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May 04, 2004

Since poor training, bad leadership and inadequate supervision is in the news...

This won't bring anyone who's a friend fo the services any farther down - and will perhaps serve to remind us we've weathered other Really Stupid Venal Criminal Things before, as well. But will perhaps serve to steel us to keep our voices added to the fire demanding an accounting. A just, fair, accounting. We owe that to the dead, to the maimed, to the Constitution, to the Iraqis (as a demonstration of the rule of law), and to the accused. A Brit paper ran the pictures with this headline, "The Photo Which Lost The War."

We must strive hard so that those pictures don't have the same resonance over time as this one:


I don't want anyone railroaded - I want fair trials, and if there are convictions, fair sentences. But for the more senior among 'em, fair sentences are probably long ones. I actually had an emailer quibble with me on this, saying, arguing that in terms of actual injury inflicted, what appears to have happened in relatively minor. And also went on to say that what Iraqis did to our POWs was worse.

MY correspondent is not thinking the problem through. Even if the actual injury to the prisoners is slight - the downstream effects are astounding. This isn't running a stop sign and being seen by a cop and getting a ticket. This is running a stop sign and causing an accident that results in multiple deaths and injuries. In this case, the deaths and injuries caused to Iraqis and Coalition troops as the militants respond. The initial causes in my example are the same - the effects are not. And the effects matter. That doesn't even touch the reality of the inadequate training and supervision this monumental act of criminal stupidity represents. The stiffening of resolve of your opponent and a mindless sinking into further barbarity is why this sort of thing is explicitly banned by US policy, not just a pro-forma conformance to international law and custom.

Today is the 34th anniversary of Kent State.

The units that responded were ill-trained and came right from riot duty elsewhere; they hadn't had much sleep. The first day, there was some brutality; the Guard bayonetted two men, one a disabled veteran, who had cursed or yelled at them from cars. The following day, May 4th, the Guard, commanded with an amazing lack of military judgment, marched down a hill, to a field in the middle of angry demonstrators, then back up again. Seconds before they would have passed around the corner of a large building, and out of sight of the crowd, many of the Guardsmen wheeled and fired directly into the students, hitting thirteen, killing four of them, pulling the trigger over and over, for thirteen seconds. (Count out loud--one Mississippi, two Mississippi, to see how long this is.) Guardsmen--none of whom were later punished, civilly, administratively, or criminally--admitted firing at specific unarmed targets; one man shot a demonstrator who was giving him the finger. The closest student shot was fully sixty feet away; all but one were more than 100 feet away; all but two were more than 200 feet away. One of the dead was 255 feet away; the rest were 300 to 400 feet away. The most distant student shot was more than 700 feet from the Guardsmen.

The dead:

Alison Krause,
Jeffrey Miller
Sandra Scheuer
William Schroeder, ROTC cadet, shot while in uniform at Kent State

It would appear that the Iraqi prisoner abuse issue is being taken seriously - let's hope so, demand so, and make it so. So that if anyone writes paragraphs like this about Abu Ghraib, it's because they are a barking moonbat, and not correct.

It would be too charitable to say that the investigation was botched; there was no investigation. Even the New York City police, who are themselves prone to brutality and corruption, do a better job. Every time an officer discharges his weapon, it is taken from him, and there is an investigation. Here--to the fatal detriment of the federal criminal trial which followed--it was never conclusively established which Guardsmen had fired, or which of them had shot the wounded and the dead. Since all were wearing gas masks, it is impossible to identify them in pictures (many had also removed or covered their name tags, a classic ploy of law enforcement officers about to commit brutality in the '60's and '70's), and though many confessed to having fired their weapons, none admitted to being in the first row and therefore, among the first to fire. The ballistic evidence could have helped here, but none was taken.