Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Prisoner Treatment - Theirs And Ours

This really has nothing to do with the typical focus of DemWatch, but this is something that has been weighing heavily on my mind recently. Along with millions of other people around the world, I've recently been appalled by the revelations that abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American Guardsmen.

I really don't need to go into the details. If you don't know what I'm talking about, turn on the TV and wait about a half hour -- you'll get the idea.

Today, however, an interesting, semi-related side story emerged from Iraq. Thomas Hamill, the Halliburton contractor who was taken hostage by Iraqi fighters three weeks ago, managed a brilliant escape from his captors on Sunday. There's another story I don't really need to retell you for the umpteenth time.

What's so interesting to me about the juxtaposition of these two stories is Hamill's account of his treatment by the Iraqis. When Hamill was captured, the Iraqis still made sure to get him -- who had been shot -- proper medical care. During his captivity, they made sure he had food and water.

So what's my point?

Let me begin by acknowledging a few key factors here. The Iraqis who captured Hamill during their raid on his convoy also killed a number of other Americans during the fight. They also would surely want to make sure that Hamill was at least minimally well-treated. A dead hostage is not, after all, a valuable hostage.

However, Hamill was by all accounts not treated in a manner that far outside the realm of international law. Food: check. Medical care: check. Adequate shelter: eh... check. Not psychological or physical torture: check.

Now, why is it that a handful of American soldiers -- bound by international law -- cannot treat Iraqi captives in accordance to said law while Iraqi 'insurgents' -- not bound by any law and, by all American government accounts, outlaws themselves -- seem to be treating their captives decently?

I can't help but thinking that this mistreatment of Iraqi captives has quite a bit to do with the Bush administration actively encouraging an attitude among many Americans -- soldiers included -- of locker room machismo and bullying, especially in matters relating to non-Americans.

But the root causes of this apparently widespread problem aside, it speaks volumes of the mess Team W has made of Iraq that the 'illegal' Iraqi fighters are treating their captives better than we are. This is not the way a nation determined to spread freedom and democracy acts. We ought to be ashamed that we're being shown up in the human rights department by Islamofascist and/or Baathist thugs.

What's the answer? I'm not sure. But day after day, what I used to see as 'cutting and running' now starts to look like 'getting out of the way.'

posted by Scott | 5/04/2004 | |

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Guardsman To Bush: Mission NOT Accomplished

A veteran platoon leader of the ongoing Iraq War, 29-year old Army National Guard 1st Lieutenant Paul Rieckhoff, gave the Democratic response to Bush's radio address yesterday. He blasted the White House's handling of the war, saying that "our soldiers deserved better" and that "our mission is not accomplished."

Rieckhoff's speech included a laundry list of complaints against the administration and their war plans. He spoke of "not enough vehicles, not enough ammunition, not enough medical supplies, [and] not enough water" being supplied to the troops. He described the situation on the ground right now in Iraq. "Our troops are still waiting for more body armor. They are still waiting for better equipment. They are still waiting for a policy that brings in the rest of the world and relieves their burden. Our troops are still waiting for help."

The most powerful section of his response had to be the following, however...

"My question for President Bush - who led the planning of this war so long ago - is this: When will you take responsibility for the decisions you've made in Iraq and realize that something is wrong with the way things are going?"

It will become increasingly difficult for Team W to paint a Democratic Party whose Presidential nominee is a decorated Vietnam vet and whose supporters now include young people like Rieckhoff, a veteran who signed up to go to Iraq and was subsequently dismayed at the Bush administration's mishandling of the war. The other side has long been telling lies about the Democrats and their commitment to America and its military. Those lies, along with so many others, are finally starting to be exposed for what they are.

posted by Scott | 5/02/2004 | |
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