Take us to your leader®. Then take us to your reader®.
How it works? [Click here]
Who we are
Our Agenda

Latest News
Good & Bad News

101 Palestinian History
Link & Resources
The Valley Galleria
nileMedia Reader

Join US
Contact Us

June 14, 2004
The Crusader Prison at Abu Ghraib

By Louis Farshee


The Crusader Prison at Abu Ghraib
By Louis Farshee

In the weeks leading to the US invasion of Iraq the Bush Administration promised that American military might would deliver nothing less than a demonstration of Shock and Awe to Saddam Hussein and his regime. Once that promise was fulfilled a different kind of Shock and Awe was delivered to the world in the form of photographic and testimonial evidence of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.

Excluding the 33 percent of the American populace that supports torture of prisoners (ABC Poll), there has been an increasing outcry from other quarters. Among the questions posed is why did it happen? The answer begins at the time of the invasion of Iraq when violations of international law converged with contempt for rules of basic human decency. The result was the abuse of Iraqi (and other) prisoners by certain US military, intelligence and mercenary personnel.

Those abuses happened because U.S. Defense Department policy-makers, military commanders in charge of Abu Ghraib and/or interrogators, implicitly or explicitly, permitted them to occur. If there is not a field manual titled Abusing Iraqi Prisoners sufficient memoranda is surfacing to indicate it is a work in progress. Yet, this explanation remains incomplete because inculcation for the types of unsavory and illegal conduct under investigation has far more insidious and subtle roots. Those roots might include factors such as anti-Islamic religious prejudice, fraudulent or inaccurate scholarship and anti-Arab racism.

Anti-Islamic religious prejudice is found among certain Western Christians who believe they are members of a superior institutional religion. Illusions of this type are traceable in history back to at least the 11th Century Crusades when western Christians invaded the Middle East. These Christians contrast their version of Christianity with Islam which they define as a false religion that foments terrorism and anti-Christian sentiment. Because they believe they are first in the eyes of God they have a duty to fight Islam or demand en-masse conversion of Muslims to Christianity or resort to an often heard contemporary formula, "kill them all and let God sort them out." Perspectives founded in medieval Christian supremacy are expressed today in colorful and sometimes not-so-subtle variations by Christian Evangelicals such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham. Each has taken his turn at vilifying Islam and its founder.

Among high-profile non-clergy Christian Evangelicals is Lt. General William Boykin. He has publicly stated that his God is superior to that of Muslims and characterized the "war on terrorism" as a battle with Satan. The reason America has been targeted, General Boykin has asserted, is because "we're a Christian nation." Bear in mind that General Boykin is not some lose-cannon renegade exercising his right to free speech, but military assistant to Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, Stephen Cambone. Boykin allegedly made recommendations to the Pentagon in the summer of 2003 on interrogation methods to "soften-up" Iraqi "detainees," a charge denied by the Pentagon (Hersh). When called on to reassign General Boykin, George Bush refused to do so, possibly because his public disapproval of Boykin's views could cost Bush support from Christian Evangelicals for whom Boykin is considered to be a Crusader-general.

These 21st Century Crusaders allege they participate in two-way conversations with God and view their version of Christianity as exclusive personal property. It is their key to paradise through fulfillment of their interpretation of Biblical writ and prophecy. This notion is so wide spread among an estimated 70 million US Evangelical Christians that it has emerged as an industry unto itself. Books, television channels, films and other forms of mass communication and entertainment are dedicated to a theology of intolerance and hate that places Evangelical-Christians at the top of God's hierarchy of the elect excluding all others, non-Evangelical Christians, Muslims, Jews or whatever.

Brutality founded in medieval religious thought fostered slaughter of an estimated 60,000 Jews, Eastern Christians and Muslims when Jerusalem fell to the Crusader siege in July 1099. Crimes of that period recorded by Crusader and Arab chroniclers include cannibalism practiced by Crusader forces who roasted and dined on human flesh. This nasty aspect of history is overlooked or ignored by the west but has not been forgotten by those who populate the Middle East today (Maalouf, Chapter 3).

If one thinks corrupt Biblical interpretation is not a powerful influence in social and religious thought consider the myth recorded in the Book of Genesis that people with black skin are descendants of Ham, the youngest son of Noah. According to this tradition, Ham saw his drunken father sleeping naked and was cursed when the old patriarch awoke and heard of this. The curse visited upon Ham and his descendants was to have their skin blackened. Therefore, despising those with black skin is merely following in the footsteps of God's condemnation. This contention has existed for centuries and was condemned by the father of historiography, Ibn Khaldun. Writing in 1377 he observed that "no reference is made there to blackness" in the Biblical story (Ibn Khaldun p. 59).

Among some critics of Islam is a much favored "gotcha" of selectively quoting certain passages from the Koran as evidence of Islam's unsavory if not satanic foundations and teachings. But, selective quotations of scriptures work both ways. For example, if one looks in the Bible for fulfillment of God's plans and promises through incest it is in Genesis 19: 30-38; and God-sanctioned military invasion, property theft and genocide appears throughout the Book of Joshua. If all Muslims can be condemned by quoting isolated verses from the Koran, why is it not appropriate to condemn all Christians in the same manner by quoting isolated verses from the Bible?

Because there are almost two dozen countries where some form of the Arabic language is spoken it is typical in popular reductive thought to combine multiple cultural and religious groups into an abstract collective noun such as, "the Arabs." The only true Arabs were those from early Arabia (today Saudi Arabia) having long since mixed with other races and no longer existing in a pure racial sense. The Arabic speaking people of North Africa, from Morocco to Egypt, were not generally referred to as Arabs until after 1945. They are no more genetically related to the Arabic speaking people of the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories) than any other diverse racial groups (Glubb). Yet, in the world of fraudulent scholarship all three-hundred million people who speak the Arabic language are defined and stereotyped as "the Arabs."

In the field of fraudulent scholarship is a work titled The Arab Mind (Patai). The title alone reveals its spurious perspective by use of the definite article, The. This book is used by certain instructors to indoctrinate military personnel for deployment to Arabic speaking countries. Its premises, described by Edward Said as racist, and by other scholars as 19th Century thinking, are that the only thing ALL Arabs understand is force and ALL Arabs are sexually dysfunctional because of their culture of personal modesty (Said; Hersh). One can only imagine the condemnation that would erupt from "conservatives" if a text titled The American Mind was used to indoctrinate Arabs about Americans.

Next-of-kin to fraudulent scholarship is inaccurate discourse. A recent example appeared in the New York Times titled "From Ancient Greece to Iraq, the Power of Words in Wartime." In the body of the article the author, "a linguistics professor at the University of California," wrote "The war in Iraq has added new examples [of nicknames given the enemy. Some American soldiers refer to the Iraqis as ‘hadjiis (sic),' used in a derogatory way, apparently unaware that the word, which comes from the Arabic term for a pilgrimage to Mecca, is used as a term of respect for older Muslim men" (Lakoff).

This definition is narrow and inaccurate. The Arabic noun hajji (masculine singular) is derived from the root verb, hajjuh, which is, to visit a holy place. This may be any place holy to any religion (or religions in the case of Jerusalem) and would include but not be limited to Bethlehem, Nazareth, Karbala, Mecca, Lumbini, (birthplace of the Buddha), and the Golden Temple of the Sikhs at Amritsar. Although the pilgrimage to Mecca, the hajj, is the name of the Fifth Pillar of Islam, this is not its exclusive meaning. As for using the word hajjis, "as a term of respect for older Muslim men," this is inaccurate. In Islamic usage hajji is a title of respect used only if a man, young or old, has made the pilgrimage to Mecca (there are also singular and plural feminine forms of hajj).

When formulas for military and political inculcation mix errant Christian fanaticism, fraudulent scholarship, inaccurate discourse and racism a noxious elixir is created and its results are apparent in the graphic photographs of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. Suggesting that better military command control or better training will prevent its reoccurrence during the "war on terror" or at any time in the future is wishful thinking at best. The core of the answer to, how did it happen, is found in the motives of those who foment conflict and exploit racial and religious bigotry as a means to an end. If 11th Century mentality continues to be utilized by 21st Century Crusaders they will ignite resistance from their victims. It took several centuries to expel the medieval Crusaders from the Middle East and it might take that long again but the people who live there today will not sit passively and consent to being trampled or cannibalized.

Louis Farshee is an independent businessman and free-lance writer living in the US Pacific Northwest. He can be contacted at lfarshee@easystreet.com

ABC News/Washington Post Poll conducted May 20-23, 2004.
John Bagot Glubb. 2001. The Life and Times of Mohamed. New York: Cooper Square Press.
Seymour M. Hersh. 2004. "How a secret Pentagon program came to Abu Ghraib." The New Yorker. May 24.
Ibn Khaldun. 1967. The Muqaddimah. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Franz Rosenthal translation abridged and edited by N. J. Dawood.
Robin Tolmach Lakoff. 2004. "From Ancient Greece to Iraq, the Power of Words in Wartime." New York Times, May 18.
Amin Maalouf. 1983. The Crusades Through Arab Eyes. London: Saqi Books. Translated by Jon Rothschild.
Raphael Patai. 1973. The Arab Mind. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
Edward W. Said. 1979. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books.

Want to help spread quality independent journalism?
Donate to NileMedia and watch us grow.

Friend's Name: 
Friend's E-mail: 
Your Name: