Chuck Colson

Along with the rest of America, I am incensed and saddened by the allegations that members of our military tortured and humiliated Iraqi prisoners who were in their custody. It?s unimaginable?or it would be if they hadn?t compounded their evil with sickening photographs.

The soldiers excused themselves in part because they didn?t have clear orders. Nonsense. There are things we can?t not know; the truth is written on all of our hearts. Those people had to know that they were doing wrong, orders or no orders. And someone should have had the conscience and the courage to step out of the pack and put a stop to it. I know how the herd mentality works, and people do get sucked in, but this was over the top.

Of course, human depravity should hardly come as a surprise to anyone with a Christian worldview. I?ve worked in prisons for thirty years now. I?ve seen horrendous abuses?for example, prisoners being raped to make them controllable while guards looked the other way. And often guards themselves actively abuse their positions. Like the soldiers serving as prison guards in Iraq, it?s an example of the corruption and depravity in every human heart.

In his wonderful book Not the Way It?s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, Neal Plantinga makes the point that once we start to give in to sin there?s a steady, creeping process by which we descend into greater corruption. It starts with little things, grows into bigger things, and eventually consumes our personality. It?s politically incorrect these days to talk about sin, but the photographs from Iraq ought to remind us all that sin is a very grim reality.

Nonetheless, the fact that we?re all sinners, while it keeps us from being self-righteous, does not excuse these men and women. They need to be tried and, if guilty, punished quickly. The world, particularly the Arab world, needs to see that American democracy defends human rights and decency and demands justice, even when we must punish our own.

Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson was the Chief Counsel for Richard Nixon and served time in prison for Watergate-related charges. In 1976, Colson founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, which, in collaboration with churches of all confessions and denominations, has become the world's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, crime victims, and their families.
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