I had not been too interested in commenting on the recently discovered ugly spectacle of U.S. troops mistreating Iraqi prisoners they had been charged with guarding and protecting. Those demanding comment are typically more interested in putting the one commenting on the defensive, in defending the general professionalism of the U.S. military. As a former U.S. Navy officer with 10 years of service (two as a Midshipman), I do not believe this military needs any such defense. When I heard of it, and saw the pictures, my initial reaction was that the military will get to the bottom of it and render justice in a most deliberate, sweeping, and objective way. Du-uh!
You see, unlike most of government, the U.S. military is actually pretty competent and efficient in carrying out the job it is tasked with doing. They hold the lives of others in their hands on a daily basis when active, and they don’t have the luxury of glossing over egregious wrongdoing, as do so many other of this government’s institutions.
And as it turns out, it looks like my judgment was dead on. See The Command Post – Iraq – Leaders vs. Managers. Not only does it appear that the military will deal with this aberration, it looks as though they already got started months ago. The head general has already been relieved and a few colonels will also be relieved, and all will be reprimanded, which in military speak means: your career is toast, forever. Those soldiers directly involved will, at minimum, receive dishonorable discharges, and at least some are likely, themselves, to do jail time.
The military nearly always holds its own accountable, unmercifully. I can recall endless mid-watches, standing Officer of the Deck on the bringe, underway, captain asleep in his quarters. I held his career in my hands. Any screw-up severe enough (such as colliding with another vessel in heavy shipping traffic) would not only send me to a meaningless desk-job permanently, or until I had the good sense to resign my commission, but would also send the Captain from his post of heavy responsibility on the front line to some exciting duty such as overseeing ship repairs in Diego Garcia (if you don’t know where that is, take your map and look dead square in the center of the Indian Ocean).