Some of the American and British soldiers charged with torturing and humiliated Iraqi prisoners were working under orders to “soften up” prisoners for future interrogation. That’s one of those terms that’s left entirely up to the MP on duty to interpret.
Former Army interrogator Mike Ritz refers to the famous 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment in which regular college students were asked to role play prisoner/guard for an extended period. After five days, the study had to be cut short because the students in the role of guard were becoming sadistic.
The media offers explanations for these MP’s behavior dissmissively (“A few bad eggs”) or suggests a power chain encouraging the behavior. The Stanford study suggests something even more frightening, and in my mind, more probable — that ordinary people put in a position of control will often become sadistic and abusive.
This of course not meant to somehow excuse.