When I witness the experience of the soldiers in Iraq, I see several sources for the patterns of abuse. First, consider the incredible stress of warfare. Soldiers are constantly under attack by any number of armed groups. I have some post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms simply from being near bombs and gunfire, but the soldiers are actually sitting in the tanks and humvees that might be bombed at any time by various militia groups.

I have experienced mortars flying over the van as I rode along the highway, but the mortars actually landed near the watchtower manned by soldiers. To feel a constant threat to one's life, coupled with the psychological stress of being separated from home and family, is devastating. One soldier said to a CPTer, "I work 12 hours a day, seven days a week [at Abu Ghraib prison]. I can't take this anymore."

The fact that so many soldiers do manage to maintain great integrity and courage under such stress is a testament to the inherent goodness of the people in the armed services. However, the stress of warfare creates conditions that lead too many soldiers to express their anger, fear, and frustration with abusive behavior.

The military ideology that separates the world into "good guys" and "bad guys" (I constantly hear this language) sees all security detainees as potential "bad guys." If a soldier who has watched his or her friends die and who feels threatened all the time must take out his or her anger on someone, it is all too easy to abuse the "bad guy" nearest at hand, although that "bad guy" might very well be a 15-year-old boy scooped up in a house raid because his uncle was a suspected Baathist.

Finally, the military's hierarchical structure encourages fierce loyalty anddeference to superiors. These abuses do not happen in a vacuum: soldiers receiveorders. During an interview with 60 Minutes II, one of the soldiers charged withabuse at Abu Ghraib stated that he never received training about the GenevaConventions standards for humane treatment of prisoners, and that higher officers encouraged his abusive methods of interrogation.

Many of the routine orders in Iraq involve behavior that many American people would consider abusive. For example, consider the following basic facts about the detention system in Iraq. A CPA official with whom I communicate regularly said that more than 35,000 Iraqis have been detained in the past year. More than 10,000 are still in prison. Under the 4th Geneva Convention, an occupying power can imprison "security detainees" without charge and without trial, indefinitely. All that is required is that the occupying power review each case every six months.

The methods of detention chosen by senior military officers systematically cause great suffering for thousands of Iraqis. By their own admission, military officials have chosen to cast a wide net when hunting for insurgents. A CPA official said to a CPT colleague: "There are thousands of Iraqis in prison who should be at home right now."

In order to capture one suspect, the Coalition forces arrest all of the male members of a household, during chaotic midnight raids that terrify entirefamilies and sometimes end in the injury or death of women and children. I andother CPT colleagues documented a case in which Coalition forces arrested 83 out of 85 men and boys in the village of Abu Sifa, leaving the women and children to maintain all of the farming and other heavy work for months. Once the men are in detention, families find it extremely difficult to secure information about them, and do not know if they are alive or dead. The waiting period for visits can be up to five months. Many women and children who rely on the male breadwinner become homeless while he languishes in jail. Thousands of such detainees have eventually been released, without ever finding out what was the reason for their arrest.

There are many Iraqis who are guilty of terrible violence: one only has to watch the daily news to hear of regular, lethal attacks on young soldiers. But the methods used to capture, imprison, and interrogate such Iraqis is so violent that the Coalition only creates more resisters.

And the devastation to Iraqis is only part of the suffering. What about thepsychological and spiritual devastation to the soldiers who witness and perpetrate acts of violence upon Iraqi detainees? Who will care for these soldiers when they come home? Who will change the military system so that this does not happen again?

Please do not settle for the answers of Brig. General Mark Kimmett. He is right when he says that thousands of soldiers live by high values, and countless soldiers serve with great courage and honor. But the number of soldiers who are becoming dehumanized by a system based on violent force is not negligible. We are all responsible for them. We are all responsible for these actions. And so we must all be part of the healing.