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09/26/2005 Archived Entry: "Torture: Why is it always "a failure of leadership"?"

TORTURING PRISONERS. Whistleblowers who were there say it was routine and "a failure of leadership."

The beatings and other abuses served mainly to relieve stress, according to the three soldiers. "On their day off people would show up all the time," said one sergeant. "Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC tent. In a way it was sport."

The soldiers blamed the abuses in large part on the failure of civilian and military leaders to clarify what was and was not permitted, particularly in light of the administration's position that the Geneva Convention, in which the unit had been trained, did not apply to detainees captured in Afghanistan.

Human Rights Watch issues a report on prisoner torture and abuse by the U.S. and titles it "Leadership Failure."

Where does everybody get this? Are we honestly supposed to believe that people with decent hearts and common sense torture people routinely -- simply because no leader steps forth to say, "No, no!"? Come off it. No doubt there were and are "leadership failures" -- in Iraq, in Afganistan, in the treatment of the 500 endlessly "detained" prisoners of Guantanamo Bay, many of whom are now starving themselves before an uncaring media. Hell, the Bush administration is an ongoing, rolling wreck of a "leadership failure." The concept of political leadership is ultimately a failure, in and of itself. The very notion of expecting "leaders" to determine everyone else's behavior by command and control is obnoxious and ought to be rooted out of the human consciousness.

But however responsible the leaders are for tolerating, encouraging, and especially covertly making policy of torture, the do-ers still have the power to say NO and F**K NO. Individuals who beat or otherwise abuse others for amusement, release of tension, peer pressure, or just because they imagine that's how things ought to be done are warped individuals -- even if they're twisted in a sadly common way. Orders on high might be able to curb their Lord of the Flies devolution. But "leadership" doesn't change their nature or make them any less responsible.

Posted by Claire @ 09:59 AM CST

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