A reader writes:
I was an interrogator for 7 years and taught interrogation for 3 of those years. The distinction that people are trying to grasp is a simple and fundamental one. During warfare, both sides are fighting each other. If you don't do unto him, he'll do unto you. When you capture a prisoner, they are your ward. You are responsible for them.
How you treat them does not depend on what kind of person they are, it depends on what kind of person you are.
That's what the Geneva Conventions are all about. That's what used to be taught at interrogation school.
The principle is so simple and so ingrained in the West's core values that it took an enormous effort to overturn it. It says something both about Dick Cheney's mastery of the bureaucracy and George W. Bush's pliancy that so much damage was done so swiftly and so systematically. The memo removing Geneva protections from captives spread like wildfire - to all theaters of war, from Bagram to Camp Cropper, from Gitmo to Abu Ghraib, authorizing the torture and abuse of thousands, the murder-by-torture of at least 24, the unexplained deaths of over 80, the disappearance of over 30 prisoners, and the dissemination of abuse and torture photographs that immediately damaged America's reputation for ever.
And yet no one is to be held responsible for this, except a few reservists singled out for following orders.