I read the above-named article by Mr. Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, and I feel I must take exception to much of what he said. While the behavior of American troops in Iraq is shameful and intolerable, Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey unfairly and without justification attempts to paint the whole United States as being composed of degenerated perverts.
I do not know of anyone here in the US who approves of what those soldiers did. The most common reaction, and one I share, was one of horror and deep humiliation at the disgusting acts performed. We were supposed to be helping Iraq to throw off an oppressor; instead, we simply became yet
another oppressor. It is a shameful disgrace.
I agree that the problem is deeper than a few rogue soldiers getting out of hand as a result of inadequate training and supervision. I believe that abuse of prisoners is built into our system of justice, both for prisoners of war, and for ordinary criminals in custody here. This is a common and accepted practice amongst the police. I have witnessed this myself, occasionally first-hand. I presently work for an attorney who
specializes in police misconduct cases. The stories of abuse are similar to what occurred in Iraq, though not as extreme. Something is certainly wrong, and it goes far beyond the front-line troops, or the policemen on the beat.
Despite this, the American people in general are decent and
compassionate. Mr Bancroft-Hinchey would do well to remember that, among other things, soldiers are not representative of the general population.
For one thing, they are trained to fight and to kill, unlike the
overwhelming majority of American civilians. For another, people who are attracted to a career in the military may well be different in attitude and in their morality, from the general population.
Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey resorted to inflammatory rhetoric in order to make a point, and in my opinion he laid it on a bit thick. It would have sufficed to make a single reference to Nazi extermination camps, to point out a similarity between Al Ghraib and Dachau. Repeating it serves no further use. In my opinion the comparison is rather strained, but perhaps Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey doesn't like Americans. In that case, he is likely to make his comparisons particularly odious.
Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey made the point that if the American people acted in the way England's attorneys described, we'd be a pack of perverts. I agree. Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey should bear in mind, however, that attorneys are not particularly careful to represent facts accurately. One American wit aptly described the situation with a definition: "Lawyer: one skilled
in the circumvention of the law". What these lawyers are saying is sheer nonsense, intended only to create confusion in the minds of a jury and to perhaps obtain a less serious sentence. If they thought it would help, they'd claim that space aliens had forced these soldiers to do what they did.
The comments concerning orgies at the familes of soldiers were baseless and uncalled for. Unless Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey has actually witnessed such orgies, the comments serve only to reveal his own perverted imagination.
These soldiers probably were acting on orders from superior officers. It is my opinion, as I said, that the military is inherently abusive to its prisoners, and that this abusiveness is built into the system. Despite this, the photographs show people who were enjoying their "duties". Once more, the "I was only following orders" defense was one used by Nazis, and for a biased reporter the comparison was probably irresistible.
Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey appears to think that abuse of prisoners is unique to the United States. This is of course sheer nonsense. England, for example, has a history of torturing IRA suspects and prisoners, among others. France, Spain, Mexico, China, North Korea, Russia and the various countries from the former USSR, Saudi Arabia, oh, yes, and let us not forget Iraq before we got there. While the acts by US soldiers are no less sordid, they are not unique to them. The problem is common with anyone who has near-absolute power over another.
Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey's parting comments were once more overstated. By now, it was clear that Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey was displeased with the vile acts of the soldiers, with the US Army, with the command chain from the lowest private all the way to President Bush, and with the entire American people. His belief that the United States was as culpable as the Nazis
was clearly and repeatedly expressed. Had anyone missed it the first time Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey said it, they would surely have picked up on it in the next paragraph, or the one after that. Still, one cannot be too careful in cases like this, so he added yet another odious comparison in the final paragraph.
In case anyone is in doubt: Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey believes that the United States is as bad as Nazi Germany, and that Bush is as bad as Adolph Hitler. US=Nazis. Bush=Hitler. OK, now perhaps Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey can move on to another topic. But I think not. He seems to get more fun out of bashing the American people, than he gets from disseminating facts.
Nevertheless, I would like to point out to Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey that there is some question as to whether Mr. Bush actually represents the American people in the first place. If he will recall, the election of 2000 was deeply flawed, and there are many who feel that the wrong person was put into office. Many of us decent, ordinary US citizens eagerly look forward
to a regime change this November, when we hold our presidential elections.
I have to say that this article, with its hysterical denouncement of the US, is very similar in tone to the articles published in Pravda, Izvestia, and other Soviet media during the Cold War. "US Capitalist War-Mongering Pigs and their Running Dogs" kind of stuff. All very inflammatory and good for stirring up a crowd, but light on the facts.