Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America

Show Trials Will Not Solve the Iraq Questions

Post Convention 2004

On May 19th, 2004—at the height of mea culpa, apology and intense publicity—the first Court Martial trial of an American serviceman accused of abuse at the Iraqi Abu Ghraib prison will have a gala opening. It has been announced as a major media event. Sort of reminiscent of the show trials held in the former Soviet Union, China, Egypt and other dictatorial nations. With our race to judgment, we may have nearly made it to the level of international acceptability.


Abuse of any kind is unacceptable and cannot be condoned. That the Congress was not told is unacceptable. However, in the rush to satisfy the cravings of the media--which has created frenzy in regard to the allegations of abuse--the military must not be guilty of scapegoating those enlisted personnel who are at the lowest reaches of the chain of command.


Unlike in the other nations of the world, the embedded and ever present media has changed forever the manner in which America conducts its actions in war and conflicts. Unfortunately, the viewers and readers see only our enemies as the victims and our children as the aggressors. Our rights must not be trampled upon in the rush to satisfy media’s need for headlines and profits, nor may we be delayed in completing our goals without further loss of American lives.


At the same time as the abuse was being exploited, Ben Laden offered money for each Coalition soldier killed, and al Sadr told his people that they were entitled to make a slave of any British female captured—never made the front page, again because it is the expected practice of the enemy and is therefore acceptable to those who are quick to condemn the United States’ existence.


We were told that, as a result of the abuse, the Arabs would hate us, and the international community would look down on us. Seems that nobody bothered to look at what the situation was the day or the years before the abuse was announced—it was the same thing. Satan America has always been a prime target.


We then groveled by offering compensation to be paid to abused prisoners; something which has not been offered by the other side to American prisoners or hostages, whether they be abused or mutilated. We haven’t even offered that to the Reservist and National Guard or their families who have been in dire need since their six month tour of duty has been unilaterally extended to one and two years.


The setting of the trial date for May 19th raises very real questions of justice. There can be little question that we are reverting back to the Vietnam days of making the American Serviceman the scapegoat. What we so openly demand of others must be afforded to our own—namely procedural and substantive due process and a fair hearing to demonstrate to the world what our democracy is all about. Anything less would be an insult to our society.


It is important that any trial, especially this first one, get at the truths underlying the horror of the pictures being splashed daily across our newspapers and television screens. It is imperative that this rush to justice and judgment be a thoughtful effort to arrive at the truth of these allegations and not be a “show trial” to satisfy the gluttony of the media and the American people for sacrificial lambs offered for slaughter. We did that to the Vietnam veterans. Let us not do it to the others who today have their lives on the line for the United States.


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