There are things you expect from a war, things you steel yourself to accept: bombings and bloodshed, death, and dismemberment. Despite growing comparisons with Vietnam, none of those things seemed to have dramatic impact on public support for the war in Iraq. No matter how awful, such violence by the enemy was simply the price of bringing democracy to a troubled region.
In the spring, however, photos leaked from Abu Ghraib prison showed that U.S. troops could be not only the victims of violence but also its perpetrators. Images of Iraqi captives, naked except for their black hoods, stacked in human pyramids or walked like dogs on leashes, led many Americans to question their role as liberators.
Amidst the national soul-searching, investigators quickly set out in search of the truth. Though some Democrats called for the immediate resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, detailed accountings of the scandal found that responsibility stopped short of the Pentagon chief. A military panel headed by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba found that seven reservists from a base in Maryland had committed "sadistic, blatant, and wanton" criminal acts. Their superiors, however, were largely cleared of wrongdoing.
Military trials in the case are scheduled to begin in early January at Fort Hood, Texas.