I read the June 8 issue of WEDNESDAY JOURNAL and had to respond to several related issues. Marc Stopeck's cartoon was simply disgusting. The Geneva Convention on toilet paper? Give me a break. Ken Trainor believes we need a national day of atonement. I have no problem with that, but please don't even begin to compare Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay to slavery, the brutal conquest of the Native Americans, or what we did in the Philippines during the rebellion of 1899. In an earlier article, also by Trainor, "Local groups try to 'turn up the volume' on U.S. torture," more half-truths are tossed out there as fact. I shouldn't be surprised considering the list of groups, all which fall into the far left and out of touch category.
First, let me say that there are a lot of things that the U.S. has done in the past that are truly worthy of atonement. This includes making allies with or supporting some really rotten characters in the past for political and strategic goals. We supported Stalin as an ally in WWII. We supported Pinochet against the Soviet puppet Allende in Chile. We supported Somoza, the Shah of Iran, and even Hussein and Norriega in their earlier years. Yet few countries in the world go to the length of self-investigation that the U.S. does.
Next, I find it sad that there are groups that want to speak out about abuses by the United States have been involved in, but these same groups aren't saying a word about abuses the U.S. has suffered at the hands of other countries. What about Iran taking our people hostage for a year? Or those that were kidnapped and tortured for many years at the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon. How about all the atrocities committed by the FMLN in El Salvador? When will North Vietnam answer for the war crimes committed against U.S. servicemen during the Vietnam War, while their prisoners were being treated according to the Geneva Convention? For comparison's sake, how many beheading videos took place at Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib?
Let's look at a few facts. The abuses at Abu Ghraib were investigated and punished. The U.S. military will not tolerate abuse and does not teach or condone torture. Neither does the CIA, an organization which I have worked with on many occasions. During my 22 years in the military I can honestly say that Rules of Engagement, Law of Landwarfare, and the Conventions of Geneva were drilled into my (and every soldier, marine, airman, and sailor that serves) head.
The problem is not a systemic one; it is an individual one that in some cases can get out of control when leadership fails. What really makes me proud as a veteran is the fact that abuses are so rare, and when they do occur they are dealt with swiftly, as in the case of Abu Ghraib. In Guantanamo Bay the detainees are given all the benefits of the Geneva Convention even though most fall into the category of either terrorists or mercenaries and would probably have been either shot or hung had we turned them over to the Afghan government. According to the Navy Inspector General, out of 24,000 interrogations conducted at Gitmo, only seven were confirmed abuses, all minor. Then we have the alleged Koran abuses. How ironic that we are spun up over the mishandling of the Koran, in a few of the cases investigated it was accidental, when the insurgents freely blow up innocent people in Islamic shrines destroying hundreds of Korans in the process. Who is "turning up the volume" on that? I have witnessed terrorist acts committed in both Lebanon and Israel by radical Islamic groups, yet the groups supporting "truth, peace, and justice" here in Oak Park only vilify the Israelis when they retaliate!
From personal experience during my time in the U.S. Army in special operations, much of our work was in humanitarian assistance which receives very little press. This includes the security, medical, dental, food, shelter, and other forms of support for the literally hundreds of thousands of Bosnians, Central Americans, Afghanis, Iraqis, Africans, etc, that we have saved from those that sought to exterminate them. Consider the fact that Norriega, Milosevic, and Hussein were all brought to justice, and Bin Laden is still on the run, thanks to the U.S.
I will say that Ken Trainor is right about one thing. Silence does guarantee acceptance. As a vet I can no longer remain silent about the unjust and misinformed self-effacing of our great country that I am reading about.