The Enemy in Our Hands: America's Treatment of Prisoners of War from the Revolution to the War on Terror

Overview

Revelations of abuse at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison and the U.S. detention camp at Guantánamo Bay had repercussions extending beyond the worldwide media scandal that ensued. The controversy surrounding photos and descriptions of inhumane treatment of enemy prisoners of war, or EPWs, from the war on terror marked a watershed momentin the study of modern warfare and the treatment of prisoners of war. Amid allegations of human rights violations and war crimes, one question stands out among the rest: Was the ...

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The Enemy in Our Hands: America's Treatment of Prisoners of War from the Revolution to the War on Terror

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Overview

Revelations of abuse at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison and the U.S. detention camp at Guantánamo Bay had repercussions extending beyond the worldwide media scandal that ensued. The controversy surrounding photos and descriptions of inhumane treatment of enemy prisoners of war, or EPWs, from the war on terror marked a watershed momentin the study of modern warfare and the treatment of prisoners of war. Amid allegations of human rights violations and war crimes, one question stands out among the rest: Was the treatment of America's most recent prisoners of war an isolated event or part of a troubling and complex issue that is deeply rooted in our nation's military history?Military expert Robert C. Doyle's The Enemy in Our Hands: America's Treatment of Prisoners of War from the Revolution to the War on Terror draws from diverse sources to answer this question. Historical as well as timely in its content, this work examines America's major wars and past conflicts -- among them, the American Revolution, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and Vietnam -- to provide understanding of the UnitedStates' treatment of military and civilian prisoners. The Enemy in Our Hands offers a new perspective of U.S. military history on the subject of EPWs and suggests that the tactics employed to manage prisoners of war are unique and disparate from one conflict tothe next. In addition to other vital information, Doyle provides a cultural analysis and exploration of U.S. adherence to international standards of conduct, including the 1929 Geneva Convention in each war. Although wars are not won or lost on the basis of how EPWs are treated, the treatment of prisoners is one of the measures by which history's conquerors are judged.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Casting a wide net, this book delivers a scholarly, lucid overview of America's handling of POWs of all stripes: military, civilian, and irregular. Historian Doyle (A Prisoner's Duty) emphasizes that uniformed foreign soldiers received humane treatment from the Revolution through the Iraq invasion, peaking during WWII when hundreds of thousands of German troops brought to the U.S. received “relatively benign” treatment. Prisoners fared worse when Americans fought Americans. Loyalists during the Revolution were abused and often killed. Both sides during the Civil War neglected prisoners disgracefully. Historically, irregular fighters enjoyed no protection, but while soldiers rarely objected to mistreating opponents who didn't play fair, civilians were often outraged. In Korea, the screening of prisoners to separate combatants from noncombatants, and their future repatriation, led to prisoner uprisings. No ideologue, Doyle explains that sometimes abuse is unavoidable; at other times it's ineffective, infuriates world opinion, and puts American soldiers at risk for reprisals. Doyle delves deeply, and military buffs will consider it the definitive treatment. 63 photos. (May)
Library Journal
How has America handled the problem of captured enemies? Doyle (history, Franciscan Univ.; Voices from Captivity) unravels the various complex strains of enemy prisoners of war (EPWs) treatment, covering the U.S. military experience from the American Revolution to the present. He relies heavily on the moral high ground, a concept that sounds simple but involves difficult tradeoffs among morality, pragmatism, and situationalism. The moral and historical issues here will be of interest to military students, historians, political scientists, ethicists, and similar scholars. Heavily annotated, with a lengthy bibliography, this strongly recommended title should be read along with Paul Springer's America's Captives.—Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS
From the Publisher

""This is a must read, a valuable resource, and an outstanding documentation of prisoners in American wars."--Journal of America's Military Past" --

""A superb study that examines EPWs, interned enemy aliens, and American political prisoners with valuable primary documents and statistics in the extensive appendix. This work will generate debate on the definition of POWs since Doyle has broadened the context to include enemy nationals and political prisoners. By analyzing a wider range of security threats, Doyle is not limited by conventional standards in framing the debate regarding the future development of national policies and international law to deal with non-state combatants." --American Historical Review" --

""The Enemy in Our Hands exmaines American actions regarding POWs from George Washington's leadership in the American Revolution through both World Wars to the present." -- The Lone Star Book Review" --

""A thorough treatment of the subject...highly readable and relevant."--Teaching History" --

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813134604
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 7/15/2011
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 488
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert C. Doyle, professor of history at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, is the author of A Prisoner's Duty: Great Escapes in U.S. Military History and Voices from Captivity: Interpreting the American POW Narrative. He has been a history consultant on multiple films and documentaries, including Hart's War.

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