Would You Condone Torture in War?

The participants' judgment was also influenced by how much they knew about the situation in Iraq. Those who had read "a lot" about the subject were significantly less tolerant of prisoner abuse.

Are Today's Troops Different?

Holmes says it would be a mistake to conclude that these same figures could be found in today's military. This "sample was from one VA institution located in one urban area and was comprised predominantly of males," the study notes. Only 21 of the participants were women, and they were far less tolerant of abuse than were the men.

But no matter how much less tolerant today's soldiers may be, any abuse is likely to backfire, according to various studies. The Central Intelligence Agency has branded prisoner abuse as "a poor technique" that "yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say what he thinks the interrogator wants to hear."

It's risky to leap from this single study to a broad conclusion about attitudes in today's military, or among veterans at large. Holmes admits that the numbers in this study would be different if so many of the participants were not suffering from depression. But how different?

That's a question someone needs to answer.

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