Regarding Gregory Sprigg's contention [Letters, May 11] that the humiliation suffered by Iraqi prisoners at the hands of U.S. soldiers did not constitute torture: Torturers know that humiliation is a form of torture; that's why they keep it in their bag of tricks.

As for the dismemberment of the bodies of American civilians, that despicable action does not make the treatment of the Iraqi prisoners any less abhorrent. All the reasons for undertaking this war have proven false, but the fact that we've sacrificed our own values in the process of invading Iraq makes the situation all the more heartbreaking.

SIOBHAN DUGAN

Washington

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In 1990, my wife and I dined with the parents of a German friend in Bonn. The father recounted his capture by U.S. forces during World War II. He was sent to a POW camp in Kansas, where he said he was treated with respect, got three square meals a day and learned English.

I also had a story to share: My mother was a "Rosie the Riveter" in California, and my father was a guard in that Kansas POW camp, facts I was proud to share with my German friend's father.

I thought of this while reading about the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners, and I wondered why it never occurred to the organizers of this war that the best way to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis would have been to treat Iraqi prisoners in an exemplary fashion, as my father had treated his German captives.

No amount of PR or presidential rhetoric would have been as effective as hundreds of Iraqis going home from prison and telling their families, "The Americans are tough but compassionate."

Once again, we have squandered an opportunity to win goodwill in the world.

I feel sorry for the children of our soldiers in Iraq who may never feel the pride I have in my parents' role in that nobler war.

DAVID J. OLSON

Takoma Park

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One factor that made possible the prisoner abuse has to be the rhetoric of President Bush and his Cabinet. They consistently have referred to our opponents as "thugs" and "evildoers." This dehumanization makes it easier for our troops to treat the Iraqis as they did.

JOHN C. TURNER

Centreville

Several "man on the street" interviews about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners have yielded responses from Americans that such things happen in wartime. Others point to the killing and dismemberment of American security contractors by Iraqis.

Perhaps before we try to export democracy to other nations, we need to reeducate our own countrymen in the ways of our justice system.

LINDA COOPER

Burke

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I am baffled that many reporters refer to the investigation into the "abuses" at Abu Ghraib prison. Rape, sodomy and beating prisoners to death, crimes alleged in the report by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, are not "abuses." They are "torture."

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz, should read Immanuel Kant, who wrote in "Perpetual Peace" in 1795:

"No state at war with another shall permit such acts of hostility as would make mutual confidence impossible during a future time of peace."

PETER SPALDING

Washington