Killing an Arab

It should be obvious now to anyone, pro- or anti-war, that the reconstruction of Iraq was poorly carried out. The planners did expect guerrilla resistance, and for that they were ready. What they failed to account for, and what has been their most serious failing, was that the people of Iraq are not Westerners. They have little or no concept of democracy, and apparently little desire for it. As Arabs, and as Muslims, they already distrusted the United States because of its support for Israel. Anything the USA did that was not perfect would be taken as further evidence of the corruption of the West's leading country.

Enter the Abu Ghraib prison photographs. To the average Iraqi, who probably did not like Saddam but who also does not like the prospect of years of occupation by a heathen foreign power, this is further confirmation of his suspicions. This kind of conduct should have been strictly forbidden. Instead, the soldiers responsible either thought they could get away with it or were allowed or even told to do it.

In this VOA article, Sami Baroudi of the Lebanese-American University in Beirut says, "What will sway people is if they see real punishment, being more than reprimands. How the United States is going to deal with the perpetrators of those acts. That may be more effective than a speech by [President] Bush."

Unfortunately for everyone, a soldier who killed a prisoner was dismissed from the military but not jailed. It's hard to believe that the soldiers guilty of the degradation at Abu Ghraib will be punished more severely than that.

At almost every step, the 'coalition' approach to Iraq's reconstruction has been the wrong one. Iraqis did not become Westerners as soon as Saddam was captured. They did not begin to respect minority rights when Fallujah was surrounded. They did not ask for democracy when Najaf was occupied.

Instead, they were a people already antagonistic to the USA. Long years of support for Israel, plus several years of sanctions--which, incidentally, did not make Saddam's rule any more difficult--convinced them long before the Marines were deployed that they have few friends in America.

I find it hard to believe these facts could have gone unrecognized by the planners of the attack, but that seems to have happened. The other explanation is that they don't care, and are willing to keep a boot on the Iraqi people as long as they find it necessary. Neither is very comforting. Neither will make the reconstruction any easier, and it's already hardly possible.

If the military isn't willing to punish some of these people, forget it.

Share this

I have to admit that the US

I have to admit that the US military has the worst PR in the world. The problem is they don't understand their audience. Their propaganda is more geared for folks in the US than it is for those in Iraq.

Besides, the military has a long history of letting their soldiers getting away with rape, murder, and theft without going to jail. It is the reason so many Koreans and Japanese hate the US bases in their countries.

If those guys do not go to jail for violating the Geneva Convention then not only are we hypocrits but have endangered the lives of countless Americans.

Spoonie, I still get a kick

Spoonie, I still get a kick out of reading your resume. TIA : )

On a more somber note, I doubt the prison photos won the hearts and minds of Iraqis everywhere -- though I could be wrong.

Another failure to nuance.

Another failure to nuance.

As long as we're talking

As long as we're talking about understanding the audience, I think we should take into account what the Iraqis want the punishment for these "soldiers" to be. I have to wonder, will anything less than a death penalty be an appropriate punishment for those guards guilty of murder? Maybe it would be in our eyes, but would it in the eyes of Iraqis? And what about those who are guilty of less than murder - the torture and humiliation of prisoners, 60% of whom the Army's internal report said were innocent? I don't really know what an appropriate penalty would be. If they were tried by Iraqi courts, penalties handed out might satisfy the local population, but if we won't give in to the ICC we certainly won't give in to people whose nation we're occupying. I have the feeling that even long prison sentences for the perpetrators wouldn't be enough to make up for what's been done.

The Muslim world has given

The Muslim world has given rise to fanatics that have killed untold thousands of innocent people. The Iraqis, like other Muslims, enjoy celebrating the death and mutilation of Americans. I think a little torture and degradation pales in comparison.

So let me get this straight,

So let me get this straight, Robin: those "bad guys" are real bad, and our miscreants are only kinda bad, so that makes us good? How very simplistic. Sorry, that plane doesn't fly. Saying that the "Muslim world" has given rise to fanatics and using that as justification for the torture and humiliation of innocent people (see the internal Army report I cited above) makes about as much sense as saying that the "Western world" has given rise to serial killers and therefore stringing me up by my scrotum and suffocating me.

Generalizing about Muslims enjoying the death and mutilation of Americans is a very big mistake. Perhaps you missed the Muslim clerics who denounced the mutilation and celebrations? There are extremists in every culture, ours included. Making them the rule rather than the exception is not a good course of action. The whole reason things are as messy as they are right now is because people over on that side make the same sort of righteous-revenge arguments you're making right now, Robin. Ever stop to think about that?

Robin, "Whoever fights

Robin,

"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster."

Perhaps the best punsihment

Perhaps the best punsihment would be that age-old method of military discipline: flogging.

Public flogging, in this case, in an open Baghdad square -- following conviction in a court martial, of course -- would send the proper message to the Iraqi public, reinforce discipline in the American ranks, and be a just punishment in that it reciprocates the initial crime onto the perpetriators; that is, causing them pain and humiliation.

It also has the benefit of directly correlating the punishment with the crime itself and being rather quick -- none of this nonsense in which a criminal has a large fraction of his life taken from him, away from the very society he supposedly owes a debt to, at that same society's expense, and without his excessive punishment being remotely related to his actual crime. Jail is rarely an approriate punishment, even less so in this case, where the Iraqis would just have to take our word that the people in question are, in fact, locked up.