Middle East


Iraq Prisoner Abuse Draws International Media Outrage

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld(R) watches as President George W. Bush delivers a statement to the media May 10, 2004. (Photo: Paul J. Richards/ AFP-Getty Images)

London The Times (conservative), May 5: As for those running the prisons, I do not see them as "a few bad apples." They are victims of the shambles to which America and Britain have reduced a country they claim to have liberated. After 14 months there is no room for excuses. Liberation has been followed by a new bondage, that of individual insecurity, public anarchy and, in much of the country, a looming clerical totalitarianism.
Simon Jenkins

Cairo Al-Ahram (semi-official), May 2: What happened in Abu Ghraib prison was a clear and shameful violation of the rights of Iraqi POWs and detainees. It showed total disregard for international law and the Geneva Convention...and highlighted the violation by U.S. forces of Iraqi human rights and the right of POWs to live in good conditions. Statements of condemnation from Western capitals, particularly the U.S. and Britain, are not enough. There must be a serious and decisive confrontation with this issue to prevent the repetition of such acts.

Paris Liberation (left-wing), May 4: One can lose a war in places other than battlegrounds. The torture that took place in the Abu Ghraib prison is a major defeat for the U.S. The photographs fan the fires of anti-American hate in the Arab world. Elsewhere they trigger reactions of disgust, and take away from the coalition's small dose of moral legitimacy, gained by toppling Saddam's regime.... But the fact is that war is hell. It can reveal the sleeping bestiality that lies in all who are forced to go to war. Democracies, which go to war, must impose on their men and women a certain discipline so that they can fight the demons that haunt all battlegrounds.... And their leaders must go to war only when absolutely necessary.... Responsibility lies also with President Bush, who sent men into a war without weighing the consequences.
Patrick Sabatier

Madrid La Razon (independent), May 2: The authors of these despicable acts have not only degraded Iraqi prisoners; the humiliation has been suffered by the values of freedom and democracy that, theoretically, the forces of the West represent and defend. The Iraqis that were treated as if they weren't part of the human race haven't had their honor stained. On the contrary, we, as members of a community that believes in freedom and universal rights, are the ones dishonored.

Jakarta Republika (Islamist), May 5: Human Rights? Ask this question to American, British or allied soldiers in Iraq. To them, human rights are only for the victors and occupying forces, not for the losers and oppressed. To the occupying forces and all the troops from different countries in Iraq, not only to American or British soldiers, human rights include the right to be protected from any potential abuse by anyone, including by the people being oppressed. The act of self-defense by the people of the land being occupied is regarded as a violation of human rights by the occupiers.

Frankfurt Frankfurter Allgemeine (conservative), May 4: Such pictures of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners will outrage the people everywhere but the effect will not be the same everywhere. It is very likely that they will not increase resistance to the United States in the Islamic world [and].... only confirm the existing perception pattern in the region. The sympathies, which America enjoyed in the region following the 9/11 attacks, have been forfeited by the Bush administration with its Iraq policy. The pictures will have a sustainable effect in Europe and America itself. Many people are now referring to My Lai in Vietnam...but whether this comparison is true...will depend on further investigations.

New Delhi Hindustan Times (centrist), May 4: In Vietnam, it was the image of a naked and terror-stricken child running down the road with outstretched arms.... Thirty-odd years down the line, the images of Iraqi prisoners inside the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad being tortured and humiliated by U.S. soldiers have made Americans see their 'evil-ridding' mission in a different light.... It's difficult for civilians to realize that war is a grisly and dehumanizing business. But when exposés of such brutalities come out into the public domain, there can be no comfort found in the argument: 'It's unfortunate, but these things happen.'... The U.S. and British forces in Iraq will now have to do serious damage control if they don't want to drive angry Iraqis into the arms of the Maqawama (resistance). In any case, America may have just lost its moral high ground in the much-touted fight between the forces of good and evil.

Zagreb Vjesnik (pro-government), May 4: It is now completely clear why Americans have persistently requested that their soldiers not be brought before the International War Crimes Tribunal. The avalanche in that case could, based on the commanding responsibility principle, lead to the very leadership at the Pentagon, if not to the White House itself. The most powerful world power simply cannot afford it. However, justice is a universal category, and the only point is that same rules apply to everyone. Otherwise, there can be no democracy, no truth, and no future. Full truth about Iraq is necessary so that atrocities which are happening now can be avoided in the future in that tormented country, and so that the proclaimed triumph of democracy which was to happen with the arrival of allies does not turn into the dusk of democracy.
Jurica Korbler

Istanbul Sabah (independent), May 3: The U.S. occupation in Iraq has turned into a war of insanity. The pictures about how U.S. soldiers were treating Iraqi prisoners of war are beyond shame. These Iraqis were being tortured and humiliated only because of their country of origin. The irony is that such treatment comes from the occupying force itself. Looking at these pictures is enough to stand up in opposition to the war in Iraq. It seems that the U.S. has started repeating what it did in Vietnam in the name of "democracy and civilization."...It will be very interesting to see how the current U.S. administration can bring charges against Saddam Hussein for its crimes against humanity. What we have been seeing in Iraq is a manifestation of hypocrisy in the American democracy project. Events in Iraq mark a black spot in the history of humanity.
Ergun Babahan

Moscow Trud (labor-oriented), May 5: The country's top leaders, including President Bush, have voiced their indignation at the criminal "games" by Abu Ghraib guards. They will certainly be punished. But the loss sustained by America is irreparable. Islamic propaganda has long branded the members of the coalition as having started a war in Iraq as "crusaders" knowing no mercy and hating Muslims. Pictures taken in jail have been published in all Arab nations…and they can tell rank-and-file people one thing only: the United States is a cynical and hypocritical invader having no respect for the people it allegedly wants to liberate.
Vissarion Sisnev

Riyadh Al-Jazirah (pro-government), May 2: The U.S., which justified its invasion of Iraq on claims of protecting human rights and freeing Iraqi people from dictatorship, is actually violating and suppressing human rights..…Those photos will strengthen resistance and make many people around the world understand why the Iraqi people are fighting the occupation.

Sydney Australian (conservative), May 3: Because of the sadism of possibly as few as six U.S. military police serving in Iraq, the entire coalition there has suffered a setback in the battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. When Iraqis see photographs of detainees being sexually humiliated and physically abused by their U.S. captors, how could their faith in what coalition troops are trying to do in Iraq be anything but undermined?...The symbolism of the fact these abuses occurred at Abu Ghraib, the prison where Saddam Hussein tortured and murdered thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens, is like a dagger in the heart of the message that Australia and its allies have been working to spread.... In short, these disgusting abuses of prisoners' rights have been an assault, not just upon human decency and the international conventions of occupation and war, but upon the resolve needed to finish the job in Iraq.... Justice will need to be done--not only against the torturers, but also against the higher-ups who let it all happen.

Beirut As-Safir (left-wing, pro-Syria), May 4: The scandal of Iraq prison abuses...did not cause shock across the Arab world.... Certainly these abuses will not increase feelings of hate or enmity against the U.S....Many Arabs were not surprised by this scandal because the American behavior in these prisons is something expected and no different than what Arabs would have done...abuse is a known tradition in Arab jails. No Red Cross enters Arab prisons and many prisoners, particularly political prisoners, leave these prisons in caskets.
Sateh Noureddine

Johannesburg Business Day (financial), May 4: Just more than a month before the U.S. deadline to hand the country over to an Iraqi government, there is no way that Americans, or the Iraqis to whom they propose handing over, can be said to be in control of the country.... Bush and Blair both face being dragged into an increasingly violent and unstable situation that could severely damage their countries and the rest of the world. And that was before last week.... The Americans and the British first lied about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in order to justify the invasion. Why should they be believed, now, as they protest that these acts of barbarism against Iraqi prisoners are the work of just a few bad apples?...Worse...may be the end of the assumption that the great democracies of the west are run by men and women of honor, bound by rules as old and trusted as the ages. Being taken prisoners by the British or the Americans used to be a guarantee of safety. No longer.