Officer gets off for torturing Iraqi general to death

Just great.

Officer captures Iraqi general’s kids, tortures them to get the dad to turn himself in, tortures the dad, smothers him in a sleeping bag.

Apparently the punishment for this is $6,000 and house detention for 8 weeks. Great military justice system we have, apparently.

Witnesses testified that Welshofer stood by while Iraqi nationals, reportedly in the employ of the CIA, beat the general for about 30 minutes with rubber hoses. The next day, Welshofer took the general to the roof of the prison and, while other soldiers held him down, poured water on his face. The general did not answer questions, so the following morning Welshofer turned to what was dubbed “the sleeping bag technique.” Invented by another interrogator who recalled how his older brother used to stuff him in a sleeping bag to induce claustrophobia, the technique had been approved by Welshofer’s supervisor. The day after the general’s death, prosecutors said, Welshofer asked for another sleeping bag so he could continue using the technique on others.

This guy was doing his job in a fashion he was assured by his supervisor was a-ok. Don’t get upset with this one guy, get upset with the system that is authorizing this kind of behavior.

When does “the system” go on trial?

‘I was following orders’ has never really worked as a defence.

Until now.

Not really. If that defense worked he would have walked away without punishment.

I interpret that as meaning that we should blame the guy, then. If they didn’t think he had done anything wrong, no punishment would have been handed down. So, when’s the last time you heard of someone getting fined a few grand for, under orders or not, killing someone? At the very least, this is Man 1. And nobody gets off that easy for Man 1.

I was under the impression the system allows for a soldier to make a moral objection to what he is instructed to do? Otherwise, your excuse works on any member of a regime that allows this up to and including invoking godwins law by mentioning the you-know-whats.

He basically did get off without punishment. You’re right though, it is more important to blame the system, from those who let it be known that such behavior was ok, to those who let him get off with a slap on the wrist.

Yes. Under US military law, a soldier is able to (and, in fact, required to) refuse to follow an unlawful order. I’m pretty sure that torture qualifies. As a consequence, “I was ordered to do it” is not a valid defense for committing wrongful acts. Nor should it be.

Is this the right time for me to attack the original poster?

Of course not, but what happens when you don’t follow the order? Legally speaking I mean…is there some sort of legal sanctuary for such people? If they are demoted or fail to receive promotions, is that somehow fixed?

No, you should ask where he got his link and then go on about that for about two pages…

Make the person who did this a Republican Guard or member of Saddaam’s Sadists and you have one of the justifications for the war.

I always hope, when I read a story like this, that when I dig deeper I find that there is something misconstrued, taken out of context, etc. Sure doesn’t seem like it here. Damn.

Wait, I thought this war was about weapons of mass destruction? Well, I guess since they haven’t found any of those they need something to justify it in between tourettes-style outbursts of NINE ELEVEN! NINE ELEVEN!

We need Lizard King to come in here and tell us what happens to soldiers who tell a superior “No, that’s an illegal order, I’m not following it.”

If the U.S. government doesn’t consider certain actions to be torture, can a soldier’s order to conduct such acts still be considered an illegal order?

Generally, you had better gird your loins for a court martial. Thisis the best recourse for a an order refuser/whistle blower, as even the most minor offender is entitled to a such a semipublic trial. The problem is most people are as afraid to take this step as they are to “request mast” (ie demand to speak directly to x higher officer in chain of command to deal with a problem your superiors have ignored/created). Both are surprisingly effective ways of cowing your command, as they have an inherent fear of publicity and a real lack of credible options when simple intimidation fails. However, this does come with one big catch: you had better be ready to have all your dirty laundry aired, particularly if there were related incidents that you complied with in the past.

Personally, I would rather be a former Marine run out of the military through the back door than one who dishonored himself by torturing a prisoner; barring some really knockout evidence left out of the story, this soldier’s actions are indefensible as is that of his superiors and lackeys that allowed it to happen. His punishment is nonexistent for all practical purposes, even a fricking DUI carries a loss of rank automatically. However, the platitudes posted earlier about the system are actually somewhat accurate (if from a totally different mindset). Upon further investigation, it becomes fairly obvious that Welshofer is a sacrificial lamb, a frickin bone tossed to the “idealists” not because he was torturing, but because he fucked up and killed the guy. That is what he is being tried for, and hence his punishment actually does fit his crime. No one who is really causally guilty here is even on trial; I would always prioritize the bastard who kept his hands clean of this while burdening his subordinates with such a fucked up mission.

The preferred method is to come up with an alternative to an order one believes is unjust or unnecessarily violent, and then convince the officer it was his idea in the first place. Actually, not a very difficult proposition much of the time, and one of the cornerstones of enlisted and officer advising.
Also, there’s simply screwing up the order and then silently taking the asschewing (often ameliorated by the ranker’s subsequent relief at not having done something awful (to his career)).
Barring that, a direct objection often works remarkably well, as the legitimacy of an order is very much predicated on the willingness of your men to follow it. You can either go with the public fuck you or the private reasoning, depending on the character of the person in charge and the situation, and it rarely gets any worse than that of your case has any validity.
With this torture issue, it’s pretty obvious that while “creative” interrogation tactics can be punished if they are brought to light, there is no way in hell you will be punished for not going far enough. I don’t know of a single officer with the balls to commit war crimes to paper in an order, and all they can hold you to is what they are willing to print on paper since you have to sign statements to be charged with disobeying orders.

So, the nuances are many, but the final answer is straightforward. I can sometimes understand atrocities in direct life or death situations; this was at most an indirect one (if that’s even true, I really doubt the General gave up that much more high quality info after having the shit beat out of him). He shouldn’t have done it, he should receive a much more serious sentence, and his command should be put through the wringer. None of that will happen, although I imagine they are a lot more cautious about their interrogations since those carefree days.

Yes. Legal memos in Washington are surprisingly irrelevant when decency confronts scum in the act. Once you pull the wizard out from behind the curtains by calling his bluff (ie that his authority remains legimate when his orders are facially not), they don’t have a whole lot left to do to you. How could compromising everything that your job is supposed to mean be worth a “minion of the month” award from your boss? Fuck that.

Welshofer, did you order the code red?

YOU’RE GODDAMNED RIGHT I DID! (Sound of rubber hose wapping lawyer repeatedly)

To some extent, you can’t really blame soldiers for following orders; you can legally require people to disobey unjust orders, but on practical terms its just not going to happen due to the small/non-existant upside and tiny downside. I’m not even sure the incentive problem there is solvable.

What really bothers me, of course, is that a) he got off and b) that’ll be the end of it. It’ll be papered over like all the other appalling shit we’re doing over there. And as a society, apparently we’re just fine with that.