Good news and bad news on ethics among US troops in Iraq
by Weldon Berger
May 5 2007
A front-page story in today's Washington Post says that US soldiers are "at odds with ethics standards." The story cites a Pentagon survey showing that "one-third of U.S. soldiers in Iraq ... believe torture should be allowed if it helps gather important information about insurgents," while 40% "said they approve of such illegal abuse if it would save the life of a fellow soldier" and 10% said they had "mistreated civilians in Iraq."
I don't know how those numbers compare to the population at large. I suspect that they're roughly equal now, when the war is in disfavor, but I remember that when torture was a major issue in 2004 and 2005, polling showed that a majority of Americans were willing to countenance torture either in general or in specific circumstances. While it's unfortunate that a third of our troops feel that way, it's also pretty remarkable that after a year or two or three of guerrilla combat, more of them don't.
What makes it even more remarkable is that the soldiers are in Iraq on behalf of a US administration that shows little or no concern for anyone's human rights, including those of the soldiers they send into combat. If a third of soldiers think torture should be countenanced, that means two-thirds don't, and that's way higher than the corresponding percentage of top White House and Justice Department officials, and probably higher than the one in Congress, too.
Nothing about this administration is ethical. Why would we expect people who are in the circumstances these military are, to be able to maintain pristine ethics when they are undergoing such a terrible experience?
Like the author, I am amazed at the high number who manage to remember these are all humans.
There lives certainly will never be the same.