[iraqi prisons]

Topic: Foreign Affairs

The Iraqi prison scandals keep getting worse, and then worse still, all as the White House has just asked the Supreme Court to approve its indefinite detention policy at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

There are so many reasons to be horrified. Tactically and politically, these crimes have turned us from bungling intruders in Iraq to downright scoundrels, making it all the more dangerous for our troops there and further reducing our already slim chances for any success. Morally and ethically, the whole approach to imprisonment is dictatorial. It’s the kind of thing you read about having happened under Pinochet or Stalin or Franco — or Saddam Hussein — and shudder. It’s the kind of policy that, as a Jew, I was taught to see as the first steps down the surprisingly short road from liberal democracy to Nazi death camps. No, I don’t think we’re going to slip that far — I have some confidence in our country and in our midlevel civil servants — but the problem is that our behavior has ceased to be different in kind and is now only different in scale from that of the dictators we claim to oppose.