John McCain and two other conservative Republican senators are right: Congress must do what it can to stop American soldiers from torturing prisoners.
It’s shocking and shameful to have to make such a statement. But we have to face facts. Since the wars started in Afghanistan and Iraq, prisoners in American custody have been systematically abused, tortured and in some cases killed.
We can no longer pretend these were bizarre aberrations by a handful of sadists. There is ample evidence that they were committed by intelligence officers, CIA agents and ordinary soldiers – apparently badly trained and led – who were told to “soften up” prisoners for interrogation.
The latest allegations come from a decorated captain and two sergeants in the 82nd Airborne. They say troops in their battalion routinely beat, burned and otherwise mistreated prisoners.
The Army already has punished 230 enlisted men and officers for such crimes. That’s reassuring as far as it goes, but it never should have been necessary.
That it was, suggests, at best, a lack of concern at the Pentagon for simple decency, not to mention international laws governing the treatment of prisoners.
One former prisoner, John McCain, knows what it’s like to be tortured. He doesn’t want other Americans to suffer a similar fate, and he knows it’s much more likely if we ourselves engage in such barbaric behavior.
He and Sens. John Warner of Virginia and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina (a former military lawyer) say they will introduce an amendment making it clear that American military forces may not “engage in torture.”
The Bush administration says it will oppose the amendment. It says the president might veto it.
Are we Americans, or not?
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