Prisoners and interrogators are both brutalized in a war that changes who we are.
by Nat Hentoff
May 30th, 2007 11:27 AM
In February 2006, then–Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned that our wars against terrorism "could last for decades." Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, he said of the multiplying enemy: "Compelled by a militant ideology that celebrates murder and suicide with no territory to defend, with little to lose, they will either succeed in changing our way of life, or we will succeed in changing theirs."
With a seemingly endless supply of suicide bombers in Iraq, the enemy certainly hasn't changed its way of life. However—as the world has witnessed—there's plenty of evidence that we've changed ours—namely, in America's professed values about how we treat our prisoners, euphemistically marginalized as "detainees."
On May 7 of this year, General David Petraeus—now commanding our "surge" in Iraq, emphasized: "It's time to adhere to American values. We must not sink to the level of our enemies."
Does General Petraeus think we're sinking to the level of our enemies with regard to interrogation of prisoners? Are there more than just a 'few bad apples" at Abu Ghraib?
What caused the new alarm by General Petraeus about sinking to the level of the enemy is a startling official report from the Office of the Surgeon General, United States Army Medical Command:
Less than half of other soldiers and Marines (in Iraq) believed that non- combatants should be treated with dignity and respect and well over a third believed that torture should be allowed to save the life of a fellow team member .
About ten percent of soldiers and Marines reported mistreating an Iraqi non-combatant when it wasn't necessary . . . Less than half of the soldiers and Marines would report a team member for unethical behavior . . .
You can read Nat Hentoff's full report here.
Abu Ghraib: Not just a case of bad apples over there.
photo: US Army Sgt. Sara Wood defenselink.mil