Writing about the lessons of Abu Ghraib prison ["Our Soldiers and Us," op-ed, May 25], Johns Hopkins University professor Eliot A. Cohen explained how the military holds up a mirror to the society from which it emerges. I wish he had been more specific about the mirroring.

One or more of the soldiers facing courts-martial for Abu Ghraib offenses was a corrections officer in civilian life. The United States imprisons more people than any other Western nation. It keeps them longer before returning them to society with little or no money and few opportunities.

Recidivism is common. The emphasis is on punishment and not on rehabilitation.

Periodically, we read about brutality in U.S. jails and prisons, where rape seems to be common. We engage in a certain amount of hand-wringing, and then we move on.

We hear that it is difficult for an ex-convict to obtain housing or a job. A few programs are trying to help, but they are usually underfunded and overwhelmed by the task.

Our attention span is short.

Is it any wonder that our hear-no-evil, see-no-evil attitudes toward prison inmates may have seeped into the military?




In Jan. 16 testimony about Abu Ghraib, a prisoner said that after being hanged by his arms, he was sent to the prison hospital, where his broken shoulder was examined. He said he was told that he had a serious injury but that the shoulder wasn't broken. The doctor sent him back to his cell [front page, May 21].

This same man already had a broken leg, which guards beat. Is anyone investigating the role of doctors at Abu Ghraib?

According to the World Medical Association declaration on torture:

* "The doctor shall not countenance, condone or participate in the practice of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading procedures, whatever the offense of which the victim of such procedures is suspected, accused or guilty, and whatever the victim's beliefs or motives, and in all situations, including armed conflict and civil strife."

* "The doctor shall not provide any premises, instruments, substances or knowledge to facilitate the practice of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or to diminish the ability of the victim to resist such treatment."

Did doctors who treated Abu Ghraib prisoners fail to report injuries that prisoners received there?


New York