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Iraq prisoner torture - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

Iraq prisoner torture [May. 10th, 2004|01:40 pm]
Arvind Narayanan
Found this on K5. Can anyone tell if this is genuine? Because its horrific and totally contrary to what's being written in the media about the incidents being just an aberration.

All the talk in the media about the treatment of Iraqi prisoners and the rape of Iraqi women has me remembering my days in the U.S. Marine Corps.

A couple things in particular struck me. Number one, the idea that the U.S. military is a "value-based organization". And the second thing being that the people who did what has been reported and photographed to the Iraqi prisoners were only a small deviant minority and in no way are representative of the majority of the military.

Back during my first year in the USMC, one thing stuck out in my mind that relates directly to the above topics. In all of our training, be it Boot Camp, Infantry School, or on-going regular unit training, we were taught two things in particular. Number one, we were taught to be extremely aggressive on command. The level of aggression taught is unprecedented in "civil" society where only the most violent criminals display the level expected from U.S. Marines. And second, we were taught to be smart while we were being aggressive. This latter teaching involved overcoming our own normal fears and instinctive reactions so that we could more efficiently channel our aggresion towards killing the enemy while sustaining minimal casualties ourselves. These two things combined make a truly deadly combination, even without "modern" weapons.

Sometime during our initial training, we were schooled in how to behave generally. We were told morals. We were told how to be "honorable" and "just". But what stuck out was that I could see that what we were being told about these things did not fit well at all with the aggression and the killing smarts that we were being taught elsewhere in our training. And probably you can guess where the emphasis lay. On one hand we should be deadly and savage killing machines, and on the other hand we should be polite, honorable, and reserved. Clearly these two worlds do not match. And the one that was tied to survival and "winning" would surely be the one that would "win out" over the other.

This was particularly clear to me when I spent about a year on a USMC base in Okinawa, Japan. You've probably all heard about the problems they've had with rapes and assaults on Japanese Nationals in Okinawa from U.S. servicemen. I watched myself and the other men in my unit as we trained hard on how to best kill the enemy, and then in the evenings we went out into town and were expected to behave like civil gentleman and treat others as human beings. Often I was shocked at the irony of the situation. The ONLY thing that deterred us from being MORE aggressive in town was the fact that the Japanese Police were as tough as we were and they had weapons and were allowed by law to use any amount of force they wanted to.

In Boot Camp, we were subjected to a great many humiliating experiences, including doing things in the nude. These things were a part of the brainwashing techniques applied to the recruits and also included things like sleep deprivation and severe stress. Please note, THESE THINGS WERE DONE TO RECRUITS! It is only natural that some of us would go on to use some of those same techniques on others, including on other Marines. To say that members of the military who do these things to others only represents a small number of deviants is hogwash. We were all TAUGHT these things by having them done to us!

And not only were we taught to do these kinds of things, in many cases we were encouraged, sometimes even by tradition. For instance, when an enlisted man gained rank, all other enlisted men of the same rank or higher in the unit were expected to abuse the newly promoted man in a certain way. For E-3 and E-2, we were to be punched in each shoulder. I became a Lance Corporal (E-3) while in Okinawa in a unit of about forty enlisted men with all but about a half dozen of them E- 3 or above. More than thirty Marines literally lined up in a double row while I walked down the middle and stood still while two of them punched me in the shoulder at the same time, one on each side. I have pictures of the bruises that literally wrapped around the top of my arms 360 degrees! And most men considered these bruises marks of honor! I couldn't move my arms for a week. When a Marine was promoted to Corporal (E-4), then not only was the shoulder punched, but the sides of the knees were kicked, too. It was normal for many newly promoted corporals to spend a week or two in the hospital right after being promoted. When I gained the rank of Corporal three months before leaving the USMC, I was willing to fight to keep from getting hit or kicked and so they mostly left me alone.

To further demonstrate the point, I would like to relate something graphic that was a weekly ritual for awhile in my last unit. Every week we went to the armory and checked out our weapons and cleaned them. During my first several months in this particular unit, there was a group of Marines in the unit who had been with each other for quite some time. I was a part of an influx of newer members to the unit and most all of us "newbies" were of less rank than the other guys and we had not formed a close bond with anyone else like the "older" ones had with each other. We would all take our weapons outside into a fenced-in area around the armory and disassemble them on wooden tables and clean them for an hour or more. During this time, the "older" guys decided it would be fun to humiliate the "newbies". Two of them would sneak up to one of us and hold the person bent over and prone across the table. A third Marine would run up and pretend to have sex with the held down Marine. After witnessing this behavior, I was mortified, to say the least. I did NOT want it to happen to me for obvious reasons. But there wasn't much we could do about it. Our leaders didn't care and considered it just "play" among the troops. I managed to avoid being targeted because I pretended to the perpetrators that I might actually enjoy it and for some reason that bothered them so they avoided me.

To make a long story longer, what I have said above is only the tip of the ice berg. I could go on for pages and pages and I was only a Marine for four years. Now consider that these were things that we did to EACH OTHER! And on a regular, EVERYDAY basis! These were not "isolated incidents" among a few deviants. These are the "values" that we put into practice on an organization-wide scale. This is the "inside story" behind all the flag waving and heroic tales of courage and valor. This is the real military man behind the red, white, and blue embroidered curtain. THESE are the people who are now handing out "freedom" and "liberation" and "democracy".

Now taking this all into account, just imagine for a minute what would happen with servicemen who had almost absolute power over a group of prisoners, people who are "foreigners" and considered enemies. Remember, military members are taught to kill enemies which means that enemies must be faceless lumps of flesh to be shot at, they are not real human beings. If the servicemen were trained to abuse each other who they saw as "brothers-in-arms", just imagine how they would treat those who were seen as foreigners and enemies and who they had real power over. It is truly chilling to consider. And with all the new reports, we don't even have to imagine anymore.