Baghdad From Beirut


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."