Those who favor the “lesser evil” of USA “interrogation” techniques in Iraq and elsewhere ignore its problematic history in America, & seem ignorant of a perverse pathology that allows the practice of torture, once begun, to spread uncontrollably, destroying the legitimacy of the perpetrator nation. In April 2004, the USA was stunned by photographs from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison showing hooded Iraqis stripped naked, posed in contorted positions, and visibly suffering humiliating abuse while U.S. soldiers stood by smiling. Donald Rumsfeld quickly assured Congress that the abuses were “perpetrated by a small number of U.S. military”. These photos, however, are snapshots not of simple brutality or even evidence of a breakdown in “military discipline.” What they record are CIA torture techniques that have metastasized like an undetected cancer inside the U.S. intelligence community over the past half century.
The danger we face is to assume that Americans could never be like Nazis, yet human beings are human beings and evil tends to be situational and conditional. It is foolish then, to think that Germans are a different species from the rest of us. Americans tend to think that totalitarianism, state directed murder, genocide and terror are things that only lie within the breast of those who live on the other side of a line drawn on a map. Children learn about those lines in school (or used to) and seem to think that they are set. Yet, anyone who ever looked at an historical atlas knows that these lines are never final. They are like the lines on one’s face. One may not notice them changing, but they are - daily - and like individuals, societies grow, mature, fade and die.
On a close inspection of the Middle East conflict, one cannot help but realise that a single process is in progress - to reshape the legacy of the Ottoman Empire in a manner conducive to the demands of the most influential powers in today’s world. Not only is Israel to be at the USA’s side in this, the events of the past ten years have shown that the USA is attempting to reorder the region to suit Israel’s interests. In this, both the Palestine liberation movements and the Iraqi resistance are the front line of defence against the American project of global hegemony and the Israeli project of regional hegemony. By their efforts, they have help to thwart USA-Israeli expansionist ambitions. Indeed, this role of the resistance is already being etched into the annals of history.
Britain’s capacity for mean and underhanded behaviour towards its former colonial subjects has never been in doubt, but last week saw an especially ugly example. Four years ago, the high court in London ruled that the former inhabitants of Diego Garcia and the other Chagos Islands, removed from their homeland between 1967 and 1973 to make way for a huge US air base, had been evicted illegally. It looked like an old injustice was finally on the way to being rectified ? but that depended on the British government obeying its own courts. Fat chance.
Linda S. Heard
The recent USA Supreme Court ruling questioning the legality of Camp Delta in Guantanamo, Cuba, giving detainees the right to challenge their incarceration and treatment in USA courts, could well spell the beginning of the end for this shameful detention centre. It has recently come to light that Tony Blair has repeatedly asked his USA counterpart to send the remaining British prisoners home, as Britain does not accept the premise that military tribunals is a just way forward. It, therefore, seems inconceivable that Britain would be involved with secret detentions, and rumoured torture, on its own territory of Diego Garcia, especially since it is a signatory to the International Criminal Court and various human rights treaties, while the USA is not. Yet the signs are that Britain is just as mired in the human rights scandal as the Americans.
Refusing to act in the service of our view of what is truly lawful changes not only the meaning of the law, but the meaning of our story, of our history. Our government lied to justify an aggressive war. It now appears likely that our government?s highest officials promulgated policies that resulted in the torture and killing of prisoners. If we fail to do everything in our power, consistent with our vision of lawfulness, to hold them to account, then even the meaning of Nuremberg will darken. Instead of being a step in the realization of a universal normative and legal vision, those trials so many years ago will look more like revenge killings of an emerging global superpower, bent on establishing a world in which it rules through force while standing above the law.
If the House of Saud held out any hope that the post-September 11, 2001, demonization of their kingdom was finally waning, then someone in Riyadh should pick up a copy of a recently published neo-conservative roadmap for “winning” the “war on terror”. In it, David Frum, an ex-speechwriter for President George W Bush (and inventor of the term “axis of evil"), and Richard Perle, the eminence grise of the neo-con fraternity, suggest that the United States should bring Saudi Arabia to heel by threatening to support independence for the country’s Eastern Province, where much of Saudi Arabia’s minority Shi’ite population and, coincidentally, most of its oil is situated.
Rami G. Khouri
So what matters, in the final analysis, the rule of law or the power of the gun? This question remains to be answered for many Arabs who grapple with the three major political challenges that define them and their world ? Iraq, Palestine and American plans for a wholesale reconfiguration of Arab political and economic systems. The interactions and contradictions among these issues bode ill for this region and, perhaps, also for American-Arab relations in the years to come. The fundamental dilemma is that the USA and Israel preach the need for the Arab world adopt the rule of law as a governing principle of society, but when they turn to the rule of law on a global scale to resolve the dispute over the separation wall that Israel is building, the rule of law suddenly becomes less relevant or appropriate.
Renato Redentor Constantino
And so here we are, at the crossroads of another day, speechless and troubled by what is before us, so anxious to engage in a conversation with what ought to be, and yet so unaware of or indifferent to a past waiting to explain itself, to be heard, to be remembered. “You have to understand the Arab mind,” said Captain Todd Brown, a USA company commander with the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq, who had led his troops in encasing Abu Hishma in a razor-wire fence to contain the resistance suspected to be coming from the village. “The only thing they understand is force.” Over a century ago, in a period of history that few Americans today can recall, another USA general uttered similar words.
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