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Contempt from above
Posted: Tuesday, May 11, 2004


The atrocities committed by members of the American and British forces on Iraqi prisoners do not really suprise us. Indeed, having regard to the mindset established by George Bush and his White House war hawks in their unprovoked and brutal invasion of Iraq, the abuse inflicted on Iraqi detainees, in our view, was something to be expected. After all, the abusers were simply reflecting the contempt for the Iraqi people shown by members of the Bush administration who dismissively dubbed as "collateral damage" the thousands of innocent citizens, including women and children, who were slaughtered and maimed in the massive bombardment of that unfortunate country about a year ago.

That "collateral damage", the extent of death and suffering of the Iraq people and the wholesale destruction of the country by the US military received scant coverage by the American press whose representatives were "embedded" in the invading forces and who were more concerned with reporting on the "heroics" of their own soldiers. Indeed, so one-sided was the reporting of US journalists on the pulverising of Iraq and its aftermath that it earned the condemnation of many independent observers including well known British spy novelist John Le Carre who, in an interview on the BBC’s Hardtalk, charged "the agents of enlightenment" in the American society - meaning, of course, the media - with abdicating their responsibility and betraying the American people.

Up to now, as far as we know, there is no reliable source for Iraqi civilian or combatant casualty figures either during the period of major combat or after May 1, 2003. The Associated Press has reported an estimated 3,240 civilian Iraqi deaths between March 20 and April 20, but the news agency said the figure was based on records obtained from only half of Iraqi hospitals, and that the actual number was thought to be significantly higher. If the war-mongering Bush administration could callously dismiss the horrendous destruction they inflicted on Iraq and its huge toll in innocent lives and physical mutilation as "collateral damage" and if the American media could turn a blind and self-righteous eye to it, what attitude do they expect their own military to have regarding their Iraqi prisoners? The contempt demonstrated from above has simply filtered down to the soldiers on the ground who, in the secrecy of their detention facilities, have been brutalising their captives as the way to treat infidels.

So this abuse does not surprise us, and the American people, instead of crying crocodile tears over it, should honestly come to grips with its motivation and its source. There is growing clamour for the head of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who not only kept the scandal a secret but failed to inform the President about it until pictures of the gross and vulgar abuse of Iraqi detainees were published by the American papers. But inspite of his embarrassment, Bush has no choice but to support his Defence Secretary who is a die-hard member of the ultra-Conservative cabal controlling the White House, an arrogant group whose extreme ideology informs and shapes American foreign policy.

Rumsfeld’s career, in fact, illustrates the indecent double standards inherent in US decision making; he was the Special Envoy who the Reagan administration despatched to offer special support to Saddam Hussein in 1983, during Iraq’s prolonged war with Iran. This is the same Rumsfeld who, 21 years later, was a driving force behind the illegal and relentless US attack on Saddam Hussein. "I would not hesitate to resign if I felt I could not be effective," said the Defence Secretary. What price effectiveness? Both Rumsfeld and Bush should do the decent thing and go.

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