Saturday, May 5, 2007

Ethical Problems In Our Military?

The Washington Post has a front page article titled "Troops At Odds With Ethical Standards." I challenge you to read this and then decide which is the ethically challenged party here, our soldiers or the Washington Post that ran the story on their front page under that headline:

More than one-third of U.S. soldiers in Iraq surveyed by the Army said they believe torture should be allowed if it helps gather important information about insurgents, the Pentagon disclosed yesterday. Four in 10 said they approve of such illegal abuse if it would save the life of a fellow soldier.
How is holding that belief the failure of an ethical standard? Acting on it would be a failure of a standard under current U.S. policy, but that is a different animal entirely. Wanting to do harm to someone and actually doing it are two widely different situations.

Further, given what our soldiers have been exposed to in Iraq - the utter lack of any morality on the part of an enemy who revels in civilian carnage, makes use of human shields, and has on several occasions used children to effect suicide bombings - it is no surprise whatsoever that many a soldier feels that torturing these bastards is appropriate to save an American life or to stop such future acts of mindless carnage. That is not the failure of an ethical standard, its simply a different standard then one finds being bandied about several thousand miles away in the safety of the ACLU headquarters, or in a speech being given by Ted Kennedy or Dick Durbin.
In addition, about two-thirds of Marines and half the Army troops surveyed said they would not report a team member for mistreating a civilian or for destroying civilian property unnecessarily.
That is part of building a team that has to rely on one another for their own life on a 24/7 basis. Its not desirable, but it is not surprising either. I would like to know similar results from major police departments in high crime areas to assess whether this is unusual. I am willing to bet it is not.
"Less than half of Soldiers and Marines believed that non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect," the Army report stated.
I wonder how the question was framed and what were the reasons given for the answers? To the extent that it means soldiers are just pissed because of the difficulty distinguishing enemy from non-combatants, that is one thing. Acting out on that frustration is something else entirely. But the Washington Post again does not answer that question - yet. We are left to contemplate how evil and unethical our soldiers are for a bit longer.
About 10 percent of the 1,767 troops in the official survey -- conducted in Iraq last fall -- reported that they had mistreated civilians in Iraq, such as kicking them or needlessly damaging their possessions.
That is not surprising in a group as large of the army, that ten percent actually act out their frustrations or sadism. The numbers do not jibe with the answer to the above question on dignity and respect. In any event, insuring that this does not happen is a function of leadership at the platoon and squad level. If isolated incidents occur among ten percent of the soldiers, that would seem just unfortunate reality - again, not a systemic breach of ethics.
Army researchers "looked under every rock, and what they found was not always easy to look at," said S. Ward Casscells, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. The report noted that the troops' statements are at odds with the "soldier's rules" promulgated by the Army, which forbid the torture of enemy prisoners and state that civilians must be treated humanely.
Hmmm, I wonder if the researchers asked the soldiers why they had different rules? Without that answer, it is impossible to evaluate whether the rules are unrealistic for the situation, or whether we need to be doing a better job with our junior NCO's and officers.
Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock, the acting Army surgeon general, cast the report as positive news. "What it speaks to is the leadership that the military is providing, because they're not acting on those thoughts," she said. "They're not torturing the people."

WOW. Finally, after telling us about how bad are our soldiers, the Washington Post finally gets to the meat of it. This is ridiculous. This is should be the lead paragraph, not all this other crap which is just pure insinuation under a misleading headline. Good job Washington Post. Suppose you might be running a post on al Qaeda ethics anytime soon, just for balance?
But human rights activists said the report lends support to their view that the abuse of Iraqi civilians by U.S. military personnel was not isolated to some bad apples at Abu Ghraib and a few other detention facilities but instead is more widespread. "These are distressing results," said Steven R. Shapiro, national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union. "They highlight a failure to adequately train and supervise our soldiers."
My suggestion, let's embed the ACLU and other human rights activists with units in Iraq so they can get a dose of reality to go along with their utopian ideals and beliefs that the U.S. and its military are the source of all evil. Let them get a different perspective in an embed. Somebody call al Qaeda, let's see if they will accept a delegation.
The study also found that the more often soldiers are deployed, the longer they are deployed each time; and the less time they spend at home, the more likely they are to suffer mental health problems such as combat trauma, anxiety and depression. That result is particularly notable given that the Pentagon has sent soldiers and Marines to Iraq multiple times and recently extended the tours of thousands of soldiers to 15 months from 12 months.

"The Army is spread very thin, and we need it to be a larger force for the number of missions that we were being asked to address for our nation," Pollock said.
Yes. This is precisely why increasing the size of our military needs to be at the top of the list of Congressional priorities. This is a legitimate screw up by Bush and company. It is not, however, a reason to declare surrender.
. . . Overall, 20 percent of the soldiers surveyed and 15 percent of the Marines appeared to suffer from depression, anxiety or stress, the Army reported. That was in keeping with findings of past surveys, as was the conclusion that more than 40 percent of soldiers reported low morale in their units.
The stress and anxiety numbers actually seem low. I wonder how they match up with similar complaints of depression, stress and anxiety in the U.S. population? Will have to ask Dr. Sanity that one. As to the low morale, I wonder which unit types were asked that question, and whether there was any evaluation of the basis for the low morale. It is a different problem entirely if the cooks in Division Headquarters Company have low morale, as opposed to infantry soldiers who are being asked to carry the fight to the enemy. And I would love to know what impact Harry Reid and Jack Murtha have played into the low morale? Wouldn't you?

Read the entire article here. It says alot, tells us next to nothing, and besmirches our troops. Just another day at the Washington Post. I will see if I can get a copy of the report and try to fill in the gaping blanks. There are no systemic ethical problems with our soldiers - just the Washington Post's news desk.

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