Iraq's My Lai?


The reports of abuse of Iraqi POWs by American troops are disturbing in the extreme. And, given the White House response, there seems to be little question of their veracity. From Reuters:

The White House denounced abuse by U.S. troops of Iraqi prisoners as "despicable" and called for disciplinary action against those responsible on Friday after photographs depicting the acts were published and broadcast around the world.

The photos showed U.S. troops smiling, posing, laughing or giving the thumbs-up sign as naked, male Iraqi prisoners were stacked in a pyramid or positioned to simulate sex acts with one another.

"We cannot tolerate it and the military is taking strong action against the individuals responsible for these despicable acts," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

The photos, which appeared on television and in newspapers, showed U.S. troops abusing some of the Iraqis held at the Abu Ghraib prison, a notorious center of torture and executions under toppled President Saddam Hussein's government.

One Iraqi man had a slur written on his skin in English. Another was directed by Americans to stand on a box with his head covered, and wires attached to his hands, and was informed that if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted.

Whole thing here. There's no excuse for this sort of thing.

Update: Especially worth reading in this context is Mark Bowden's October 2003 tour de force in The Atlantic, "The Dark Art of Interrogation," which not only surveys the methods of torture but actually makes a disturbingly strong case for its limited use.

More Update: From the comments section, my clarification of my title to this post: I should have been/meant to be clearer in my titular allusion to My Lai: I didn't mean to equate the actions of the two events, but rather their effects on American (and possibly world) public opinion. When news of My Lai came out, it helped solidify and broaden anti-war and anti-American sentiment. Clearly (and whether you're pro or anti-war in Iraq) this scandal has similar potential.