Of all the strategic blunders the Bush administration has made in waging the Global War on Terror, most damaging to the reputation and values of the United States has been its treatment of enemy combatants. Press reports and debasing photographs from Abu Ghraib prison, along with allegations of maltreatment at Guantanamo and still secret CIA detention sites, have inflamed Arab and Muslim attitudes against the United States.
That treatment has included military tribunals, indefinite confinement, denial of access to the legal system, unexplained deaths of upwards of 80 prisoners in U.S. custody (according to Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Colin Powell when he was secretary of state) and, most importantly, interrogation techniques that are or border on torture. Public outrage not seen since the revelation of the 1968 My Lai massacre has rightly been generated. As further stories on prisoner abuse emerge, the administration could find itself in the midst of a firestorm as intense as charges it manipulated pre-war intelligence.