New Photographs Show US Soldiers Littering, Kicking Puppies

It’s been reported that authorities have come upon the most shocking and disturbing photos of alleged American abuses in Iraq yet – graphic pictures of American GIs kicking puppies and recklessly littering.

In other news, photographs previously thought to be of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib have now been discovered to be snapshots of a San Francisco nightclub.

Alright, sorry, that was too much. I don’t want to make light of the Abu Ghraib. It’s inexcusable and unjustifiable, and should be condemned. People should be punished.

But look, this is not even vaguely like My Lai, the Inquisition, or any of the other things it’s been compared to. And it is most certainly not like the murder of Daniel Pearl or Nick Berg. Not even close. I don’t understand how anyone could draw any similarities at all.

There are a lot of things we don’t know about these photographs. A picture is worth a thousand words, but you have to make sure it’s the _right_ thousand words. We have virtually no context for these pictures.

Let me try to be clear: There are no imaginable circumstances that would make the abuse of those prisoners even remotely justifiable. But there may be factors that would make it more or less awful. We need to keep those factors in mind so that we respond appropriately.

Proverbs 18:13 says “He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.” Let’s be sure we hear the full story.

Who are these prisoners, and why are they in prison? Did US forces storm a park and round up daddies flying kites with their children? Are these shoplifters? Are they terrorists insurgents? Former officials under Saddam? Agents of these terrorist insurgent groups?

Why are they being treated this way? Are these US soldiers having fun? Are they just being sadistic? Is it part of a controlled attempt to break down these particular prisoners? Part of an attempt to intimidate and break down other prisoners by making an example of these? Are they being punished?

Why are the soldiers taking pictures? For kicks? Souvenirs? To mock and further abuse these prisoners? To aid in a physchological attempt to break down these or other prisoners?

Who is in charge? Are the soldiers acting of their own accord? Under orders from higher up? In cooperation with lower level intelligence agents? In cooperation with high level intelligence agents?

And we should remember a few things. We are at war. And our war is not simply with Iraq; it’s now with these guerilla fighters in Iraq, and you need an awful lot of intelligence to defeat them. Not to mention the terrorist groups.

There is no excuse or imaginable defense for the abuses shown in those pictures. It is wrong. But it is much “wronger” if the soldiers are simply being sadistic. It’s a different story, and probably deserves a different reaction, if this is part of a calculated attempt to gain necessary intelligence, and was carried out under the direction of high ranking intelligence officials. It’s still not excusable or defensible, and still people – including the soldiers involved – must be punished, and it’s still wrong, but it is different.

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8 Responses to New Photographs Show US Soldiers Littering, Kicking Puppies

  1. Jared says:

    You probably already know what I think about the prison abuse brouhaha.
    But I am disappointed in anyone, from any side, comparing these admittedly perverse acts to the brutal murder of Nick Berg. Some dude on my solo site is even arguing in a recent thread that Berg’s murder is “nothing” compared to what happened to the prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
    Say what?
    Pointing him to my post denouncing the folks who are shrugging off the prison abuse (for a bit of context regarding my personal feelings), I tried to persuade him that the brutality of sawing someone’s head off is far worse than anything those prison pictures have demonstrated took place.

    Again, not that we should be comparing these things anyway, but how can folks — the media included — think the prison abuse story is more shocking than the Nick Berg story? The vast majority of Americans and American servicepeople do not wish to sexually abuse or humiliate the Iraqi people, whether they be freemen or detainees. But the entire population of Islamic terrorism wish every one of us as dead as Mr. Berg.
    That’s a significant difference, IMO.

  2. It should go without saying that Abu Ghraib is very bad. I think we ought to make sure we have the full story and not jump to any conclusions as to who did what or why or to how many people. I do not understand those who feel compelled to dismiss it as no big deal. It _is_ a big deal; maybe even bigger because we have the moral high ground generally.

    I agree w/ you regarding the difference between Berg and Abu Ghraib.

  3. Your thoughts reflect mine, and most americans. Well said. If I could ask an off topic question – what is the purpose of putting a line thought certain words? I see this sometimes on blogs, what’s the purpose?

  4. I find it ironic that you would quote anyone’s Bible after having belittled the experience of those at Abu Ghraib. Even Donald Rumsfeld, whom I might expect to want to minimize that series of events, especially in light of the fact that “the full story” is showing that this was apparently “justified” at pretty high levels, has not done that. President Bush himself has condemned what happened.

    Anyone who belittles what happened to Pearl or Berg is a reprehensible animal — I don’t care what one’s political views, or even one’s views of just this undeclared war, are — and I wouldn’t argue that belittling the experience of those at Abu Ghraib is on anywhere near the same level as a beheading.

    But to minimize it and then quote the Bible as the justification for doing so….

  5. One correction. Instead of

    …I wouldn?t argue that belittling the experience of those at Abu Ghraib is on anywhere near the same level as a beheading.

    I meant to say,

    …I wouldn?t argue that the experience of those at Abu Ghraib is on anywhere near the same level as a beheading.


  6. Bill says:


    I think the quotation Robert used is a good one –

    ?He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.?

    This is why we don’t just drag the Abu Ghraib perpetrators to the nearest tree and lynch ’em (which some of us, in our worst moments, probably wanted to do when these photos came out). It’s a call for wise justice, not emotional retribution, and I think it was very appropriate.

    Everyone is walking on eggshells these days, not wanting to appear in the least as supporting the idiots at Abu Ghraib. I think Robert made it clear that he considers the Abu Ghraib offenses reprehensible, even as he satirized not the offenses but the media coverage of them.

  7. Hi Rick. I don’t mean to make light of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by a few US soldiers, not one bit. I tried to be very clear that their abuses were utterly inexcusable _even if_ they were ordered to do so. There are mighty few situations where that kind of abuse could be remotely justified.

    My thoughts, as Bill explained, were more along the comparisons to My Lai, the Inquisition, and so on. Abu Ghraib is bad, but it’s not as bad as those. And it’s not comparable to Berg or Pearl either. If I had to choose to be beheaded, or sodomized with a glow stick, bring on the glow stick.

    We should be able to compare this to other atrocities, and point out that it is not as bad as some incidents. And we should be willing to gather all the facts and make decisions based on more than a handful of pictures. Saying so doesn’t mean I’m making light of the situation. My emotional reaction is to favor public hanging for the soldiers who did this. But we need to be sure we have all the facts first. Hence the quote from Proverbs.

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