FURTHER REFLECTION ON ABU GHRAIB
It strikes me that there are some oddities about the war crimes at Abu Ghraib ( under the Geneva Convention, public humiliation of POWs is not allowed) which makes me wonder if the pictures were not in fact deliberately leaked for the purposes of psychological warfare.
First, the prisoners are all hooded, thus providing their captors with a legal technicality to defend against the charge of war crimes. With identities concealed no particular prisoner can claim to have been held up to being a spectacle. It's arguable of course but it is congruent with a theoretical legal defense and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's hairsplitting answer on the definition of torture -"My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture." ( hat tip Juan Cole
Secondly, the shocking pictures, for all their political fall out, remediate a deficit American forces suffer in a narrow military sense - outside of actual combat engagements, we are not much feared because by and large we do not commit the usual litany of atrocities of an occupying army. More or less if you are a citizen of a medium sized dictatorship it is better to be invaded by the United States Marines than say the Wehrmacht, the Red Army, North Vietnamese regulars or even France or Israel. When the Soviets marched through Eastern Europe to Berlin they brought mass rape and large scale pillage in their wake. Consider Iraqi behavior in Kuwait in 1990, Serbia in Bosnia, Russians in Chechnya - you get the idea. With most occupying armies, families hide their valuables, with American troops they demand subsidies and riot. Even " tough " American occupation policies will pale compared to the extreme violence that governments in the region of the Mideast mete out on a daily basis.
The pictures released are ones specifically calculated to spread fear in a traditional Arab society
, particularly among those most likely to consider taking up arms against the Americans, young Sunni Arab males influenced by Islamist values. After Abu Ghraib, while enraged initially, a new calculation enters the head of the prospective Iraqi insurgent. " What if they capture me ? " It is one thing in such a society to find a glorious death in combat and quite another to appear naked on CNN or al Jazeera, bag on head while female American soldiers jeer and point. The whole affair seems too precisely calculated in a cultural sense for it to be pure chance, normally soldiers who are out of control are far more brutal in terms of physical punishment or torture.
If this pure speculation is even partially accurate it would reveal an occupational force that is compartmentalizing under the stress of the mission and detaching from effective command and control or civilian oversight.