Let me open by cautioning my readers to be aware that it is a known terrorist tactic (thanks to captured training manuals) to allege abuse where none exists in order to besmirch the good name of the U.S. Armed Forces. Believe it when you see it, of course, but in the coming days, as sensationalist press will no doubt report on every murmur of potential abuse from Afghanistan or Iraq all the way to Guantanamo Bay or Fort Leavenworth, take it with a grain of salt until public evidence exists.
That being said, the recent revelations regarding the conduct of American military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq are, without question, disturbing, embarrassing, and unfortunate, and the individuals responsible should be identified, prosecuted fairly, and punished appropriately.
However, this abuse scandal points out an equally disturbing, embarrassing, and unfortunate truth of warfare: not everyone fights for good. Some troops may wear the flag of freedom, liberty, truth, and justice on their sleeve without putting any stock in those ideals, without setting aside the passions that develop under the burden of the tremendous stress of combat, and without exercising the integrity that most military men and women everywhere hold so dear. Evil exists, sometimes even in our own ranks. And like all forms of evil, from communism to Islamist extremism, it must be opposed.
I challenge Abby and others who assert that this incident is somehow "irreparable damage" to America's international reputation. Those who think America is the Great Satan, an imperialist warmonger, and/or a corporate-controlled hegemon would've continued to have those misguided thoughts even if these incidents had never been revealed. Likewise, our true allies and most reasonable people see this scandal for what it is--an anomaly, uncharacteristic of the norms and standards by which the American military operates and has operated for most of her history.
The 760 Americans, 59 Britons, 17 Italians, 11 Spaniards, six Bulgarians, six Ukrainians, two Poles, two Thai, one Dane, one Estonian, and one Salvadoran who have been killed in action in Iraq died as part of an effort that will bring freedom and democracy to a country and a people that have never seen true liberty, self-determination, or equal justice. Their sacrifices for Iraqi freedom should never be allowed to be eclipsed by the indecency of these few, whose actions, abhorrent as they are, are still far less inhumane than the practices of the deposed dictator Saddam Hussein. As with civil unrest and political differences, this incident represents a bump along the road from authoritarianism to a successful and stable democratic government, and neither these crimes nor any other difficulties could ever overshadow that admirable ultimate destination.