Anti-escalation resolutions? "24" is the real problem

Are the troops taking their cues from TV?

By Tim Grieve
Published February 9, 2007 3:56PM (EST)

Members of the Bush administration can't seem to decide whether debate about the Iraq war in Congress hurts the troops and helps the enemy -- the White House seems to disagree with the military on the matter, and Robert Gates seems to disagree with himself -- but we can all agree on this: That TV show "24" is the real problem.

We've never seen it ourselves, mind you. But the military is apparently having a tough time convincing soldiers that the scenes in the show aren't some kind of lesson plan for how to treat detainees. According to a report from the New Yorker's Jane Mayer, the dean of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and several top military and FBI investigators met with some of the creative minds behind "24" in November to complain that the show's central premise -- "that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country's security" -- was hurting America's image in the world and encouraging real-life U.S. soldiers to think that torture is acceptable.

Gary Solis, who has taught a course on the law of war at West Point, tells Mayer that he once struggled to persuade his students that there was anything inappropriate about a scene in "24" in which Jack Bauer shoots one suspect and threatens to shoot another in order to extract information from them. "I tried to impress on them that this technique would open the wrong doors," Solis tells Mayer, "but it was like trying to stomp out an anthill."

One of the interrogators who participated in the "24" meeting was Tony Lagouranis, who served in the Army in Iraq. Mayer says he told the "24" crew that videos of the show circulate among the troops and that they sometimes take their lessons from it. "People watch the shows," Lagouranis says, "and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they've just seen."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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