Sunday, September 25, 2005

Prisoner Abuse and Revenge

Abusing Iraqi prisoners is not just bad for America's image abroad. It also threatens the security of the United States. Why? Because it fuels a desire for revenge. That desire can persist undiminished for years. Laura Blumenfeld quotes a Bedouin saying in her book Revenge: A Story of Hope: "If a man takes revenge after forty years, he was in a hurry."

Mahatma Gandhi may have been right when he said, "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind," but many in the world haven't accepted this view. When Blumenfeld asked a Christian Albanian how his nation's fixation on revenge squared with Christ's admonition to turn the other cheek, the Albanian laughed and replied, "In Albania we have 'Don't hit my cheek because I'll kill you.'"

The humiliation of torture or other degrading treatment is not easily forgotten. Many who experience it and live to tell about it--and many others who simply hear of it--are likely to desire revenge. And that guarantees a generation or more of anti-American terrorism.