From The Village Voice:
Give Me Liberty
Dark Secrets at the Front
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."
Colin Powell, after his many years of military service, said that American forces using torture on prisoners has been an "innovation." And 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." That reminded me of John McCain admonishing the president and Cheney about brutalizing our prisoners: "We are Americans; our values are not those of the terrorists."
McCain finally got a law passed barring "cruel and inhuman treatment" of prisoners, but he later voted for the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that barred those we hold as terrorism suspects from going into our courts to speak of their "conditions of confinement"—including "coercive interrogations" permitted by the Military Commissions Act.
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. Dated November 17, 2006, the report—encompassing several years of research in the field, including repeated surveys—has found that:
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