"One of the clearest indications of the impending loss of intimacy with one's soul is the failure to recognize the existence of a soul in those over whom power is exercised, especially if the helpless come to be treated as animals, and degraded. We also know - and not just from De Sade and Freud - the psychological proximity between sexual depravity and other people's pain. It has been especially shocking and awful to see these paired evils perpetrated so crudely and cruelly in the name of America.full remarks
Those pictures of torture and sexual abuse came to us embedded in a wave of news about escalating casualties and growing chaos enveloping our entire policy in Iraq. But in order [to] understand the failure of our overall policy, it is important to focus specifically on what happened in the Abu Ghraib prison, and ask whether or not those actions were representative of who we are as Americans? Obviously the quick answer is no, but unfortunately it's more complicated than that.
There is good and evil in every person. And what makes the United States special in the history of nations is our commitment to the rule of law and our carefully constructed system of checks and balances. Our natural distrust of concentrated power and our devotion to openness and democracy are what have lead us as a people to consistently choose good over evil in our collective aspirations more than the people any other nation.
Our founders were insightful students of human nature. They feared the abuse of power because they understood that every human being has not only 'better angels' in his nature, but also an innate vulnerability to temptation - especially the temptation to abuse power over others.
Our founders understood full well that a system of checks and balances is needed in our constitution because every human being lives with an internal system of checks and balances that cannot be relied upon to produce virtue if they are allowed to attain an unhealthy degree of power over their fellow citizens.
Listen then to the balance of internal impulses described by specialist Charles Graner when confronted by one of his colleagues, Specialist Joseph M. Darby, who later became a courageous whistleblower. When Darby asked him to explain his actions documented in the photos, Graner replied: "The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the Corrections Officer says, 'I love to make a groan [sic] man piss on himself."
What happened at the prison, it is now clear, was not the result of random acts by "a few bad apples," it was the natural consequence of the Bush Administration policy that has dismantled those wise constraints and has made war on America's checks and balances.
The abuse of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib flowed directly from the abuse of the truth that characterized the Administration's march to war and the abuse of the trust that had been placed in President Bush by the American people in the aftermath of September 11th."