Baghdad From Beirut

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Michael Young, a leading voice of Arab liberalism (and a reason contributing editor) considers the Arab reaction to Abu Ghraib in today's Daily Star.

"By any yardstick," writes Young, "what occurred at Abu Ghraib was unacceptable and shameful." But, he notes, "the prisoners' story has been driven mainly by Americans …. If nothing else, this underlines that the US has effective institutional mechanisms for reversing its own wrongdoing. . .

"Once the abuse by the Americans took place, the system did try to regulate itself, making a cover-up very difficult. That's something Iraqis might want to take to the bank as they remember how Saddam Hussein promoted his torturers."

Iraqis, concludes Young, "have a vested interest in applying such an example if they seek to prevent further abuse by the Americans or, more significantly, by a future Iraqi regime. . . As Arabs examine the photographs from Abu Ghraib and read about American misconduct there, they might reflect less on what this says about the US, which usually ponders its worst excesses, than what it says about their own systems, where such images could only have been glimpsed over the carcass of an overthrown regime."

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  1. fishfry,

    You disgust me.

    The true victims of this hysterical overreaction to these abuses will be the tens of thousands of people throughout the world who face genuine torture and murder. Thanks to people like you fishfry, with your complete inability to understand that degree is extraordinarily important where pain and suffering are concerned, more people will suffer and die.

    Politically motivated tortures will say, “Yes we repeatedly raped this 14 year old girl over a period of weeks while systemically crushing her finger bones with pliers but the US can’t criticize us because they slapped some guys around in Iraq.”

    That girl will be your victim fishfry.

  2. Michael:
    “making a cover-up very difficult.”

    Any word on how many Iraqi civilians during the invasion and after the ‘mission accomplished’ banner?

  3. D Anghelone-
    I don’t know if your college fraternity example was serious, or a jab at the Rush Limbaugh posting, but in case it’s the former I must point out that fraternity initiates VOLUNTARILY allow themselves to be molested. Saying that this is no different from fraternity hazing is like saying rape is no different from sex.

  4. above should read: “.. Iraqi civilians KILLED during the invasion ..”

  5. I don’t know if your college fraternity example was serious, or a jab at the Rush Limbaugh posting, but in case it’s the former I must point out that fraternity initiates VOLUNTARILY allow themselves to be molested.

    I don’t know that it’s true that the initiates know what they will go through. You’d have to kill me to get me to submit to what’s here been described.

    Saying that this is no different from fraternity hazing is like saying rape is no different from sex.

    I’m asking if it’s different. At this point I couldn’t say.

    There are some reports of actual murders. If that’s at all true then we have a decided difference.

  6. Last night my dad reminded me about an interesting personal note regarding this incident. Last June, my aunt was visiting from Egypt and she told us about the exact same sorts of acts going on in prisons in Iraq. My dad and I completely dismissed it as Arab media conspiracy mongering and told her that if there was something like this, there would be a sift and decisive punishment for those involved. A year later, we’re on the 3rd investigation and only now has the president gotten involved. Oh and we’re still waiting for appropriate punishment.

    I hope now that it’s hit the top the punishment will be swift and harsh.

  7. Whereas the people who actually committed the acts, and the people who put them into the position to commit those acts, bear no responsibility at all.

    Yes, Shannon, I can easily see this situation being used by bad guys to justify their actions. Hell, the invasion has already been used by China and Russia to justify their own barbarities.

  8. We “ponder our worst excesses.” This sounds like yet another “We’re not as bad as Saddam” excuse for our brutal and illegal occupation of Iraq. Salon magazine ran a detailed story about American brutality at Abu Ghraib two months ago. Amnesty International has been calling for an investigation for over a year. Does anybody think we’d have ever heard of these atrocities had the perpetrators not been so arrogant as to take photographs? The civilian torturers, employees of companies linked to Bush by campaign contributions, are still on the job over there.

  9. I haven’t read the whole thing, but from the quoted bits, it sounds like Young is considering how Arabs should react to the situation rather than how they are reacting. The former I can figure out for myself, the latter I’m more ineterested in.

  10. I wonder if Mr. Freund considers Kruschev’s secret speech to be as exculpatory for Soviet communism as this investigation and denunciation is of neocon geopolitics.

  11. Is much if any of this brutality much worse than the college fraternity hijinks recently described in this forum?

    The perps deserve some punishment appropriate to their actions in violation of whatever are the rules.

  12. Sigh. It would be nice if some such lesson were learned by Iraqis. That doesn’t seem to be the case, though. Judging purely by the Iraqi responses to reporters that I’ve seen in the western media, it is difficult to imagine a people with a more myopic view of their own self interest.

    I am aware how condescending this sounds, and I know that charges of me making excuses for US troops are forthcoming, but I can’t help it. There seems to be no sense of proportion and no ability to put events in context in any of the comments I have heard from the region.

    Hypothesis: Large numbers of people on this earth would rather live as slaves under a tyrant than acknowledge any long term gains brought by white guys.

    Corollary: If the ‘civil order’ imposed under the heel of a jack boot is ‘broken down’ by an outside force, lifting a finger to help yourself restore order only makes the white guys look good – and this is unacceptable. It is therefore of paramount importance to offer no aid in policing and to abandon or actively work against any effort by western forces to restore order. Scream that they can’t go into mosques and scream that they are impotent to restore order when the thugs hide in mosques. Tell them that if they just go home everything will be fine, then make sure you do nothing to restore order yourself.

    Is the lesson to learn from this that it is indeed cheaper in the long run to stomp a tyrant, then leave, even if you have to do it every 10 years? Yes, yes all no war folks, I hear you, but just accept that I believe that the war had to be fought to maintain a credible threat on our part. Fight and leave or fight and stay are the only choice on the table.

    I fully appreciate that this conflict was fought for many reasons, and I do not believe that it is important for the Iraqis to believe we did this all for them. What I don’t get is why they can’t see an opportunity when it is staring them in the face. Is the ‘tradition’ of crapping on your neighbor’s lawn as soon as you can get away with it THAT important?

  13. “I wonder if Mr. Freund considers Kruschev’s secret speech to be as exculpatory for Soviet communism as this investigation and denunciation is of neocon geopolitics.”

    Please note that I didn’t mention that the lack of perspective was a disease only of the middle east.

  14. A year later, we’re on the 3rd investigation and only now has the president gotten involved. Oh and we’re still waiting for appropriate punishment.

    Yes, but you will note that invetigations were put in play immediately upon whistleblower reports, whistleblowers were not penalized, and punishment is well on the way. THe “torturers” will be in jail long after their “victims” are walking the street. Complaints about it not happening fast enough are interesting indeed coming from people who usually have afetish for due process.

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