During the Persian Gulf war in 1991, the Iraqi armed forces surrendered by the tens of thousands because they believed Americans would treat them humanely. Our troops reached the outskirts of Baghdad in 100 hours and suffered fewer than 150 combat-related fatalities in large part because of these mass surrenders.
Would it have been different if the perception of us as purveyors of torture and humiliation existed back then? Would tens of thousands of Iraqis have put down their weapons if they believed they were going to be humiliated, abused or tortured, or would they have fought? Had they chosen to fight, the war would have lasted longer and cost more and casualties would have skyrocketed. Our reputation in 1991 as the good guys paid dividends and supported our national interests.
"Unforgivable Behavior, Inadmissable Evidence" [NYT]