The Corner

“Kick One For Me”

Jonah: I approve of *some* of the actions of the Abu Ghraib guards, and

disapprove of others. To be specific:

I approve of rough handling of incalcitrant terrorists, e.g. a kick to get

them back into their cells when they won’t move.

I approve of stripping them naked, if the temperature is not a problem

(which, in Baghdad in May, I am sure it is not). They are much less likely

to be able to hide something.

I approve of techniques of humiliation to break their wills and show them

who’s boss. There’s a line to be drawn here, but as far as I’m concerned

it’s well the other side of dragging a naked terrorist round on a leash.

Sexual humiliation, on the other hand — making prisoners fondle or bugger

each other — is over the line.


I disapprove of sexual humiliation (see above), simply on the grounds that I

believe an army ought to be an asexual organization under all circumstances.

I disapprove of mixed-sex units and open homosexuals in the military, for

the same reason.

I disapprove of any activity that might give our enemies a major propaganda

opening, e.g. photographing the goings-on inside interrogation centers.

This I take seriously and would punish.

I disapprove of systematic torture.

I note

that, to judge from the big, angry reaction to that piece, I am in a small

minority among NRO readers on this.

One of the many things Orwell taught us (see, e.g., his essay on Kipling) is

that the dirty work of civilization — the work of policemen, prison guards,

soldiers, interrogators of terrorist suspects — is *dirty*. It’s rough

work, and won’t always meet the standards of my and your personal lives.

Someone is doing it on our behalf, though, right now — not just in Baghdad,

but in jails and police stations across America, and honesty compels us to

acknowledge their work, and the much greater horros it helps keep at bay.

There are standards to be set and lines to be drawn, of course, of course;

but this work is never going to be pretty, or attract pretty people.

I had the same kinds of reactions to the Rodney King case. If these Abu

Ghraib interrogatees end up, like King, with multimillion dollar

settlements, I shall feel that a great injustice has been done, and that our

civilization has yielded a point to barbarism. And I shall be right.


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