One of the real puzzles about the behavior of US forces in Iraq is that it's historically unusual. The kind of wanton, perverse cruelty detailed by Gen. Taguba, the trigger-happy checkpoint shootings, the rumors about beating old people and kids -- where does this come from?
Not long ago the 800th MP Brigade was a bunch of folks in upstate New York and West Virginia, and pretty soon they'll be right back at home. Is this the way they act at home? Taguba says the unit depended too much on a few people who were correctional officers in civilian life: is this how New York penitentiaries are run?
In the mythology, of course, Americans are supposed to be incapable of this sort of perversity. It's just the Germans and the Russians and the Japanese who do this stuff. That's false.
But, in general, when an American army has acted this way, it's been either incredibly ill-trained or incredibly frightened. Usually both. But in Iraq, we've got a professional, volunteer army that ought to be better trained than Napoleon's best -- we've certainly paid for that. And the casualties in Iraq, as terrible as they've been, aren't anywhere close to The Wilderness or Guadalcanal.
Seriously, what happened to Lynndie England this year? Last year, she's clerking at Wal-Mart, saving money for college, joining the reserves for a little extra cash. As far as I can tell, she doesn't even show up in Google before she's getting souvenir photos of good times tormenting Iraqi prisoners. What's she been through that she'd being doing this stuff?
An interesting side note in this Google-obsessed time: both PFC England and her best-friend, Destiny Goin, have exceptionally google-able names. Neither seems to have cast any shadow on the Web at all before this broke. Privacy is in better shape than I'd thought....