Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

‘None of Us Were Like This Before’: Why hasn’t the U.S. military done a better job of addressing torture by our soldiers?

During the summer, the Best Defense is in re-runs. Here are some favorites that ran in late 2012 and in 2013. This item originally ran on January 2, 2013. That was the question that kept on coming back to me as I read Joshua Phillips’ None of Us Were Like This Before. It is not ...

590747_130102_Ricks32.jpg
590747_130102_Ricks32.jpg

During the summer, the Best Defense is in re-runs. Here are some favorites that ran in late 2012 and in 2013. This item originally ran on January 2, 2013.

That was the question that kept on coming back to me as I read Joshua Phillips' None of Us Were Like This Before. It is not a perfect book but it is an important one.

Yes, there are ethical and moral reasons for conducting a comprehensive review of instances of torture of Iraqis, Afghans and others by American soldiers over the last 10 years.

During the summer, the Best Defense is in re-runs. Here are some favorites that ran in late 2012 and in 2013. This item originally ran on January 2, 2013.

That was the question that kept on coming back to me as I read Joshua Phillips’ None of Us Were Like This Before. It is not a perfect book but it is an important one.

Yes, there are ethical and moral reasons for conducting a comprehensive review of instances of torture of Iraqis, Afghans and others by American soldiers over the last 10 years.

But there also are practical reasons:

1. The damage torture does to those who inflict it. (Two of the soldiers in the unit Phillips examines killed themselves after coming home.)

2. The damage torture does to our war efforts-both in the host populations, and in world opinion.

3. The effect on the current force.

The questions I would like to see addressed include:

–Who tortured?

–Why?

–Who stopped torture?

–What were the characteristics of units that indulged in torture? And of those that didn’t?

–How can we better train soldiers to deal with this?

–Are there continuing effects on the force that need to be addressed?

One final note: Phillips writes that, “I rarely met a detainee who had received an apology, or any acknowledgement at all, for the harsh treatment he had endured during U.S. captivity.”

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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