Prisoner Abuse a Cause for Shame, Says U.S. Bishop

WASHINGTON, D.C., MAY 18, 2004 ( The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ International Policy Committee says the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers is a challenge to reflect on larger moral issues.

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“The abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners have brought shame upon our nation, is an affront to our most basic ideals, and will undermine legitimate efforts to confront the very real threats faced by our nation and the world,” said Bishop John Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, in a statement.

Bishop Ricard said the prisoner abuse cases highlight “two related moral risks that could arise in responding to the horrors of September 11th and the difficulties in Iraq.”

The first, he said, is a sense of “exceptionalism. We can lose sight of the hard truth that the twin feelings of victimization and moral superiority do not free us from the moral obligation to uphold the basic rights even of our worst enemies who, themselves, show contempt for such rights.”

The second moral risk, Bishop Ricard said, occurs when “the gravity of the threats we face tempts us to tolerate an ends-justify-the-means morality.”

He added: “The moral challenge at this moment is to address the horrendous cases of abuse in a way that proves to the world — and, most importantly, to ourselves — that our nation has not succumbed to these risks.”

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