My question is however, where does Honor begin and end?
I used to have a great deal of respect for Colin Powell. I really thought that he'd make a great president. Under the banner of the "Powell Doctrine", he helped regrow the honor of a military that had bled self-confidence and respect for decades following the Vietnam War. Powell seemed a man of integrity.
His dog and pony show to the UN in support of the Iraq War seemed suspect at the time. We later discover that the administration had used Powell's honor as a battle standard to sell their lie. Discarded later as propoganda met the battlefield, the administration no longer needed the tattered rag. How long before the nation's, the military's and Powell's honor be stitched back together?
Why did Powell do it? Why did he support these false premises? One could argue that Powell believed what he was saying, but I doubt it. I think it was his sense of duty that made him do it. He was a man steeled in the military. His sense of duty to his presidency he did not question. Why else would he wait for the end of the presidential term to resign?
But all military personel are expected, nay demanded, to disobey orders they know to be wrong. No one questions that the president and the military supports torturing those held in Guantanomo and other places. They refuse to prohibit torture. The create secret places where torture can take place. They fill the airwaves with the vitalness to protect the homeland from the hidden enemy... yet they prosecute anyone caught torturing by the public. The crime? Not performing torture, but revealing it.
Just as ordinary grunts are expected to reject orders they know are wrong, we expected Colin Powell to reject the command to ply the UN with vials of baby powder described as Anthrax. Colin's mistake? Not remembering that duty to a man who is president cannot be allowed to override the duty to the office of the president and to the Union.
One of the gates at Guantanomo has a sign that reads "Honor Bound to Protect Freedom". The foundation documents of our Republic describe that "All Men Are Created Equal", yet now "Men" has been revised (yet again!) to now mean, "not including those outside the US". American's pride themselves in repeating, "no punishment without due process" yet even Bush himself has admitted that those serving in Guantanomo will most likely never leave and will most likely never receive a trial. Why is it so hard to give a trial to a military enemy? Does international law really give no recourse to try an enemy that isn't wearing a uniform? I can't imagine your run of the mill military trial conversation being
Judge: "What is this man accused of?"
Prosecution: "Fighting in a war for the wrong side, your honor."
P: Well, sir, we have no *direct* witnesses, but our boys were receiving fire from the room in which this man was found wounded, with a machine gun, pointed at our guys and he screamed "I'm gonna kill every last one of you" before attempting to detonate a grenade.
Defense: "Your honor, my client wasn't wearing a uniform."
J: "NO UNIFORM!?!?!? Case dismissed!"
How hard is a Kangaroo trial anyway? If you've got at least circumstantial evidence that the guy wants to wontonly murder, how hard is it to get him a life sentence?
Could the embarrasing fact that we've been torturing these people make the trial process more difficult? Impossible? Or just even more politically embarrassing?
So here these hundreds sit. Without trial, presumably still being tortured for information and occasionally we slip up and let one (or three) commit suicide.
'manipulative self-injurious behaviour' or 'SIBs' the military/administration calls it. Spokesmen for the US have since called the deaths 'a good PR move' by the prisoners, and 'an act of assymetrical warfare'.
We fire guided Hellfire missiles from an unmanned drone flying at 10,000 ft, piloted from the other side of the world at bunch of thugs armed with machine guns and homemade IEDs.
A prisoner in Guantanomo commits suicide and we declare it "Asymetrical warfare"?
Where does Honor end?
The president's war on language
From Mat Whitecross:
One of the less noted aspects of the Bush Administration's 'War on Terror' is the government's simultaneous War on Language, a calculated use of Orwellian double speak. Post 9-11, the invasion of other countries became a 'preemptive strike', the capture and torture of civilians 'extraordinary rendition'. A sign on the front of the US prison in Guantanamo Bay reads 'Honor Bound to Defend Freedom'. Small comfort to the 460 'unlawful combatants' who after four years still languish inside, without any access to basic human rights.
A particularly shocking example of this phenomenon is the Department of Defense's attitude toward suicide attempts by Guantanamo's detainees. Officially, 41 attempts have been admitted by the US government to date. Speak to any of the prisoners who have been released, and they will tell you the figure is laughably low. The reason for this discrepancy? No doubt aware of the adverse publicity the facility was receiving in the media, those running the prison decided to re-label suicide attempts as 'manipulative self-injurious behaviour' or 'SIBs', to euphemise still further. After reclassification, predictably the rate of attempted suicides plummeted overnight. Nevertheless, the British journalist David Rose has written that in the six months after the new terminology came into practice, there were forty reported SIBs, almost two a week.
This weekend, three prisoners, two Saudis and a Yemeni, finally succeeded where so many before had failed, and took their own lives. Without access to family or lawyers, after over four years in US custody, they knotted bedsheets together and hung themselves from the grills above their cells.
Shafiq [Rasul, former Guantanamo detainee] met the Saudis while being held by Northern Alliance fighters in Afghanistan. Later, he saw them again while detained in Guantanamo. He says, 'They were just like us: normal people. Who knows, if we were still there, maybe it could have been us. My only surprise is it hasn't happened before.'
Spokesmen for the US have since called the deaths 'a good PR move' by the prisoners, and 'an act of assymetrical warfare'. The War on Language continues.