05/05/04 — Evil among us: Torturers of prisoners play into enemies’ hands

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Evil among us: Torturers of prisoners play into enemies’ hands

The damage that was done by U.S. soldiers who mistreated Iraqi prisoners cannot be overestimated.

Nor can the shame that we Americans should feel.

We try to present ourselves to the world as humane liberators of oppressed peoples. Our enemies, on the other hand, seek to portray us as greedy aggressors with nothing more noble than conquest and oil profits as our goals, no more civilized than the tyrant whom we have displaced.

Pictures of our torture and humiliation of prisoners lend credibility to our detractors.

Propagandists may understand that the tormentors were but a small minority of U.S. soldiers. They may know full well that torturing prisoners is not official U.S. policy. Still, they can use the pictures against us.

Nothing could be more convenient to a head of state looking for an excuse to rebuff U.S. requests for support, or for the political opponents of those who have joined our coalition.

Most Americans cannot imagine that anyone would think of ours as a brutal, unrefined culture. But, in fact, there are those among us who rival Saddam Hussein’s own prison guards for coarseness. People who have no moral compass may act with as much evil in one society as in another. There is no difference.

Some U.S. soldiers have given the excuse that they had no training in running a prison. What drivel! Training in penology is not necessary to know that it is wrong to entertain oneself by making prisoners strip naked and piling them in pyramids, or by making them stand naked, wearing a hood and boundby wire.

The Army is punishing those who committed the atrocities, and well it should. But the cause is far deeper than a few misguided soldiers.

Our soldiers are, by and large, representative of our general population. We have stood by as our society has lowered its standards and its values in nearly all areas of life. Anything goes. Any lifestyle is all right. If it’s fun, do it.

The pictures of smirking Americans scourging hapless prisoners are an indication of how low we have sunk, and how far we need to rise.

Published in Editorials on May 5, 2004 11:54 AM