Are American Troops Unethical?

Yesterday's Washington Post reported on a survey of U.S. Army troops that found a significant percentage of American soldiers support the use of torture or tolerate abuse of civilians. "Less than half of Soldiers and Marines believed that non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect," according to the report.

Interpretations of the results differ. Human rights advocates say the survey gives credibility to claims of abuses. Military officials view the results differently.

Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock, the acting Army surgeon general, cast the report as positive news. "What it speaks to is the leadership that the military is providing, because they're not acting on those thoughts," she said. "They're not torturing the people."

But human rights activists said the report lends support to their view that the abuse of Iraqi civilians by U.S. military personnel was not isolated to some bad apples at Abu Ghraib and a few other detention facilities but instead is more widespread. "These are distressing results," said Steven R. Shapiro, national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union. "They highlight a failure to adequately train and supervise our soldiers."

For more thoughts on this story, check out my colleague Amos Guiora on AIDP Blog and Richard Reeb at The Remedy, and don't miss this comment by Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters.