Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners
President Bush expressed revulsion today over photographs strengthening reports that some United States soldiers had abused and humiliated Iraqi prisoners. He said that the soldiers responsible would be punished, and that such conduct did not reflect the values of the American military or the American people.
“I share a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated,” Mr. Bush said in the White House Rose Garden during an appearance with Prime Minister Paul Martin of Canada. “Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people. That’s not the way we do things in America.”
As for those responsible, Mr. Bush said, “there will be an investigation, and they’ll be taken care of.”
All true and, certainly, as expected.
As the day wore on, it was becoming clear that the issue could have serious diplomatic reverberations in the Arab world, where the United States has been trying to bridge cultural gaps and cement friendships and where public nudity is considered dishonorable.
Arab Web sites prominently featured pictures depicting abuse and Arab television stations led their newscasts with photographs of naked Iraqi prisoners being humiliated by United States military police officers. One channel said the pictures showed the “immoral practices” of the American forces.
“The liberators are worse than the dictators,” Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, told Reuters in Dubai. “This is the straw that broke the camel’s back for America.” Reuters, whose reporters sampled opinions in several Arab countries today, said Mr. Atwan’s comments were typical.
Of course, they were typical before the photos were released, too. It’s not as if rampant brutality is something the Arabs are unaccustomed to. This sort of thing is shocking to a Western audience because it’s abberant. Treating prisoners of war reasonably well is a practice exclusive to the West, one that doesn’t go back all that far even in the West, and one that’s occasionally violated even by Western soldiers. The difference, of course, is that we punish soldiers who do this type of thing. No one else does.