Prisoner of War

Flashback to Abu Ghraib, where a soldier's day only feels like a year

Soldiers have to believe that as badly as Americans in enemy hands were treated by the North Vietnamese and by the Iraqis during two wars, the fact is that our comrades survived to tell us how they were mistreated. In the Senate hearings that eventually followed the international firestorm over the Abu Ghraib abuses, you could hear the concern in former P.O.W. John McCain's angry questions: If we do this to the enemy, even a civilian terrorist or insurgent enemy, what will they do to us?

Abu Ghraib prison, always a stop for visiting dignitaries ("Come see Saddam's death chamber!"), was soon packed with guests. International journalists were allowed in, contrary to long-standing military policy that prohibits the display of people who are interned. The point of the policy is to protect our prisoners from being made the subjects of public curiosity or humiliation. Prisoners aren't supposed to be photographed, either.

The days and weeks following the 60 Minutes report cut into our morale more than being attacked ever did. When we told our mothers that the part of Iraq we were in was pretty safe and that they should not worry, we were certain that they knew we were lying. When we told them someone else did the horrors they saw on television, when we told them that we improved things and that the prisoner abuse wouldn't happen again, we hoped that they knew we were telling the truth.

Craig McNeil: Remembering a deadly shell game
photo: Bill Janscha
Craig McNeil: Remembering a deadly shell game

Craig A. McNeil is an Army Reservist and attorney in Fort Worth, Texas. He served in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib from January to December 2004.

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