
5.7.2007 12:31am
rc:
TyWebb,
Saying you read blog comments for the "intelligent conservative commentary" is like saying you subscribe to Playboy to read the articles. Yeah right.

You say: "I'm sure the survey is flawed... [yet] it certainly doesn't have much if anything to do with a bias in the media against the troops."

This has to do either with bias against the troops, or bias against rational thought. Either way, the good guys lose.

My comments might not qualify as "intelligent conservative commentary," but given the ridiculous and loaded circumstances surrounding this case, any actual intelligent commentator should begin their thoughtful analysis of the situation with: "What a load of crap."

Don't tell me that the haters won't cling on to this 'scientific survey' for years, using it to justify their position. Let's say I run into a liberal hippie in 2020.... I 100% guarantee you that any trash talk of the American military will include this farce of a survey.

This media behavior is unscientific, it's irrational, it's poorly thought out, and any clear-thinking mammal should immediately recognize it as such.

When this 'survey' was displayed on my monitor, my dog looked up, then immediately walked outside to take a dump. QED.
5.7.2007 12:54am
rc:
Let me make a quick clarification: when I mentioned emotional 'blog comments,' I was referring to the online comments that follow the VC posts, not the actual posts proper.

This distinguishes my sarcastic additions from the actual intelligent commentary that we get from the Volokh Conspiracy. I have respect for the VC folks who spend their time to provide consistent, thoughtful, and educated insight into today's issues. Obviously, I am not one of them.
5.7.2007 1:02am
Ken Arromdee:
A vast, left-wing conspiracy, created by the Military Times, the Washington Post, Moveon.org, Michael Moore, Nancy Pelosi, 88 Duke Professors, Al Gore, and most of Hollywood minus the guys that made Fahrenhype, has found its best move would be to finally show their cards and reveal how much they truly hate the troops, through a bogus poll that makes them look like monsters.

It doesn't take a Clintonesque conspiracy. It just takes a lot of biased people working separately.

And when I have to choose between "this is ridiculous, you're postulating a conspiracy" and "I looked up the source and quoted the question. It's biased--the words are right there on your screen," I'll take the latter every time.
5.7.2007 1:03am
ReaderY:
If the Supreme Court shouldn't be making medical decisions, why should it be making military ones? If the fact that a human being is terminable on demand trumps the idea of medical ethics having a role in law, should it trump such a role for military ethics?

After all, American's military decisions are at least as important to their right to have equality in the world, to have a place in the sun, to live an autonomous life, to be the equal of others in the world -- as their medicla decisions.

If Justice Ginsberg is right, Congress has no business passing laws, and certainly the Supreme Court has no business making decisions, that interfere with military decisions on ethical ground. After all, not only are Americans' health implicated, their lives are.
5.7.2007 1:52am
ReaderY:
premature post...

If the Supreme Court shouldn't be making medical decisions, why should it be making military ones? If the fact that a human being is terminable on demand trumps the idea of medical ethics having a role in law, should it trump such a role for military ethics? Enemy combatants can be lawfully terminated on sight. Shouldn't the techniques used to terminate be solely the military's business? How can the idea of permitting religiously-based ethical considerations to interfere with military decision-making be justified? Wouldn't it violate the separation of church and state?

How can it be squared with Justice Ginsberg's vigorous dissent regarding American's right to choose in their most fundamental decisions? Surely it cannot be disputed that Americans' military decisions are at least as important to their right to have equality in the world, to have a place in the sun, to live an autonomous life, to be the equal of others in the world, as their medicla decisions. If medical decisions cannot be interfered with on these grounds, how can interference with military decisions possibly be justified?

If Justice Ginsberg is right, surely ongress has no business passing laws, and certainly the Supreme Court has no business making decisions, that interfere with military decisions on ethical grounds. After all, not only are Americans' health implicated, their lives are.

I remind the reader of the logical structure known as the contrapositive.
5.7.2007 1:57am
LM (mail):
Thorley Winston:

Um the Military Times (who conducted the "survey") is no more affiliated with the US military than the Salvation Army or Old Navy. Your first clue should have been that the URL linked to the story uses a "dot com" rather than a "dot mil."


If you actually read the linked document, you'd have seen that Military Times did not conduct the survey. It was merely the online source from which I linked the transcript of an April 18, 2007 briefing by Marine Corps Commandant James Conway on the report from a joint forces Mental Health Advisory Team ("MHAT"). The MHAT consisted of military personnel, not an outside contractor, newspaper, website or otherwise.

Before conforming events to some reductionist ideology, you might want to take a minute to make sure your narrative will at least survive a superficial fact check.

Let me be clear. I support our mission in Iraq, and I think it would be a terrible mistake to withdraw prematurely. But reflexive verbal bomb throwing and blame mongering from the right does as much to weaken the remaining public support for this mission as irresponsible ravings from the left.

By the way, TW, this is only nominally directed at you. For all I know, you're a reasonable fellow who only jumped to one conclusion. But my frustration is directed at the partisan sniping from both sides that does absolutely nothing to solve our country's very serious challenges.
5.7.2007 2:39am
rc:
ReaderY:: "If Justice Ginsberg is right, surely... the Supreme Court has no business making decisions, that interfere with military decisions on ethical grounds."

Dude, I'm a right-wing ideologue, and even _I_ have to say 'cool it'. The courts CERTAINLY have to intervene with the military if soldiers overstep ethical bounds. Even more, the executive should catch them before that. This is not a free-for-all: even the military is governed by the rule of law.

The primary way that real law differs from the hippies' fever dreams is that real law reflects actual society and order, rather than some concocted Truther-commie fantasy. And it's clear that even actual society requires sensible controls on the military...

But the issue at present is: we can't have controls that are based on biased and loaded surveys that cast well-intentioned American soldiers in the worst possible light.

Ugh, I hate the way that reporters race to malign the military, as though their very lives depended upon it. Well... maybe their careers depend upon it...

Instead, I TRUST THE SOLDIERS, WHO PUT THIER VERY LIVES ON THE LINE. Hippies, get bent.
5.7.2007 2:59am
Rich Rostrom (mail):
Revonna: "The slaughter is occuring, innocents are dying."

Yes. Terrorists kill hundreds of Iraqi civilians every week in bombings and assassinations. Should these terrorists be rewarded for their crimes with control of Iraq?
5.7.2007 5:36am
David Maquera (mail) (www):
As a follow up to my prior post, if the United States is not prepared to wage total war in Iraq against the Jihadists and their collaberators, then the United States should just pull out immediately. (Anyone who says that it will take several months to pull out better brush up on the the Allies' evacuation of a couple hundred thousand troops with their equipment from Dunkirk in 1940. We can evacuate from Iraq within days.)

Total war means exactly what I described: liquidation of Jihadists, their collaberators, and extended families including women and children. No mercy. Such total war is barbaric, but then anyone who thinks war means firing off a few rounds before walking into a village with flowers being thrown at you by flirty village girls is out of touch with reality. Oh wait, that's exactly what the neocon hijackers of the Republican Party told conservatives and the public at large. How forgetful of me.

There is a reason why some WW2 vets who fought against the Sons of Nippon have never talked about their experiences in the South Pacific: the fighting was barbaric -- for both sides. Nevertheless, in the end, war comes right down to killing more of the enemy than the enemy can kill of your own regardless of the method for delivering the fatal kill. "War is hell." "It is well that war is so terrible lest we should grow fond of it."

Personally, I think going into Iraq was a mistake. (Anyone who thinks I'm Monday morning quarterbacking will discover via googling that I felt this way before the invasion.) However, since we are in Iraq, and have attracted the Jihadists to Iraq, the best tactical or logistical decision to make in this Jihadist War is to quickly pull out of Iraq like General Cestius pulled the Roman Army out of Judea in the first century A.D. Iraq will descend into a bloody civil war like Judea in the first century A.D., like France in the 1790s, where factions virtually annhilated each other until one faction seemingly emerged victorious. Then, the United States will go back and liquidate whichever faction emerges victorious in Iraq just as General Titus and the 10th Legion returned to Jerusalem and razed it to the ground.

Ok, time for me to start billing.
5.7.2007 9:52am
Happyshooter:
We Americans sure spend a lot of time and effort turning our troops into something we think is "good", no matter what the cost.

Bush Sr and Clinton think booze is bad? Ban booze for troops (Diplos, of course, can drink in front of the troops because they went to Philips Andover and therefore are better people)

Newt G takes a break from screwing staffers to decide porn is bad? Ban hard core porn on base.

The ACLU realizes that no matter how hard they try, jail cops are still going to beat prisoners who get out of line? Have Bush Jr order the troops to do more stupid feel good crap.

Cops empty their 20 round pistols at a guy driving a car in an agressive manner? Heck, they are union members. Let's show how tough we are by holding an infantry squad in a fire fight to the same standards the NAACP wants to put on the cops.
5.7.2007 11:24am
rc:
So... back to the topic?

Jonathan Adler: "Interpretations of the results differ."

This is the most interesting part of the whole situation. Reporters and commenters address the survey with preconceived notions, and then those notions distort every part of their interpretation.

It's interesting how our brains respond to 'fact.' It's also insteresting how our MEDIA responds to 'fact.'
5.7.2007 11:38am
whit:
it's irrelevant, in an ethical question as to what they THINK.

iow, i could be a soldier and think that all prisoners should be tortured. it doesn't make me unethical. what makes somebody ethical or not ethical is what they DO, not what their beliefs or opinions are.

in fact, if soldiers believe that prisoners should be tortured, but follow orders and don't torture them that shows strong ethics - iow, they don't take their personal opinions about what the law should be, into the realm of behavior in the workplace which is what ethics is all about.
5.7.2007 12:22pm
WHOI Jacket:
It merely confirms what the Left already "knew" about the troops; the whole murderous, torturing kill-bot lot of them.
5.7.2007 1:02pm
Aleks:
Re: Historians will tell you that wars in the Middle East since ancient times have always been conducted whereby a prince and his army would enter a land and liquidate all opposition including their extended families

This is balderdash. Outright geneocides of that magnitude were as rare in the Middle East as anywhere else. The Mogols carried out slaughters like that, but few other conquerors did. Even the Assyrians, with a well-deserved reputation for brutality, limited themselves to a few well-planned lessons in the futility of resistance while mostly contenting themselves with enslaving or scattering their opponents' women and children. The more enlightened conquerors like Kyros the Great, Alexander, or the early Caliphs made shows of magnanimity to win over the peoples they conquered.
5.7.2007 3:05pm
Justin (mail):
Winston Thorley might have read the article, which would have told him that:

"The Army has surveyed mental health issues in Iraq three times before, but this was the first time that Marines were included and that ethical questions were posed. Those were added by order of Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who until February was the top commander in Iraq."
5.7.2007 3:21pm
bluecollarguy:
QUESTION 1: "All non-combatants should be treated with
dignity and respect." Yes or No?

I'm surprised they got the "right" answer from so many. A good follow up question would have been:

Question 1A: "All non-combatants should be treated with caution and suspicion until one determines they are truly non-combatants deserving of dignity and respect." Yes or no?
5.7.2007 4:46pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Saw a presentation of a number of folks at Norwich University--almost a military school--about such things. A LTC said he'd told his guys about the three "Be"s. Be Professional. Be Courteous. Be prepared to kill.

I expect that a number of Iraqi civilians are not worthy of respect. Every population has a percentage of jerks.

What to the experts expect?
5.7.2007 9:42pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
Aleks,

Alexander the Great was able to be magnanimous more often than not because he liquidated entire cities as an example to other cities what would happen to them if they resisted. Examples: Thebes, Tyre, Persepolis, etc.

As for the Assyrians, I think you overlook the fact that Shalmaneser IV liquidated the entire northern 10 tribes of Israel and resettled the survivors in far away provinces. Subsequently, Sennacharib liquidated Philistia, and nearly liquidated Judea except Jerusalem. Thereafter, Nebuchadnezzer II of the Chaldeans liquidated Judea save for a small remnant, which he exiled to Babylon for 70 years.

For nearly 5,000 years, the rules of successful engagement in the Middle East are as follows: 1) the enemy of my enemy is my friend, 2) annilite the "enemy" entirely and leave no survivors behind, and 3) never occupy a foreign land but keep your army on the move crushing one city/town/village after another. It is especially the latter rule why outsiders like the Hittites and Greeks were able to maintain an empire in the Middle East. Alexander the Greek was successful only so long as he kept his army on the move. A lesson the American military has failed to remember.
5.8.2007 10:42am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Do you want to be proud to be an American?

Most do. Out of Iraq. Out of the Middle East. Let's make America great again, and take care of our own. Enough with the slaughter of innocents for no gain.

Nothing would make me prouder that to see what happened in SE Asia after we left happen to Iraq and the Middle East.

How abou you?

==

I Support Democracy In Iraq
5.8.2007 7:52pm