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Editorial: Sheer Depravity

1 May 2004 "Arab News" -- After publication of the shocking pictures of Iraqi prisoners being tortured and degraded by their American prison guards, who can disagree with them if Iraqis feel they have simply exchanged one tyranny for another? 

The battle for Iraqi hearts and minds was already fast being lost with the savage attack on Fallujah; this has finished it off altogether. What excuse can Washington offer? One of President Bush’s excuses for overthrowing Saddam was that he was ousting a regime that tortured and humiliated Iraqis. The Americans are now seen as no different. Clearly, some US soldiers think that Iraqis can be humiliated, tortured and degraded. The question is whether this was an isolated incident. Or does the rot go further? No matter what crimes these prisoners may have committed; no matter the fact that Saddam Hussein treated his prisoners far worse; nothing excuses such revolting treatment. 

What is even more outrageous is the reported claim by some from the US prison guards arrested that they had not been trained how to handle detainees properly. Such an excuse begs belief. Does a soldier need to be trained to know that humiliation and torture of helpless individuals is utterly unacceptable in a civilized society? What about all these American values of fairness, decent behavior and the rule of law, in whose names the US claims to be acting? These soldiers are supposed to be representatives of the “Land of the Free”. Saddam Hussein would have been happy to have employed them. It is simply no good to have the deputy head of the coalition forces in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt acting as if this was just an unfortunate blip in the US record in Iraq. His reaction shows that Americans do not understand the outrage felt by Arabs at men being forced to strip naked, treated like sex slaves, made to do so in front of women, and photographed into the bargain. This is sheer depravity. 

Being up-front and frank about the error does not diminish its seriousness. Indeed, given the fact that this investigation began in March and only leaked now thanks to CBS, it is clear that the US authorities had no intention of being up-front and frank. 

What is no less shocking about the degrading photos from Abu Gharib prison is that not a single US newspaper yesterday led its front page with news of them. That is a further demonstration of the appallingly limited comprehension of the Middle East that runs from the White House down to the humblest New York burger stall. In truth, the American behavior in Iraq could not have been more inept or more disastrous if George Bush had handed the planning of the occupation to Saddam Hussein himself. Ignorant, stubborn, naive and outstandingly stupid, the Americans have done pretty well everything wrong.

Copyright: Arab News

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