Not a lot of surprises here, since I don’t think anyone of whatever convictions about prisoner interrogation believed that the Iraqi army treats its prisoners to cotton candy and mud packs at Pink Sapphire. In fact, the electrical cord whipping isn’t as bad as I thought things might be. But it’s not good.

No sympathy for the particular whippee in this particular case, Mustafa Subhi Jassam. He admitted to “laying and detonating” IEDs to blow up American troops. I would have been fine with him getting shot through the groin while setting one of those IEDs; but I would gladly trade that outcome for capturing him alive and having him lead us to several bomb factories. Which is what he did, though after the Iraqi army had its way with him first.

So it’s not guilty people like Mr. Jassam I worry about; it’s the innocent. Not everyone the Iraqi army captures and interrogates will know the kinds of things Mr. Jassam did. The idea of this happening to innocent people–anywhere, anytime–is horrifying. One of the goals of this war–a very important one–was to free the Iraqis from a regime of arbitrary kidnapping and torture. There is an obvious difference between what happened here and Saddam’s acid tanks in Abu Ghraib, but it would be glib to pretend that problem is fixed now that Saddam is gone.

It would also be glib to pretend that both sides are equally tainted by torture. Here the US soldiers protested that they knew nothing about what the Iraqis did. Whether you believe that or not, the fact that the Times (!) doesn’t dispute at all is that the U.S. soldiers weren’t torturing anyone.

And while Jassam has a hard life ahead of him in an Iraqi prison, it’s much better than what would have happened to someone caught by an insurgent movement. Reports of this war are filled with anecdotes of bodies being found all over Iraq, bound, tortured, and executed by militias or insurgents.

If we stay, we may be able to influence the Iraqi army in a more humane and professional direction. But if we leave, and the Mahdi army or some similar faction takes over, the worst torturers win.