For two decades, I have worked in countries where government torture was part of the landscape. To the oppressed, America was a beacon for human rights.

But after the Sept. 11 attacks, there was a sea change.

I was headed to Sanaa, Yemen, to lead workshops for local journalists as CBS andThe New Yorker broke the story of torture at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison in April 2004. Pictures of American soldiers brutalizing naked Muslim detainees filled the airwaves.

The workshop participants — 27 men and three women — vented disgust at the United States for allowing tactics they despised in their own country. A band of renegade soldiers drew outrage throughout the Islamic world.

Abu Ghraib tarnished America's reputation. The Dec. 9, 2014, report by the Senate Intelligence Committee dealt it a devastating blow.

Senate report reopens battle over CIA interrogations

The Senate investigation confirmed that torture and deceit were part of the CIA's modus operandi. The sordid details turned stomachs and left America's adversaries smirking over the blatant double standard.

China, North Korea, Iran and the Islamic State — all serial torturers — were quick to point out that America had lost the moral high ground. The Chinese news agencyXinhua suggested the United States "clean up its own backyard" before preaching human rights to other countries.

This breakdown in moral authority has a powerful impact on all of us who operate overseas. For me, the difficult part will be explaining how a policy of torture and abuse happened in the first place.

I have heard chilling accounts from foreign journalists about going to jail and being threatened by their governments or extremists. I worry that the CIA torture report will embolden their tormentors.

In Iran, a journalist could not imagine exposing government secrets without suffering dire consequences. In Yemen, a reporter asked if the authors of the Abu Ghraib stories would go to prison and their news media organizations would be shut down. ...

Some Reader Comments

  • Hue Hendricks ·  Top Commenter · Bowling Green State University

    Next. Bush. Cheney. Rumsfield brought up on charges for war crimes. Sad that the Bush regime continues to tarnish this great nation. Justice needs to be served and these criminals put to trial.
  • The Bush family has destroyed our perception in the world. Unfortunately, our own policies are a reason for the direct hatred of American in the Arab world. Operations just cause then the first Iraq war. In our own denial, we have created imperial terror. In Bush's first war the death toll in Iraq was estimated 150,000 and 79 Americans. Jr.'s war was 2million and 90% civilians by estimation on top of Afghanistan. So what's next round 3 good ole Jeb. It is time for accountability and prosecution of our domestic terrorists. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield are a good start. They have neither made us any safer or any more free. They turned war into a for profit globalized corporation and have reaped erroneous riches from it. Which are free to them because 56 cents of every tax dollar pays for it. Tax dollars that they don't pay and if they did it would be from profits reaped from tax payer money regardless.