Sunday, May 02, 2004

Soldiers' jobs made more difficult

Disclaimer: This entry isn’t primarily intended for photojournalism students.

This week has been chaotic at best. Consequently, I haven't had time to address the current images coming from Iraq. With the latest images of Brit soldiers supposedly abusing Iraqi prisoners, I've a renewed impetus to comment.

The Salt Lake Tribune stated, "The American military in Iraq announced March 20 that six members of an Army Reserve military police unit assigned to Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad faced charges of assault, cruelty, indecent acts and maltreatment of detainees."

These six sick people will be punished in court, but more unrelated, innocent, honorable soldiers will be punished in other ways.

I was an infantry non-commissioned officer (sergeant) in the elite OPFOR regiment at the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert. I served honorably and received many awards including an Expert Infantry Badge, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal and even some lesser-known OPFOR-limited awards such as the Order of Hamby First Class.

So, when I say I hate that these "guards" have shamed the honorable names of those who died in this current conflict, I speak from a personal perspective as a veteran.

First, let's get one thing straight. These particular prison "guards" aren't soldiers. They're cowards. In this case, they're exceptions to even their own low life.

The blood of honorable American soldiers was shed to capture the Iraqi prisoners. Frankly, it's much easier to kill rather than capture. As a soldier, you aim, squeeze and they drop. There are no further questions or complications.

To capture a prisoner means the soldier must take responsibility for the safety, feeding, etc. of the prisoner – even if his own comrades are trying to kill him. Consider this a moment.

So, the front line soldiers risked their lives to get these prisoners. They also risked their lives to return the prisoners safely to a place to keep them off the battlefield. Each dead or captured enemy combatant is one less to worry about on the battlefield.

Instead of keeping the prisoners alive and well to demoralize the enemy, these morons violate UNIVERSALLY UNDERSTOOD international laws and even take pictures of it. Now, the front line soldiers must fight harder.

Few combatants (Americans included) are going to surrender when they think they'll be humiliated, urinated upon and worse. With no good option, they'll fight harder to avoid capture. Therefore, more American fighting soldiers will shed blood because of the actions of these few.

In America, we must accept the responsibility for the actions of the few. We can examine the problem and try to correct it, but we're all responsible for this act of massive stupidity and depravity.

Possibly this is a problem with using reservists to do regular Army functions. The standing military size should be increased. This takes higher wages instead of hardware purchases from the defense budget (tell this to your local politicians). It also takes recruitment of more honorable men and women.

Additionally, the "don't ask – don't tell" policy should be revisited. Apparently something has dramatically changed in the last few years. The images I've seen show a sick perversion that wasn't in the military during the 80s.

Even though I was in a combat unit with NO privacy, the images show something that would make most people uncomfortable. The fact that women are involved is even more disturbing and leads me to question why they even wanted to see these men humiliated in this particular manner.

I honestly can't imagine what kind of person (male or female) would do this, so I can only look outside my own knowledge to those who wouldn't find this as perverse as I see it.

Enough for now,

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