IN OTHER WORDS: Rights abuse

US military officials have long been concerned that mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo or at US-run prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan could boom-erang against the country when US soldiers are taken prisoner in future conflicts. But the primary reason to ban prisoner torture will always be that the failure to do so is morally wrong; it will also hurt the US and the new Iraqi regime in world opinion and in quelling sectarianism within Iraq.

Amnesty International reported lately that prisoner abuse continues at facilities in Iraq maintained both by US forces and the Iraqi government. Last year and this year, the human rights organisation found that electric shock and beatings with plastic cables are being used in interrogations and that thousands of inmates are being held without charge or trial. US authorities denied the allegations.

On Friday, US officials complied with a Freedom of Information Act request from the Associated Press and released 5,000 documents from Guantanamo hearing. Some detainees supported extremism, but many swore they were innocent. Just 10 prisoners have been charged with criminal offences so far. At Guantanamo and in Iraq, the US undermines its claim to the moral high ground when it does not hold itself and the new Iraq government to the highest human rights standards.