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Do my dirtywork, Scapegoat!

January 20, 2005

Higher Officials Unlikely to Be Tried – LA Times

“This is the guy that it seems easiest for us to blame,” said Beth Hillman, a specialist on military justice at Rutgers University School of Law Camden, N.J., of the low-level reservist who was sentenced to 10 years in prison. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t other people who should pay a price for their role in making this possible.”

“I’ve seen no convincing evidence that higher-ups authorized the forms of abuse that made Abu Ghraib the story it is,” said Peter D. Feaver, a political scientist at Duke University..

But we haven’t seen the White House Torture Memo by Gonzales yet. (Shhh! That’s a secret.) We’re not going to just see “convincing evidence”, we’re gonna have to uncover it. I am telling you, THIS GRANER ANIMAL IS NOT THE TOP DOG IN TORTURE. But, I’m guessing the investigation is going to stop with him anyway. Oh well, we gave it the old ‘college try.’

“The military has various ways to punish people,” said Eugene R. Fidell, a Washington lawyer and expert on military justice. It may be different for a senior officer than for a junior one. “An admiral or general may be forced into retirement or lose a pay grade,” he said.

Retirement (cruel and unusual!) To these guys, retirement probably means a lucrative consulting job in the private sector.

The job of leadership (think CEOs) is to create a ‘culture’ in which their subordinates are most likely to act in a prescribed way in order to achieve the goals of the organization.

Culture Formally Defined
A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way you perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.

Organizational Culture & Leadership – Edgar H Schein

Like CEO’s, Administration and Pentagon officials, create the culture their subordinates (starting with the admirals and generals) draw from and within which they act. This culture encourages the behavior they want, without necessarily the need to give very specific orders. In this case they have created a culture where “softening” of prisoners for interrogation is encouraged as a means of solving the organizational “problem” of extracting information; and torture has become the proven and valid method of achieving this goal.

Which is not to say that there weren’t specific orders being given at some level by, perhaps, “military and civilian intelligence agents.”

By not going after the higher-ups in this case, the torture culture will survive. Only now with the caveat that: what that Graner fella did went too far; we’ll have to do something else to get the job done.

One Comment
  1. January 21, 2005 8:44 AM

    Is it brash to post a comment on my own post?

    Since yesterday I have thought some more about the way that the LA Times article, in quoting Mr. Fidell, (“An admiral or general may be..”) actually bounds the issue. The talk of admirals and generals precludes the administration and civilians in the pentagon from consideration in the assesment of responsibility in creating the torture culture (if not fully endorsing the use of torture.)

    I find this interesting in terms of studying how the media frames things, or at least how they allow things to be framed for them by the quotes they receive and use. Is it a lack of critical thinking on the reporter’s part, or the work of a clever editor whittling the story down into the desired shape? Or maybe it’s caution: they consider the need for further investigation of some shadowy “higher-ups” but limit their scope in order to let the investigation flow up through the chain of command in small increments. Rather than just pointing at those at the very top. (Although in looking at this issue, to me, it seems hard to ignore the so-called ‘torture memo’, and the alleged involvement of (Attourney General nominee) Gonzales with said memo). None of this gets a mention in the LA Times piece.

    [Of note to the memo: why are all the big redacted documents released as photocopies? It’s just aggravating to get a pdf file (see memo link) that can’t be electronically searched for particular text. Spoken like someone fully spoiled by technology. In this case you end up with 56 pages of dry reading. Only for the hardcore.]

    Anyway, back to the point about the framing of the news article. I myself was drawn in and had a temporary block in my brain. The first incarnation of my post mentioned only the admirals and generals (in kind response to the material in the article.) It was later that I realized that I hadn’t voiced my concerns that the investigation wouldn’t go ALL THE WAY to the top, and I added the bit about “Administration and Pentagon officials.”

    The concern here is that in reading the news in these times one cannot be complacent and consider only the explicit content of an item. It’s the news reader’s responsibility to put it in a broader context and make sense of it. The reader must not let their mind be shaped by what they read, but rather carefully read to piece togehter the real shape of things.

    Or maybe just give up and concentrate on the football play-offs.

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