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?