No Comment — May 11, 2007, 12:59 pm

Gen. Petraeus’s One Word Too Many

Given the damage done to the reputation of U.S. forces in Iraq by the detainee abuse scandal and the currently pending court-martial coming out of the Haditha incidents, General David Petraeus is certainly doing the right thing in demanding a rigorous adherence by soldiers to the country’s traditional law-of-conflict ethics rules. He issued an open letter to the soldiers under his command in connection with a recent DOD mental health survey. The letter states:

“I fully appreciate the emotions that one experiences in Iraq. I also know firsthand the bonds between members of the ‘brotherhood of the close fight.’ Seeing a fellow trooper killed by a barbaric enemy can spark frustration, anger, and a desire for immediate revenge. As hard as it might be, however, we must not let these emotions lead us — or our comrades in arms — to commit hasty, illegal actions. In the event that we witness or hear of such actions, we must not let our bonds prevent us from speaking up.

“Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they are also frequently neither useful nor necessary. . . “

This is a classic case of the one-word-too-many, of unnecessary and inappropriate equivocation. Specifically, the word is “frequently”: torture is “frequently neither useful nor necessary.” This of course implies that sometimes it is useful or necessary, which is contrary to the rule laid down during the Civil War by Abraham Lincoln when he ordered that considerations of military necessary could never justify torture. (General Orders No. 100 of April 24, 1863, art. 16).

Considering the continuing prevalence of the “seven thousand mile screwdriver” which the Bush Administration’s neocon warlocks have continuously used in Iraq, my question is: who insisted on the addition of the word “frequently”? David Addington? Dick Cheney?

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