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The President, his top aides, and members of Congress seemed to be delusional. They said that Iraqis would want the United States military to occupy their country, drop 500-pound bombs on their homes, and allow their country to be used as a cash cow for Halliburton and other corporations. It was hard to understand how they came to believe such irrational ideas.

Click for view of larger & printable version of cartoon.

The answer to the mystery is actually less complicated than it seemed. The cheerleaders for war don’t believe that Iraqis are human beings. If the Iraqis have no humanity then one can believe anything about them that is convenient. Of course Iraqis have feelings of pride for themselves and for their nation. The media may tell us that “insurgents” have taken up arms against the U.S. military, but in fact many ordinary citizens have decided to defend their country for the simple reason that they don’t want to be an American colony.

The sickening revelations of the torture, abuse and humiliation of detainees is the most extreme example of the dehumanizing of the Iraqis at the hands of the United States. Six soldiers face charges including, “indecent acts, for ordering detainees to publicly masturbate; maltreatment, for non-physical abuse, piling inmates into nude pyramids and taking pictures of them nude; battery, for shoving and stepping on detainees; dereliction of duty; and conspiracy to maltreat detainees.”

Still-video images of the torture have been broadcast by CBS and the BBC. They have also been published worldwide. The images below were published by

Images Copyright CBS News: Reprinted for Fair Use

Prisoner on box with wires attatched to his hands

Soldiers grin behind the pyramid of captives

Iraqi PoWs are forced to parade before their jeering captors

Woman soldier points at genitals of hooded and naked Iraqis

The Bush administration couldn’t manage to apologize or in any way demonstrate concern for the effect of the awful images on world opinion. The President felt “disgust.” Even someone with his sub par abilities knew that something else was needed but he could only manage to say, “I didn’t like it one bit.” Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt sounded as though he was talking about misbehaving boy scouts at summer camp. “Every day, we love our soldiers, but frankly, some days we're not always proud of our soldiers."

As usual Senator John Kerry felt compelled to be more inept than President Bush.

“I am disturbed and troubled by the evidence of shameful mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners. We must learn the facts and take the appropriate action. As Americans, we must stand tall for the rule of law and freedom everywhere. But we cannot let the actions of a few overshadow the tremendous good work that thousands of soldiers are doing every day in Iraq and all over the world.” 

Bush is disgusted and Kerry is disturbed. The two are having a platitude contest while the Iraqis seethe at this display of American terrorism. Kerry should realize that the Arab and Muslim world won’t care about the “good work” of American soldiers after seeing these images that bring shame to an honor based culture.

It is not comforting to know that low level soldiers may be court marshaled. Such measures are a cheap fix that only add an insult to the injury. It is easy to punish a few soldiers but it is hard to explain that thousands of Iraqis have died so that the U.S. can have easy access to oil and make corporate interests wealthier. Some of those corporate contractors were responsible for interrogating the Iraqi prisoners but they cannot be charged because they are beyond the reach of military law.

The abuse of Iraqi prisoners was inevitable. The plan to invade Iraq presupposed that its people are inferior and unworthy of thought or consideration. Of course they have been tortured. It isn’t possible to lie about imminent terror threats, weapons of mass destruction, and links to al-Qaeda and then become righteous and treat Iraqi civilians with any dignity.

America’s political leaders have learned nothing from past experience and the American people are too often apathetic, happy to be ignorant, or glad to see someone else suffering at their hands. It is sad and terrifying that Americans are so incapable of empathy and knowledge of people in other parts of the world. The Vietnamese didn’t want foreign troops in their country and were willing to fight and die to get them out. Thirty years later Iraqis don’t want foreign troops in their country and are willing to fight and die to get them out. The Vietnamese were also regarded as less than human. We were told they didn’t have the same reverence for life. We are now told that Arabs are crazed and illogical and that Islam is a religion that encourages terrorism. It is easy to first demonize and then torture people who have been labeled as crazy followers of an evil religion.

The prisoner abuse revelations came on the heels of Israel’s extra judicial killings of Hamas leaders Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi. Even Jordan’s King Abdullah, who depends on aid from Washington, could not conduct photo op business as usual after Washington gave Israel permission to break the rules of international law and murder its opponents. No amount of shuttle diplomacy by the already discredited Colin Powell can placate the Arab world after the United States government has dispensed collective humiliation to leaders who were once our allies.

If pictures are worth 1,000 words we should no longer hear the clueless question, “Why do they hate us?” Americans are hated because we want to control and dominate, which always leads to killing, stealing or helping others who want to do the same thing. They hate us because we say we want to free a country from the grip of an evil dictator when we really want to take a nation’s resources and turn it into a military base. They hate us because it is inevitable that the theft and destruction will lead to using the dictator’s torture chambers for our own torture sessions. They hate us because after we kill and destroy we ask stupid questions as if we were innocent.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in .  Ms. Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City.  She can be reached via e-Mail at [email protected]. You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at



May 6 2004
Issue 89

is published every Thursday.

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