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    Invasion of Iraq: Racism at heart of POW abuse
    Posted on Thursday, May 06 @ 01:23:50 UTC
    Topic: Torture
    TortureBy Firas Al-Atraqchi, YellowTimes.org

    "Like, the only way to get through shit like that was to concentrate on getting through it by killing as many people as you can, people you know are trying to kill you. Killing them first and getting home." - Sergeant First Class John Meadows to London's Mirror, June 19, 2003.

    "There was no dilemma when it came to shooting people who were not in uniform, I just pulled the trigger." - Specialist Corporal Michael Richardson to London's Mirror, June 19, 2003.

    On Thursday, CBS aired pictures of female and male U.S. soldiers torturing and abusing Iraqi detainees at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, an area known for its history of torture and execution during Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's 35-year reign.

    According to Reuters, "The photos showed U.S. troops smiling, posing, laughing or giving the thumbs-up sign as naked, male Iraqi prisoners were stacked in a pyramid or positioned to simulate sex acts with one another." Several pictures depicted a female U.S. soldier, cigarette dangling from her mouth, pointing her fingers in gun-like fashion at the penises of several naked, yet hooded Iraqi men. Other pictures showed U.S. servicemen and women giving the thumbs-up.

    Staff Sergeant Chip Frederick, one of the six men and women about to face court-martial for the incidents at Abu Ghraib prison (there are 17 others still being investigated for allegations of related abuse), told CBS that, "We had no support, no training whatsoever. And I kept asking my chain of command for certain things ... like rules and regulations."

    Hold on there, let me get this straight: Iraqi prisoners are sexually harassed, abused, tormented, tortured, humiliated and insulted, and a U.S. soldier blames the U.S. military for conditions that led to such incidents?

    Rules and regulations? By Frederick's rationale U.S. soldiers kill prisoners of war unless they are told not to; rape women and children unless they are told not to; burn people alive unless they are told not to. I am sure the U.S. military is not comprised of dolts, although Frederick seems to be a good candidate for the year's biggest moron. He needed "support...training...rules and regulations" to understand that sexually harassing prisoners was a no-no?

    It seems Frederick has a low humanity quotient. But then again, are Iraqis humans? After all, weren't they the animals that brought down the Twin Towers? Er...no, although listening to a lot of early interviews with U.S. soldiers who invaded Iraq last year, one would have been excused for believing them when they "confirmed" that they were "going to kick raghead ass" for the September 11th tragedies.

    Okay, pause. Let us take the pictures that CBS aired and exchange the hooded men, the men with their penises shown in full frontal, for white men. White men with blue or green eyes and a nice bushel of yellow hair. Do you think that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners would have been repeated with an American? A Swede? Or even U.S. public enemy number one, a Frenchie?

    No. And if, by some cosmic ripple of reality and truisms, such acts occurred with Europeans or North Americans, then you could have bet your bottom petro-dollar that there would have been candlelight vigils and demonstrations; Johnnie Cochran would have been shocked into whiteness; Rush Limbaugh would have gone soprano; Ann Coulter would have shaved her head -- you get the picture.

    But no outrage in North America. At least not yet. Instead, CBS, the network that aired the pictures of tortured Iraqis, ABC, the network that is about to name the fallen GIs in Iraq, and the poor woman who got the picture of U.S. coffins published, have been ostracized and labeled traitors by the neocons and their barking right-wing radio supporters.

    But there are those few courageous columnists who will tell it like it is. Take the Baltimore Sun, for example: "Of the 17 reservists implicated in the mistreatment, 14 were assigned to the 372nd Military Police Company based in Cumberland and are facing criminal or administrative charges. A company like that usually includes police and correctional officers with some years of service who would be familiar with the basics of securing prisoners. That raises even more questions about the accused soldiers' behavior and the procedures at Abu Ghraib prison."

    However, parents of the accused six have complained that the government turned its back on "stupid, kid stuff." They also asked why the Geneva Conventions only applied to U.S. soldiers. In fact, it doesn't, because the U.S. did not sign on to the International Criminal Court; it will not allow any court to try U.S. soldiers during times of war. There is, therefore, no guarantee that U.S. felonies in any country will be addressed.

    But hold your yankee horses! On Friday, London's Daily Mirror newspaper ran a front page picture of a U.K. soldier urinating on a hooded Iraqi detainee. It later emerged that no charges were brought against the Iraqi detainee, but that he was dumped from the back of a racing truck. It was not known whether he survived. Very nice.

    Don't forget the investigation into the pictures which depict two Iraqi boys holding up a sign indicating that a U.S. soldier killed the boys' father and "knocked up" their sister. The soldier is standing behind the boys with a thumbs-up. Has the thumbs-up become a U.S. military sign of abuse and humiliation? See the picture at http://www.cair-net.org/images/lcpl11.jpg.

    In April 2003, a Norwegian newspaper ran pictures of Iraqi men stripped naked and forced to run through Baghdad streets. They were accused of being looters, but no charges were brought against them.

    In May 2003, a photography shop assistant developed pictures which "allegedly showed an Iraqi, bound and gagged, hanging from a rope on a fork-lift truck," the BBC said.

    In July 2003, Amnesty International (AI) reported that Iraqis were being shot while in detainment and subjected to human rights abuses: "Detainees continue to report suffering extreme heat while housed in tents; insufficient water; inadequate washing facilities; open trenches for toilets; no change of clothes, even after two months' detention." However, U.S. authorities refused to allow an AI delegation into the detention centers.

    Freedom. Liberty. War against terrorism. Blah, blah, blah. What adds insult to injury is the spate of columns written every now and then accusing the Iraqis of laziness, ungratefulness, etc. Some newspapers in the U.S. have received boisterous complaints that the pictures were phony or doctored in some way. Is the ostrich native to the continental U.S.?

    Indeed, al-Qaeda are ruthless death-worshipping cultists, suicide bombings are abhorrent, and wanton violence is deplorable. However, for a country that prides itself on its democratic institutions and love of freedom; a country that sees a holy mission in spreading freedom wherever it is needed; a country that grimaces when a girl is kidnapped, a famous star dies an untimely death, or a hero is fallen, the actions in Iraq are beyond expression. Hypocrisy, racism, ethno-centrism...what words can suffice?

    Perhaps, if this was a Nazi army, history may have instructed us to understand -- the Nazis were often brutal in their repression. If this were a Roman army, history may have taught us the lessons from the ashes of Carthage. But this is the 21st Century and -- long live racism -- nothing has been learned. There is no civilization. Columnists decry Islam as a religion of violence, Muslims as wife-beaters, etc, etc. They judge the actions of the few and apply it to the many.

    Tonight then, by their own testament, I will apply the actions of the few to the intentions of the many.

    This is the face of freedom. The face of righteousness. Next time someone asks you the most idiotic of questions -- "why do they hate us" -- ask them to see the pictures in question. Next time someone asks you how Iraqis could have cut U.S. and South African mercenaries to pieces, ask them to see the pictures in question. Next time someone asks you why Iraqis are taking up arms, simply show them the pictures.

    Sleep well if you can...tomorrow is another hell.

    Firas Al-Atraqchi, B.Sc (Physics), M.A. (Journalism and Communications), is a Canadian journalist with eleven years of experience covering Middle East issues, oil and gas markets, and the telecom industry.

     
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