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Double Standard

Photographs of American soldiers abusing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, are now being passed around the globe via the internet, The images of naked men with sacks over their heads being forced to simulate sex and being ridiculed by leering men and women are upsetting by any standard. But to devout Muslims, for whom such acts and public nakedness are deemed shameful, the photographs are especially revolting and only help to confirm the widespread belief that Americans are racists with no respect for other cultures. How can we reconcile this use of interrogation in a country we have invaded and occupied, according to the Bush administration, in order to free its citizens from a regime that perpetuated fear and torture.

The investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has an important piece concerning this deeply troubling matter, in the current New Yorker magazine. It includes the photograph reproduced here, of a hooded Iraqi man with wires attached to his body. He was, reportedly, told that if he fell off the box he would be electrocuted. The Islamic scholar Juan Cole has a running commentary about the photographs and the response to them in the Arabic world on his site.

May 3 is World Press Freedom day. It serves to remind us that a free press is essential to democracy and a fundamental human right. It is worth observing.

photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

A Year Ago in Iraq (March 20)

A little after nine o'clock in the evening on March 20, 2003, the United States began bombing Baghdad. B-2 Spirit bombers, F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter bombers, Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missiles, and missiles launched from B-52s set off a ferocious display of advanced firepower in Saddam Hussein's palaces and other targets in the city. This was the "Shock and Awe" tactic that the Pentagon had been talking about for months. The explosions that first night were spectacular, and the bombing continued for twenty days, as the American army advanced toward Baghdad from the south. On April 4th, U.S. troops took the Baghdad airport, and the city fell five days later.

On May 1, 2003, George Bush declared that combat operations were over in Iraq. By then, 138 American soldiers had been killed and an estimated 5,000 Iraqis. Five hundred more American soldiers have been killed since then and another 5,000 Iraqis. Over 3,000 soldiers have been wounded and many Iraqi civilians have been burned and maimed. Both Americans and Iraqis continue to be killed every day. The weapons of mass destruction that were Bush's casus belli have not materialized, and the war on terrorism that he invokes constantly as a justification for his various infringements on our civil liberties has only created more terrorism.

A year ago, George Bush announced a war that would "defend the world from great danger." But the world is not a safer place today. It is more dangerous for everyone.

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