In a fascinating demonstration of perspective shifts, two stories caught my eye/ear over the past few days. John McCain has talked about how self, God and country crystallized during his captivity and interrogation at the Hanoi Hilton in the late 60s/early 70s. In Saturday's New York Times, reporter Seth Mydans talked to Tran Trong Duyet, who ran the guard unit that tortured McCain but now considers him a friend and roots for his victory in November.
"I used to meet with him in my office at the end of the day and debate with him," Mr. Duyet said. "We debated quite fiercely, but there was never any personal prejudice between us. The debate was between two men in a manly style. But after that we were quite friendly. We didn't take it personally." For his part, not surprisingly, McCain has said he will "hate them for as long as I live."
Contrast that with the experience and perspective of Joshua Casteel, who served as a US Army interrogator at Abu Ghraib. I heard this Tuesday night on WUNC's The Story. Casteel joined the Army at 17, after growing up in an evangelical community that equated patriotism, militarism and gospel. He prayed three times a day, while threatening the families of 130 Iraqi prisoners who had no knowledge of insurgent activities. But when he finally interrogated a young Saudi who freely confessed to joining the insurgency, Casteel was confronted with a surprising revelation.
Somewhere in the conversation he said, "You know you're a funny man. You say you're a Christian, but you don't do as the one you call Christ. You don't turn the other cheek. You don't pray for those who persecute you." After five months of harassing Taxi drivers, I was speechless. Here I am being taught the Sermon on the Mount by a self-declared jihadi. Casteel left the room, said he was too personally involved with the prisoner to interview him, and filed for status as a contentious objector.