All it takes is a few bad apples to ruin the bushel. It’s an old country saying, but very true and applicable to many modern-day situations. Take the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Baghdad’s infamous Abu Ghraib prison, for example. In this case, we have what could be labeled as the worse of the worse by a few.

Abu Ghraib prison is where many innocent Iraqis were tortured or killed by Saddam Hussein’s henchmen during his bloody reign of power. There is some irony to the recent tales of abuse by American soldiers of Iraqi prisoners in the following question: How many of those humiliated prisoners committed the same acts or worse against their own countrymen during their Baath Party heydays? The torturers have become the tortured, but at a heavy cost.

It is a sick joke. Who’s worse, the person telling the joke or the person laughing at it? I’m usually known for a sick sense of humor. I’m not laughing this time and neither are many others, as this is a serious matter.

In combat there are four types of opponents: active, killed, wounded and captured. Once captured, you are afforded certain guarantees as to how you will be treated as a prisoner of war. To say that interrogation techniques aren’t employed is an admission of ignorance. Valuable information can be collected that may save lives of fellow troops and civilians. That’s the reality. But there are limits that must be observed and mistreatment is not an option.

It is a fact that the Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison were there either for being combatants or Hussein-era cronies. These were the worst that this conflict has presented. It is also a fact that valuable information was collected from them. In the end, many of those captured would have faced trials by their own countrymen for their past crimes against humanity. After all, they were willing accomplices in the name of Saddam Hussein.

Then came the photographs of the prisoners and their captors. All this has done is create a possibility that now many of those guilty of torturing their fellow Iraqis in the past will now go free without a trial, simply out of sympathy. I have always supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. It is no secret that the man is evil and the people of Iraq are better off without him. The job should’ve been done back in 1991. It wasn’t.

When Bill Clinton enacted the Iraqi Freedom Act in 1998, my heart held hope for the removal of the butcher of Baghdad. It wasn’t meant to be. It was finally done a year ago. But never in my wildest dreams would I have envisioned the mistreatment of people by a few members of those in charge of liberating a once captive society. Granted, it wasn’t a majority, but all it takes is a few to shape the general image. Add to that a media constantly hounding for anything negative and you have the current Abu Ghraib fiasco.

I’ve never been in battle as a soldier but would proudly serve this country in any capacity to protect it from those who want to destroy it or create instability that would affect us in the long-run.

But when the instability is created by the actions of a few on my side, well, let’s just say that there is a problem and it has to be fixed.

There’s an objective here: to hand over Iraq to the Iraqis so that they can rule without the specter of Saddam looming over their heads. The last thing anybody needs is to revive the image of evil that once ruled over a scared people. Unfortunately, the Abu Ghraib situation has brought back some of those memories for many, and they won’t go away. Even the former torturers have rights that they never afforded the victims they tortured in the past. What a sick joke. I’m still not laughing.

Henry Sarria is a longtime Isla Vista resident.