Letters to the Editor

Just Orders from My Lai, Nuremburg and Abu Ghraib

The New University article on the abuses at Abu Ghraib made some interesting points.
It occurred to me after reading your article that the series of events which led to the utter humiliation of certain Iraqi prisoners was somehow natural, understandable and unavoidable for the average soldier.
Was the abuse merely the causal outcome of environmental stimulus?
The pictures and stories are very disturbing.
It certainly says something of human nature if these activities are the natural outcome of a ‘failure of leadership’ during wartime, and in this case, would serve as a reminder that humanity has not crawled very far from its animal cousins.
It’s scary to think of the implications.
But something else comes to mind during this discussion.
I can’t help but think of the reports of Nazi SS men who engineered the death of millions of Jews who declined responsibility for their actions under the guise of a failure or undue pressure exerted by ‘leadership.’
Military law allows for the defense of ‘I was only following orders’ as a matter of justice, but not if ‘a person of ordinary sense and understanding would have known it was illegal.’
Rape is wrong (illegal as well), and any other activities which cripple the human dignity of a prisoner are wrong as well.
The punishment that these soldiers receive should be severe and the loss of American prestige deserved.
What happened at Abu Ghraib was wrong, and every person in any capacity should have known it was wrong.
Moreover, the smiles and humor exhibited in the images of torture speaks to the responsibility of the soldiers in their actions.
But beyond outrage