There are legitimate methods for interrogating dangerous men and women who may have information critical to saving lives, stabilizing Iraq and bringing a faster end to the war against terrorism. But the images of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers, released last week, betray the spirit of what America stands for and will complicate the U.S. role in bringing peace to a troubled part of the world.
Along with the strong reactions, both here in this country and worldwide, to the abusive methods at the Abu Ghraib prison has come a stream of information that also must be taken into context.
So far, fewer than a dozen soldiers have been implicated in the Abu Ghraib abuses. A military investigation has been underway for some time, military charges have been filed and legal proceedings are continuing. Indeed, the images that have disgusted our nation were discovered because of a military investigation.
American soldiers from World War II and other wars have recounted instances of torture of U.S. troops at the hands of enemy armies that make the Abu Ghraib abuses pale by comparison.
And the focus on Abu Ghraib has detracted from the ongoing mission in Iraq -- a mission that includes the rebuilding of a nation that was broken before U.S. troops ever entered the country, a mission that has produced thousands upon thousands of success stories that are being shared by U.S. soldiers through e-mails to friends and relatives back home.
Not all of the digital images from the personal cameras of our troops in Iraq are as ugly and revolting as those from Abu Ghraib, but we don't hear much about them.
Despite all of that perspective, what a few soldiers in Abu Ghraib did to their Iraqi prisoners is rightfully being investigated.
Those involved in the Abu Ghraib abuses deserve to be punished to the full extent of military law. And their superiors need to shoulder their share of the blame.
Abu Ghraib is not a conclusive event in the war on terrorism, nor is it a turning point.
It is an indecent reminder that the American values we hold in high esteem are so easily tarnished by the disgusting acts of a few.