Disgracing the Uniform- A Stain on the Military

As a prior military officer and Navy physician, the recent revelations of the crimes perpetrated by American servicemen and women overseeing the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad struck me with profound shock, disgust and disappointment, to say the least. Those who committed the reported crimes are being brought to justice. Those in a position of knowledge, responsibility or leadership who allowed it to happen or even created an environment where such heinous activities were thought to be permissible have disgraced their honor, their families, their uniform, and their country. Seymour Hersch’s April 30 report in the New Yorker details the atrocities that were occurring and cites involvement of military intelligence officers, civilian contractors, and active duty military assigned to control the prison. We can only hope that the incidents at this prison and the disgraceful behavior of these American servicemen and women is not more pervasive than reports have already feared. What I do know is that these actions are in no way representative of the moral courage of our military servicemen and women who serve our nation proudly. It is clear thus far, that the perpetrators even prior to the release of this in the public domain are currently on their way to receiving the full impact of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) which will send all those responsible to an appropriate brig for an appropriate length of time. Let us also not forget that the vast, vast majority of our American sons and daughters in Iraq have been risking their lives honorably to preserve American freedom and permanently free the Iraqi population from the shackles of Saddam and the Baathists in order to leave Iraq a better place. This, as a whole, they have certainly done. Each and every act of valor along with the lives saved and lives lost on the field in Iraq are the truest testimony to the honor of the American soldier. I would certainly agree with The Arizona Republic’s stance Tuesday that those who committed the crimes at Abu Ghraib prison have certainly ‘brutally betrayed’ their fellow soldiers and their country. For those who perpetrated these crimes trampled over the very same American ideals of ‘equal justice for all’ which they were supposedly fighting to guarantee for the Iraqi citizenry. Unfortunately, human nature, for many, will be to try to stereotype the actions of a few upon the greater whole for political gains. The fallout from this reporting is certain to have some impact upon world opinion of the American soldier and upon America. As an American Muslim I know all too well how the actions of a few can cast undue aspersions upon the many. Let us, however, remember that the revelations now public, the ensuing public discussion, and the swift prosecution of the perpetrators are what truly testifies to integrity of our freedoms and our democracy. While all societies will have their deviants which is an unfortunate part of the human condition, the test for the greater society is to uphold it’s moral courage of freedom through the rule of law. We should not allow the grossly inhumane actions and incompetent leadership of those at the Abu Ghraib prison to reflect upon the honor and integrity of our devoted American servicemen and women serving our nation proudly in Operation Iraqi Freedom. A complete investigation is already underway and being directed from our entire chain of command. May all of our forces still at work making Iraq and the world safer, freer and more just places, remain safe and out of harms way and hopefully not affected by the actions of the few. This column originally appeared online at the Arizona Republic at this link.

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