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Saturday, June 12, 2004

Abu Ghraib Torture Kills Americans

Blogger prodigy Matthew Yglesias worries that opposition to torture isn't a good issue for Democrats, writing that "running as the defender of the rights of accused terrorists...doesn't seem like a winning game plan to me." His point is that although we of course ought to stop torturing prisoners, lots of voters will see the Bush administration as merely combating terrorism with somewhat excessive but still commendable zeal.

I'm not so sure. The fact is that torturing and mistreating prisoners is bad tactically as well as morally. An especially clear explanation can be found in a brief leaflet titled "The Enemy In Your Hands" that was issued to every U.S. soldier during the Vietnam War.
Mistreatment Of Any Captive Is A Criminal Offense. Every Soldier Is Personally Responsible For The Enemy In His Hands.

It is both dishonorable and foolish to mistreat a captive. It is also a punishable offense. Not even a beaten enemy will surrender if he knows his captors will torture or kill him. He will resist and make his capture more costly. Fair treatment of captives encourages the enemy to surrender.

The leaflet says that prisoners, whether suspects, civilians, or soldiers, are to be treated without violence, degradation, or even any insults. Why? Because it's dishonorable and because "fair treatment of captives encourages the enemy to surrender."

To take just one example, remember how soon after the war, many Iraqi weapons scientists on the Coalition's 55 most wanted list turned themselves in? Remember how a few months later, having heard about the treatment of those who had surrendered, they began to go into hiding, many fleeing the country, taking with them their skills in creating chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons?

Fortunately, there's a lot of people who get it. In fact, polls show that a large majority oppose torture, or even humiliating and abusive treatment, in all circumstances.

Unfortunately, Americans (especially the military) are being put at risk by our clueless leaders.

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