And We Were Sharp
This article from the current Chicago Reader is a disheartening soldier's-eye account of the war in Iraq. It's a profile of an Army interrogator who found himself up against a military mindset that would rather incarcerate every Iraqi male than take the chance of letting the innocents go free. We're talking quotas, here. It's an excellent article and I encourage you to read it, despite the stupid format it's posted in (a huge .pdf file with all the uneccessary ads and other stuff from the pages). F'r instance, there's this:
[O]ne of the interrogators on his team had an approach that he felt left much to be desired. She would shout and swear and try to humiliate suspects, calling them pieces of shit, calling their mothers and sisters whores. There was no nuance to her style, not psychological insight. She yelled so loudly the other interrogators could often hear her through the walls. The terps complained to Jake about her and one even threatened to quit, he says, so he sat her down and talked to her about her approach. "Giving her criticism was extremely unproductive," he says. "She threw a fit and had to take three weeks off."
After "Jake" was transferred out of interrogation because of his resistance to the quota system, a fellow member of his national guard unit working in an administrative office says "the two highest ranking officers in her midst didn't hide their feelings about Jake.":
"They weren't very fond of him." Tran says they made a bar graph comparing the number of releases [Jake] recommended to the number recommended by the woman who shouted at her charges. "They knew she would give them the numbers they wanted," says Tran. "They knew he wasn't going to change his values and morals just to please a few officers."
The overall implication is that competence is less valuable than compliance. The military wants reality to bend to their numbers and their needs, and anyone who's not willing to reflect that is undesirable. Sounds like the Bush administration, doesn't it? No wonder there's a crisis of competence.