This article in tomorrow’s Guardian suggests that some of these sexual humiliation methods apparently practiced at Abu Ghraib are taught to various special forces and military intelligence troops in the US and the UK, both to use them and also to prepare themselves to withstand them.What the Guardian suggests is in fact correct.
No, I’m not going to name my source on that.Back to Josh Marshall:
What’s now happening in Iraq is that the same methods are being passed down to untrained and unsupervised reservists; and the whole situation spirals out of control.As I said when I first wrote about this, those photos from Abu Ghair didn’t look to me like the kind of thing a bunch of novices would come up with on their own.
I’m not sure this is the whole story. But it has a ring of truth to me, mixing, as it does, ugliness with disorganization and a spiralling cycle of unaccountability.[He quotes from the Guardian]The sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison was not an invention of maverick guards, but part of a system of ill-treatment and degradation used by special forces soldiers that is now being disseminated among ordinary troops and contractors who do not know what they are doing, according to British military sources.
The techniques devised in the system, called R2I - resistance to interrogation - match the crude exploitation and abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.
One former British special forces officer who returned last week from Iraq, said: “It was clear from discussions with US private contractors in Iraq that the prison guards were using R2I techniques, but they didn’t know what they were doing.”
He said British and US military intelligence soldiers were trained in these techniques, which were taught at the joint services interrogation centre in Ashford, Kent, now transferred to the former US base at Chicksands …
Many British and US special forces soldiers learn about the degradation techniques because they are subjected to them to help them resist if captured. They include soldiers from the SAS, SBS, most air pilots, paratroopers and members of pathfinder platoons …“The crucial difference from Iraq is that frontline soldiers who are made to experience R2I techniques themselves develop empathy. They realise the suffering they are causing. But people who haven’t undergone this don’t realise what they are doing to people. It’s a shambles in Iraq”.
We delude ourselves when we give permission to commit evil acts to what we tell ourselves is a limited group of specialists.
There’s going to be some unavoidable human evil in any large undertaking. We can prepare for it, and do what we can about it when it happens, but nothing we do can wholly eliminate it. Still, in its state of nature it’s going to be limited, sporadic, improvised, situational, and in most cases not very effectual. That’s because only a fraction of the population will think up and carry out evil actions on their own steam; and, as with any other naive inventions, what they initially come up with probably won’t work very well.
A lot of what military discipline, employee supervision, law enforcement, and other rules maintenance systems boil down to is spotting these actions, and keeping them from happening again so that the people who commit them don’t have the opportunity to get additional practice, refine their techniques, make contact with other like-minded individuals, and share what they’ve learned about what works and what doesn’t.
This level of everyday enforcement is hugely important—one of the underappreciated bases of a law-abiding society—because while only a small percentage of people will do evil on their own, a much larger middle group will do so if they see others committing evil acts unchecked. Things the midrange would never think up to do on their own, they’ll learn in the company of others; and it will become part of their character. It’s the difference between four or five drunk, irresponsible louts jumping some defenseless person and beating them half to death—heinous though that is—and the complex learned social behaviors of American lynch mobs during the first half of the twentieth century.
No one ever forgets how to do something that’s worked for them in the past. Just replacing it with another behavior can be hard enough, and the old behavior is still going to be lurking there underneath it. Thieves keep stealing. Liars keep lying. Drunks never forget about chemically modifying their nervous systems. And what our troops are learning to do in Iraq, they’ll know when they come home again. For the best of them, that knowledge will be a sickening burden. For the worst, it’ll be usable expertise. And for that broad moral midrange, this will be stuff that doesn’t shock and nauseate them the way it once might. They’re our children, and this is what they’ll be bringing home to share with us.
We delude ourselves when we think we can keep a little pet evil set aside, telling ourselves it’ll only be used on Bad Guys. Whomever that turns out to be. Not that we’ve been thinking about that question real hard.
…And now, a list: The Nine Ways of Being an Accessory to Another’s Sin.
1. By counsel. 2. By command.Anybody feel like keeping score?
3. By consent.
4. By provocation.
5. By praise or flattery.
6. By concealment.
7. By partaking.
8. By silence.
9. By defense of the ill done.