One of the problems with American ethnocentrism is that many Americans assume that because others don’t speak English as well as us, that they don’t think as well as us.
President Bush, Rumsfeld and General Myers have all fallen victim to this nonsense. Bush especially showed this ignorance in his speeches today on Al Hurrah (an American sponsored propaganda TV station that few Arabs watch) and Al Arabiyah (a Saudi TV station that gets only 24% of the Arab market). In addition, Bush pointedly refused to speak on Al Jazeera TV, the station that has over 60% of the Arab market overseas; thus, he cut off his nose to spite an independent, critical Arab TV station.
Add to these things that Bush, Rumsfeld and others think that their excuses of “just a few committed these evil deeds,” ” this is not the American way,” will be believed about the atrocities at Abu Ghraib, when the same torture and inhumane treatment is going on at Guantanamo Prison and in prisons in Afghanistan. Somehow, Bush was not smart enough to realize that Arabs and Muslims throughout the world relate the two, as well as the thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails (and all Arabs and Muslims know that Bush is 100% behind Sharon of Israel); Arabs and Muslims are outraged because up to now, there were never photos of the inhumane treatment, though Arabs and Muslims have been complaining about these matters for the past two years, with no response from America or the West.
Our American leaders and military officers have used the Israeli style of not allowing the Red Cross to have free access; they have not charged the prisoners with crimes, but have held them under captivity; the Americans have arrested hundreds of Iraqi women, not allowing them to see their families, again, without charges or without sanitation, many of them being abused by American soldiers; they have hooded prisoners, have beaten them and threatened them and in many cases sexually abused them, killed some of the prisoners_all with no apology, not even today from President Bush. How bizarre for our nation, we the nation that was held up as a moral leader, as a nation who believed in fairness, ethics, morality and freedom. What is ironic is that this is all coming out at the same time the Supreme Court is hearing two cases on American citizens, Lind and Padilla, who have been held without charges in solitary confinement without being given the right of habeas corpus, and have not been allowed to even talk with an attorney. Yet, the case is being tried at the Supreme Court_without the two men being allowed to even help their cases.
The report of torture by General Taguba, which was sent out in early February to the U.S. government and the military. But it is in conflict, with the new man, General Miller , who is to be in charge of the Iraqi prisons, in his report, from last year, that he wanted to “exploit the prisoners to the full in their interrogations.” General Miller is the same cruel taskmaster who has led the abuse of prisoners and the brutality of those prisoners at
Guantanamo in Cuba. Thus, there is nothing coming from America at this time that looks as if anything is going to change for the better in the Iraqi prisons. But mark my word, this will not go down well with the Iraqi people, nor the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. Until CBS News broke the story, the Pentagon and the U.S. Government had tried to keep Taguba’s report secret so that our troops could continue torturing and abusing prisoners (none of this stopped until the CBS TV News report).
Lest, anyone wonder, one must remember that Iraq has a 5000 year old civilization; they are a learned people, not heathens who live in the mud and dirt of illiteracy. Baghdad for centuries had one of the world’s finest libraries; the works of the early Christians were collected there, as well as the Persians and Greeks before them, then the work of the great Muslim thinkers and scientists (many of whom practiced in Baghdad, Basra, Najaf and Kerbala). America, this late comer to civilization is now led by uneducated dolts, a president who had never traveled outside the U.S. before he became president and thought that he could impress foreign leaders by taking them to his “ranch” (a converted pig-farm that still smells of feces and death, this according to correspondents who have been there on a hot Texas day). But it is because he is so ignorant of civilized people, such as the Muslims who have always been concerned with modesty, covering their body parts, their sexual modesty and their sense of honor, that he has little grasp of just how much damage these photos have done to the image of America not only in the Arab world, but in the larger, 1.6 billion, Muslim world. Add to this the way the other Asians view the American behavior that is in conflict with their own sense of dress and modesty and you can see that even non-Muslims in the East and sophisticated Europeans were shocked and upset with American uncivilized behavior.
Then, the fact that Bush did not deign to go on Al Jazeera compounded his visible ignorance and lack of political sophistication. This mistake made clear that he didn’t really want to explain or apologize, but to make points and to smooth matters over.
But little does he realize that he made matters worse, not better by his feeble attempt to con the Iraqis, Arabs, Muslims and others in the world who were aghast at the American military and mercenary behavior. Of course, Bush and others will try to punish the woman in charge of the prison and some of the others who smiled in their evil behavior in the photos_but the penalties must go up the line and the heads that must roll are those that allowed this, who want to get away with this, and to continue the brutality in Guantanamo_namely, General Abizaid, General Myers, General Kimmit, Wolfowitz and finally, Rumsfeld himself. Rumsfeld’s and Myers’ excuses that “they hadn’t read the report” that had been sitting on their desks since February is clearly fraudulent_downright lies. Unless this is done, then no one in the Muslim world will believe in the American promise to “correct” the problem.
In addition, if they really want to “solve the problems with the Muslim world” then it is time for Bush to divorce America from Israel and Sharon, and tell Israel to either work for peace or lose American support. If America continues giving Israel carte blanche, then there will be even further conflict and anger from the Muslim world toward America, and no speech will overcome that problem.
America must also void the contracts that have been made by the puppet Iraqi Governing Council, by Bremer and by others in the American government that will take money from the Iraqi nation. Those contracts were made illegally and under duress by the occupying American and British powers; no court in the world will uphold them. Thus, it is best that America disown and void them before they are voided in the world court or by continued Iraqi military and political resistance.
Finally, America must turn to the Arab and Muslim nations of the world to work with the UN, to the exclusion of America and Britain, and allow the UN to take the lead in repairing Iraq, physically, psychologically, economically, socially and politically. If America thinks it can keep troops in Iraq for another decade, as Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institute thinks, then they are barking up the tree of defeat. The Iraqis will never stand for this. And, as I commented to Dr. O’Hanlon, the Iraqis have defeated the Persians, the Greeks, the Byzantines, the Mongols, the Turks and the British_and they have stood strong, even with minor weapons against the might America, the world’s allegedly greatest military power. The Iraqis will fight to the last person, men, women and children to drive the U.S. out of Iraq and no think tank speaker who says differently just shows that he or she doesn’t understand the power of Islam and the sense of determination in Iraq. These disclosures of abuse do but toughen Iraqi and Muslim resolve. And yes, the Iraqi will find thousands upon thousands of other dedicated Muslims coming to their aid if America does not pull out. Unfortunately, for all of us ordinary American citizens who abhor what has been done, and that Bush most likely will not clean up, the battlegrounds will be restricted to cities in Iraq, but to cities around the world, wherever militant Muslims can attack America and its allies.
The situation is very dire, and it is going to take more than soft pedaling comments from Bush that he’s “Ordered the Sec. of Defense to make a full investigation of the matter.”
That’s like asking the fox to investigate his attack on the chicken house. But before I finish, allow me to state that if the American troops go further into Karbala or Najaf, our troops will face a bloodbath of a type they haven’t seen since the Civil War or what met the British troops in WWI.
Come now, wake up, my fellow Americans. As a veteran of two wars, I tell you that what men fought for in WWI and WWII is missing; we are now the “bad guys”, those who are abusing the rights of others, we are the Nazis who want to control the land of others and to put them into prisons where their citizens are tortured, and when they fight back, as the Jews fought back in the Warsaw Ghetto, the American media label them as “terrorists” or “insurgents” or “foreign fighters!” Unfortunately, as I said, America has it all upside down, including the ignorance of Bush trying to gloss over with America’s misdeeds in Muslim lands.
SAM HAMOD is a former advisor to the U.S. State Dept; founder of 3rd World News (Wash, DC);Director of The Islamic Center (Wash, DC); Professor at Princeton, Michigan, Howard and Iowa (ret.); he may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org