The moral cost of the war

Powerful cri de coeur from Andrew Sullivan on the moral cost of the war in Iraq. It’s prompted by a U.S. Army report which included the finding that “Less than half of Soldiers and Marines believed that non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect.”

This is how we win hearts and minds? […] Over a third of U.S. soldiers, taking the lead from their pro-torture commander-in-chief, see nothing wrong with [torture], even in a war clearly under Geneva guidelines. Two-thirds won’t report it. One in ten say they have abused Iraqi civilians just for the hell of it. Imagine what we don’t know and will never know about the rest.
In reassessing the war, in other words, the moral cost to America must come into the equation. The Iraq war has removed for a generation the concept of the U.S. military being an unimpeachable source of national honor. It has infringed civil liberties. It has legalized and institutionalized torture as a government tool – and helped abuse and brutality metastasize throughout the field of conflict. To be sure, abuse of captives always happens in wartime. What’s different now is that the commander-in-chief has authorized and legitimized it, and so the contagion has spread like wildfire. ((Aided and abetted by TV shows like 24, of course.)) The tragedy is that none of this will help us actually win this war.

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