Independent Investigations
A Place For Considerate Political Discourse!


The United States of America has always been a world leader when it comes to the humane treatment of those captured during conflict.  Our country has been a world leader when it comes to the development of legitimate legal guidelines as to what can and can not occur during armed conflict.  Our country has also been involved in significant ways with capturing and punishing those who have not treated others humanely during such conflict.

At the end of World War II, the United States was the driving force behind the Nuremburg Trials in Germany and the Tokyo War Crimes Trials in Japan.  One of the fruits of victory obviously is the ability to hold those who battled against us accountable for actions that we consider to be war crimes.

So what do men say when light is shed upon illegal and criminal behavior they participated in during the darkness of armed conflict?  What words do they use to explain their behavior?   The following quotes were taken from some of the men on trial in the Nuremburg Trials.

“Politicians brought the Nazis to power and started the war.  They are the ones who brought about these disgusting crimes, and now we have to sit there in the dock with them and share the blame!” Karl Doenitz,,German Admiral, chosen by Hitler to succeed him as fuehrer.  Doenitz  issued the “Laconia Order” to the German submarine fleet, forbidding  rescuing enemy survivors of sunken ships: He received a 10 year sentence.

“I don’t see how they can fail to recognize a soldier’s obligation to obey orders.  That’s the code I’ve live by all my life.”  Alfred Jodl,    Chief of Operations for the German High Command.  Jodl was hanged at Nuremburg on October 16, 1946.

“How can they say such things about me? I have only done my duty as an intelligence organ” Ernst Kaltenbrunner.  Kaltenbrunner and RSHA bear responsibity for “The Final Solution” to the Jewish question–and the 6 million Jews killed.  Kaltenbrunner was hanged at Nuremburg on October 16, 1946.

“I am the only one in the world who clearly saw the Jewish menace as a historical problem.” Julius Streicher.  Streicher was hanged at Nuremburg on October 16, 1946.

“Don’t let anybody tell you that they had no idea.  Everybody sensed there was something horribly wrong with the system.” Hans Frank, Governor-general of Nazi-occupied Poland, called the “Jew butcher of Cracow.” Frank was hanged at Nuremburg on October 16, 1946.

It does not take much effort to see that there is a pattern here.  Basically, these men knew that something was horribly wrong, that they were only obeying orders, and that they saw the people they mistreated as a threat to the well-being of their nation.  Some of them saw themselves as “minor players” in their criminal schemes and not responsible for their actions.  All of them saw their actions as lawful and made necessary by the dictates of those above them.   The “major players” were those up the chain of command who made the decisions that resulted in their behavior.

They were either hanged at Nuremburg for their crimes or served lengthy prison sentences.

Obviously the trials of those who were involved in the Holocaust during World War II involved charges that go beyond almost anything the world has experienced with regard to the nature and extent of their cruelty. My purpose here is not to compare the extent and nature of the crimes that occurred during World War II with the treatment experienced by “enemy combatants” captured during the Afghan and Iraq conflicts. That being said, it is obvious that the excuses used for mistreatment of individuals detained during conflict can be similar regardless of their extent and nature.

In the past, most of us accepted the fact that the United States does not torture those who have been captured during armed conflict.  However, the actions of the CIA and members of the military during the Afghan and Iraq conflicts have made it impossible to make that statement with any sense of credibility.

The Bush Administrations attempts to redefine the exact nature of torture were nothing more than attempts at excusing behavior that in the past has been considered criminal.  The musings and declarations of the Bush Justice Department and Office of Legal Counsel have been used as justifications for treating individuals in ways that the people of this country have never accepted in the past.

In the mind of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their legal henchmen, the behaviors were justified because those we were fighting against were dangerous and were a threat to the nations well being.  In other words, we had to behave this way to protect the American people from further attack.

Does anyone know of any recorded instances of institutionally mandated torture of German soldiers by Allied troops during World War II?  There were none.   Were the forces of the Third Reich a clear and present danger to the well-being of the people of the United States of America? Yes they were.  Has anyone accused past administrations of mandating the torture of Japanese soldiers after the horrific attack of December 7, 1941? We have no evidence of that.  Were the military forces of the Japanese Empire a threat to the people of America? Ask the people who were in Pearl Harbor in December of  1941.  Our responses during these times of incredible national peril were consistent with what we expect from other nations.   We don’t sanction torture for the purpose of protecting the population.  Or at least we didn’t until now.

The United States of America saw to it that those involved horrific and criminal behavior during World War II were punished.  Men were hanged at Nuremburg.  Members of the armed services of the Japanese Empire were imprisoned  and even executed for mistreatment of Allied soldiers during the war.  By the way, one of the specific methods of mistreatment used against American soldiers was water boarding. 

If the recently announced investigation into the torture of enemy combatant’s results in criminal charges is brought against those being investigated, it will be interesting to hear their defenses. Here is what I expect we will hear.

  • “We knew that we were stretching the limits and that the system had gone horribly wrong”. 
  • “These people are dangerous and threats to the well-being of the American people”. 
  • “I was following orders sent down from above because it is my responsibility to do so”.
  • “I was only doing my job”.
  • “We were told that it was ok by those above us in the chain of command!”  

Sound familiar?  If you don’t find this sickening then you might be of the mind that anything done in the name of liberty, to protect those living in this free country is fine.  There are those that believe that taking away the civil rights of others to ensure our own liberty and freedom is fine as long as those up the chain of command tell us it is ok.  However, there once was a time when we held people accountable for similar actions.

So what is it that is so different this time around?  Why is it that the Bush Administration forged ahead with a policy that was the exact opposite of the policies of past war time administrations?  There are those that claim that there is a significant difference in the threat.  There are those that believe that the only difference was in the nature of the nation’s leadership. There are those that lay a great deal of the responsibility on the man who has been most responsible for leading the country down this path, Dick Cheney.

That being said, if the recently announced investigation holds public servants at the bottom of the chain of command accountable for the decisions made at the top, then I think we are wasting our time.  Those at the top of the chain of command must not be allowed to attribute the behavior of their underlings to a few individuals who were out of control.  Why is it that the foot-soldier has to pay the cost for decisions made by political operatives and their legal advisors?

This investigation should be about those who justified the behavior of those required to carry out the orders.  Let me remind you that these orders were given by individuals who have never been on the field of battle, and never had to look into the eyes of individuals whose rights have been removed in the name of freedom and justice for all.  

Let’s leave the people at the bottom of the chain of command to their own consciences.  Go after the ones at the top. We should be going after those at the top whose actions brought us to the point where we can no longer say “The United States doesn’t torture.”  A closer look at their behavior will probably remove any doubt about who the dangerous ones really were. 

Hans Frank, one of the Germans executed for war crimes after World War II said “A thousand years will pass and Germany’s guilt will not have been erased”.  How many years will pass before the stain left by the actions of those who sanctioned torture in the name of freedom will fade away?


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