May 01, 2004


While everybody is freaking out over recent photographs from Iraq, itís worth recalling this editorial by Phil Lucas, executive editor of Florida's Panama City News Herald. It's about some photographs we saw earlier in April.

(Via reader Paul C. in Texas)

UPDATE. Happiest photograph of the week: Sgt. Seth Cole meets his pen-pals.

UPDATE II. Also from Florida Cracker, who speaks for many:

General Janice Karpinski is a disgrace to the uniform. With friends like her, we don't need enemies.

What a disgusting business. I want the whole lot of them busting rocks in Leavenworth. I bet the guards there know how to conduct themselves like professionals.

UPDATE III. George W. Bush agrees with the Cracker:

President Bush has condemned the apparent mistreatment of some Iraqi prisoners, saying, "Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people. That's not the way we do things in America. I didn't like it one bit."

UPDATE IV. Melbourne Age letter-writer Katherine Wilson reveals her profound short-term memory problems:

If the Iraqis had treated American soldiers in the way American soldiers are treating Iraqi prisoners now, the entire Arab race would have been demonised.

Posted by Tim Blair at May 1, 2004 03:13 AM

130,000 troops in Iraq, you had to figure this was bound to happen eventually. I am not afraid to admit that there are some scumbags serving in our military, one cannot have the Tillmans of the world without the occasional psychopath. But thanks to the rigid system of law enforcement in the military, you can bet your ass that the perpetrators in this case are sweating bullets right now, and they know that they will pay dearly for their transgressions.

I am ashamed that these soldiers did what they did, there is no excuse for this behavior. They will get what they deserve.

Posted by: Tman at May 1, 2004 at 03:24 AM

Things like this are completely shameful and should be punished with severity. What an embarrasment for those of us that tout the professionalism and humanity of the American military. Incidenents like this, undermines our military as bad, if not worse, than outright espionage and treason.
Hey, but perhaps these female "warriors" intended on using their womanly skills to illicit information from these naked male prisoners by sucking them all off. I'd bet this would work a whole lot better than the usual procedures. Let's let our women in the military do what they're good at. It know it isn't fighting.
And thanks to Al Jaz, or whoever, who by pointing out abuses by the US Miltary, helps us to eliminate these incompetent embarrasments to the American people. Cheers to reporters worldwide, who occasionally do serve as a check on the powerful.

Posted by: Jeez at May 1, 2004 at 05:09 AM

Let's keep some perspective. As soon as these crimes came to light they received universal condemnation from everyone, and I mean everyone. This is not the way we conduct ourselves and it does not reflect our ideals or our policies. The guilty will be brought to justice quickly.

Now, compare and contrast the behavior and comments of our officials, journalists, pundits, and bloggers over this crime with the behavior of Al Jazeera, the fabled Arab street, or even Big Media with the killings and mutilation of four U.S. contractors last month.

Big Media needs to stop the hand-wringing and propoganda-enabling shilling about these criminal acts. By all means report it, but back away very quickly from extrapolating from these acts to the liberation of Iraq as a whole. Everything we have done, and continue to do in Iraq, will only be invalidated if we do not bring these people to justice. I have no doubt that we will do the right thing.

The perfect remains the enemy of the good. Let's not try to sell perfection to Iraq. That is only a recipe for failure, and anybody who's selling it knows that.

Posted by: charles austin at May 1, 2004 at 05:27 AM

Also from Florida Cracker, who speaks for many...

Well, she certainly speaks for me. She is 100% absofreakinlutely correct.

Posted by: Otter at May 1, 2004 at 05:39 AM

These troops might be scumbags, But lets examine the facts. They humiliated some of Saddam's fedayeen by pretending to do to them , for a laugh, what these Sadam supporters did to many for real.

Verb:To lower the pride, dignity, or self-respect of. See synonyms at degrade.
ETYMOLOGY: Late Latin humilire, humilit-, to humble, from humilis, humble. See humble.

To me Someone who shows up at a neighbors house kidnapps their young women, then returns their dead mulitated corpes in a bag on the front porch the next day deserves humiliation and more.

Our troops might not be the right ones to do it but Im not sure I would call a little humiliation a crime for these former thugs of the dictator. Im thinking I would call it Justice. Im thinking it is in line with the teachings of a religion that pospones the public beheading of a "criminal" so that there is time for the people to get out of church to see it.

Posted by: Papertiger at May 1, 2004 at 05:52 AM

of course, treatment of POW's like this is bound to happen, it does in every war. But to fucking film it so all the world can see!? These bastards deserve a bullet between the eyes.

so enough of this bullshit about "this doesnt represent america, we condemn this". they are american soldiers and to people around the world who hate us, they do represent everything about america. So, lets get their cute little video camera, put them on international tv, and shoot them in the fucking head. they've earned it.

Posted by: Oktober at May 1, 2004 at 07:01 AM

Another thing here is the fact that they were turned in by by other soldiers.

Posted by: Two in the Hat at May 1, 2004 at 09:06 AM


You sound pretty angry. Could you clarify just who it is that you want shot in the head?

While you are thinking about this: If you refer to the military personnel, let me point out that executions under the Unified Code of Military Justice require a full courtmartial, with an automatic review by the Military Court of Appeals. Soldiers deserve justice.

If you refer to the prisoners, that would still require a full trial under the Geneva Convention.

And in either case, summary execution is not what we do. It's something that Saddam did. And execution by firing squad has not been used by the US military for years.

Posted by: JeffS at May 1, 2004 at 09:54 AM


yeah I am pretty angry. I was referring to the soldiers. however, I have cooled down and I no longer wish to see them executed. But I do hope that their punishment is exceedingly harsh and gets as much media attention as this incident as gotten.

In a world where negative news reigns supreme, I can't think of anything that could be worse for the coalition than this. it could very well be the nail in the coffin.

Posted by: Oktober at May 1, 2004 at 10:19 AM

"Now, compare and contrast the behavior and comments of our officials, journalists, pundits, and bloggers over this crime with the behavior of Al Jazeera, the fabled Arab street, or even Big Media with the killings and mutilation of four U.S. contractors last month."


I want to see the guilty punished, but don't want the country to go crazy because some of our soldiers behaved badly. They will be punished.

As someone pointed out, it was an American that turned them in after seeing the tape they made.
It goes against what we believe to see our soldiers treat people this way.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at May 1, 2004 at 10:40 AM

To me, the worst part wasn't just that the soldiers humiliated and degraded these prisoners, it was the fact that they then beat them to death, burned their bodies, and hung the corpses from a bridge in downtown Memphis where a cheering crowd of Southern Baptist Bush Backers cheered them on. No, wait ...

Posted by: Uncle Milk at May 1, 2004 at 11:13 AM

General Janice Karpinski may be a disgrace to the uniform but she knows how to party.

Your right though, those jihadis shouldn't have been humiliated like that. They should have just been shot.

Posted by: Amos at May 1, 2004 at 11:16 AM

yeah, then burned and hung from a bridge!!!

Posted by: roscoe at May 1, 2004 at 11:25 AM

I find it remarkable that this story broke over a month ago, but is just now getting attention. On March 22nd, during the CPA daily briefing, it was stated that a number of US soldiers had been charged with abusing prisoners.

No one paid it any attention.

Posted by: Robert Crawford at May 1, 2004 at 11:33 AM

"Hey, but perhaps these female "warriors" intended on using their womanly skills to illicit information from these naked male prisoners by sucking them all off. I'd bet this would work a whole lot better than the usual procedures. Let's let our women in the military do what they're good at. It know it isn't fighting."

oh, so because they're female, they can't fight? only the big powerful men can fight? sexist pig.

Posted by: samkit at May 1, 2004 at 11:43 AM

I don't know if they can fight or not but that female soldier with the cigarette is kinda hot. Maybe it's her tank-girl attitude.

Secondly I'm outraged at the sugesstion that jihadis should be getting more oral sex than I am. For the love of God can we please just shoot these fucking people?

Posted by: Amos at May 1, 2004 at 11:54 AM

Who gives a sh...t? They are rapists, child killers, corrupt bastards. Let teach the arabs what does it feel when the shoe is in the other foot.
Let no be fooled by the crocodrile tears from the left, they never shead a tear by the victims of saddam and his sons.

Posted by: chileau at May 1, 2004 at 11:55 AM

Oh dear AWK! oh dear AWK! oh dear AWK! AwkakakaAAAKKKKAAAKKK RAWWKAKAKAKA! Rawkakkawwkkaakakakaka. Ka ka! Ka ka ka! Kaka! Poo.

[The Parrotese-English Translator has been turned off by the Management.]

Posted by: Miranda Divide at May 1, 2004 at 12:16 PM


For those who seem to be having trouble grasping the seriousness of this: how would you feel if it was your sister as a prisoner of war in those photos?

Posted by: David Blue at May 1, 2004 at 01:12 PM

David, don't lecture. Especially when your subject can be easily turned on its ear, thusly: "How would you feel if it was your sister who had been abused, raped, perhaps killed by one of these prisoners and you witnessed their subsequent humiliation and harrassment by their American captors? Would you feel a) gleeful, b) indifferent, c) both?" And by the way, I don't think anyone here doesn't "get" the seriousness of these allegations. Some people just happen to disagree with you on how to react to it.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at May 1, 2004 at 01:24 PM

Tim, actually Miranda's untranslated post makes just as much sense as any of her other ones.

Dave, we all get the seriousness. I have yet to see any statements by anybody in the blogosphere indicating that the soldiers involved should not be punished.

Now, please let me know whether you consider these crimes to be anywhere near the same level of brutality as the actual rape, torture, mutilations, and executions carried out by the former regime, and current insurgents.

The reason I ask this is because major media outlets, which should know better, are explicitly comparing these humiliations to actual tortures, which is pretty egregious for supposedly "reputable" news organizations (hello, BBC).

I am curious about your take on this. How would you feel if your brother were hacked to death and hung on a bridge among cheering crowds ? Or your sister raped and tortured while she was immobilized with broken limbs as a POW ? Would you not be disgusted by the exaggeration of the actions of the US soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison, by putting them in the same category as the former ?

I find this lack of understanding of exactly what we are up against to be pretty serious also.

Posted by: Carl in N.H. at May 1, 2004 at 01:43 PM

RC, regarding the delay in the story from March 22: according to what the CBS person said, they delayed at the request of the military, because there are US POWs.

As far as I know, there still are US POWs who now will almost certainly suffer actual torture and barbaric execution, but I am guessing that CBS saw ratings season coming down on them like a freight train, and felt they had to get this story out there.

Posted by: Carl in N.H. at May 1, 2004 at 01:46 PM

As one of those silly people having trouble grasping the seriousness of this let me just say this: those soldiers should and will be punished for violating the rules of war. Their officers should and will have their careers destroyed by these revelations. The unbelievable stupidity demonstrated by these actions has made the coalition's job harder in Iraq and may cause increased violence and the loss of some of their fellow soldiers lives.

That said, I don't want those prisoners 'humiliated'. I want them fucking dead. Try and grasp the seriousness of that, dumbass, and stop crying your PC tears for these terrorist scum.

Posted by: Amos at May 1, 2004 at 02:48 PM

What a total crock this is. I dont for a moment agree with their actions, but the victim are still alive are they not?

They were humiliated by their captors, but at least they didnt have their throats cut or their heads blown off for the entertainment of Muslims the world over.

Their bodies were not mutilated and dragged through the streets in front of cheering crowds of Americans.

The captives were humiliated and frightened, not tortured and/or raped. But the anti-US retards will have a field day, while the burned and mutilated Americans will not rate a mention.

Posted by: dee at May 1, 2004 at 03:23 PM

They did rate a mention. KOS said they got what they had coming and idymedia laughed at them. Remember?

Posted by: Amos at May 1, 2004 at 03:50 PM

"Now, please let me know whether you consider these crimes to be anywhere near the same level of brutality as the actual rape, torture, mutilations, and executions carried out by the former regime, and current insurgents."

Of course not.

My opinion stands.

Now since I've been instructed "not to lecture" and I don't fancy having all my future posts "untranslated" to parrot squawking, that's all I have to say.

Posted by: David Blue at May 1, 2004 at 05:23 PM

The Brass will predictably take their revenge with the Officers/soldiers involved in this affair. Not necessarily because they did anything seriously brutal, but to show outrage at this apparently abberant behaviour. Take a bunch of young men/women, most of them pretty decent characters in a normal environment, put them in life threatening situations-maybe they've seen some of their comrades killed/mutilated etc. and they may not behave as nobly as we like. That's war, and that's what to expect when you go there. Their real crime is showing the folks back home what war is.

Posted by: carlos at May 1, 2004 at 05:31 PM

attn David Blue. You think what those Iraqis got was 'serious'? I had abuse equivalent to theirs going through school and the Boy Scouts.

Posted by: roscoe at May 1, 2004 at 07:00 PM

It was serious in that it was a serious defeat in the propaganda war, and that's all this war is. This collection of bombers, crazies, petty thugs and ex-regime scumbags can't beat America militarily, but America can beat itself. That's why all the terorist actions are staged for media effect and why all their media allies here in the west hyperventalate when an Iraqi jihadi gets a bruise in captivity but shrug indifferently when US citizens are incinerated and hung on bridges.

These stupid US soldiers just handed their own side a huge PR setback. Why did they do it? Why did they film it? Way to go, idiots.

Posted by: Amos at May 1, 2004 at 10:28 PM

The apologists on this thread make me angry. That Saddam or the insurgents or whoever have done far, far worse things is an irrelevance to this specific issue. Logically, it's the equivalent of saying Saddam wasn't so bad because Stalin was worse. Why can't people just say that what happened was appalling, period, without ifs and buts?

Attaching a guy to wires and telling him he'll be electrocuted if he falls off a crate is mental torture of the worst kind. Making people strip off and mime sexual acts is awful. If this is what they took pictures off, imagine what they didn't film. All this goes way beyond frat boy antics because these people were prisoners of foreign troops, deprived of all rights, and had no idea what might happen to them. Some of these prisoners maybe scum, but we know a lot of them have already been released, so presumably a lot of them were just people who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Posted by: H. at May 1, 2004 at 10:39 PM

Also, all you apologists are just contributing to anti-American propaganda. "So we mentally and sexually abused some POWs? So what?" How do you think that attitude is going to win hearts and minds?

Posted by: H. at May 1, 2004 at 10:43 PM

Just wanted to add that I'd rather see the prisoners dead, as well.

Also, while I want to see the soldiers punished, I certainly do not think humiliation is as serious as torture, rape, etc.. So, I hope the soldiers will not be punished too harshly just to assuage public opinion.

Let the punishment fit the actual crime, not the hysterics some are having about what happened.

Posted by: Chris Josepshon at May 1, 2004 at 10:56 PM

Like, summary execution of the lot of them? Hmmm, that sounds familiar...

Posted by: H. at May 1, 2004 at 11:35 PM

The prisoners, I meant.

From the Daily Mirror, on British abuse of prisoners:

"Speaking on condition of anonymity, the soldiers told the paper no charges were brought against the unnamed captive.

They allege that during his eight-hour ordeal he was threatened with execution, his jaw broken and his teeth smashed.

After being beaten and urinated on, he was driven away and dumped from the back of a moving vehicle, the soldiers claimed, unaware if he was dead."

So is this one of the prisoners you'd prefer to see dead then, Chris?

Posted by: H. at May 1, 2004 at 11:43 PM

Your moral dudgeon is very impressive, "H." Do you feel better now, having shown everyone here their moral inadequacy compared to your shining halo? Since we don't know the actual pre-captivity activities of the prisoners -- they might have been members of Uday's elite Torture 'N' Rape brigades, they may have been hapless dupes forced to go along with the fighting by their more dominant fellows, we'll probably never know now since they have been granted the hallowed title of Victim -- I'll leave unremarked upon your tender concern for the sensibilities of these beings.

As for reactions to this whole thing, I think that of Brian in this post is a fine example of a proportionate response. It's to the point, and doesn't go into frantic moral posturing. I mean, is there any doubt no normal person, whatever their political position, condones POW abuse of any sort?

Posted by: Andrea Harris at May 2, 2004 at 12:12 AM

Andrea, was it you who made a cheap joke about the guy who was told he'd be electrocuted if he made a false step? Was it you who said it simply resembled fratboy hijinks?

I don't think there was any "frantic moral posturing" in my post, just a little anger at people who think this kind of stuff is a bit of joke.

Posted by: H. at May 2, 2004 at 12:59 AM

Were you as angry at the revelations of mass graves of victims of Saddam's campaigns against his own people, videos of Uday torturing Iraqis, the gassed children of Halabja? Who knows -- as far as I can recall (unless you used another fake name to hold forth on that subject here) you have never mentioned it. You certainly haven't said anything here.

But people who refuse to don a hair shirt and flagellate themselves because some of their fellow Americans engaged in mistreatment -- amounting, yes, to fraternity hazing techniques, and not of the worst sort either, -- we know that's what gets you steamed.

The so-called "soldiers" will get what's coming to them, because that's how we do things over here in Civilization. I wonder if their former prisoners will get the justice they deserve -- whatever that may be -- meted out to them, or will they get to have all their sins absolved (if sins they have committed beyond being unfortunate enough to have been taken prisoner) after having been baptised into the Church of the Innocent Victim by such as you, who claims that being threatened with electrocution is worse than actually being electrocuted.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at May 2, 2004 at 03:52 AM


[The Parrotese-English Translator has been turned off by the Management.]

Posted by: Miranda Divide at May 2, 2004 at 04:01 AM

"Let's let our women in the military do what they're good at. It know it isn't fighting."

Oh, goody. Gratuitous misogyny.

Yes, the American soldiers should be tried and, if guilty, sentenced in accordance with UCMJ. No, they shouldn't be shot in the head. Yes, they were turned in by a fellow soldier; ergo, the US military is policing itself. No, not all US soldiers are cruel ruffians and sadists. We don't know the circumstances surrounding the incarceration of these particular Iraqis. I'm certain that will be revealed during court proceedings. No, this will not completely destroy the entire Iraqi liberation campaign. Some people are still capable of rational thought.


Posted by: ushie at May 2, 2004 at 04:06 AM

For those who seem to be having trouble grasping the seriousness of this: how would you feel if it was your sister as a prisoner of war in those photos?

Um, as far as I can tell the only woman in the photo is one of the alleged abusers.

(I get the feeling the allegations of sexual degredation by a female soldier will play on in the Arab media when mention of all the other alleged misconduct dies down)

Posted by: Andjam at May 2, 2004 at 04:17 AM

I have to confess that I fail to see exactly why this is a scandal. Here is what I got from news reports and the transcript of the CBS program:

There was no torture, at most there was threat of torture.

There was mocking and humiliation of the prisoners. There may have been some form of physical abuse.

The military investigated, determined that those involved committed offenses against military conduct.

The military removed these individuals from duty and charged them.

The military told the media about the incidents.

Then a month after the military made this disclosure (after soldiers had already been charged with the crimes), CBS airs this as if it were some great investigative coup.

The military polices itself, then comes under fire by moral relativists who equate humiliation with torture and slaughter. By all means, prosecute the soldiers but at least keep some semblance of perspective (as, apparently, the military was already doing).

So where is the real scandal? It is in broadcasting pictures like that long after they might have actual news value. At best, CBS was trying to bring in ratings with lurid pictures. At worst, they were trying to make the military look bad to undermine the occupation and taint Bush during an elections. I won't bet on which is more likely.

Posted by: Ken Summers at May 2, 2004 at 06:59 AM

It was probably a combination of both (ratings and election-tweaking). The media hounds are jonesing for a new My Lai so bad it's pathetic.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at May 2, 2004 at 07:38 AM

First of all, I think that the treatment of the prisoners was unprofessional and uncalled for. Soldiers are supposed to protect prisoners, under standing regulations, UCMJ, and the Geneva Convention. Posters wanting prisoners shot, please note this. I suggest that you contain your outrage.

That having been said, no one was killed, tortured, mutilated, raped, or otherwise harmed. Humilated, yes. Terrified, yes. But on the great balance scales of the universe, those prisoners came out far ahead of other POWs in the past (including under Saddam during Desert Storm I). Commentors on the other side of the fence, please note that worse has been done by US troops TO US troops, when hazing was still in practice.

Those regulations are in place to prevent exactly the outrage being generated now; the degree of injuries is immaterial. This is not a new problem, folks. Atrocities against POWs have swayed public opinion before. And I exclude Vietnam in that statement; I'm thinking of WWI and WWII.

But this is not a "My Lai" event; it's a stupid frat party trick, and it's getting spun out of control by people who desperately want a "My Lai" type incident. Frankly, I see it as evidence of bias against Coalition forces in general, and US forces in particular. That includes comments in this thread.

So let's recap:

1. A US soldier is required to secure and safeguard prisoners of war. There are exacting requirements for this, based on international law. Failure to do so is a punishable offense under military law. The same is true for other civilized nations.

2. The Iraqi POWs may have been nasty little buggers with high rank in Uday's "Rape and Torture" brigades, but they are due the exact same protection as someone who was forcibly drafted into the Iraqi army. They might be segregated from others, but there would little different treatment.

3. The soldiers involved (including their chain of command) is being investigated under UCMJ. The US military is not hiding this; they can't. I don't know what punishment will be given out, but you can bet people will do jail time, or at least get a bad conduct discharge. Others will likely have their careers cut short, and lose their retirement benefits.

(FYI, a "BCD" is the legal equivalent to having been convicted of a major felony. The former soldier carries that stigma the rest of their lives. Loss of civil rights, pensions, job opprotunities, you name it.)

4. The prisoners do come out ahead. Way ahead.

This is being treated as a crime committed by US troops. That's what it is. That's what has to be done. But it is not a crime of atrocity -- it's a crime due to stupidity.

Now, if some people think the prisoners were terribly abused, I suggest that they pass the hat around their corner of the universe, and send those poor bastards some money to get their lifes restarted. Or get them counseling for their stress related incidents. Perhaps a job placement service? Or will these criers of shame continue to sit on the sideline and whine some more about how the US is oppressing Iraq? You know -- will they put their money where their mouth is? Fat chance!

I don't feel sorry for either side. I'm embarrassed by the actions of the soldiers and irritated that the prisoners will probably be treated as heroes, but I'm outraged that the act of a few stupid people are trumpeted over the hard work and bravery of many other good soldiers. That's the real scandal here.

Posted by: JeffS at May 2, 2004 at 01:23 PM

Well said Jeff

Posted by: Papertiger at May 2, 2004 at 02:48 PM