I read in this morning’s WashPost that the Arab Street and Officialdom is outraged, outraged, to find out that 6 or 8 of our troops at Abu Ghraib abused Iraqi inmates.
Well, I am outraged too, and I’m on record in favor of the ongoing prosecution efforts. But I think the outrage needs to be kept in perspective.
Who are these outraged Arabs, who are appalled and angry at the U.S.?
Well, let’s go to the gentlest possible discussion of these countries – the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Nobody is nicer to Arabs than the State Department. Let’s hear what they have to say regarding normative human rights standards in the Middle East.
In the country report for Saudi Arabia, we find this:
The Government’s human rights record remained poor; although there were positive improvements in a few areas, serious problems remained. Citizens did not have the right to change their government. There were credible reports that security forces continued to torture and abuse detainees and prisoners, arbitrarily arrest and detain persons, and hold them in incommunicado detention. There were cases in which Mutawwa’in continued to intimidate, abuse, and detain citizens and foreigners. There was no evidence that violators were held accountable for abuses. Most trials were closed, and defendants usually appeared before judges without legal counsel. There were reports that the Government infringed on individuals’ privacy rights. The Government continued to restrict freedom of speech and press, although there has been an increase in press freedom over a series of years. The Government restricted freedom of assembly, association, religion, and movement. Violence and discrimination against women, violence against children, discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, and strict limitations on worker rights continued.
Keep in mind, this is a report concerning 2003 – the year the Saudis turned the corner on human rights, we’re told. There were cases of torture and abuse, and nobody was held accountable. Hmmmm…
Well, let’s try Iran. Surely they did better. Why, that nice President Khatami, the great liberalizing reformer, was just lauded and toasted at Davos. So how’d they do?
The Government’s poor human rights record worsened, and it continued to commit numerous, serious abuses. . . There were reports of political killings. The Government was responsible for numerous killings during the year, including executions following trials in which there was a lack of due process. Government affiliated vigilante groups also were responsible for extrajudicial killings.
The law criminalized dissent and applied the death penalty to offenses such as “attempts against the security of the State, outrage against high-ranking officials, and insults against the memory of Imam Khomeini and against the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic.” Citizens continued to be tried and sentenced to death in the absence of sufficient procedural safeguards.
Exiles and human rights monitors alleged that many of those supposedly executed for criminal offenses, such as narcotics trafficking, actually were political dissidents. Supporters of outlawed political groups, or in the case of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, a terrorist organization, were believed to constitute a large number of those executed each year.
In July, an Iranian-Canadian photographer, Zahra Kazemi, died in custody after being arrested for taking photographs at Evin prison in Tehran. After initially claiming that she had died as a result of a stroke, the Government subsequently admitted that she died as a result of a blow to the head and charged individuals involved in her detention. The Government also denied Canada’s request, based on her son’s statement, that Kazemi’s remains be sent to Canada for further autopsy and burial. The Government claimed to be following the wishes of her mother that she be buried in the country, but the mother later said that she was coerced into making the request.
Two political activists associated with the outlawed Komala party, Sassan al-Kanaan and Mohammad Golabi, were executed in February and March. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI), an opposition party, alleged that the Government executed party member Jalil Zewal in December, after 9 years in prison during which he was reportedly subjected to torture. KDPI member Ramin Sharifi was also executed in December after his arrest in July. Mohammad Golabi was reportedly tortured while in detention. Sassan al-Kanaan’s execution was reportedly carried out while his mother was in Tehran meeting on his behalf with the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. KPI reports that hard-line vigilante groups killed at least seven other Kurdish civilians were killed during the year.
The 1998 murders of prominent political activists Darioush and Parvaneh Forouhar, writers Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Pouyandeh, and the disappearance of political activist Pirouz Davani continued to cause controversy about what is perceived to be the Government’s cover-up of involvement by high-level officials. Prominent investigative journalist Akbar Ganji, who was arrested in 2000 and sentenced to 6 years in prison for his reporting on the case, remained in prison (see Sections 1.d. and 1.e.). In 2001, the Special Representative for Iran of the Commission on Human Rights (UNSR) also reported claims that there were more than 80 killings or disappearances over a 10-year period as part of a wider campaign to silence dissent. Members of religious minority groups, including the Baha’is, evangelical Christians, and Sunni clerics were killed in recent years, allegedly by government agents or directly at the hands of authorities.
Well, I’d keep going, but you really ought to read the whole thing, if you want the flava of how things are going in Iran. I suppose that when Iran condemns the U.S. for rough treatment of prisoners, they are speaking from experience.
Shall I go on? Of course. There’s our ally Egypt. We’re told Egypt is really upset. I can see why. According to the State Department meanies, “there were no reports of political killings.” Yayyyy! However, “at least 8 persons died in custody at police stations or prisons.” Booooooo!
Then there’s this gem that sort of puts our smelly hippy protestors’ allegations of a U.S. police state into perspective:
In April, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) released a report called “Torture Should be Stopped.” It documented five cases of alleged death due to torture which occurred in police stations and detention centers in 2002. The report also included 31 cases of torture, 9 of which the report states “are expected to end in death.” On September 12, Mohammad Abdel-Sattar Musri, an electronics engineer, reportedly died of torture while in custody at the headquarters of El Fayoum SSIS. He was detained 3 days after the detention of his younger brother, Ahmed, who was accused of disseminating anti-war propaganda.
Now there’s your Bushitler police state and its quashing of dissent. Only it’s not the Halliburton-Bushitler axis, or the AshGoebbelsCroft-Lockheed Corp doing the policing and quashing – it’s our good friends, the Egyptians.
As for Egyptian torture – well, our reservist military police look like pikers in comparison, making people stand on a box in a hood, piling them atop each other in a little dogpile and taking pictures of them naked. Here’s how the Egyptians do it, old school style.
Principal methods of torture reportedly employed by the police and the SSIS included victims being: stripped and blindfolded; suspended from a ceiling or doorframe with feet just touching the floor; beaten with fists, whips, metal rods, or other objects; subjected to electrical shocks; and doused with cold water. Victims frequently reported being subjected to threats and forced to sign blank papers for use against the victim or the victim’s family in the future should the victim complain of abuse. Some victims, including male and female detainees and children reported that they were sexually assaulted or threatened with rape themselves or family members.
Beatings with rods and hung from the ceiling, eh? I’m wondering if the criticism is due to the U.S. pathetic lack of brutality or systematization of torture; or the U.S. apparently inexplicable willingness to make the allegations public, and to take actions to stop it and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
So why then, would the Arab world jump on the U.S. over this and strongly condemn us? Gee. I can’t imagine why. I want to say that it’s an opportunity to undermine the U.S.’s steady opposition to torture, state-sponsored murder and rape and disappearances in the region. But nobody would be so low and so cynical, to stoop to that, right?
Losing the snark for just a moment, I stand by my earlier predictions. If the U.S. handles this the right way, visibly punishes the wrongdoers (and publicizes the results of the court martial) then it is a chance for us to prove we mean what we say about torture. Every system has its bad apples, and we will get rid of ours. In getting rid of them, it will show the health of our system. I repeat: for those who hate us, this is just one more excuse to hate us, the jew-pig-dog crusader dhimmi filth. For those who look to us for leadership, proper handling of this situation, and publicizing it, will again lead the way in addressing real human rights abuses, and hopefully lead the Arab Street to ask, “why can’t our torturers be brought to justice?”
What will the Arab world will say then?
Oh, and one other question. Where were the Arab condemnations over the last year, hammering the people who turned 500 or so Israeli into pink mist over the last year? I mean, as long as we’re going to root out all the torture and violence…