G�day. Tonight, your reaction to the sadism photos, including a piece by Webdiary columnistNoel Hadjimichael. Dell Horey recommends Poll: Iraqis out of patience, and notes that �it came out BEFORE the awful news about the treatment of Iraqi prisoners became known. I hate to think what is going to happen when those photos are shown in the Middle East�:
Only a third of the Iraqi people now believe that the American-led occupation of their country is doing more good than harm, and a solid majority support an immediate military pullout even though they fear that could put them in greater danger, according to a new USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll.
We�re torturing people here, too. See the court judgement about Iranian asylum seeker Mastipour.
A reminder that the North Shore Peace and Democracy Group�s forum Secrets and lies destroy democracy: the impact of decisions behind closed doors on democracy in Australia is on Monday at the Willoughby Town Hall. Speakers are Kevin Rudd MHR (Labor), Senator Marise Payne (Liberal), Senator Kerry Nettle (Greens) and Senator Aden Ridgeway (Democrats). The questions to be asked are:
1. We were told the invasion of Iraq was necessary because of Saddam�s weapons of mass destruction. �If Iraq had genuinely disarmed, I couldn�t justify on its own a military invasion of Iraq to change the regime� � John Howard, 14 March 2003. How can we trust future justifications for war in the light of what we now know?
2. There has been little informed democratic debate in Australia about the causes of terrorism � in particular Israel�s occupation of Palestine. The War on Terror cannot succeed by dealing with the symptoms alone. How can Australia work to address the causes?
3. Does a request for support from the US automatically and always pre-empt Australian policy and budgets at the expense of education, health and welfare, and if not, how should we decide which requests to refuse?
4. The present rigid control of Australian political parties over members effectively hijacks much of the decision-making process from open debate in the parliamentary chambers to behind the closed doors of party rooms, and is more coercive than in the US and UK. Why should this be permitted?
5. Australians are very cynical about the political process, and the extent to which secrecy and falsehood are used to justify policy decisions. How can our faith in the system be restored?
I am utterly repelled by the photographs and reports of treatment of Iraqi prisoners by US troops. Iraqi people are generally modest and shy people so it is hard to imagine how humiliated they must be by being photographed as part of a pile of naked bodies and jeered at by their captors. What else is the US army doing to its prisoners?
Time to win the public relations war before it’s too late
by Noel Hadjimichael
Photos of US service personnel allegedly humiliating, mistreating or abusing prisoners in their care will severely damage the moral and political claims of the coalition of the willing.
Regardless of the technical arguments about conventions over prisoner welfare, the role of US personnel in prison management or the need to retain large numbers of prisoners in sub-standard facilities, the war of images between good and evil has swung against the Americans for the first time.
Passionate believers in the benefit of ridding Iraq of the despotic Saddam regime, such as myself, are appalled by the image of gun-happy US military tourists treating ‘lesser breeds’ like this.
This must be disowned by the US military and its leadership. This sorry event must also be disowned by the political players so keen to ensure that we get the job done.
Those killed in the fighting, thankfully no Australian, will be forgotten if the occupation of Iraq is allowed to take on soap opera overtones. The sacrifices of coalition forces will be for nothing if the wider world and in particular the Islamic world believe that Americans are culturally insensitive and overtly arrogant in this endeavour.
Conservatives and social democrats who support the war demand the highest standards of professional soldiering. The pictures released to the media of smiling and arrogant occupiers will do more damage than any flash oil deal or convenient political outcome.
Voters from the mainstream don�t expect unsullied heroes in our military forces. But they do expect self-restraint and good common sense judgment. Professionalism is not a luxury but a benchmark standard.
If we can restructure Germany after the World War with financial aid and de-nazification, surely we can give Iraq a fresh start. Swift and substantial action by the relevant authorities on these outrageous allegations of prisoner mistreatment will do much to restore the moral and political case for intervention, invasion and reconstruction.
Iraq is not the next Vietnam but akin to 1946 Germany/Austria. We have occupation and resistance. We have ideological enemies and friends. Fortunately we have no carve up of the Iraqi nation into warring localities backed by different political occupiers.
I’m concerned over the deterioration of Webdiary lately. It seems to me that the days of intelligent debate and commentary on your site are over. Why? I’m not referring to spelling errors but rather to the quality and diversity of analysis. Your site seems to have become that of a leftie, Latham cheerleading squad (which is surprising given that two-stroke is no more a leftie than little Johnny).
“I’m still trying to breathe after seeing on Lateline the photos of American soldiers smiling as they pose with tortured Iraqi prisoners, if torture is the word for the horror.”
Surely you must have considered the possibility that, if psychopaths constitute between 1 and 5% of the male population worldwide, then there must logically be a similar percentage of psychopaths in the volunteer US military. They will be subject to court martial and severe punishment for their crimes, if that makes you feel any better.
“The images are out of a Caligula movie.” A Caligula movie? I thought there was only one!
“The world has gone to hell. George Bush’s war on Iraq will haunt all our lives. I recant my objections to Latham’s policy. Out now! There must be a better way, there must be.”
Out now, and leave the long-suffering Iraqi people to their fate: either total anarchy or oppression by a brutal Islamofascist regime. Is that really what you want?
“We must find leaders fast, real fast.” What sort of person do you think wants to be a “leader” anyway? Think about it. I’d bet the proportion of psychopaths is far higher in that category than in the general population.
Just a reality-check, Margo
Why recant your objections to the early removal of Australian troops in Iraq? You are saying that your attitude to Australia’s ongoing commitment in Iraq has changed because of the disgraceful actions of individuals. It is not the policy of any government in the coalition to mistreat Iraqi prisoners, and now caught those responsible are to be tried. (Margo: Oh really? See Accused in POW scandal, soldier tells of questions. Is reckless indifference a policy?)
The actions have quite rightly been condemned by the Prime Minister and I have not heard one word in support of the mistreatment. That you now think the troops should leave is akin to thinking jails should be abolished because there are instances of prisoner abuse by guards.
I read Webdiary often and rarely agree with you or many of your correspondents. That is OK with me; however I get really irritated by the articles full of emotion and a lack of pragmatism.
Harry Heidelberg in Switzerland
I totally agree with you that the world has gone to hell. It is yet another reminder of the evil that comes out of every war – on both sides. Oh and I am not self-conscious/embarrassed about using the word evil. Treating prisoners like that is evil. There is no point in using a more fashionable or lighter word.
Not everything in the world is bad though What is happening in Europe today and tomorrow is a miracle. Communism and fascism left deep scars on this continent. War has never been far. Even this is forgotten. Tomorrow 10 new countries join the union. A union united in diversity. 75 million join the union to make a total of 450 million. A union of countries committed to peace and democracy.
It is easy to be a cynic. Skepticism is cheap and comes for free. Hope requires commitment and hard work. Are wars in Europe long ago? No.
This time last week I was in Paris with two of our Swiss based employees. One was a French speaking Swiss and the other a Swiss citizen who grew up in Serbia. At 18 he was stabbed 8 times as part of the war. It was possible he could have died. He spent 6 months in hospital and thought a lot about the rest of his life. His parents wanted to get him out because they feared he would end up dead.
There were two possibilities, the Czech Republic or Switzerland. He arrived in Geneva speaking only Serbian. He learnt French and English and won a prize in accounting at the university in Geneva. His fourth child was born on Tuesday this week.He is married to an Italian. I gave him a job here last year. He is young, successful and a victim of war in Europe. He’s in his 20s.
EU expansion is a very hopeful thing.
Peter Funnell in Canberra
The treatment of Iraqi prisoners, no matter what they might have done or were suspected of doing, is beyond appalling. This was sadistic sport. It implicated every nation that is involved in this awful war. We are shamed beyond words.
It would have been better if they had fallen on the field of battle. But once captured, they were in our care. Every well trained soldier understands this. It is the very bottom of human conduct to assault and abuse people in custody.
That it has happened in Iraq at all is just amazing. Wouldn’t you think they would have the good sense to see that anyone they captured in battle was likely to be released back into the community, just as all the former Iraqi soldiers who fought in some capacity during the original invasion?
Honestly, the US Government and military couldn’t be trusted to run a chook raffle. They’d endanger the chooks!
The US General in charge in Iraq asks that we do not judge the whole of the US Army by these rotten incidents. Wrong general! That is exactly what we should do!
There have been several video sequences of the US troops in action on TV which I have found very disturbing. The manner in which they have treated Iraqi citizens is disgraceful and ensures they make enemies at every turn in a country that understands retribution as a form of conflict resolution.
It indicates poor training and at times, a lack of effective rules of engagement. Shoot first; ask questions later are what the US military does best. This is beyond them.
It is reminiscent of all the dreadful images that came out of Vietnam at its worst. Has the General forgotten the prisoners incarcerated at the US base in Cuba? It is hard to know what to call them, as the US Supreme Court is finding out. But there they are languishing in appalling circumstances and are treated to any handling that their jailers feel appropriate completely out of view of the international community. The standard of treatment is now well established as illegal and inhumane.
General, your army and your government is in complete accord with the fools that abused Iraqi prisoners and posed for the happy snaps. Your bloody army is well and truly out of control in a situation that is getting well and truly out of control and beyond your ability to contain. Discipline is shot to pieces. In these circumstances, the excesses will only increase, as will the grotesque nature of the retaliations.
The situation is a direct reflection of two things – the attitude and values of the US Government and its troops, and the miserable level of training and discipline of significant number US troops on operations, the majority of whom is now National Guard. You think these troops don’t reflect your leadership and that of your subordinate commanders, and most particularly, your society?
General, you are going the right way to lose this conflict. Everything, including the professionalism of your troops is against you. Australians have bitter experience of our soldiers, sailors and airmen being taken prisoner in war. Many were treated as appallingly as some seem to be in Iraq or Guantanamo Bay. I have not met one Australian ex-prisoner of war who would endorse this corrupt human behaviour and I have met a few of them, among them including my father (Japanese POW /Changi/Burma railway).
We had no business going to war and we must now get out as soon as possible. The suggestion that because we broke it we own it is rubbish. The Iraqis don’t see it that way. They want us out and unless we go they will fight on.