Scandal! Shocking! Shame! A public relations setback for the war! The world no longer trusts America with her loss of the moral high ground!
Yes, the pictures at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad show coalition American soldiers taunting, humiliating and apparently physically abusing Iraqi prisoners. British soldiers also face similar accusations. Both President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair recently apologized for the soldiers' behavior, and promised investigations, with several already underway. In America, officials already appeared before the Senate and House Armed Services Committees.
No one justifies abusing Iraqi prisoners. But America's "shock" likely stems from the country's lack of recent experience with a major war.
Vietnam. In the notorious My Lai massacre, U.S. soldiers massacred some 500 Vietnamese villagers, including women and children, in a matter of four and one-half hours. The military court-martialed and convicted Lt. William Calley. Yet, despite allegations of widespread atrocities committed by American soldiers, researchers found little to corroborate allegations of widespread illegal behavior on the part of American soldiers.
What about the North Vietnamese and Vietcong? In addition to the infamous atrocities endured by American POWs at the "Hanoi Hilton," the communists in Vietnam inflicted massive brutality on South Vietnamese civilians, including 3,000 massacred in the city of Hue in 1968.
Early in the Korean War, hundreds of helpless South Korean civilians -- including many women, children and old men -- were gunned down while hiding under a bridge in No Gun Ri, according to villagers and ex-GIs. Historians say North Korean troops committed far more atrocities than American troops, including the execution of U.S. POWs and the slaughtering of vast numbers of South Korean civilians.
World War II. Japanese troops, after taking the city of Nanking in China, killed 250,000 to 300,000 civilians, mostly women and children. Japanese soldiers, in addition to reportedly raping some 20,000 Chinese women, also hacked some civilians to death. And during the infamous Bataan Death March, Japanese soldiers force-marched nearly 70,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war for 63 miles -- beating, kicking and starving the soldiers along the way.
Stragglers faced the bayonet, and 7,000 to 10,000 soldiers died during the long march.