The U.S. Army has launched a criminal investigation into new allegations of serious prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan made by a decorated former Captain in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, an Army spokesman has confirmed to TIME . . .
"On their day off people would show up all the time," the sergeant continues in the HRW [Human Rights Watch] report. "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 cooks were all U.S. soldiers. One day a sergeant shows up and tells a PUC to grab a pole. He told him to bend over and broke the guy's leg with a mini Louisville Slugger that was a metal bat. He was the cook." [Link]
[. . .]
And people are shocked. I laugh.
. . . It's pretty clear that even our own highly disciplined military can lose their humanity without a whole lot of provocation. These weren't dipshit national guard hicks either. This was the 82nd Airborn. No excuses. . .
I don't laugh at the acts themselves. They are heinous and horrible and those perpetrating them should be prosecuted, period. I just laugh at those who are shocked by them, shocked they occur, mostly those from our blogging community and activists. I laugh because none of them have been in combat. I laugh at all of you who have no idea what combat is all about, yet cringe in horror and scream with outrage when these stories come out.
When human beings are put in a combat situation, a sort of devolution takes place. I know, I've seen it in myself. When put in a kill or be killed situation, a human returns to his baser instincts. There is a rush there, close to the high of cocaine, but far more intense. A euphoric feeling of being an apex predator, as a lion or a wolf stalking its prey, the heating of the blood, the roar of it in your ears, the ultimate rush. Yes, I've been there. Don't look down your nose at me; if you've never been there, you will never understand. It is not surprising to me these horrible acts took place.
The antidote is good leadership; by the senior NCOs, by the officer corps, by the civilians in command. The abuses occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan are directly attributable to a failure of leadership. A systemic breakdown in the system.
This breakdown is directly attributable to the fact very few of the civilian leaders have had military experience. None understand the changes a soldier goes through when forced to be in that situation for any length of time. Yes, the troops are at fault, but were the leadership worth a damn, the violence and abuse would have been stopped after the first few incidents.
But, when the President comes off like Wyatt Earp (Dead or Alive, Smoke 'em out, Bring it on), that attitude, the attitude of tolerance and turning a blind eye, filters down through the ranks. When 'ethics and principle' take a back seat to 'whatever it takes', abuses like this are bound to happen. It's only human nature.
So, don't be shocked the people we've trained to do our killing turn into monsters. We are not that far removed from our evolutionary forebears. Be shocked that our leaders, who sit in places far removed from the battlefield allow this to go on.