This is a picture of a person:
The person is an Iraqi being held prisoner by the United States Army. The prisoner has been hooded, hooked up to wires, and made to stand on a rations box. The prisoner has been told that if (when) he falls off the box, he will be electrocuted.
This image was broadcast all over the world yesterday. Millions of Muslims in the middle east saw it.
This is another person:
He is naked and hooded. He appears to be sitting on the back of another naked, hooded prisoner. His genitals have been blurred by the television network. A female United States soldier, Private Lynndie England, is pointing to his genital region, smiling, and giving the "thumbs-up" sign.
That picture was seen all over the world yesterday, too.
I point this out because I don't think many people have actually seen these. (I could be wrong.) I went to many news sites today and I only found them in two places, WashingtonPost.com and al Jazeera. Unless they were played frequently on television, which I doubt given the coverage of Cheney's testimony along with some other guy at the 9/11 commission, not many Americans saw these.
Look at those pictures again. That's America to the Muslim world.
For that reason, the officers in charge of that prison and anyone who participated in the mistreatment of prisoners must be tried by a court martial for violations of the law of war. Those trials must be public, and the people responsible must receive long prison sentences. This must be done quickly and with much media attention.
Why? Not because it's the right thing to do, although it is. We have to do it because otherwise we will have made thousands of more terrorists. If we don't, we'll turn millions of otherwise moderate Muslims and Arabs against us. These pictures are snapshots from a major battle in the so-called war on terror - the political part of that war - and they show a stunning defeat in the making.
If nothing is done, when the next attack comes and thousands more Americans lie dead, remember these pictures.
(Update May 1, 2004: Added a clearer picture and description.)
(Update May 2, 2004: Identified Pvt. England by name.)