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May 9, 2004, 8:50 P.M.

Today Brian wrote again to add:

Dear Ed,

Sorry to be verbose, but I wanted to point out that from all appearances Bush, et al., have been taken to the woodshed by Jordan's king Abd'allah over the torture allegations.

You may recall that last month Abd'allah cancelled a planned trip to Washington over Bush's endorsement of Sharon's annexation plan in the West Bank. Now enter the Iraq torture scandal. As the scandal unfolds, Abd'allah meets with Bush for talks. Now I read in the press today (05/07/04) that Condoleezza Rice has scheduled a meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Qureia -- this month -- in Berlin. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the change in course that the planned meeting with Queria signifies is about 180 degrees out from what Bush was saying just a few weeks ago. This shows how damaged US policy is in the Middle East.

Take care,

Brian

US policy in the mid east has always been schizophrenic. The Rice meeting should be expected in light of the Likud vote against Sharon. Israel is seriously pushing the envelope with West Bank and Gaza settlements, the wall is going over like a lead balloon, and there is no end to the strike/retaliation warfare in sight. Now more than ever, the US needs to speak with a moderate and balanced voice. I don't expect the Bush administration to get it right, but there needs to be a more balanced approach than Bush showed in his support of Sharon. If this change in our government's posture is the result of pressure from Muslim and Arab states upset over the prisoner scandals, perhaps some good may come of this mess. Then again, that would presume that someone in the administration actually got the message. We shall see.

May 9, 2004, 8:05 P.M.

I received the following e-mail from reader Brian M. on Friday, in which he comments on my post on the Iraqi prison abuse scandal:

Dear Ed, I'd like to add my two cents to your commentary about tortured Iraqi prisoners.

I don't agree that the photographs are the reflection mere stupidity and brutality on the part of a few rogue soldiers. Looking at the subject matter of many of the photos, it appears to me that they are the result of command decisions which happen to be carried out by foot soldiers, which is a much more ominous sign than what's being reported in most media.

I do happen to know a little bit about Islamic culture, and it strikes me that these photographs would be particularly insulting to practitioners of Islam. In other words, people who very much knew what they were doing directed that these pictures taken.

From what I can understand, being called a "dog" in Islamic society is about the same as being called a mother****** in ours. Thus being photographed naked, prone and attached to a leash would be the height of insult. The average non-commissioned officer from Heartland America perpetrating these acts probably wouldn't know that. But intelligence people in command of the situation would.

Islam is a very modest religion when it comes to matters of sexuality. Masturbation is definitely frowned upon. Thus photos of naked men masturbating (that aspect was blurred out of the photos appearing in our media, but look carefully and you can see what's going on) are likewise highly offensive. Add a woman to the mix, pointing to the "action" with a big grin on her face -- is once again offensive to prevailing Islamis sexual mores -- and you have another outrage.

Likewise, homosexuality, particularly in the context of group sexuality among men, would be simply shameful. Indeed, many Muslims feel that even being photographed is unseemly. Thus these photographs are far beyond offensive.

What does all this add up to? My view is that these photos are used by intelligence officers and are probably presented to new prisoners with potential intelligence value upon capture. "Would you like to be photographed like this?" the new internee is asked by his interrogator. The internee's answer is, "I'll tell you everything you want to know. Just don't take my picture doing these things."

It might be effective intelligence practice, but by any standard this is an outrage of herculean proportions. I would be surprised indeed to find that this practice was simply the work of a couple of demented soldiers. This is something that people in positions of authority have dreamed up, and now our whole country is going to pay hell for it, I am sorry to predict.

To me, it is imperative that an honest investigation take place and those in positions of responsibility are held to account in a meaningful way. Some charade where the foot soldiers take the fall is simply not going to wash with either the Arab world or, probably, even with the Atlantic alliance with the exception of Tony Blair. Compensation and a formal apology to the victims should be made immediately. Mr. Rumsfeld and his underlings be sacked.

Thanks for allowing me to share my views,

Brian

I agree that the photographs reflect more than "mere stupidity and brutality on the part of a few rogue soldiers." In fact, my article says that. What is pretty clear is that the people who were in the pictures, and who took the pictures were not the people in charge. What is also clear is that the intelligence folks knew exactly what they were doing, and probably did suggest these methods of "softening up" prisoners. I also agree that a few foot soldiers should not take the fall for this mess. I do not, however think that this is the scandal that gets Rumsfeld. He did a great job in front of the senate, genuine or not, and I want to see where this investigation leads. There are plenty of good reasons for us to ask for Rumsfeld's head. This may not be one of them.


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