The words “Abu Ghraib” have become synonymous with torture, a black eye for America that has damaged US national security. Donald Trump’s policy of ripping children away from their parents at the border is a new black mark on America that could also undermine US national security.
America’s power comes from its values: freedom, the rule of law, respect for human rights. Whatever problems America may face at home, America’s democratic system enables itself to correct wrongs in the pursuit of a fair, just society. Whatever mistakes the United States makes in its foreign policy, America still endeavors to infuse its foreign policy with these values. When America does not live up to these values, it is less safe. The experience of the Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib is instructive. After the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, it used Saddam Hussein’s jail as a place to torture Iraqi prisoners. The torture of prisoners – the picture of a US soldier holding a naked Iraqi on a leash, for instance – became international symbols that shattered America’s image as a global defender of human rights.
These illegal acts hurt US national security. Abu Ghraib was used as a rallying cry by terrorist groups who were fighting American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. As one US military interrogator wrote: “I learned in Iraq that the No 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo … The number of US soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on September 11, 2001.”
Today, America is in a moral crisis as its government takes children away from undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers at the US border. It is difficult to imagine something crueler than taking a child away from parents. These people are often fleeing violence and danger and are in search of a better life. The sounds of children crying in US jails while guards crack jokesare eerily evocative of US guards at Abu Ghraib posing smiling for pictureswith naked Iraqi prisoners in humiliating positions. As George Takei – who was imprisoned by the US government in an internment camp as a child during the second world war – pointed out, not even those Japanese-Americans imprisoned during the war were separated from their parents. In America today, border agents reportedly told parents their children were getting bathed and then never came back, evoking Nazis taking away children in death camps and telling people being led to the gas chambers that they were going to take a shower... read more:ghraib