Thursday, April 23, 2009

Nasty Post VI: What Do You Expect?

The news first told us this:

A U.S. Army soldier convicted of murder in the 2007 killings of four bound and blindfolded Iraqis was sentenced on Thursday to life in prison.

Master Sgt. John Hatley, 40, also will have his rank reduced to private, forfeit all pay and receive a dishonorable discharge, a jury of eight Army officers and noncommissioned officers decided. He has the possibility of parole after serving 20 years.

Today I read about a possible court case against British soldiers:

British soldiers tortured and murdered up to 20 Iraqis in cold blood, the High Court was told yesterday.

It happened after a three-hour gun battle at an Army checkpoint near Basra, a lawyer claimed.

Rabinder Singh said a group of local men were taken prisoner and transported to an Army camp where they were beaten with a rusty tent pole, punched, slammed against walls, denied water, blasted with loud music and forced to strip naked in the presence of a woman – a humiliation for Muslim men.

The next day, he said, only nine were still alive – and 20 corpses were returned to their families. One was teenager Hamid Al-Sweady.

The Army claims the men all died in the initial gun battle, but Hamid's uncle Khuder Al-Sweady and five survivors of the incident yesterday began a court battle in London to win an independent inquiry.

Who knows about that latter case? But my instant reactions to stories like these, and even the torture stories is the headline of this post. Yes, it's nasty of me. But what do you really expect from people who are told to kill, quickly and on orders, who are put under tremendous strain, who are psychologically prepped (long and well) to kill? Do you really expect that every one of those people can simply turn all that off when it's not appropriate?

Of course we must demand that they do. Of course. But given what we now know about the true behavior of those ruling over them, how two-faced is it to treat these lower level killers as somehow shockingly out of line?

All this is part of the costs of war. People are destroyed in more ways than the purely physical, you know, and some of the deaths wars cause take place years after the war has ended. I want us to acknowledge that.