u.s. solider waterboards daughter

u.s. solider waterboards daughter February 9, 2010

Here is yet another example of misconduct by a u.s. soldier for those who criticize my views on the military for being based in “stereotypes” or “abstractions.” This one is reported by BBC News; you don’t need to dig very hard to find this stuff.

A US soldier has been charged with assault after allegedly waterboarding his four-year-old daughter, police in the state of Washington have said.

Sgt Joshua Tabor dunked the girl’s head in a sink full of water for not reciting the alphabet, police in the town of Yelm said.

Waterboarding is an interrogation technique that simulates drowning and has been banned as torture by the US.

Sgt Tabor is a helicopter repairer who served in Iraq from 2007-08.

Yelm police chief Todd Stancil said Sgt Tabor was arrested on 31 January.

Officers were called after Sgt Tabor was seen walking around his neighbourhood holding a Kevlar helmet and threatening to break windows, the police chief added.

The girl was then found hiding in a locked bathroom in the soldier’s home, Mr Stancil said on Monday.

Sgt Tabor posted bail of $10,000 (£6,400) on Monday and has been confined to barracks at his base in Washington state.

My suggestion for the day is this: Encourage a family member or friend who serves in the military to leave this line of work. Because — I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — america is killing its soldiers.

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  • I’m waiting for EWTN to do a segment on how since this is not torture, it must be just a bit of good old-fashioned parental discipline.

  • Apparently, this is getting zero play in the American media. There’s a surprise.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    People trained to kill for a living are likely to crack at some point. My wife has several PTSD military patients.

    Many join the military because they see few other options, and this country’s refined inequality makes it hard to blame them, especially since they’ve been indoctrinated from childhood. You don’t have to
    be a sociopath to join the military. It does help of course.

  • Did you ever see this similar news story from a few years ago:
    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2008/02/motivational-ma/

  • David Raber

    Just as I will not condemn the Catholic Church for instances of sexual abuse perpetrated by its clergy, I will not condemn the military for incidents like the one cited.

    We can take the point that military service tends to be brutalizng (as police work is, though to a lesser degree), and still recognize the necessity of having a military–and indeed the special honor due to those who serve honorably while incurring this particlar hazard among many others.

  • David Nickol

    It is, of course, reprehensible to treat a child this way, but dunking someone’s head in a sink is simply not waterboarding. It’s preposterous to make the connection.

    Apparently, this is getting zero play in the American media. There’s a surprise.

    I think CNN, ABC, Fox, USA Today, and the Seattle Times count as the American media. (Check Google News.) And it is not a story of international importance if you do not make the utterly unwarranted waterboarding connection. I believe waterboarding to be torture, and of course pushing someone’s face in water can be torture as well, but they are not at all the same thing. Note that Wikipedia makes a distinction:

    Waterboarding is a torture technique that consists of immobilizing the subject on his back with the head inclined downwards; water is then poured over the face into breathing passages, causing the captive to believe he or she is dying. In contrast to submerging the head face-forward in water, waterboarding precipitates an almost immediate gag reflex.

    It would be just as rational (actually, more rational) to urge men to leave the priesthood because of the abuse crisis than to urge people to leave the military because of incidents like this.

  • David Nickol

    u.s. solider waterboards daughter

    This title is completely falls and indefensible.

  • This title is completely falls and indefensible.

    1) I don’t know what this means. 2) I took my title directly from the title of the BBC article.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    I’ve made this argument before – citing extreme behavior by mercenaries causes some people to defend the institution in “one bad apple” fashion. In their mind, those “bad apples” somehow even ennoble the rest. It’s the tree that’s poisonous. The very nature of military suffices to condemn it. I don’t know but I’ve been told soldiers kill both young and old.

    The purpose of boot camp is to break people and remold them. Of course, chances are that they just break. And if they don’t, what they are molded into is trained killers. The “ideal” outcome is that they just kill the enemy-du-jour, leave the war on the battlefield and reintegrate into society. I guess the mind can get confused at times and the lines between daughter and “sandnigger” blurred.

  • David Nickol

    1) I don’t know what this means. 2) I took my title directly from the title of the BBC article.

    1. “Falls” should have been “false.”

    2. Just because the BBC wrote the headline doesn’t mean it isn’t false. It is more than false. It’s outrageous.

    It is just a fact that no waterboarding took place. I wonder if they would have called it waterboarding if the guy had not been in the military? The world media are sensationalizing what would have been an ugly local story just because the word waterboarding is in it. It is indefensible.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    But, let’s give equal time to the Marine Corps. Quotes from its website. Not satirical. http://www.marines.com/main/index/quality_citizens/benefit_of_services/leadership_skills

    * “Travel – Widening every Marine’s perspective

    Today’s society is more globally connected than ever, and travel during service offers Marines a broader perspective. The Marine Corps trains and deploys throughout the United States and the world, and most Marines should expect to see duty at several of these locations.

    In addition, duty assignments at American embassies, consulates and delegations throughout the world offer rich opportunities to travel and expand cultural horizons.”

    * “Vacation – Time to enjoy the freedom they protect

    Vacation time ensures that Marines can spend time with family, be well rested in body and in spirit and remain prepared for the challenges of service.

    Marines receive 30 days of paid vacation each year, including 10 days before reporting to their first assignment after graduating from recruit training.”

    * “Community Involvement – Serving selflessly, on the battlefield and at home

    Marines bring the values and lessons learned in service to others. The ability to put the team before themselves and recognize the importance of each contribution helps Marines shape their communities.

    Perhaps the most recognizable community effort, the Toys for Tots program, exemplifies Marine Corps dedication to making a difference, and is an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve.

    Marines participate in parades, presentations, air shows, sporting events and other community ceremonies. They also have opportunities to mentor, tutor and provide assistance in local youth centers, schools, hospitals and religious organizations around the country.”

    * “Ensuring health and readiness

    Medical coverage keeps all Marines in good health, so they can accomplish their mission and support their families.

    While serving in the Marine Corps, every Marine and his or her immediate family is covered by free, comprehensive medical and dental insurance. In addition, Marines may purchase life insurance at a minimal cost.

    If you remain in the Marine Corps through retirement, your medical benefits will extend throughout your lifetime and that of your spouse at reduced rates. You may also be entitled to receive prescription medicine benefits, as well as care in a Veteran Administration (VA) hospital.”

    * “Leadership Skills – Building leaders for life

    Marines are taught to lead at every level of the Corps. They are trained to act instinctively and effectively, regardless of the situation.

    Principles such as “lead by example” and “make sound and timely decisions” are lessons Marines continue to apply at home, in the community and in the business world. Values and traits like courage, resourcefulness, flexibility and the ability to inspire people set Marines apart as leaders.”

  • digbydolben

    Michael, as somebody who usually wholly sympathizes with your point of view, I should like to caution you to be careful with certain articles that appear in the centre-left publications and media outlets of Europe, such as the Guardian newspapers, the BBC, Der Spiegel, etc. They are notoriously viscerally anti-American in terms of cultural bias.

  • The question, of course, is not whether a moral equivalence can be established between waterboarding and thrusting a person’s head, face-down, into a basin of water. The question, rather, is–did this man become so violent as to treat a child in this manner as a result of his experience in the military?
    He may have gone in that way and come back unchanged. Or he may have gone in “normal” and returned a desensitized sociopath. While these things have to be judged on a case-by-case basis, I believe that there is enough evidence of veterans having problems coping with ordinary life in socially acceptable ways, to put the odds against this particular guy having been unaffected by his service in the commitment of the act of violence against his own daughter for a trivial offense.

  • phosphorious

    Ahhh. . . the semantics of it all.

    Is what this man did to his child not waterboarding, or is it not torture?

  • David Nickol

    The question, of course, is not whether a moral equivalence can be established between waterboarding and thrusting a person’s head, face-down, into a basin of water.

    Rodak,

    One question is whether we’d be discussing this story if nobody had incorrectly and unjustifiably accused a soldier of waterboarding his daughter. I don’t think so.

    The main question, which could only be answered by some kind of psychological or sociological study, is whether those who have had military training are more likely to perform acts of cruelty on their children than those who have not. We certainly know that combat takes its toll on the mental and physical health those who engage in it. That is noncontroversial.

    it’s interesting to note that physicians have a very high suicide rate, and that while non-physician men commit suicide four times more often than non-physician women, the suicide rate for male and female doctors is the same. Clearly, there is something about being a doctor that is a problem, but I don’t think anyone would tell people not to become doctors or tell doctors that they should get out of the profession.

    I think digby makes a good point. It seems to me this is a distorted story that smacks of anti-Americanism.

    • It seems to me this is a distorted story that smacks of anti-Americanism.

      Please describe how the story is “anti-American.”

  • Gerald A. Naus

    “Ahhh. . . the semantics of it all.

    Is what this man did to his child not waterboarding, or is it not torture?”

    But I hear he’s against abortion 😉

    “They are notoriously viscerally anti-American in terms of cultural bias.”
    Are you going to use that disclaimer on yourself, too ? 😉 I can’t think of a Western European publication that’s not “anti-American.” The gung-ho starry-eyed coverage of the “shock and awe” onslaught on Iraq by ALL American networks certainly wasn’t matched by European media. The so-called “liberal media” was rather smitten with the fireworks display.

    What does “Anti-American” mean though ? It assumes that there is this monolithic American culture everyone is a happy part of. Granted, many fall into the trap of identifying a system with a geographic entity they were born in. Usually, “anti-American” is used by scoundrels who’ve convinced people that getting screwed at home and screwing others abroad (aka “freedom”) is the sign of a true patriot. It is “anti-American”, e.g., to advocate person-based health care, the metric system, to oppose war, to play soccer, to eat arugula. In the end, then, “anti-American” means to disagree with Sarah Palin.

  • digbydolben,

    Define “anti-american.” I certainly don’t see any “anti-americanism” in the reporting of the BBC. That said, I am obviously sympathetic with so-called “bias” in news reporting when it tells the truth about u.s. brutality and pathology.

  • Colin Gormley

    The bigotry against people in the military that MI expresses is horrific. Every person who served is a warped murder.

    • The bigotry against people in the military that MI expresses is horrific. Every person who served is a warped murder.

      This statement of yours does not reflect my view at all.

      I understand why you might be “horrified” by my views if you simply can’t handle any criticism of Holy Mother State’s military priesthood. And such a naive, uncritical view of the military would likely and understandably contribute to your inability to accurately represent my own views. But so long as you misrepresent my views, you are not worth engaging.

      My suggestion to Colin, and to others who might be similarly uncritical, is that you gain some kind of ability to engage in critical reflection on these issues lest you be complicit with the spiritual and physical deaths of the soldiers that you idolize.

  • Additionally, on the “anti-american” charge, it is interesting that every u.s.-based report of this story that I have seen is essentially identical to the BBC report, including the use of the term “waterboarding.”

    In fact, this report goes into more detail about what this soldier did to his daughter and it’s clear why the reports are linking his actions to waterboarding.

  • Just as I will not condemn the Catholic Church for instances of sexual abuse perpetrated by its clergy, I will not condemn the military for incidents like the one cited.

    The difference is, of course, that Catholicism lauds peacefulness and mercy, and abusive clergy act contrary to Catholicism. Whereas soldiers are taught to fight and subdue.

  • Adam – Exactly. Such differences should be obvious, but sadly, they are not.

  • David Nickol

    Additionally, on the “anti-american” charge, it is interesting that every u.s.-based report of this story that I have seen is essentially identical to the BBC report, including the use of the term “waterboarding.”

    Whoever calls it waterboarding is guilty of poor reporting. Different publications may have different motives — anti-Americanism, sensationalism, laziness, etc. The CNN headline was “Police: Iraq vet abused daughter, held her head in water.”

    One doesn’t have to worship the United States to acknowledge that a charge of anti-Americanism can be accurate.

  • 1. Waterboarding is terrible, we shouldn’t do it, and expend all our energy into stopping it.

    2. Dunking a child’s head in water is terrible. Those who do so should be punished, and if there are cultural forces leading to an increase in this, they should be identified and curtailed.

    That being said, the reason the headline is unfair is that a suggests a link that is not supported by the facts of the case. It suggests that the abusive behavior of the father is in some way inspired by the waterboarding technique used on terror suspects. Given that what the father did was very different, that seems very unlikely.

    That does not mean that both waterboarding and military culture have serious negative effects, particularly on those who serve in the military. It’s just that the linkage that the headline suggests is not supported by the facts of the case.

  • David Nickol

    The difference is, of course, that Catholicism lauds peacefulness and mercy, and abusive clergy act contrary to Catholicism. Whereas soldiers are taught to fight and subdue.

    AdamV,

    Yes, but soldiers are not taught to fight and subdue their 4-year-old daughters. Do you really imagine people in the military reading about this guy approved of him abusing his daughter? If you want to judge the military, judge them by what their official duties are and how they carry them out. If you want to judge the Catholic clergy as a whole, judge them by what their official duties are and how they carry them out. It is unfair to judge either group by the “bad apples.”

    If what Michael says about military training is true, the guy who abused his daughter is at least partially a victim.

    By the way, there can be little doubt that military service is harmful to both mental and physical health. For example:

    Although accurate numbers are impossible to come by — no one keeps national records on homeless veterans — the VA estimates that 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. And approximately twice that many experience homelessness over the course of a year. Conservatively, one out of every three homeless men who is sleeping in a doorway, alley or box in our cities and rural communities has put on a uniform and served this country. According to the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Urban Institute, 1999), veterans account for 23 percent of all homeless people in America.

    The question isn’t so much whether there is a negative impact of military training and fighting in wars. The question is whether it is necessary to have a military and, if so, whether they are doing their best to minimize the damage to their personnel.

    • If what Michael says about military training is true, the guy who abused his daughter is at least partially a victim.

      I’ve always said this. This is, in fact, why I think we should encourage family and friends in the military to leave. It’s why I say that we are “killing” our soldiers. Yes, of course they are, in part, victims.

      If you want to judge the military, judge them by what their official duties are and how they carry them out. If you want to judge the Catholic clergy as a whole, judge them by what their official duties are and how they carry them out. It is unfair to judge either group by the “bad apples.”

      The “bad apples” approach is a bad one in both cases. Of course abusive soldiers and priests are not doing specifically what they are trained to do. But their training and the cultures in which they move have something to do with what they do. They are not simply “bad apples” but their actions rather have systemic causes. I understand why it is hard to understand this with regard to soldiers, as the mythology with which we surround soldiers is culturally very strong. But you should, as a Catholic, have some sense of the systemic nature of these problems with regard to priests. To simply call abusive priests “bad apples” is to hold an incredibly naive view of the problem, and frankly does not seem to take the abuse of children very seriously.

  • digbydolben

    I just believe that it’s important not to sensationalize the obviously true accounts of the American military’s depredations against civilian populations; they should be reported in a spirit of emotionless, dead-pan objectivity, so that the full horror of the effects of America’s amoral and genocidal foreign policy sinks into the mind of the so-called “silent American.”

  • David Nickol

    To simply call abusive priests “bad apples” is to hold an incredibly naive view of the problem, and frankly does not seem to take the abuse of children very seriously.

    It seems to me that just because there is a systemic problem that contributes to “bad apple-ism” among priests does not mean that we must judge all priests by the bad apples. Nor should we condemn the entire system and warn people not to be priests.

    To simply call abusive priests “bad apples” is to hold an incredibly naive view of the problem, . . .

    Saying, “It is unfair to judge either group by the ‘bad apples’,” when the topic is actually the military, does not imply a belief on my part that the whole abuse problem in the Catholic Church may be reduced to saying there are a few “bad apples.”

    . . . and frankly does not seem to take the abuse of children very seriously.

    There is no need to break out the sledgehammer and pound me for being insensitive to the abuse of children because I have disagreed with you about the military.

    • It seems to me that just because there is a systemic problem that contributes to “bad apple-ism” among priests does not mean that we must judge all priests by the bad apples. Nor should we condemn the entire system and warn people not to be priests.

      “Bad appleism” denies that there is a systemic problem. That is the point of dismissing these cases as “bad apples.” Of course we do not judge individual priests who are not abusers by the ones who abuse. But we should judge the system that produces abusers. If the system is bad enough, then yes we should condemn it. I think in the case of the military, it has become bad enough. In the case of the priesthood, there are aspects of the system that have been bad enough at least in the past to warrant condemnation. One such aspect is an authoritarian theological dimension that treats priests as if they are above the laity. For the most part, ecclesial renewal has been taking place to remedy this, although there are sectors of the church who want this dangerous ecclesiology restored. Another aspect of this system is a culture of secrecy that has covered up abuse. It seems that this culture of secrecy has slowly been exposed and steps are being taken to change it. Had these reforms not been addressed on different levels, being suspicious about friends and family becoming priests would be entirely justified. When it comes to soldiers, I see no reforms taking place in the military and in fact instances of abuse (not to mention suicide) seem to be on the rise. See the work of Andrew Bacevich on this.

      There is no need to break out the sledgehammer and pound me for being insensitive to the abuse of children because I have disagreed with you about the military.

      If you are not willing to take seriously the systemic causes of problems such as abusive priests and abusive soldiers, merely calling them “bad apples,” then it does not seem to me that you are very sensitive to the abuse of the victims, whether they be children or adults.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    digby, that’s pretty much what I said, that actually benefits the system. The everyday misery wrought by the US (not that others are blameless, the US is just the most glaring example in the West) upon weaker countries (and its own population) constitutes a far stronger condemnation.

    A perpetrator always injures himself (and it’s usually a “him”) as well – little comfort for his victims, of course. In the military’s case, people here are brainwashed from childhood on, social inequality is hideous, then a recruiter comes with BS like I quoted above (Marines get to “travel” and “expand” their “cultural horizon” – killing people in different countries) and they sign up. And, diabolically, their own mind keeps them believing in it – because the alternative appears even worse – that it was all not just in vain, but for evil purposes.

  • The point is that the full adage states that “one bad apple spoils the barrel.” It doesn’t matter that they are “only a few bad apples.”

  • David Nickol

    If you are not willing to take seriously the systemic causes of problems such as abusive priests and abusive soldiers, merely calling them “bad apples,” then it does not seem to me that you are very sensitive to the abuse of the victims, whether they be children or adults.

    Isn’t this called poisoning the well? If I don’t agree with you, then I am not sensitive to the abuse of children.

    Anyway, of course there are systemic problems in the military — why else would we have suicides, PTSD, and homeless veterans, among other problems.

  • David – So then basically you don’t think the problems are bad enough to advocate radical changes to the military.

  • David Nickol

    Michael,

    I don’t think they are bad enough to advocate abolishing the military.

    • I don’t think they are bad enough to advocate abolishing the military.

      But they are certainly bad enough to suggest that Christians should not join. Of course the military will not be abolished anytime soon so long as american culture remains the perversity that it is.

  • More likely, David doesn’t think one sensationalistic and inaccurate headline does much to make the case either way.

    • More likely, David doesn’t think one sensationalistic and inaccurate headline does much to make the case either way.

      Well, fine, but he said much more than that, didn’t he?

  • David Nickol

    But they are certainly bad enough to suggest that Christians should not join.

    Why just Christians? It is largely Christianity that got us to where we are today. If Christianity had been discouraging war for the past 2000 years, the world would be a very different place. A lot of wars were fought in the name of Christianity itself, or fought between different Christian denominations.

    Of course the military will not be abolished anytime soon so long as american culture remains the perversity that it is.

    There were armies and wars long before America was established, and there are many wars going on today that have nothing to do with America, Iraq, or Iran.

    • It is largely Christianity that got us to where we are today.

      I can’t tell what kind of statement this is. Exactly where are “we” today?

      If Christianity had been discouraging war for the past 2000 years, the world would be a very different place.

      I can’t tell what kind of statement this is either. Would the world be in a better place or a shittier place if Christianity (I take you to mean Xtianity as a whole since large portions of Xtianity HAVE been discouraging war since the time of Christ) always discouraged war, in your enlightened opinion?

  • MM — Credit where it’s due, I first read about this in Stars & Stripes, a DoD-sponsored (but independent) newspaper aimed at deployed soldiers.

    Where I have seen this covered in the media, it’s been unequivocally called “torture,” even by publications that insist on referring to the practice as “enhanced interrogation” when used on “enemy combatants.”

  • How about a military person’s perspective to set a few things straight.

    A story like this one is gross, but otherwise not telling.

    First of all, the torture of a child is gross. I don’t think, however, that this should spawn some judgement of the average military person when you’re talking about 1.5 million people who are serving on active duty. It is careless to stereotype such a diverse organization. Lock the man up, just like we do to thousands of non-military moms and dads who torture their kids. Now, if there are trends that suggest that child abuse is on the rise in military families, then the military indeed has a responsibility to do something about it. Remember, the military has tried hard to overcome issues of racial inequality, women’s rights, and even today, the rights of homosexuals.

    Second, the use of waterboarding on a person is torture. I will do it to you and you will honestly think that you are going to die — even if I tell you in advance that I’m doing it to you for experimental purposes. It is amazing what happens to the mind when it is over stressed, even under laboratory conditions. So let us stop dancing around the terminology.

    Third, talk of telling young men and woman to abandon the military because killing is involved is pointless. What we need are strong Catholic men and women IN the military to ensure that stupidity is kept in check. We need compassionate people ON THE INSIDE. Furthermore, you have to ensure your elected officials are kept in check, because THEY are the ones that send young Catholic men and woman to war.

    Don’t use an article like this to alienate men and women in the military. A lot of us try to be good Christians too. You want us to be in the military, trust me.

    • How about a military person’s perspective to set a few things straight.

      Ah yes, because the fact that you are in the military simply shuts down all conversation because — a-ha! — we now have “the truth.” If you haven’t noticed, I’m beyond giving “military people” the benefit of the doubt.

      Don’t use an article like this to alienate men and women in the military. A lot of us try to be good Christians too. You want us to be in the military, trust me.

      No, I don’t want you, Cliff, in the military. I don’t want anyone in the military.

  • I suppose I don’t want anyone in the military either. No rational human wants war, especially if you’ve had any involvement in one. However, nothing is added to the marketplace of ideas if your position is to essentially abolish the military.

    Okay. Perhaps I should be accommodating. Perhaps it is good to have people out there that hold the line and maintain dream goals. We certainly expect our clergy to maintain the hard line against moral relativism, even when parishioners complain. I like that, even if I have a disagreement here and there.

    But in a broken world, you need fellow Catholics on the inside of broken organizations, fomenting change from within. There are military nut jobs in the military — go figure — that need to be kept in check, who need to be told to put their gun down, to abort a bombing run, to make better strategic decisions. You need these people there right now, every day.

    Also, no disrespect meant on proposing a “military view.” I would never want to shut down the conversation, nor proclaim to have any more truth than you. What happened that caused you to stop giving people the benefit of the doubt? Just curious.

    Thanks!