What a captive soldier says under duress does not count…

I vividly recall a class I took in Army basic training at Ft. Lewis, Wa. back in 1968. It was held in a small garage-like structure on our company grounds and the lieutenant was saying that if we were ever to get captured by the enemy it would be a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for us to make any statements on behalf of the enemy. Okay, I said my recollection was vivid. I don’t recall his exact words; I just have the clear mental picture of the setting and the gist of what he said.

He also said that the only thing – the only thing – we were supposed to divulge was our “name, rank, and serial number”, as per the Geneva Convention (and as a bit of trivia, we had serial numbers then, that being just before they exchanged military serial numbers for Social Security numbers). Our main duty, the lieutenant said, was to conspire with other prisoners to escape.

With that in mind, I watched and read with sadness the story of the Idaho soldier who has been taken captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan (apparently everything in that part of the world ends in an). There he was saying he was “scared” (quite understandable) and he urged his government to bring the troops home. Of course he was saying all of this under coercion. One wonders how the enemy can think this has any effect.

The military rules back when I took the class, according to that lieutenant, carried penalties (treason) for any soldier who gave in to the enemy like that. But as far as I can detect those rules have not been enforced, at least since Vietnam (Korea?), and I think I read once that they have been softened some.

Even fearless John McCain (and I am not being sarcastic – anyone who could pick Sarah Palin for a running mate seems fearless, and there I was being sarcastic) temporarily gave in to the enemy after being tortured, although he later recanted and resumed his brave resistance while still in captivity.

I feel nothing but sorrow and pity for anyone captured by the enemy and give no weight whatsoever to what a person might say when obviously under duress.

(And that goes for both sides. Waterboarding is not truth serum.)

While I don’t believe in news censorship, I do believe in news judgment. While I think it probably is incumbent on those who present news in such a story to mention that a captive has been obviously forced to make statements, there is no need to actually play videos of them, or to say much more.

It is important to know or get clues about how the enemy is treating our prisoners.

Unfortunately we can only expect the worst if we look inward and think how maybe our government has treated some prisoners.

The U.S. military charges that the enemy is violating international law by forcing the captured soldier to peform for a video. Too bad our government was not so concerned with laws against torture. It weakens the case.

Yes, even though I might not always agree with U.S. war policy, I still think that it is generally correct to say that the U.S. is on the side of right.

On the other hand, our foes have no doubt convinced themselves of the same thing, and have no mercy for captives.


My condolences to the captured soldier’s loved ones and a wish that he comes home safe after all.

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