'Am I a torturer?' | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, March 6, 2008

'Am I a torturer?'

Posted By on Thu, Mar 6, 2008 at 9:54 AM

The headline is the one applied to an article in Mother Jones about 27-year-old Ben Allbright (at right, in Mother Jones' photo), and his experience as a prison guard in Iraq. He grew up in Lonoke, lived in Little Rock when this article was researched and now lives in Lonoke. Small excerpt:

The first time Ben saw a detainee get beaten, he took the lead interrogator aside afterward to ask, "Was this stuff really allowed? Didn't it violate the Geneva Conventions?"

"These aren't pows; they're detainees," he was told. "Those rules are antiquated and don't apply. You can't get any information without breaking that stuff." Ben asked other officers, but "it was basically like, 'Dude, you're actually worried about how we're treating them? They wouldn't afford you the same respect.'"

If there is anything Ben hates, it's not having all the information. Like most, he hadn't listened when the Geneva Conventionswere covered in basic training. But as it happened, when first arriving in country he'd asked a military lawyer for a cd-rom of various documents, just to have on hand. Now, scrolling through the text on his laptop, Ben saw what anyone could: All prisoners—civilians and combatants—are protected against violence. There is no separate category for unlawful combatants. "Outrages upon personal dignity" and "humiliating and degrading treatment" are prohibited. Abuses like those at the Tiger base were "grave breaches." War crimes.

Ben made a verbal complaint to his platoon leader and later to his platoon leader's boss, asking for an investigation. The officers seemed surprised. "They said they'd look into it and tell their superiors," Ben recalls. "But it didn't seem like a priority." Nothing happened.

Read this article.

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