05/10/04 — OPINION -- Shameful

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OPINION -- Shameful

By Gene Price
Published in News on May 10, 2004 1:58 PM

Shades of the Hanoi Hilton.

That must have been the shocking, nationally embarrassing and internationally revolting reaction to recent disclosures of the treatment of Iraqi prisoners of war by American military police guards.

Pictures showed guards -- men and women -- subjecting prisoners to humiliating, degrading treatment. The guards were shown laughing and enjoying naked but blindfolded prisoners stacked in pyramids. Stories were that prisoners were beaten and forced to endure sexual assault with broom handles.

We now learn that a number of investigations have been under way regarding such incidents. The president has expressed shock and disgust.

The reaction of people across America is one of incredulity. Such acts could not have been carried out by our young men and women! No! Say it isn't so!

The Department of Defense says the reports are credible. And the pictures are graphic.

It is, without question, the worst setback for the United States and coalition forces since the beginning of the second war in Iraq.

It is a catastrophic blow to the image of the United States and its military -- at home and abroad.

And our country, our people and the vast, vast majority of our men and women in uniform are undeserving of what an extremely small number of repulsive misfits have visited upon us and the defenseless prisoners.

The damage will be far-reaching, perhaps unending. It has inflamed the Arab world and provided the enemies of our noble cause against terrorism with an invaluable and volatile weapon to incite more attacks. Many more of our brave young men and women who have served so well in this difficult conflict may die or be maimed as a result of the despicable acts of a mindless few.

The consequences of these crimes are far reaching and everlastingly damaging. Punishment at every appropriate level of command must be severe and public if we are to hope to reassure the world that these were acts of a very few men and women who are undeserving to wear the uniform of their fellow soldiers or to claim to be citizens of this country.

The above column was written the day after the POW abuse disclosure. Since then, one must be pained to reflect on the absence of Arab world rancor in the aftermath of the murder, mutilation, burning and hanging of American civilians by Iraqi insurgents.