What Does It Mean to Support Our Troops? Torture, Abuse, and Actions Unbecoming of a Soldier in the American Military

I have wanted to write about scandals regarding torture, abuse, and human rights violations for some time. I’m talking specifically about torture and misconduct by American soldiers and “private contractors” acting under American authority. I have waited because while the scandals were fresh, it seemed too much of an explosive topic. I guess what I really want to talk about is blind patriotism when it comes to the military in this country. Supporting our troops does not mean accepting, excusing, or justifying everything they do. It does not mean calling every soldier a hero, just because he joined the military. Many of our brave soldiers are heroes, but one must actually do something heroic to be a hero.

It is true that many who are the subjects of recent scandals are not actually our military, but are mercenaries under government control. Mercenaries hired by the Pentagon are a relatively new thing. For the past several years, since the advent of these mercenaries on the scene, and since the continuation of our seemingly perpetual war on terrorism, there have been a number of scandalous videos showing instances of physical and mental abuse including rape, electrocution, humiliation such as forcing prisoners into piling naked into a pyramid while being photographed, and inmates being forced to simulate sex with each other for the pleasure of the guards holding them.  According to a report by Julian Borger of The Guardian on April 30, 2004, a staff sergeant, Chip Frederick, was accused of “posing in a photograph sitting on top of a detainee, committing an indecent act, and with assault for striking detainees – and ordering detainees to strike each other.” Also, according to Borger, Frederick told CBS: “”We had no support, no training whatsoever. And I kept asking my chain of command for certain things … like rules and regulations.’” (Borger, The Guardian).

Then there is the string of abuses exposed by Bradley Manning, who is thought by many Americans to be a traitor. I disagree. Today, it seems that whistle-blowers exposing real criminal activities are vilified and made into the criminals, diverting attention from the real atrocities being committed. The list of abuses by American soldiers in Iraq and in Guantanamo Bay are too numerous and ghastly to detail here. However, I would like to discuss the scandal involving a group of Marines photographed while urinating on the dead bodies of Afghan Taliban fighters. Two were charged with this crime when news of this act went viral. This caused an outraged American public to flood Facebook with angry tirades of disdain for the “liberal media” for exposing the dirty laundry of our poor, overworked, and mentally exhausted soldiers, defending their actions as understandable under the circumstances. When did the conditions of war, horrible as they are, become an excuse for dishonorable and disgusting behavior?

This is a touchy subject. I’ve lost friends over my stance on this issue. Yes, I am aware that there have been isolated instances of torture by Americans in every war, and I do realize that with today’s technology of video cell phones this behavior is more public than ever before.  However, it has also become more acceptable to American civilians than ever before, and that scares me.  One particular day when I got into the conversation, a friend of mine had posted a picture on Facebook of these Marines along with an exceptionally angry rant about the “liberal media” ruining the lives of these poor boys. I commented on her post that I was glad that my father, a WWII disabled veteran and a Marine was not likely to hear about this scandal because he was in a nursing home and too deaf to really catch much of the news on TV. I told my friend that he would be sickened at the thought of Marines acting in this dishonorable way. I went on to say that I had grown up hearing my dad’s stories of how Americans (to his knowledge) never stooped to the level of the Japanese or Germans in World War II, but treated prisoners with human decency. My father told me that his platoon knew that if they got out of line and acted unbecomingly with the enemy, they would be severely reprimanded, punished, and in the case of a soldier attempting to torture, rape, or demoralize anyone including the enemy, they would have been shot on the spot by the commanding officer. He was proud of this fact. He felt like he was a member of a group with a higher moral and ethical standing, that he believed in what he was fighting for, and that anyone, whether under stress or not, who would lower himself to the cruel and inhumane treatment of another human being was not worthy to be called an American. Well, I was immediately attacked as being a liberal, and being un-American myself for not supporting the behavior of these unfortunate boys. My friend un-friended me, blocked me, and still refuses to speak to me whenever I see her in public.

Is it a “liberal” characteristic to be concerned with human rights? Is it a “liberal” notion to expect ethical, moral, and sane behavior from our troops representing us around the world? Is it a “liberal” quality alone to care about the consequences of these actions and what damage is done to the victims and to their perpetrators? If so, I will gladly be called a “liberal.”

One difference I see between the idealism present in past wars and the cynical acceptance of today is that in previous generations, the majority of people were horrified and ashamed at these types of scandals. It was believed that these kinds of actions were done by the lowest of the low, and would not be tolerated by superior officers, the government, or the citizens in general. Now, thousands of citizens actually defend the behavior of soldiers who engage in this conduct, justifying it, and minimizing it. I believe this is detrimental to our nation as a whole, and does no one any good to pretend that there is ever any justification for this appalling behavior.

I believe part of the reason for this shift is extreme nationalism and blind patriotism. This could possibly be a result of the horrific attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. America seems to have changed a great deal since that day. Also, TV shows like 24, glamorize and blur the moral line between hard interrogation and the degradation and demoralizing abuse of prisoners. I heard from an Air Force officer that the leader of an anti-terrorist unit in the Air Force actually contacted the producers of the show to request that they stop making it seem like torture works as an effective interrogation technique. Supposedly since the show aired, soldiers who were surveyed believed that torture was necessary in some cases more than before the show existed. Jack Bauer, the main character on 24, shoots people in the knees to get answers as a “last resort.”  Jack always gets results, but in reality, torture doesn’t work because anyone will say anything to stop the abuse. The information cannot be trusted. However, as a result of this show and others like it, some soldiers think it can.

However, my position on this issue has always been that whether it works or not is irrelevant. It is morally wrong under any circumstances and is cruel, unnecessary, and possibly even more harmful to the psyche and character of the persecutor than to the victim, and is harmful to the military morale and to the nation, not to mention our standing as a moral and ethical leader of the free world. I had a difficult time even writing that last part because that hardly seems to describe us anymore.

I am a patriotic person who is proud to be an American for many reasons. However, my pride mainly stems from belief in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and pride in the values that used to be the trademark of this country. We believed in helping the downtrodden, defending the weak, spreading freedom and democracy, and hopefully most of us still do believe in these things. But we must never confuse blind, unconditional acceptance of despicable behavior with love for our country or with supporting our troops. Loving America means among many things, holding her representatives accountable for failing to live up to the ideals we hold dear.  I agree with John McCain, who endured first-hand torture at the hands of the enemy as a POW in Viet Nam, when he stated according to Devyn Dwyer of ABC News, in regards to waterboarding as a means of interrogation in the Osama Bin Laden investigation, “’Ultimately this debate is about far more than technical or practical issues,’ said McCain. ‘It is about far more than whether torture works or does not work. It is about far more than utilitarian matters. Ultimately, this is about morality.  .  . We are America, and we hold ourselves to a higher standard.’” So as civilians, let us do the same, holding ourselves and our military, government, and every other representative of us to the standards we claim to have.  Let us hold ourselves to a higher standard and refuse to minimize or condone torture, abuse, demoralization, degradation, or any human rights violations. –Christina Knowles


Borger, Julian. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/media/2004/apr/30/television.internationalnews. Accessed 1/27/14.

 Dwyer, Devin, ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/ May 12, 2011. Accessed 1/27/14.


The Ezekiel Project by Christina Knowles

Final Book CoverShe knows a secret; he knows the future. Together they will expose the truth.

The Ezekiel Project by debut author, Christina Knowles–Wow, this was a ride and a half! A fast-paced, interesting, thought provoking, edge-of-your-seat story about clandestine military medical experimentation, telekinesis, mind control, abuse, and love. Knowles is a master of pacing… Impossible to put down … highly recommend … This just-released suspense novel is a sleep-robbing page-turner!” –Lee Fullbright, award winning author of The Angry Woman Suite.

A young mother risks everything to expose a top-secret government project with the help of its most important test subject, a dying Gulf War veteran with paranormal abilities .  .  .

Eleven years after the bombing of his battalion in Iraq, Joel’s nightmares continue. But when a beautiful young mother enters those dreams, he knows he must do everything in his power to save her from those who want to silence her, including stopping the man responsible for his nightmares, her husband and the man who has been keeping him prisoner in a top-secret government facility in charge of The Ezekiel Project.


My Crazy 2013 Year-in-Review by Christina Knowles

What a ride 2013 was! I’ve been agonizing over writing this blog for over a week, but it just seemed an overwhelming task to sum up such a year.

Personally, 2013 was a year marked by intense spiritual conflict, feeling like I didn’t belong in the Christian community, and I didn’t understand other Christians.  I judged God on the actions of His followers.  I questioned the goodness and even the reality of God. I lost my faith and temporarily declared myself an atheist.

2013 was a year that the love and acceptance of my husband was tested. Through all my internal conflict, we had none. He loved and accepted me unconditionally despite his confusion, strengthening and deepening our love and commitment to each other.

It was a year of studying and reading, rediscovering my love and respect for philosophy.

It was the year when I lost my father. He was an amazing father who loved his family unconditionally, always made us laugh, and taught me to accept people and to forgive easily. He was slow to anger and gentle.

It was the year I learned that I really did believe in God and love Him, and that no matter how believers act, He never changes and never stops being good or loving.

It was the year I learned that all Christians are different and face this life with their own prejudices and issues, and that some Christians did accept me, even though I’m not typical.

2013 was also the year I determined that I would publish my novel. Several months were taken up with the toil and pressure of formatting and editing it for publication. Then I faced the horrific task of marketing it and myself, with which I am utterly uncomfortable. Every time I post a link to my book, I feel like I am either begging for alms or bragging of my accomplishment. Unfortunately, I understand that the only way to realize my dream of someday writing as a profession is to do this.  However, it did lead me to create this blog, which has become a true joy to me in itself.  Disturbing the Universe has quickly emerged as a place for me to let loose the pressure of my thoughts in the best way I know how, the written word, and it has abandoned all pretense of existing as a page to promote my novel.

This year also brought the terrifying news that my unborn grandson had Spina Bifida. But with that, it also brought into the forefront, the unrelenting love and faith of my daughter-in-law and son.  And when my grandson was born almost 3 months too soon, it brought the indescribable thankfulness of his healthy birth.  Seeing the miracle of his tiny life and his ferocious determination to live and recover brought about an epiphany in me, the realization that even though I had given my heart back to God, I had held back some of it to protect myself from pain.  I continue to realize a new area each day that needs to awaken to become the person who God wants me to be.  As 2014 begins, I see this process continuing, and I can’t wait to see my 2014 year-in-review.–Christina Knowles

Mad About Marijuana? by Christina Knowles

I hesitated to write on this subject because I am the last person to condone any use of a substance for the purpose of altering a natural state of mind, but I can’t always pick which subject I am moved to write about, and the words force themselves to the surface, so here it is.  The recent legalization of Marijuana in the state of Colorado has had, in my opinion, an exaggerated response from the people, either in outcry against it, or in a rush to obtain it.

First of all, although I have tried Marijuana in my past, I do not like it. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t like anything that alters my natural state of my mind. I do not like being drunk on alcohol, and I do not like being high on any drug. All inebriation makes me feel sick, and I don’t like feeling sick. In addition to disliking the feeling of it, I like to be in full control of my faculties at all times. I do not like acting impulsively, saying things I regret, forgetting things I know, feeling dumb, or feeling lazy and tired. Sure, I went through a phase of sowing my wild oats and getting drunk and high. I outgrew it really quickly for the above reasons.

However, I am not against having a drink occasionally or against others having an occasional smoke as long as they are not driving or operating machinery, working, or in charge of something potentially dangerous or important. I enjoy a glass of wine at my book club about once a month and have been known to partake of a Margarita when dining in a Mexican restaurant. I enjoy a Pina Colada on the beach when I take a tropical vacation. I like the taste of it. I do not continue to drink to the point where I feel it alter my mental or physical state. If I do, I no longer enjoy it.

That being said, I do not understand the rage, fear, and disgust of so many people in Colorado over the legalization of Marijuana, nor do I understand the desire to rush out and buy it in mass quantities (or at least the maximum quantity allowed under the law).  I think this outcry against it must be rooted in a lack of knowledge regarding the substance of Cannabis as compared to alcohol. Anyone who has done significant research into the subject will attest to the fact that Marijuana is a much less dangerous drug than alcohol or cigarettes, both of which are legal. There are no known deaths related to overdosing on Marijuana, but alcohol poisoning is responsible for a great many deaths, and no one anymore argues that smoking cigarettes is anything but deadly. Marijuana is no more of a gateway drug than alcohol. People who find the need to escape the reality of their lives will use whatever means necessary to do so, regardless of the legality of it. We’ve seen this during the Prohibition era of our country. These people will also be the people who will desire an increasingly stronger and “better” experience as their tolerance increases and their addiction grows. Marijuana is not physically addictive, and therefore, will not cause people without this need to escape reality to try stronger and more harmful drugs.

Additionally, Marijuana does not make people under its influence angry or violent. It is not dangerous unless the user is driving or trying to perform a dangerous task. It can, however, create lazy, unmotivated, and dumb-downed versions of these people when abused. But hardly something for the rest of us to fear. And there are laws against driving under the influence of any inebriating substance already.

Furthermore, Cannabis has many uses other than altering a state of mind. Cannabis oil, much like many other God-created and natural essential oils whole-heartedly accepted by moral and Bible believing individuals, has been used to cure skin cancer and inhibit other cancers. Cannabis in many forms has been used to stop seizures, improve appetite in cancer, AIDS, and other patients, reduce pain, calm anxiety, and it acts as a natural sedative. Many times Cannabis is the only option that works and is by far healthier than the other medications available for these conditions. Cannabis can even be grown with minimal levels of THC (which is the element present in the Cannabis which creates the high), so that the use of the medication does not even result in inebriation. Prejudice against Marijuana has even caused the growth and use of hemp to be limited when it is a natural source of making paper, wood, and clothing among many other things that does not harm the environment or land on which it is grown.

I can’t help thinking that this hysterical and irrational outcry against Cannabis is unjustified and based on a lack of knowledge. The insane rush to buy and use Marijuana to get high will wane as the novelty of its legalization wears off, and regulations to control the use of this by the general public and the suffering individuals who can be helped with this product will emerge.

Not every thing natural is good, but Cannabis has many healthful and positive uses. God created it, and I can’t help thinking that He intended it to be used in a positive way, not to escape reality, but to be used medicinally and to provide things we need in every day life. Just because some people use it inappropriately does not make this natural herb evil. Jesus turned water into wine, but warned against being drunk with wine. I take that to mean that we are to be in control of ourselves, but that we are free to use any these substances as long as we use them in moderation, remaining sober.–Christina Knowles



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