Prisoner Abuse


The email below was written in response to the article appended on the end which was forwarded to me by multiple sources prior to the prisoner abuse stories breaking.  Unfortunately, my fears that the abuse was systemic rather than the actions of a few individuals appear to have been justified.



Scary.  When I was in Command and Staff College, we were shown a film about the French in AlgeriaFrance was fighting an anti- terrorist campaign then.  They used tactics of a similar vein to the ones reportedly used by General Pershing, torture of captured terrorists being one.  I suppose the argument is that the ends justify the means and, if the ends are good, any means however black in and of themselves are justified.  I can't agree with that philosophy, so I guess I would certainly not be included in any list of possible present day Black Jacks, nor would I particularly like to be. 

To say that the ends never justify the means is not, however, very thoughtful either as, if the end is to save life, homicide is justified under the law, even for self preservation.  Even in this case, however, certain caveats are set: the certainty that another's life was in imminent danger, and the absence of alternatives being two.  What is clear under the law is that the end must be unquestionably good, the threat must be unquestionably real and proximate, and no alternatives that can be seen are presented.  I hardly believe the description of what General Pershing is reported to have done meets these criteria.  Nor were they met at
My Lai.  The reality is they are most often not met.  This does not prevent the horrific from being contemplated and acted on however.  Often such actions are preceded by similar ruminations, both public and private, about the justness of using such means to achieve the good end sought.  By performing evil in order to achieve good, we become that evil we seek to expunge.  What is worse, we rationalize that we are not, but are rather taking these actions out of necessity. 

If the report on the General is accurate, he was wrong.  If it is not, someone has badly maligned his name.  What is certain, accurate or no, is that many appear ready to embrace evil in order to achieve good.  As horrible as acts of terror are, and as much pain as they cause, it remains unwise, as well as morally reprehensible, for us to resort to acts of terror in order to fight terror.  Even if only considered pragmatically, in today's instant replay world, with images and bylines hitting the street before the bodies are even cold, any moral authority that the perpetrator had would quite quickly vanish, followed rapidly thereafter by their legitimacy.  In that case, the original terrorists would have achieved their aim, or at least a major portion of it.  As difficult as it may be to consider, defeating terrorists, those who use violence illegitimately, and the establishment of legitimate authority within a country are not accomplished quickly.  If we are to engage, it should be with eyes wide open to the length and difficulty of these endeavors if done right.  As we have already engaged, we must soon come to the realization of this truth or we will soon become that which we seek to be rid of.  As well, as the task requires much, the burden of such a task must be shared or we risk failure regardless of the legitimacy of our means.  The burdens include those of a mental, physical, as well as a spiritual nature.  The mental effort entails the rigor of thought required to understand how best to defeat the enemy.  The physical entails the blood and treasure that must unfortunately be spent.  The spiritual entails the sound moral reasoning that should accompany our thoughts and our actions. 
There is an oriental allegory that depicts the elements of power inherent in a ruler as a sword, a diamond, and a mirror.  The sword represents physical power or force.  The diamond represents the wealth required to acquire and wield that power.  The mirror represents knowledge.  As we progress into the information age, the mirror appears to be gaining preeminence as an element of power.  What is most often missed in this representative symbology of the mirror is its depiction of self knowledge.  After all, it is a mirror.  Regardless of how much we learn through our physical senses, we miss the mark if we do not also learn, or realize, that we are spiritual beings. This is what truly separates us from animals - the striving for, capacity of, and knowledge of the infinite.  These are beyond the scope of the sword and the diamond, as well as sensual knowledge.  They are much more adequately depicted by another trinity of power: faith, hope, and love.  The exercise of this type of power may seem ineffectual, even outwardly cowardly to those who possess little; however, it is all but either.  It takes infinitely more strength to forbear from reprisal when attacked than it does to respond with force when such force is clearly in your capability and current public sentiment cries for its use and questions your leadership, even your mental capacity, if clear, "decisive action" is not apparent. It takes much greater understanding to see and understand the limits of force when attempting to illicit fealty. 

I hope that the sentiment portrayed in the attachment is not shared by many Americans.  I fear, however, that it is.                                                

Emil Orth wrote:

this is good...