Friday, January 07, 2005

Superior Orders?

Jury selection was completed today at Fort Hood, Texas in the court-martial of Specialist Charles A. Graner, Jr., who stands accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. Graner's attorney, Guy Womack, insists that Graner was merely following orders to "soften up" prisoners for interrogators.

Whether Womack has plans to mount a superior orders defense is unclear. Such a defense would be difficult. (One need only recall how lucky Tom Cruise was to get Jack Nicholson to admit on the witness stand that he had ordered a "Code Red" in A Few Good Men.) As Dr. Michael Nutkiewicz pointed out in a lecture at Pepperdine last November, orders to torture prisoners are rarely explicit.

Colonel Allen Batschelet, one of the two potential jurors dismissed by the judge in the Graner case, explained to reporters the reason for his inability to be impartial: "As an Army officer, I was embarrassed by what I saw in the media. The values I hold dear as a soldier were called into question by the whole affair." This explains why twelve former generals and admirals, including the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili, took the unprecedented step of writing a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee urging the rejection of the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to be attorney general of the United States.