23 May 2004

the Man of Steel and the Great Chain of Being

The Great Chain of Being is an ancient myth that survived well into the renaissance. In these rational and scientific times, it is of course long abandoned. No-one now believes that the ritual actions of a king have any effect in the real world.

Except the Man of Steel:

If we lose heart, if we abandon our friends, if we choose to give the wrong signal to the terrorists, that will not only make the world a less safe place but also damage the reputation of this country around the world.

We must remember it is in times of adversity that the value of friendship is most keenly felt and it is in times of adversity and challenge that that friendship is tested.

Our presence in Iraq is read as an important and valued demonstration of Australia�s support for her allies � and in this regard not only the United States and the United Kingdom, who continue to carry the major share of the burden. It is often forgotten that close friends and partners of Australia in the Asia Pacific region, such as Japan, Korea and the Philippines, are valued members of the coalition.

Our alliance with the United States was, unapologetically, a factor in the decision to join the coalition. And it should be a factor in any consideration of our continued participation in the coalition.

For Australia, there is nothing comparable to be found in any other relationship � nothing more relevant indeed to the challenges of the contemporary world.

The issue in Iraq is not whether we lose heart. It is whether the war and the occupation have been so badly managed that neither can now be rescued. We do not need to send signals in Iraq. We need to start addressing reality. No amount of keeping heart or sending signals is going to create security or legitimacy in Iraq. At least Britain is slowly beginning to think about what is happening on the ground in Iraq instead of what music the courtiers are playing in Washington.

The Scotsman reports:

The first cracks in Britain's coalition with the United States over the occupation of Iraq were exposed last night by a leaked government memo which revealed deep misgivings about America's 'heavy-handed' tactics in the war-torn country.

The damning document, produced by a team working for Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, disclosed private reservations within Tony Blair's administration about Washington's approach to the post-war occupation.

The detailed memo, sent to senior ministers and top officials last week as a 'progress report' on the occupation, stressed the need for the UK government to press the Americans to soften their approach and avoid aggressive responses 'which would jeopardise our objectives'.

It also talked of 'the need to redouble our efforts to ensure a sensitive and sensible US approach to military operations'.

The revelations shatter the government's long-held insistence that there are no differences between Downing Street and the White House over Iraq.

The six-page memo suggests that the US tactics have particularly damaged support among ordinary Iraqis and stirred up much of the unrest which has exploded into violence in recent months.

And, in a startling admission, it also declares that the 'scandal' over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Coalition-run jails has damaged the 'moral authority' of Britain and the US as they struggle to justify their decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein's dictatorial regime.

'We should not underestimate the present difficulties,' the document states, in a section headed 'Problems'. 'Heavy-handed US military tactics in Fallujah and Najaf some weeks ago have fuelled both Sunni and Shi'ite opposition to the Coalition and lost us much public support inside Iraq.'

The memo, reported in the Sunday Times, adds: 'The scandal of the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib [prison] has sapped the moral authority of the Coalition, inside Iraq and internationally.'

The Bush administration is getting beyond the usual criticisms of government. It is getting silly. No matter what happens we get told that everything in Iraq is wonderful except for some minor problems and that as time passes it gets even more wonderful. We are told that everything in the Bushlag archipelago is wonderful except for a few bad apples.

The worst recent example was the bizarre speech by the Man of Steel. There are others. General Sanchez signed a memo on 12 October 2003 authorising something like the same abuses at Abu Ghraib that have destroyed any shreds of legitimacy left to coalition rule in Iraq. According to the Washington Post:

The Oct. 12, 2003, memorandum signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez called for intelligence officials at the prison to work more closely with the military police guarding the detainees to "manipulate an internee's emotions and weaknesses."

This memo and the deliberations that preceded it were completely shrouded from public view at the time, but now lie at the heart of the scandal that erupted last month over the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Under congressional prodding, the administration has provided a fuller chronology of the events leading up to its approval.

Congressional critics have alleged that language in the memo helped set the stage for the abuses and were part of a Washington-inspired effort to squeeze more information from Iraqis rounded up by the U.S. military and sent to interrogation sessions at the high-security wing of the Abu Ghraib prison, using methods that some consider illegal.

The actual text has not surfaced yet, but it surely will. Two things we need to know. Was the memo restricted to Abu Ghraib? If it wasn't then why should we believe that Abu Ghraib is the only place these absues ahve happened. Was the memo approved by the Pentagon itself? If it was then Rumsfeld's testimony before Congress becomes (I think the phrase was Nixon's) inoperative. Sanchez has already testified that he did no authorise the abuses. He told Congress on 19 May 2004.

SANCHEZ:�In this regard, I must be very circumspect in what I say.�We must let our military justice process work.�It is a process in which the American people can and should have confidence, and one in which I take great pride.

I cannot say anything that might compromise the fairness or integrity of the process or in any way suggest a result in a particular case.�I have taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and that includes ensuring that all persons receive a fair trial and, if found guilty, appropriate punishment.

This respect for the rule of law has been a guiding principle for my command.�There is no doubt that the law of war, including the Geneva Conventions, apply to our operations in Iraq.�This includes interrogations.�

I have reinforced this point by way of orders and command policies.�In September and October of 2003, and in May of 2004, I issued interrogation policies that reiterated the application of the Geneva Conventions and required that all interrogations be conducted in a lawful and humane manner, with command oversight.

In October 2003, I issued a memorandum for all coalition forces personnel that was entitled "Proper Treatment of Iraqi People During Combat Operations."�I reissued this memorandum on the 16th of January after learning about the events that had taken place at Abu Ghraib.�

On the 4th of March of 2004, I issued my policy memorandum number 18, entitled "Proper Conduct During Combat Operations."�This document, which I also reissued in April, emphasized the need to treat all Iraqis with dignity and respect.�This policy memorandum also contained a summary for distribution down to the individual soldier level that provided clear guidance and mandated training on the following points.

Follow the law of war and the rules of engagement.

Treat all persons with humanity, dignity and respect.

Use judgment and discretion in detaining civilians.

Respect private property.

And treat journalists with dignity and respect.

With regards to Abu Ghraib, as soon as I learned of the reported abuses, I ensured that a criminal investigation had been initiated and requested my superior appoint an investigating officer to conduct a separate administration investigation under Army Regulation 15-6 into this matter.

I guess that's 'inoperative' testimony as well. All we're really seeing is a mountain of bullshit about language. We have generals arguing that they did not issue orders that they issued, or that orders they issued did not mean what they mean. We have defence secretaries arguing that rape, stress positions, nudity, threats, dogs are only abuse and not torture as if that made everything all right. We have presidents and prime ministers muttering idiocy about sending signals and losing hearts when they should actually be dealing with what's happening on the ground rather than with that they'd like to believe.

Has a single empirical proposition advanced by the war party proved accurate from the cakewalk to the few bad apples? When are they going to join the rest of us in the real world?

'None of this happened and even if it did we didn't get the memo' is fast becoming as ritual an answer as anything a medieval king ever said.

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