Sunday, May 02, 2004


"As football overseer, Uday kept a private torture scorecard, with written instructions on how many times each player should be beaten on the soles of his feet after a particularly poor showing."

"When we arrived, they took off our shirts, tied our feet together and pulled our knees over a bar as we lay on our backs. Then they dragged us over pavement and concrete, pulling the skin off our backs. Then they pulled us through a sandpit to get sand in our backs. Finally, they made us climb a ladder and jump into a vat of raw sewage. They wanted to get our wounds infected."

Half his teeth have been knocked out, his face is battered and the eyes sunken and haunted-looking. His chest is covered with 50 separate cuts from a knife, his back has even more marks, which he says are cigarette burns. Two of his fingers were broken and deliberately bent into a permanent, contorted position and there?s a hole in the middle of his palm where his torturers stabbed him and twisted the blade.

Pictures of dead Iraqis, with their necks slashed, their eyes gouged out and their genitals blackened, fill a bookshelf...In one instance, the soldier recalled, he witnessed a Kuwaiti soldier, who had been captured during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, being forced to sit on a broken Pepsi bottle. The man was removed from the bottle only after it filled up with his blood, the soldier said. He said the man later died.

The usual suspects have spent the last several days with their dresses pulled over their heads about the "torture" of Iraqi prisoners by American jailers. I place quotation marks around the word because the alleged torture--naked Iraqi prisoners being humiliated by smiling U.S. military police, says the AP story--doesn't seem all that torturous, especially compared to the Saddam-era activities quoted above.

One of the more serious charges against the American guards was "threats of rape," which--in spite of the seriousness of such an indictment--made me laugh. Threats of homosexual rape are pretty much inseperable from the culture these days; the sight of network news operations which are part of huge entertainment conglomerates being shocked by threats of male homosexual rape is, I'm sorry, funny.

Half the Hollywood action movies made in the last ten years expect the audience to smile warmly when the good guy addresses lines like these* to the bad guy: "I have a dear friend named Tyrone...who will be more than happy to introduce you to the intimate pleasures of prison life." Stand-up comedians get laughs and applause for conjuring up the image of Enron's Ken Lay meeting "Bubba" in prison. All of this business is simply a diseased culture's chickens coming home to roost.

All of this of course doesn't stop the people who make their living being outraged at America from being, um, outraged. Anti-American outrage has been a cottage industry for a long time.

First, we have the Arab media. A quick run-thru of the AP story linked above gives us:

Arabs expressed outrage at graphic photographs shown on TV screens Friday across the Middle East.... . "They were ugly images. Is this the way the Americans treat prisoners?"..."I was disgusted and angered by those humiliating pictures"..."The scenes were really ugly." "This is not humiliation of Iraqis...It is humiliation of all Arabs."..."The Scandal," ran a front-page headline in Egypt's government-leaning newspaper Akhbar al-Yom. "The Shame," read one in the opposition newspaper Al-Wafd.

And on and on. There are dozens and dozens of such stories, all featuring outraged Arabs outraged at Americans for making them outraged at the outrageously outrageous outrage outraged by the outrage of it all. Far less common are such skeptics as the Israeli Ha'aretz, which pointed out that

The outrage contrasted sharply with the Arab silence that has accompanied evidence of atrocities within Arab countries, notably those carried out in the very same prison by officials of Saddam Hussein's former government.

Exactly. The contrast between this weekend's anti-American anger and the decades-long complete silence over Saddam's eye-gougings and filmed baby-rapings is pretty overwhelming. What it offers is a fascinating glimpse at the pathologies of the Arab world.

This is how it works: When the Arab world screams about phony American "atrocities" but ignores actual Arab atrocities, it sends a subtle but distinct message: Arab lives only matter when an American or Israeli takes them. Boiled down even more, it sounds like this: Arab lives have no intrinsic value. And this mindset, far more than any extrenal "oppression," is what keeps the larger Arab world stupid and pauperized, seemingly permanently.

The other outraged group is comprised by the anti-American Left, both domestic and foreign.

The eagerness with which the leftists in the media have seized on the story gets me wondering about motivations. It makes me wonder if the Left has been itching to turn the Iraq story into a full-on Vietnam analog, complete with the wholesale depiction of the American military as baby-killers. Throughout the last twenty years in America, one idea that has remained unchallengeable, even sacrosanct, is the belief that the rank and file troops, even if they do vote Republican, are decent and honorable. The disgraceful treatment of Vietnam veterans after that war shamed the American Left for a generation.

But today is a new day. I suspect that, in the heart of hearts, this belief in the basic decency of American enlistees has grated on many on the Left, especially those in the press and in human rights organizations.

Amnesty International, for example, demands an international investigation. But only a year and a half ago, the British government's publication of a torture dossier on Saddam was greeted by AI very differently:

...the human rights organisation Amnesty International accused Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of a cynical attempt to whip up public emotion.

CNN, which supressed all information of Saddam's torture and human rights violations for ten years, is all over this story.

*Actual dialogue from Steven Seagal in 1997's Fire Down Below.

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