Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Deniability

T. A. Frank in a "related link" posted from this week’s TNR online (subscription) compares his job to those in the garment industry and to the poor bastards working as guards in Abu Ghraib.

… The heads of our office told us to report every hour we worked, but, had we actually done so, they would have fired us. This required no official directive; everybody just knew. …

… With Abu Ghraib, corporals and privates will go to prison while Cabinet members will keep their posts. The investigations continue, but it is becoming clear that no one will acknowledge the essential story: Those at the top insisted on certain results but wouldn't spell out how to get them… [My emphasis]

A somewhat related story: My sainted brother-in-law was once a naval officer working onboard a US Navy ship providing legal defense for sailors. After a while he was informed that he was also responsible for the brig. This was not a duty that he had solicited, nor expected, and he thought long and hard about why he had been assigned such a position. It seemed like a fairly important and sensitive task, to be in charge of prisoners on a large vessel. Why give it to a junior officer with a law degree. He was, after all, not particularly ambitious to move up in the Navy and not real likely to stay one day past his required minimum. He asked the senior non-com at the brig what he could expect. The response was "nothing to worry about", "we’ll take care of everything", etc. SBIL smiled with apparent relief, thanked the fellow profusely, and set his alarm for 3AM.

When he appeared at the brig that morning, he caused quite a bit of consternation. "Are you lost sir? Can I help you sir? Is there a problem sir?" The non-com was there within 5 minutes asking as indirectly as possible what the officer was doing there. "Oh nothing, just observing, keep up the good work." He did this at random times several times a month for the remainder of his assignment.

Now, SBIL is not particularly ornery or a control freak. He’s actually fairly relaxed (maybe a little ornery). But he felt vulnerable, and he decided that he would prefer, at some unspecified time in the future, to be able to specify the exact extent to which he exercised his oversight, regarding the treatment of prisoners.

7/20/2005 12:16 AM

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