Torture: Post 1: The Decision

The young officer received orders for his next assignment: Vietnam, Chief, POW Interrogation Team. What to do? There were rumors of U.S. forces torturing prisoners. A predicament: Resign his commission, desert and flee to Canada? But his motives weren’t pure. He didn’t want to leave his beautiful young wife and their new-born son. Of course not. The lure of media exposure as a conscientious objector loomed large. TV interviews. Maybe publishing a book. Much more attractive than a billet in Nam. And regardless of possible media distortions, it was clear: lots of men were dying in Nam.

Persuasive factors but not honorable. So the lieutenant flew out to meet with his mentor, a colonel, to seek insight. Hearing the question, the colonel was crest fallen. “We don’t do that! We don’t torture prisoners!” That was it.

The lieutenant chose to go and see for himself. Ego was not absent from that decision either. Maybe the colonel was right. Didn’t seem likely, but maybe. In any event, Nam was the right decision for career advancement. He went.

Without knowing what preceded or followed this decision, can we judge its morality, its rightness in absolute terms? Both possible decisions were ego tainted, holding vast unknowns and based on fragmentary information about the realities of the war zone. What say ye?

Muj Ethics

This is a short course on Mujaheddin ethics for treatment of prisoners of war. The course is intended for Whom It May Concern, particularly for busy politicians on the campaign trail and for anyone who doesn’t quite understand our enemy “over there,” who is actually “over here,” too, and more and more these days. Like Sun Tzu wrote, we need to know the enemy.

The course is free, but donations are welcome.

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.

Many thanks to Rudyard Kipling for the course content from “The Young British Soldier,” a poem in the collection Barrack Room Ballads.