It has been with a great deal of interest that I have been following the back and forth debate over the alleged abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, and Guantanimo Bay, Cuba, shortened to “Gitmo” by those in the military.
The debate rages today both in the media and on Capitol Hill over the reports of the Koran being flushed down toilets in Gitmo, along with mishandlings of the Koran by military guards. This particular accusation is a no-win dilemma. Because Muslims believe our guards to be infidels, merely touching the Koran is tantamount to mishandling the Islamic holy book.
The arguments in defense of these allegations run the gamut.
• “We’re the ones who give them the Koran.”
This is true. We provide each prisoner with a copy of the Koran if he so wishes. We have even sent some of our Muslim military chaplains to provide spiritual counsel and comfort. We provide the prayer rugs required for their daily prayers. We even make sure they have an arrow placed in their cell pointing toward the holy city of Mecca so they will be able to bow in prayer five times a day pointed in the right direction.
• “We feed them foods in keeping with their religious dietary requirements.”
We make sure these men do not eat anything that would violate their religious teachings and sensibilities. They are provided televisions, fresh bedding, and clean clothing on a regular basis. Yes, they have it a lot better than they did in Afghanistan, or wherever they came from.
• “We don’t behead our enemies and make a public display of them on television.”
This is also true. Such behavior is barbaric to the extreme and would not be tolerated by the American people. It has even been said that we might just as easily have killed these terrorists on the field of battle and nothing would have been said. They were taken as prisoners because we do not wantonly kill enemy combatants.
• “The mistreatment of the Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib is as harmless as college Fraternity pranks.”
That we humiliated Iraqi prisoners is inexcusable. The news media claims they broke the story about prison abuses, but the truth is our own military became aware of this problem eight months before the story was reported. We had already investigated the incidents and had taken appropriate measures to bring to justice those who were guilty of this reprehensible behavior.
• “These terrorists certainly do not respect or honor our religious beliefs.”
We already know that treatment of captured American service members and civilians is likely to end in their death. Terrorists in Bethlehem destroyed many of the icons and bibles sacred to Christians. I don’t recall an outcry from our media or politicians about these violations.
All such arguments are irrelevant. The reason they are irrelevant has to do with a basic tenant of our nation. As Americans, our ethos was established on the teachings of the Bible. Principally: the Golden Rule. This teaching comes directly from Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount where he said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
It is this principle that has been the cornerstone of the American concept of fairness. It is also the basis upon which our judicial system was established. This explains why our military treats its enemies with respect. This also explains why the anomalies of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo do not set well with us as Americans. We expect better from our fellow Americans. No amount of justification will excuse the poor treatment of prisoners, whether Saddam Hussein or some fifteen year old insurgent recruited from Yemen.
Jesus said to treat others the way you would want to be treated. This is the very foundation of all that the Bible teaches. The Law of Moses and the words of the Prophets are the bedrock of all other teachings in the Bible. Coupled with the Golden Rule is the Law of Love: “Love the Lord your God,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The crown of these teachings is, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
We live by a higher standard. Therefore, we must treat others the way we would want to be treated, whether they treat us that way or not. To do otherwise is to cause our concept of who we are as a people to be seriously eroded in our own minds, and invites the criticism of those who are only too happy to point the accusing finger at us.
We would all do well to return to the teachings of the Bible and put it into practice in our daily lives. Our enemies may never respect us for holding to such lofty ideals. But at least we’ll have the satisfaction of knowing we’re doing the right thing.
The Golden Rule is never old fashioned or out of date.