Archive - Jan 13, 2005

Defenders Of The Indefensible, Redux

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Memo to Legal Defenders of the Indefensible: YOU ARE BASTARDS.

Time to check in once again with the magical, wonderful world of human rights abuse! I know it's kind of a heavy subject, what with our government repeatedly violating its deepest principles and all. Don't worry. Tomorrow we'll talk more about Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, and it'll be just like the National Enquirer with Tourette's Syndrome. But for now, we have to talk about prisoner abuse.

You see, a couple of high-profile Iraqi abuse trials have come up lately - one finished, one ongoing, and in case you were still wondering if the military court system was going to restore its tarnished image by meting out justice, you can stop worrying.

Meet Sergeant Tracy Perkins. Tracy Perkins gave an order. That order was to push two Iraqi prisoners into a rushing river. One came out. One didn't.

Sgt. Perkins will serve six months in military prison and be demoted one rank for aggravated assault, battery, and obstructing justice. Crimes which carry a potential penalty of dishonorable discharge and 11 and a half years in prison. But Sgt. Perkins will serve six months.

Although Perkins did not admit to giving the order, he did admit to giving an identical order for a different prisoner months before. The defense consisted, apparently, of the following: The LAST time Perkins threw a guy into the river, to teach him a "harsh lesson" about making threatening gestures at soldiers, the guy survived. Also, Perkins is a great guy who's won awards. So he gets six months. Actual quote time.

"Basically the enemy would test your resolve. ... I didn't want them to think we were soft or weak." So he chucked them in a river. Because of the possibility his victim might have survived, even though he hasn't turned up and there's a body in his grave, Perkins was acquitted of manslaughter. So a military jury gave him six months, after hearing statements like this from one of his commanding officers:

"I will always consider him a war hero. ... No one can ever take away his outstanding service over there." - Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman, whose definition of heroism differs from mine in that mine doesn't actually include chucking unarmed prisoners into rushing rivers to teach them a lesson.

We still don't know what's going to happen to Army reservist Charles Graner. You probably don't know Graner by name, but you may recall him standing behind a pyramid of naked Iraqis with a shit-eating grin on his face. When not abusing prisoners, Graner spent his spare time slinging one up Lynndie England, whose name you probably DO know, because she pointed at the prisoners while she smiled and is also a girl. It's nice to know that despite all the bad things to come out of Abu Ghraib, there was still a hint of romance in the air.

Graner's defense is, in part, that he was ordered to do these things by higher-ups, which is very probably true. But it's not much of a defense, so his lawyers have concentrated on minimizing Graner's actions to such an obscene extent that they should be brought up on charges for abusing our sensibilities. Guy Womack, it's your turn on the Actual Quote Time stand:

"Don't cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight times a year? Is that torture?" - Maybe not, but I bet if the cheerleaders were stripped naked and forced to make a pyramid, for the first time, at gunpoint, there'd be some harsh fucking words about it at the next school board meeting. In order to prove his appalling case that the pyramid was a "very creative technique", and that putting prisoners on leashes was OK because "In Texas we'd lasso them and drag them out of there," Womack relied on such expert witnesses as Thomas Archambault.

Archambault, whose last name is French for "to settle a dispute by repeated kicks to the testicles", is a former police officer who now consults professionally. Which carries with it all sorts of fun implications. He defended Graner thusly:

"Based on the stress these soldiers had gone through, a filthy stinking environment and the fact these prisoners killed American soldiers, I think I would have done the same thing. - At which point, in my magic fantasy perfect world, he was placed in handcuffs and taken away for psychiatric evaluation.

But sadly, Archambault's completely insane statement (which was also a lie, as most of the prisoners in Abu Ghraib hadn't done anything wrong, much less murder Americans) didn't sound out of the ordinary. Sounds eerily familiar, actually. Sounds a lot like what was said when the pictures were on our televisions, when Rush and Hannity and O'Reilly and Coulter and the rest were telling us the soldiers were just "blowing off steam", that it was no worse than a fraternity prank, that it was just these seven bad apples in that one place, and that no matter how bad it was, some terrorists were beheading people, so that makes it all O.K.

And we'll find out in a few weeks if the Army thinks that really does make it all O.K. Or, like Tracy Perkins, at least ninety-three percent O.K.