Critics of the war in Iraq often refer to Abu Ghraib as the epitome of torture and abuse in that struggle. In important ways they might be correct. For as soon as the shocking images of Abu Ghraib were put on public display, it became obvious to the world that U.S. leadership in Iraq was morally corrupt.
Since then, the very mention of Abu Ghraib calls to mind: 1) the U.S. failure to defend the inviolability of human rights; 2) the expedient U.S. withdrawal from its long-standing commitment to civil liberties; and 3) the U.S. willingness to contravene the Geneva Convention whenever such action becomes convenient. Given all this, Abu Ghraib is now etched in the world's consciousness as a time and place where U.S. arbitrariness took precedence over American principle, tradition, and law.
Faced with such profound criticism, few Americans today would deny that Abu Ghraib represents a shameful chapter in our national history. To most, it signals an unequivocal disregard for justice flowing out of an arrogant willingness to act as though "the end justifies the means."