Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Wrong Guy

One of my friends at college is a huge fan of a certain movie entitled "The Wrong Guy." She says it is the funniest movie ever created--in fact, if it only had Brad Pitt in it, it'd probably be the best movie ever, period (she has a bit of a thing for Brad Pitt). I myself have never seen it, and have continually resisted her entreaties to watch it myself.

The Pentagon also has it's version of "The Wrong Guy." Only this is no comedy. This is a conscious and deliberate obstruction of justice. Whenever someone tries to put forth proof of American abuse of prisoners, the Pentagon springs into action--to discredit the critic. Scott Horton has the scoop:
When all the baseless suspicions against [Army Chaplain James] Yee were disproved, the Pentagon turned to its favored technique to punish him. He was accused of improper sexual conduct. In American society today, these words generally relate to conduct that is abusive - unauthorized sexual contact. Not in Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon: there they relate to consensual sexual relations between a man and a woman. The consistent factor is that one of the sexual partners has made it on to the Pentagon's black list for one reason or another.

The Rumsfeld Pentagon has developed destruction of the character of those who get in its way to an art form. Those viewed as troublesome become the target of a special investigation. Wiretaps are applied to their telephones and their emails are read. An evidentiary case is built and humiliating leaks to the press occur.

Let's stop for a moment and ask: when the persons in question are two-, three- and four-star generals, at what level must this be authorized? In fact, the targets have included two-, three- and four-star generals, and the authority or impetus for such action has almost certainly come from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The charges brought have tended to fall into two baskets: charges of petty dereliction and sexual misconduct. In the former case, we have seen charges that officers kept classified documents on their laptop computers - when the documents turned out not to be classified; and we have seen charges of petty errors and oversights in contract administration. (Conversely, serious cases of contract misadministration involving billions of dollars and Halliburton are resolved by persecuting the whistleblower.) But the favored technique clearly lies in bringing charges of improper sexual conduct, invariably involving consensual sexual relations.

These charges are easily brought. The number of eunuchs and sexual abstainers among the uniformed military is low and sociological research has long shown that the vast majority of the population has sexual relations outside of wedlock at some point. That means that these charges can be brought against virtually anyone. If the rules were enforced uniformly and aggressively, we would not be able to maintain a volunteer army. But the current highly selective application may achieved the same result. Two important bar organizations have already looked at the situation and concluded that the application of sexual misconduct rules by the uniformed services suggests highly uneven application. Both urged reforms. The Pentagon refuses to budge. The tool is too powerful, and too readily abused. Therein lies its attraction.

In addition to the case of Capt. Yee, developed in his current book, consider these:

- Maj. Gen. Thomas J Fiscus, Judge Advocate General of the Air Force - known to have criticized rules on treatment of detainees - accused of sexual misconduct

- Lt. Gen. John Riggs - questioned the level of troop commitments to the Iraq campaign - accused of sexual misconduct and technical contract infractions

- Gen. Kevin Byrnes - responsible for incorporating changes in doctrine on interrogation and treatment of detainees, rumored to have had reservations about changes hammered through by Rumsfeld - accused of sexual misconduct.

As Horton notes, the Pentagon's sudden sexual puritanism (inconsistently applied from the start, since the prosecutions are only brought against a few "troublemakers") becomes absolutely incoherent when remember that sexual misconduct factored heavily into the abuses approved by the Pentagon for Abu Gharib and other locations. When we are allowed to (indeed encourage officers to) sexually abuse prisoners for intelligence gain, but at the same time prohibit consensual sexual actions between two adults within the same institution, we lose any semblance of justice or rationality. As Horton puts it, the only possible explanation at this point is that the Pentagon and Bush administration view "sexual morals as something to be manipulated for the accomplishment of political objectives," a hideous formulation that nonetheless seems incontestable in face of the facts.

Legal Fiction thinks that the Bush administration is petrified of their own torture policy. They fear that one day, everything will come to light and the lot of them will be carted off and tried for war crimes. That explains Roberts and Miers--both have proven themselves extremely deferential to the executive branch. I don't know if any of that is true. But I damn well hope Bush is afraid. If not of legal ramifications, then this alleged Christian should fear for his immortal soul.

Oh, and the fact that John Bolton probably is right about this (or at least, he is on the second part) does not make me feel better.

Do me a favor and read Horton's whole post. It's not much longer than the portion I excerpted, but it is a true must read.

1 comment:

jack said...

-Bush administration view "sexual morals as something to be manipulated for the accomplishment of political objectives,"-

No way! Holy shit. You don't think they did this with anything else do you?