I served in the US military from 1979-1988. I spent a little bit of that time working in the engine room of a guided missile cruiser, and a lot of that time delivering medical care, mostly to people with heart and lung disease.
I was, and am, proud of my service in the American military. The reason that I was (and am) proud had nothing to do with my individual actions—the world was relatively quiet during that period, and the closest I came to combat was the Gulf of Sidra incident—and everything to do with the fact that the American military is one of the most moral armed forces in the world, and perhaps in the history of the world. We do not commit rape in the territories that we take. We do not kill unnecessarily. We treat prisoners humanely. We do not torture.
I was horrified to learn of the CIA’s torture of prisoners after 9/11, and even more horrified when the news came out that they had spied on a Senate subcommittee that was investigating their activities. The CIA has a long history of valuable service to the United States, and I have no question that many CIA agents, analysts, and others have served honorably. However: this is terrible. Completely un-American.
The harshest critics of torture that I’m aware of are US servicemen: specifically, pilots. They are perhaps the most at risk of being captured, and they know that hostility against them is likely to be the strongest of all hostilities towards enemy combatants: bombs kill indiscriminately, and sometimes pilots are responsible for bombs.
Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate for president in 2008 and a military veteran who was captured and tortured by the North Vietnamese, said this about CIA torture: “It is a stain on America’s honor.” I couldn’t have said it better.