Military personnel accused of ‘torture’ often claim they were just ‘following orders’. During the court martials at Nuremberg after World Was II, ‘just following orders’ didn’t cut it (just like “ignorance of the law is no excuse”). Nuremberg focused on the planners of the depravity:
The case as presented by the United States will be concerned with the brains and authority back of all the crimes. These defendants were men of a station and rank which does not soil its own hands with blood. They were men who knew how to use lesser folk as tools. We want to reach the planners and designers, the inciters and leaders without whose evil architecture the world would not have been for so long scourged with the violence and lawlessness, and wracked with the agonies and convulsions, of this terrible war.
Attorney General Eric Holder seems to disagree, choosing to let the architects walk.
Most of these guys have every reason to believe that they were given legal orders. Every time something like this comes up, the commanding officer walks and the grunt breaks rocks. That is fundamentally unfair. PFC Smith is not a Constitutional scholar, expert in international treaty, or military interrogations. He’s told over and over to follow orders, gets told that the Dept. of Justice said its okay, and he dutifully follows those orders. Then, when the event becomes public, they get hung out to dry.
You heard about Lt. William Calley – the guy from My Lai. He was ordered to light up that village, and then when the investigation was completed, his commanding office skips out and Calley does time. Meanwhile, Nixon’s cronies get the right all riled up about persecuting the troops – read up on “Die GÃ¶tterdÃ¤mmerung” for the origin of that idea, with Nixon later pardoning Calley. Fast forward 40-years, and Callie speaks his truth:
He did not deny what had happened that day, but did repeatedly make the point ” which he has made before ” that he was following orders.
Calley explained he had been ordered to take out My Lai, adding that he had intelligence that the village was fortified and would be “hot when he went in. He also said the area was submitted to an artillery barrage and helicopter fire before his troops went in. It turned out that it was not hot and there was no armed resistance. But he had been told, he said, that if he left anyone behind, his troops could be trapped and caught in a crossfire.
Callie got screwed because he trusted his superior officer and followed orders. That’s what we want our soldiers to do. They are absolutely dependent on good leadership by their superiors in the field, at the Pentagon, and in the White House.
Don’t get me wrong. My wife. My kids. I’m not willing to say that IO as an individual would not torture. I know the consequences, and it’s my decision. It’s another deal altogether when sanctioned by your country. It starts blurring the line between us and them.
The stuff we’re going to start hearing about isn’t about soldiers. It’s Psychologists. Doctors. Contractors. Mercenaries. Other ‘torture-friendly’ countries who we paid off. This is the stuff that makes more terrorists. This is the kind of stuff that kills our troops. Instead of going after those who put those soldiers at risk, we go after those who were just ‘following orders’.