"Iraqis shall covet the day when Saddam or someone like him is back in
power," declared a colleague of mine in a dissolute coffee shop in some Arab
capital. I quivered at the cruel sound of his words, yet held my peace.
It was not the first, nor will it be the last time that such an unsettling
prophecy is infused. But I still remember the first time I heard it. It was on
television, nearly a year ago. "Those who are living the fantasy of American
liberation shall cry tears of blood when they wake up to the horrifying new
reality. They shall regret the day they cheered for the toppling of the
statue," declared an Iraqi man. Behind him stood a jubilant crowd, as a small
mob of Iraqis jumped atop a freshly disjoined stone head of the former Iraqi
It was not long before the "new reality" struck hard. The Americans were no
liberators after all. They are as unruly, as self-seeking. In the "new
Iraq", only the victims retained their status. All that really changed was the
identity of the oppressor. The sword has simply changed hands. That's all.
"Everyone in the company from the commander down" knew what was going on in
Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, said Lyndie England, an American soldier, famed
by her villainous photo appearances, laughing and smoking beside naked male
According to a Los Angeles Times report, citing soldiers' testimonies, the
CIA, military intelligence and army commanders were all involved in the making
of the Abu Ghraib torture gala. Sgt. Javal Davis, one of the seven members of
the 372nd Military Police Company (one of the few designated scapegoats for
the crime of torture of Iraqi prisoners) described the death of an Iraqi man,
interrogated with a sandbag covering his head. "He wasn't dead at first. We
didn't know how much he was injured. He went into the showers — where
prisoners were stripped naked and shackled into the wall, and about an hour
later he died on them. After he passed (away), the sandbag was removed and I saw
he was severely beaten on his face." And while England's lover would
"stitch up detainees" himself to "take picture of his work", photos of
tortured Iraqi prisoners were "shown to everyone who wanted to see them."
In a private Pentagon showing of hundreds of photos of tortured Iraqi men and
women in Washington, Sen. Richard Durbin said what he has seen was "like
looking at one of the rings of hell, and it's a ring of hell of our own
creation." The unpublished images reportedly showed Iraqi women forced to
expose their bodies, men forced to masturbate in groups. England said soldiers
"thought it was funny."
What is comical, in fact, is justifying the horror stories of Abu Ghraib,
claiming that they are the making of a few "bad apples", who don't
represent or reflect the "spirit of America" and the noble causes it stands
for. Are we expected to believe the war party this time, like many of us so
guilelessly did in the past? If we do, then we subscribe to dodgy and ruthless
Starving Iraqis for ten years was a price worth paying to "contain" Saddam
Reducing entire Afghani villages to rubble was a first blow to our enemy in our
"war on terror".
The killing in cold blood of hundreds of captives at the Kunduz fortress in
Afghanistan in November 2001 was the sight of "America fighting back."
One need not stare too long at a copy of the Forth Geneva Convention to see the
words "war crime" dotting the American-made tragedy that has engulfed Iraq.
The killings in Fallujah, Karbala, Najaf, and Baghdad are war crimes; seizing
control of Iraq's wealth and dividing the spoils among the highest bidders is
a war crime; the use of cluster bombs against civilian areas is a war crime; the
humiliation and torture of prisoners is a war crime. The occupation, in itself,
is a war crime.
The antipathy created by the US-made tragedy in Iraq will define the fate of
that country for years, I am afraid. Equally disheartening is the lamentation
over the "good old days" of Saddam Hussein, a brutal legacy that compels no
words. But Iraqis must not be pushed to the brink of defining their future based
on the level of brutality of their oppressors. However, if Iraqis are to
maintain their self-esteem, the American menace must go. Iraqis must not reach
the day where they "cry tears of blood" over the absence of Saddam. They
deserve better, they deserve some peace, some dignity.
Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian-American journalist.