US high command: “No widespread abuse of Iraqi prisoners”

UPDATE: This must-read article (and I mean it, if this subject interest you, you’ve got to see it) tells a somewhat different, more terrible story.

Well, I’m glad that puts an end to the uproar:

Top U.S. military officer Gen. Richard Myers said Sunday there is no widespread pattern of abuse of Iraqi prisoners and that the actions of “just a handful” of U.S. troops at a Baghdad prison have unfairly tainted all American forces.

Now Iraqis can sleep soundly tonight, knowing they’re safe in the hands of the occupying forces. The same article refers to Amnesty International’s report of a widespread “pattern of abuse” of Iraqi prisoners, but they must have got it wrong.

Actually, most Iraqis probably are safe under the protection of the occupiers. But if we honestly believe statements like Myers’ are going to restore trust and peace of mind to Iraqis who’ve been horrified by the recent photos from Abub Ghraib prison, we’re deluding ourselves. It’s going to take a supreme display of goodwill and repentance on our part if we’re ever going to rebuild that trust — like showing them that the people at the very top, those responsible for overseeing the catastrophe — are held accountable, and not just a handful of people on the ground who, it appears, were encouraged by their superiors to commit the acts of cruelty.

Even then, I’m skeptical that we can ever recover from this, at least in terms of the Iraqi occupation. As Joseph Bosco eloquently states today, America’s position as a leading advocate of human rights has been dealt a serious blow, one from which it won’t recover easily.

Now, quite sadly, current events have risen their so often ugly heads and presented all Americans with one of the most shameful lessons regarding the truth of what I have written and what so many military officers, historians and scholars have always known. I am writing of the truly heartbreaking proof of what American troops have done to Iraqi “detainees” in the Abu Ghraib prison just west of Baghdad. I am writing of something so ugly and so calculated and so systemic that I offer that it may be decades–if ever–before the Republic I love beyond measure can ever again have the moral authority to speak of human rights, human abuse or war crimes to even the most repressive regimes.

America, my country, in the name of freedom, liberation and democracy has treated detainees–within their own country, within the same prison where so many of them had been tortured and murdered by the regime we took it upon ourselves to overthrow largely because of its brutality to its citizens–with a sickening level of beastly violence upon their bodies and souls that is almost without precedence in American military history. There can be understanding, even sympathy, albeit grudgingly, when in the heated blood of combat and comrades lost that “enemies” are spontaneously lined up against a wall and machine-gunned. But deliberate torture? Much of it acts of sexual perversion and depravity to make even this old crime reporter reel and gag from the utter baseness of it?

I shed very real tears this day as I looked at the pictures and read the articles excerpted below. I did so for two reasons: One, just basic human compassion for any man–and the victims were all men–forced to undergo such soul-crushing indignities as seen in the pictures; two, because I know that we Americans may never be able to live this down, that perhaps never again can I lecture in my classes abroad about the basic goodness of the American process.

Be sure to check Joseph’s epic post, and understand how the stories exposed last week in Iraq will affect his role as an American professor in China for years to come.

Once again, George Bush’s excellent adventure as president has ripped a gaping hole in America’s image, and thrown gasoline on the flames that inspire our enemies to hate us. And this, from a man who will run on the platform of national security! I’d be shocked if this week’s events haven’t led to a surge in al Qaeda’s membership, and renewed their vows to destroy America, the great enemy.

The Discussion: 3 Comments

Thank you, my dear friend; you are pretty damn eloquent yourself.

Let us keep up the good fight.

May 2, 2004 @ 12:27 pm | Comment

I would also like to say those photos affect my job as a reporter and a tutor.

Now simple cultural misunderstandings can be explained away by the American tendency to brutalize other cultures.


May 2, 2004 @ 2:43 pm | Comment

That’s really tragic. And I know what it’s like, trying to convince Asians that America really isn’t an evil place. That argument was just made a lot harder.

(Note: America, of course, isn’t an evil place. But sadly, episodes like this tend to shape public opinion about us, far more than the schools we’re building in Iraq. Unfair, definitely. It’s just reality.)

May 2, 2004 @ 4:11 pm | Comment

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