Behind Abu Ghraib, an Even Darker Question

Offshore morals: If you're going to do bad things, do them far away from home

The real sin of Abu Ghraib is that we continue to deny its context. If the U.S. is indeed in a war with terrorists, if it is fighting for its very existence, then perhaps a valid argument can be made that the gloves must now come off, that the boundaries of our humanity must be redrawn. But that would require a full and open national debate, beginning first within ourselves, then carried on between neighbors, rising to communities, and finding ultimate expression in Congress and the ballot box. But even now we still seem to have no stomach for that wider discussion. Besides, should moral extraterritoriality fail us, as it did at Abu Ghraib, we can always pin the blame on others. That's what privates are for.

Ted Gup is the author of The Book of Honor: The Secret Lives and Deaths of CIA Operatives, and is a Guggenheim Fellow on leave from Case Western Reserve University, where he is the Shirley Wormser Professor of Journalism.

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