I'm as horrified as anybody else about the "abuse" reports and photos from Abu Gharib prison. Go take another look at those photos -- that's what a lost war looks like. What few remaining friends and allies we may have had in the area are gone.
But we may have seen another result. We bombed a house in the middle of the night and killed 40 people. We say they're terrorists; they say it was a wedding party.
So why would we attack a wedding? The obvious answer is bad intellegence. Bad intel can come from a number of places; people with grudges are the obvious source.
Another source is people forced to give information that they don't have, so they make it up. Torture.
Torture is great for extracting confessions. Under torture, anybody will confess to anything. But for extracting real information, it's less than useless. Even if you get the people who have the information, you have to decide if what you're getting is truthful or a carefully crafted cover story. After a bit of torture, the victim can't tell the difference. It requires real police work to figure out what is real and what is fantasy.
However, what happens if the person you're torturing doesn't have any information? Well, they'll make up some for you. Wouldn't surprise me if that's what we're seeing here. Now, from everything I've heard coming from Iraq, it doesn't seem like we're doing any "police work" at all. We round up a buncha guys and ask them who the Bad Guys are. Then we go round up those guys. Wouldn't stand up for five minures in an American court, but we don't have any American courts in Iraq to deal with. No Iraqi courts either; that's one of the sore points with the occupation.
Doesn't make it any easier that the military categorically refuses to consider the possibility that they might have made a mistake.