Last week CBS broadcast hair-raising images of troops humiliating and abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The photographs and corroborating reports fueled a vehement run of international op-eds against the U.S. occupation, as the the Bush administration scrambles to defuse the damage.
The Guardian carried three op-eds on the subject Thursday. In one, Vikram Dodd noted that while in the UK “the debate about photographs depicting abuse of Iraqi prisoners has centred on their authenticity … [i]n the US there are no doubts” about them. The piece goes on to argue that the abuse is not surprising precisely because it is “torture by the book,” according to tactics employed by the CIA dating back to Honduras in 1983. A second op-ed by Sidney Blumenthal expanded on this theme, arguing that “Bush has created what is in effect a gulag” that stretches “from prisons in Afghanistan to Iraq, from Guantánamo to secret CIA prisons around the world.” The third piece, a Guardian leader, suggested that the incidents at Abu Ghraib were not isolated but rather part of “a much wider system of degradation and torture which has been deliberately exported to Iraq with an imperial contempt for the coalition’s own proclaimed values.”
The Mirror ran a long news story about the British government’s promises to unearth the UK soldiers who appeared to have engaged in similar acts of prisoner abuse in Basra. The allegations were based on images the paper published last Saturday, which the Mirror reran Thursday with captions such as “Terrifying: Soldier Puts Gun to Prisoner’s Head.” The paper pledged to keep secret the identities of the sources who provided these images.
The Globe & Mailran a stern op-ed by a retired Canadian colonel, who argued that the breakdown in discipline was “lost … moral ground” for U.S. military leaders. “It is typical in such situations for the military to close ranks, jump-start an internal military justice system, swiftly punish a few guilty soldiers—and move the issue to the back burner.” The Malaysian Straits-Times called the acts “war crimes” and noted that “[t]he real war criminals are in the White House, but like the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, it will be the small fry who will become the fall guys for Abu Ghraib.”
The harshest critics pinned what happened in Abu Ghraib squarely on Bush. An op-ed in the Parisian Le Monde attacked his initial failure to apologize. Pakistan’s Dawn echoed those sentiments: “[T]he buck for what has happened in Abu Ghraib stops with George W. Bush.”