Up the Command Ladder

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This update in today’s New York Times on the prosecution of soldiers involved in two deaths at Bagram base in Afghanistan raises a vital question: “What is the responsibility of more senior military personnel for the abuses that took place?” As it turns out, the soldiers involved in the Bagram deaths (two are at issue here—both stem from the application of “severe trauma to the men’s legs”) have relatively strong claims that they were trained to treat the prisoners in a way that ultimately resulted in these two deaths. That could mean that the military will have more difficulty portraying these abuses as wildcat actions by a few bad guards or interrogators.

Of course, we know that the culture that promoted the actions leading these deaths goes right to the very top. But so far this hasn’t meant any responsibility for commanders or civilian policy makers. I won’t hold much hope, but maybe the little noted Bagram deaths can net some bigger fish.


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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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