The story of abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war has been dominating the news for the past week. Everyone is expressing shock and outrage. While I am outraged that this behavior occured, I am not shocked. Abuse of captives is one of the ugly aspects of war. Young men and women thrust into stressful combat situations, having their illusions of the romanticism of war shattered, can hardly be expected to always act with moral rightousness. I am always bothered when I hear the troops, in general, referred to as heroic. Certainly, some of the troops act in a heroic fashion. Maybe the majority of them do. However, other troops are far from heroic, as exemplified by the abuse episode. War seems to bring out the best of the good, and the worst of the bad. The underlying character of each individual soldier reveals itself in heat of battle. We see those soldiers that are willing to give their lives for their comrades, and we see soldiers that shoot at innocent civilians and abuse prisoners. My point is not to forgive or to condemn those that are guilty of abusing prisoners. My point is to suggest that everyone needs to open their eyes to the reality of war, regardless of their belief in the justness of a war. When war occurs, just or unjust, bad things happen. Very bad things.


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