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Topic: We have met the evildoers...

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  1. #1

    We have met the evildoers...

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    ZNet | Iraq

    We have met the evildoers...
    and they are us

    by Laurie King-Irani; Electronic Iraq; May 10, 2004

    Despite the filthy hood covering his face, the soiled cape barely concealing his naked body, and the exhaustion evident from the tilt of his head, the Iraqi prisoner in this now iconic photograph radiates grace, dignity, and humanity -- qualities that were lost on his tormentors. In his silence as an Iraqi subjected to the cruelties of Saddam Hussein, the privations of the UN sanctions regime, the passivity of Arab leaders, and now the depravities of American soldiers, echoes our shame. Or it should. The acts depicted in the now infamous Iraqi prison photos fall into a class of international offenses for which no one can or should enjoy impunity: torture.

    With glee, ingenuity, and apparent permission from their superiors, young American men and women (some of whom claim they never heard of the Geneva Conventions), tortured dozens of Iraqis in shameful and pornographic ways for several months in Abu Ghraib prison. These digital depictions of grave violations of the Geneva Convention and the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture or Other Cruel, Degrading or Inhuman Treatment or Punishment are evidence of war crimes.

    And these bright-eyed young Americans are war criminals. They did not achieve such infamy overnight or on their own, however. Rather, just like the Americans they represent back home in Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Texas, they gradually lost their bearings as a result of a sustained media- and policy-induced trance asserting that Americans and the United States constitute a special class of humanity: privileged, above the law, stronger, better, and more deserving than others.

    From the evident joy they experienced while violating Iraqis arrested and imprisoned in the murky legal twilight-zone of Iraq/Guantanamo/Afghanistan spawned by the \"War on Terror,\" it is clear that they have not really violated international humanitarian law: These young Americans, and their superiors, do not consider Iraqis to be human beings. From the photos, it seems Americans have mistaken Iraqis for dogs.

    Iraqis are to be disciplined, herded, leashed, brought to heel, beaten and otherwise acted upon by their masters. Iraq and Iraqis are to be invaded, sanctioned, bombed, starved, beseiged, governed, administered, handed over, taught a lesson, de-Ba\'athified, cleansed, and even \"democratized.\" But Iraqis never get to stand on two feet and be agents of their own individual or collective will.

    Only the US and UK military personnel, with the crucial aid of private (and possibly unaccountable) contractors, are the actors, the sole agents of discipline, governance, transformation, and decisionmaking. No other parties need worry their heads about what goes on inside the nebulous borders of the new quasi-sovereign Iraq. The UN, the EU, and the World Bank, along with dozens of non-governmental and private voluntary organizations and countless journalists and activists, can opine, declaim, suggest, and warn all they want, but only the \"coalition\" may act.

    With such privileges and powers, one would think, come duties and obligations.

    Not so. Here we see the lethal elegance of US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld\'s new \"lean, mean, US armed forces.\" Not only is this new fighting machine light on personnel, it is also unencumbered by respect for the laws and usages of war. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the Geneva Conventions (1949), the UN Convention Against Torture or Other Cruel, Degrading or Inhuman Treatment or Punishment (1984), and international customary law all clearly and unequivocally criminalize torture. It is a crime that attaches universal jurisdiction, i.e., extraterritorial prosecution and judicial processes. Torture is a profoundly serious offence that is not allowed at any time for any reason. Period.

    According to the US, however, these firm guidelines are for other, lesser countries. The US is different: a nation apart, just like its close ally, Israel. With Rumsfeld\'s off-hand dismissal of the gravity of these photographs and all that they convey and imply about command culture in the US armed forces, and with the arrival of Gen. Miller, fresh from Guantanamo, to oversee the internal workings of Abu Ghraib prison, the US has effectively declared itself beyond the reach of international law.

    This should not surprise anyone who has watched as the US: a) pulled out of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court; b) attempted to undermine other states\' support for the court; and c) demonized attempts to realize international justice in national courts, going so far as to strong-arm the Belgian government into gutting its progressive universal jurisdiction (or \"anti-atrocity\") legislation a year ago.

    Now that we all know just what has been going on in Abu Ghraib prison, it is clear why the US is so keen to guarantee its immunity from international humanitarian law. It wants, like that frightening, wiry, young woman soldier, to make the world its \"bitch.\" With a world of objects, who can be a subject -- of law or concern or solidarity?

    But in a world of educated, on-line, savvy news consumers, how does the US get away with being such a badly behaved top dog?

    The Bush administration does not invoke secular notions of law, accountability, and governance to defend its impunity and exceptional status, but rather, claims something akin to divine right. We are to believe that the blood shed of US citizens on September 11th 2001 has authorized our sacred mission to ride roughshod over others\' rights and to dismiss the multilateral frameworks of international governance, peacekeeping, humanitarian law, and mediation painstakingly built up through joint processes over the last 50 years. Israel makes the same claims, implicitly or explicitly, about the Holocaust, invoking horrors to excuse nearly a half century of clear and systematic violations of International Humanitarian Law, including torture.

    Though many Israelis and Americans might find arguments based on notions of exceptionalism and manifest destiny emotionally compelling and morally satisfying, they represent a dangerous conception of accountability that the world can ill afford. This US-Israeli claim of being above the law is premised upon a belief that Israelis and Americans are more human than others, more worthy or deserving than others, to enjoy basic rights, dignity, and security.

    Viewing recent events and deciphering the conceptual underpinnings of Israeli and US military actions in the West Bank, Gaza, Falluja, and Abu Ghraib prison, as well as Guantanamo, it is hard not to conclude that US and Israeli decision makers view themselves as \"ubermenschen,\" ultra-humans, while casting Arabs and Muslims in the complementary, contrasting role of semi- or quasi-human creatures whose rights, dignity, lives, health, future, wealth, security we can steal, break or violate at will without any compunctions. We can even have a good laugh while violating others -- and the laws meant to protect us all.

    For the Ariel Sharons and the Donald Rumsfelds of our world, no human rights have, technically speaking, been violated in Iraq or Palestine. No grave breaches of International Humanitarian Law have been committed, since no actual humans have been harmed. Iraqis and Palestinians are faceless masses of evildoers, not real people like us.

    So slap, crack, smash and pummel away, snap some more prison-porn pix for the guys and gals back home at the local watering hole, and keep smiling, troops: As long as George Bush, Jr., Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld hold the leashes (not the reins) of power in Washington, rest assured that you will remain above the reach of secular and international law. With God on your side.

    We have met the evildoers, and they are us.

    Laurie King-Irani is a co-founder of the Electronic Intifada and Electronic Iraq. She teaches social anthropology in British Columbia, Canada.

  2. #2

    Re: We have met the evildoers...

    Now there\'s an objective analysis by an objective voice.

    The evildoers couldn\'t possibly be the ones with the quaint habit of beheading people and then displaying their horriffic trophies.
    http://www.palestineway.com/soar.htm

    And you are their representative.

  3. #3

  4. #4

    Re: We have met the evildoers...

    Careful guys,

    The people in the prison didn\'t behead anybody as far as you know. The people in the prison didn\'t cause 9-11. The fact is that we do not know what exactly the individuals in the prison did. I don\'t believe that they had hearings or were formally sentenced with sexual, physical and psychological abuse.

    I hope that they catch the scum that beheaded the guy. And I hope that they catch all of the people associated with 9-11. And the people in the mob that mangled the four contractors.

    If we blame all Iraqis for these crimes, and unleash our revenge on Iraqis as a whole, we take on the evil as our own.

    Let\'s see,

    * First it\'s 9-11, but there was no link
    * Then it was WMDs, but they aren\'t there
    * Next it\'s to bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people
    * Now it\'s vengence against the Iraqi people?

    We need to take care to hold people accountable for their acts, not whole races and nationalities.

  5. #5

    Re: We have met the evildoers...

    Actually, the beheading I was referring to (and the accompanying link) was that of one of the 6 Israeli soldiers killed today.
    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=62198
    Granted, it wasn\'t a beheading \'per se\' like Nicholas Berg or Daniel Pearl, but still...


    Let\'s see, of these 3 cases, one happened in \"Palestine,\" one happened in Iraq, and one happened in Pakistan...What do they all have in common?

    Hmmm...I can\'t quite put my finger on it...(lest I be branded a bigot...or worse...)...

    Let\'s try and keep a LITTLE perspective when comparing Western \"brutality\" to theirs.

  6. #6

    Re: We have met the evildoers...

    JonFairhurst:
    [ QUOTE ]
    We need to take care to hold people accountable for their acts, not whole races and nationalities.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Where on Earth did you get the idea I was doing that? Is it impermissible to point out the fact that while we all loathe what was done by our people in Iraq, the fact is, everyone is soiling their undergarments over it while brutality on the other side is accepted as almost natural?

    While I’m not a supporter of the Iraq war (and I’ve made that extremely clear), I also will not stand for pure anti-Americanism without any criticism whatsoever of the brutalities on the other side. Just like with the Israel issue, I won’t stand for fierce criticism of one side while completely ignoring the wrongdoing on the other. And you shouldn’t either, Jon.


    As for the article:
    [ QUOTE ]
    they gradually lost their bearings as a result of a sustained media- and policy-induced trance asserting that Americans and the United States constitute a special class of humanity: privileged, above the law, stronger, better, and more deserving than others.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    This statement is utterly ridiculous. If anyone is getting this message, the problem lies with them alone. While I distrust most US media (and most major foreign media as well), I haven’t seen this message promoted anywhere. Where do people get crap like this?

    [ QUOTE ]
    According to the US, however, these firm guidelines are for other, lesser countries.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    This is nothing but pure vitriol. “According to the US…” Please. Nobody who speaks for any authority whatsoever has stated this to be anywhere near the case. While I don’t deny there is likely corruption involved here (you all know I’m the first to speak of government corruption), the statement made here is a very dishonest and slanted one. It should read, “According to the torturers…”

    [ QUOTE ]
    This US-Israeli claim of being above the law is premised upon a belief that Israelis and Americans are more human than others, more worthy or deserving than others, to enjoy basic rights, dignity, and security.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    The US, nor Israel, make any such claim. One could argue against the validity of Bush’s actions, but it is not at all fair to say that the “US” and “Israel” make such a claim.

    In summary this is a very non-objective, hate-filled diatribe. While the torture of prisoners is reprehensible, and while the Iraq war certainly appears to be unjustified, this article only serves to make things worse by painting things in the worst possible light.

  7. #7

    Re: We have met the evildoers...

    but Brady what ever you think, or for that matter whatever i think,

    that is the world the person who wrote the article finds herself in, that is her interpretation of her reality, and judging by past events, you have to admit, its not hard to form such a reality.
    I am with Jon on this so far, the Iraqi\'s have clearly been singled out for over a decade for abuse, i saw it coming over a decade ago, and i am very sensitive to these things, very subtle at first but it was there.
    lets face it, some of these soldiers in iraq now, would of been only 10 years old, think of that, first the Gulf War and now this, you have to admit, these soldiers have never known anything else of Arab Culture or Iraqi Culture, they have nothing to base their opinions of Arabs or Iraqi people, no compass at all to see them as human beings, that is called dehumanisation.
    Now does that mean that all Americans are like that or all Israeli\'s off course not, for a start i get most of my information from Jewish people, and 2nd i know a lot of Americans are appalled by whats happening, as i know you are Brady!!! but that doesnt change the fact of peoples persceptions, and they are based on something , real or imagined, but in this case the fears are real. Social Pschology is the discipline to understand these things.

  8. #8

    Re: We have met the evildoers...

    [ QUOTE ]
    Where on Earth did you get the idea I was doing that?

    [/ QUOTE ]

    My apologies.

    I\'ve heard and read some interviews recently where people have been claiming that anything done in Abu Ghraib is okay because of what \"they\" did to \"us\". I find it deeply troubling. So, when the response to our attrocities is to show their attrocities, it\'s easy to interpret that the intent is to justify, minimize or redirect from our own acts.

    We need to stare the prison pictures square in the face and ask ourselves if this is who we are, and who we want to be. We can\'t change what \"they\" do. We can only judge our own actions and change what \"we\" do.

  9. #9

    Re: We have met the evildoers...

    [ QUOTE ]
    Quote:
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    they gradually lost their bearings as a result of a sustained media- and policy-induced trance asserting that Americans and the United States constitute a special class of humanity: privileged, above the law, stronger, better, and more deserving than others.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------



    This statement is utterly ridiculous. If anyone is getting this message, the problem lies with them alone. While I distrust most US media (and most major foreign media as well), I haven’t seen this message promoted anywhere. Where do people get crap like this

    [/ QUOTE ]


    Brady as you know i am an Australian, and i can see why a person would make such a statement, and i believe it is based on the relationship between Racism and Culture, in fact i am certain of it.


    [ QUOTE ]
    Quote:
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This US-Israeli claim of being above the law is premised upon a belief that Israelis and Americans are more human than others, more worthy or deserving than others, to enjoy basic rights, dignity, and security.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------



    The US, nor Israel, make any such claim. One could argue against the validity of Bush’s actions, but it is not at all fair to say that the “US” and “Israel” make such a claim.



    [/ QUOTE ]

    The USA might not of said it in words, but it has said it by its actions, again the relationship between Racism and Culture, and what is the PNAC about spreading love and understanding.

  10. #10
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    Re: We have met the evildoers...

    [ QUOTE ]
    Brady:

    As for the article:
    [ QUOTE ]
    they gradually lost their bearings as a result of a sustained media- and policy-induced trance asserting that Americans and the United States constitute a special class of humanity: privileged, above the law, stronger, better, and more deserving than others.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    This statement is utterly ridiculous. If anyone is getting this message, the problem lies with them alone. While I distrust most US media (and most major foreign media as well), I haven’t seen this message promoted anywhere. Where do people get crap like this?



    [/ QUOTE ]

    The statement reflects how most of the world views the US and I think is, to an extent, right. America probably views itself like this as a result of a combination of nationalism and injury. The statement oversells its case and doesn\'t take account of the diverging views within the US, but, to a degree, it probably applies to the majority.

    Americans are, no doubt, aware of their vast, economic and military superiority, unchallengable since the end of the Cold War, -which they have \"won\"-, and do not feel accountable to the rest of the world. The feeling of exaltation is reflected by the irritation they feel towards nations defying their wishes, e.g. the chauvinism shown towards \"old Europe\" during the run up to the Iraq war (Freedom Fries etc.) Americans are drip fed nationalism by the media and are not encouraged to reflect on the US as a member of the global community. Islamic terrorism, particularly the injury of 9/11, has generated a great sense of righteousness, so that the administration does not feel the need to further justify acts of pre-eminent aggression.

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