The Missing Pictures; No Coverage of Torture Pre-Abu Ghraib

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 25, 2004 | Go to article overview

The Missing Pictures; No Coverage of Torture Pre-Abu Ghraib


Byline: Walid Phares, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

When the Abu Ghraib prison-abuse crisis exploded, I analyzed the reactions coming from the Arab world. In an election year, the stakes are high for all parties involved. Each side wants a convenient "truth." The Bush administration talked about "bad apples." While on the offensive, the opposition talks of a "systemic problem."

President Bush went on Arab television, while his opponents rushed to speak on behalf of the "humiliated Arab world." But as Gen. John Abizaid put it since day one, it sounds as if "the issue is making more noise in the U.S. than in Iraq." In fact, the Arab-speaking general got it somewhat right. We in America were more concerned about our image than about the actual incidents themselves. The Arab world obviously reacted, but not exactly as many politicians fantasized.

When I asked individuals from different Arab countries what they think about Mr. Bush's outreach, answers varied. Everybody was sickened by the ugliness of the pictures, but beyond the graphics there were two types of reactions.

The anti-Americans were not difficult to guess. With Al Jazeera's incitement, natural anger mutated into hysteria. Suddenly, religion was cited heavily. Very few made a distinction between the psychological illness at Abu Ghraib and the future of Iraq. Actually, the jihadist networks found a lethal political weapon and exploited this all the way. They think they caught America by its mentally weakest soldiers. More than sanctions against the guards, they want to flush the American-led coalition out of Iraq and Mr. Bush out of the Oval Office. In this jihad home run, the architects of the Abu Ghraib crusade against "U.S. immorality" enlisted European elites, too. The oil-chained establishment from Paris to Berlin is wailing. Manhattan's United Nations is mourning.

But there are other people in the region who see the crisis through a different lens. In Beirut, amazement was mostly about Mr. Bush addressing Arab television. Lebanese were certainly disgusted by the aired images, but they were stunned by the fact that a U. …

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