OPINION

Torture vs idealism

The real Iraq war began when virtually everyone thought it was over. It is not long since the Bush administration claimed that the Iraqi people welcomed troops as liberators, amid celebrations for their cakewalk in Iraq. It was the same people who were out to assure us that Iraq would be transformed into a democratic state, the way Germany or Japan were after World War II. Their vision is no more. Maintaining control has proved more bloody than conventional combat. Iraq is a minefield. Insurgents have caused a constant hemorrhage which sustains a climate of insecurity and undermines the morale of coalition forces. Their troops were quickly trapped in the role of occupation forces, and introduced tactics of tough and unprincipled repression. In such an environment, moral degeneration and the systematic use of torture was to be expected. Evidence shows that this was no secret. The military leadership and the Pentagon tolerated, if not encouraged, such hair-raising practices in the name of interrogation efficiency. But by its very nature torture follows no rational criteria. It often becomes an end in itself. Anyone with the power to decide whether another lives or dies is under immense psychological pressure. The recent furor is less a reaction to these abhorrent acts and more to their publication. Public knowledge of the inhuman side of this war has changed the rules of the game. In a snap, heroes turned into beasts. US leaders, who had previously turned a blind eye to the mistreatment of Iraqis in the name of efficiency, are now fuming – but we should not be misled. The error was not the use of torture but the leakage of the controversial images. Next time, the US will have to be prepared so that it does not challenge the ideas of well-meaning Americans over the moral values and the high mission of their country.