Institutionalized Silence

Mon 14 March 2005
By John Mark Schofield in Politics
Tagged as: War

Story from the Washington Post:

California National Guard Sgt. Greg Ford [is] a former state prison guard and Navy SEAL team medic whose complaints were dismissed by the Army in October 2004 as lacking sufficient evidence...

[Ford] complained that he had had to resuscitate abused detainees and urged the unit's withdrawal. He told investigators that the unit's commander, an Army captain, responded by giving him "30 seconds to withdraw my request or he was going to send me forcibly to go see a psychiatrist." [Ford] added: "I told him I was not going to withdraw my request and at that time he confiscated my weapon and informed me he was withdrawing my security clearance and was placing me under 24-hour surveillance."

A witness in his unit told investigators that the captain later pressured a military doctor -- who had found the soldier stable -- into doing another emergency evaluation, saying: "I don't care what you saw or heard, he is imbalanced, and I want him out of here."

The next day, after the doctor did another evaluation, the soldier was evacuated from Iraq in restraints on a stretcher to a military hospital in Germany, despite having been given no official diagnosis, according to the documents. A military doctor in Germany ruled he was in stable mental health, according to the documents, but sent him back to the United States for what the soldier recalls the doctor describing as his "safety."

Emphasis added. So Ford claims his squad-mates are doing bad things to prisoners and his captain ships him off in restraints as a loony. The captain gave Ford a chance to recant before having him locked up -- is it any wonder more reports of torture didn't come out before Abu Ghraib? How many soldiers would have the courage and strength of character Ford did and refuse to take back what they know is true?

That a single captain did this is reprehensible but understandable in a world of imperfect people. He should be punished, but other than the regrettable effect on Mr. Ford, it's not of huge consequence. What makes it so significant is the way this Captain has been backed up through the line of command. Nothing changed as a result of this case.

Both institutionally and personally, I suspect, once you pick up the habit of torture it's hard to quit.