ACCUMULATING PERIPHERALS


Bad apples by mattsteinglass
June 24, 2008, 12:12 pm
Filed under: Human Rights and Torture

Philip Gourevitch has some good posting going on over at TPMCafe on his new book, “Standard Operating Procedure”, the companion volume to the Errol Morris film about Abu Ghraib. He poses two questions: what is the value of discussions of Abu Ghraib, given that no senior US officials will ever be punished for crafting the US’s torture policies? And how are we to deal with the segmentation of US society in the volunteer-army era into a caste society, where the military is drawn from a demographic caste apart from the rest of American society? Do we need, Gourevitch asks, to bring back the draft?

On the first question, I think the value of discussions of Abu Ghraib and of the evolution of the US’s torture policies is self-evident. What’s really powerful about this story is that it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever seen for examining the way that policy decisions translate into events. Think, for instance, of Jane Mayer’s amazing article for The New Yorker on Alberto Mora. The hardest thing to do in journalism is to draw connections between complex and fuzzy management and policy decisions, bureaucratic political maneuvering and the adoption of one or another document as official policy, and the consequences such documents and management tactics have for the accomplishment of an organization’s mission. The reporting that’s been done on how abuses at Abu Ghraib (and Bagram and Guantanamo) stemmed from the evolution of US torture policy has been probably the best, most gripping organizational reporting I’ve read.

On the second question, bringing back the draft is an obvious non-starter. I don’t think the problem of a demographic and cultural bifurcation between the military and the rest of American society is most evident in the Abu Ghraib drama. It’s more of a broad political problem. The basic problem is a tendency on the part of those in the military, partly because of their increasing segregation from the rest of American society, to dramatically overrate the value of what they do, and to believe that they ought to be doing more of it. Perhaps what would be really valuable would be a concerted effort to integrate military personnel into the rest of American society, to prevent in-group isolation and the reproduction of a military culture apart.

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[…] how the decisions and policy of the Bush administration translated to actions at Abu Ghraib, as Matt Steinglass observes : What’s really powerful about this story is that it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever seen […]

Pingback by When Worlds Collide « Pax Americana: Culture, Politics, and Ineffectual Debate

*sigh* I except to see the same justice meted out the US war criminals as was meted out to all the tyrants and their toadies in Africa, tyrants and their toadies in Asia, and all the western European communists. Where was Gorbachev hanged? I forget. Justice is rarely severed, and every more rarely to the worst criminals.

Comment by tehag




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