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Media, Reagan, and Abu Ghraib

Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw are tired of talking about Reagan. Of course you won’t hear them get tired of covering Abu Ghraib. While the local print rag at least sees fit to feature Reagan coverage at the top of their web page, the editorial board won’t let it go. While they’ve pushed out weekly streams of articlers and columns on Iraq, usually highlighting the negative, only one positive opinion piece has been written about Reagan, written by Jim Wooten, the token conservative on the editorial board. Combined with Rather and Brokaw’s statements, you get the feeling they’re covering Reagan, who was easily the greatest of the living Presidents, and either the 11th or 6th best U.S. President ever depending on who you ask, out of a sense of obligation. They’d rather get back to talking about the so-called “reality of Iraq”, which really means “what’s going poorly in Iraq”. Reality would require an even-handed look at Iraq, including what’s going right.

The events of Abu Ghraib are in fact despicable. What is incredulous is how the mass media so quickly ignored the OTHER events of Abu Ghraib that didn’t involve prisoners. Soldiers were engaging in group sex and taking pictures. Clearly their chain of command didn’t know about this, so why is it so necessary that their chain of command knew about the “torture” (which was actually just fear and humiliation). Lynndie England’s failure to name names in saying that her “chain of command” ordered the torture would tend to indicate that nobody ordered it, that she’s bluffing. So why can’t we get over it? Ensure that a full investigation is done, that those responsible for the senseless humiliation and intimidation are brought to justice, and let us know when something significant develops.

Then, let’s start a separate discussion on the role of structured and deliberate interrogation techniques (note that Abu Ghraib seemed to be more for sick pleasure than information gathering). I don’t know the subtleties of the Geneva Convention enough to debate policy against treaty. I do know that if threatening an enemy officer with a snarling german shepherd saves a few American lives, I don’t have a problem with that technique. Perhaps I’ve watched a bit too much 24, but I’m inclined to say that I’d be willing to allow a good bit more in an interrogation if the subject knew of a major threat to innocent lives. The media criticism of the use of torture in any context fails to provide alternatives. How are we supposed to get information we need to protect the lives of our armed forces and innocent Iraqi and U.S. Citizens? Are we supposed to repeatedly ask nicely and hope that prisoners decide to give up information? That’s absurd. At some point, some sort of coercion is needed, but it would seem that all forms of coercion are “bad”. Should significant pressure be placed on an Iraqi foot solider? Probably not. He’s unlikely to have actionable information. But a senior officer, weapons researcher, or terrorist operative? Reasonable, controlled techniques are needed. What those should be is up for debate, but it has to be something better than “pretty please?”

What’s truly sad is that the media is so disenchanted about having displace their overblown coverage of these events and other stories designed to turn the public against the war in Iraq to cover the legacy of one of the greatest Presidents of the 20th century for what hasn’t even been a week. How are we supposed to get objective coverage when even the biggest names in broadcast news would rather hammer the “reality in Iraq” than the legacy of a great man?

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2 thoughts on “Media, Reagan, and Abu Ghraib

  1. Of course, the problem with tossing out the Geneva Conventions is that the US will have no right to complain the next time their own soldiers are tortured.

  2. Like I said, I don’t know enough about what they say to suggest whether or not they need to be discarded in order to meet the necessary objectives. Clearly, Abu Ghraib was more about stupidity than it was about obtaining intelligence. What options does the Geneva Convention give other than asking nicely for information? And would violations of the Geneva Convention in combat (do parts apply there?) justify less fettered interrogation to prevent further violations?

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