Know what these photos are?
These are Iraqi troops surrendering by the thousand to U.S. forces during the first Gulf War in 1991. These drafted Iraqi fighters chose to turn themselves over to Americans in droves because they knew they’d be treated better by U.S. troops than by their own government. They had faith in us that we wouldn’t execute them, that we’d feed them and give them water, and that we’d provide them with shelter. To them, facing capture was a much better option than either retreating back to the care of Saddam and his sadistic sons or of fighting to the death.
This worked out well, because it meant that we, as Americans, wouldn’t have to face a determined, cornered enemy that could’ve drawn out the war and inflicted unnecessary casualties on our side. It was seen as a great victory.
Know what this is?
This is a shot of German troops surrendering to Americans during World War Two. At the end of that war, German soldiers were so desperate to surrender to the Americans or the British that they actually fought to break out of areas on the Eastern Front just so they wouldn’t have to surrender to the Russians. They knew that inhumane treatment, a long train ride to Siberia, and a likely miserable death awaited them if they didn’t make it.
This also worked out well for us, because it meant that we, as Americans, had a much easier time in Germany than the Russians did. The Russians--battling men who were literally fighting for their lives during the push to Berlin--suffered 80,000 troops killed. On the Western Front, however, U.S. forces never faced that level of resistance.
Once upon a time, America was known around the world for its powerful, benevolent nature when handling captured enemy fighters. Even our adversaries knew they could hoist the white flag and expect to be treated humanely. In turn, this made them more likely to give up sooner. And it not only kept American soldiers out of countless bloody fights, but it made victory and success all that much easier for our troops.
For years, rank and file soldiers and insurgents around the world viewed surrender to the Americans as a reasonable option when finding themselves outgunned.
And then we went and did this:
Now, our opponents won’t feel secure in surrendering to U.S. forces. In fact, I wouldn’t expect to see images like those of the surrendering soldiers above for decades. It’s just not going to happen anymore. If a hot war breaks out in Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, or anywhere else, we can expect to face an enemy that simply won’t accept surrender. No Taliban fighter, no starving North Korean soldier in his right mind will surrender willingly if he thinks he’s going to be tortured or beaten to death. Instead, he’ll prefer a fight to the death, even as he becomes cornered. And this will get Americans killed.
This is what Bush administration torture policies have wrought. We no longer hold the moral high ground. We borrowed against it in an effort to get a few false confessions from Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, Abu Zubaydah, and others. And the next time we face an organized fighting force in the field, the cost of doing so will become readily apparent.
Not only does torture not work, but it directly endangers our troops fighting now.
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