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Sonia Nettnin: U.S. Humiliation, Global Community

U.S. Humiliation, Global Community

By Sonia Nettnin

Now that U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, here are some of the highlights. Afterward is a response to some of the statements made at Friday’s hearing.

The SASC stated they needed answers to three questions: “who knew what and when; what did they do about it; and why did they not inform Congress.” The central task was acquire the facts – no matter how embarrassing – and assess the response, “so that it never happens again.” An examination of the roles played by military personnel (the CIA, military intelligence, and military police) and contractors hired as prison interrogators, linguists and translators would determine accountability for the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib. The Taguba Report (a.k.a. 15-6 Report) was referenced throughout the six-minute-rounds of questions by each committee member. It was prepared by Major General Antonio M. Taguba. According to Rumsfeld, it was this classified report that was given to the press.

Rumsfeld opened with this statement: “It occurred on my watch…I take full responsibility…I feel terrible about what happened to these detainees.” After his apology, he stated the abused was “inconsistent with our teachings” and that it was “fundamentally un-American.” Beyond the abuses of prisoners, pictures of physical abuses and videos of sadistic abuse were in existence.

In his conclusion, Rumsfeld said the scandal is surrounded by “people who resent and hate us,” even though Americans have “great ideas and beliefs that made this nation a beacon of hope.”

While in U.S. custody, more than 2,000 people have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over 300,000 U.S. troops are deployed in over 120 countries across the world; and the majority of them are in Iraq and Afghanistan. References to a post 09/11 culture were mentioned in the hearing, as if it was one explanation behind the U.S. soldiers’ behavior.

Since March 2003, the International Committee of the Red Cross issued reports about prison abuse to U.S. government officials. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia asked why the president was “publicly condemning” these abuses, when the defense department knew about it for months. He mentioned the Red Cross reports and wanted to know why they were shelved by top U.S. officials. Byrd expressed that the Bush Administration has shown arrogance and disdain for Congress and it has a misplaced bravado, full of finger pointing and abuses.

“There’s a report over there on the floor,” Rumsfeld said in his response. “It’s two-feet high.” When Byrd asked Rumsfeld if he read it, Rumsfeld responded: “I’ve read the executive summary, which is 50-75 pages.” Later in the hearing, Rumsfeld said: “I have the report somewhere here.”

Were these statements a demonstration of Rumfeld’s ineptness or was it an act?

Upon receipt of the information about prison abuses, U.S. Central Command communicated there were allegations of abuse (01/14/04).

During questioning, Senator Susan Collin’s response to Rumsfeld’s statement: “I’m not talking about issuing a press release in Baghdad but coming out to the world…” in a “disclosure of the abuse and promise to take those actions…” instead of “…calling CBS and asking for a delay in showing the photos…” which Senator Ed Kennedy described as the Bush Administration’s media preparations. For the past three weeks, Rumsfeld and top department officials had been planning a presentation for public relations.

With a raised voice, Rumsfeld replied to Collin: “We live in an information age, where people are running around with digital cameras, taking pictures and giving them to the media,” he said. Are the digital cameras responsible for the 27 contractors running around Abu Ghraib with free access to the prisoners? Two of the contractors are under investigation by the Military Intelligence Brigade. Are “caught on camera” snapshots such a terrible thing when it exposed the U.S. occupation’s ongoing wanton criminal abuses?

U.S. Involvement in the Middle East

Abu Ghraib is not an isolated incident. It is one cycle in a series of atrocities, which contributes to the Middle East’s collective resentment toward the U.S. The region has a history of colonialism and part of the root-cause for the occupations is oil. Rashid Khalidi’s “Resurrecting Empire” details it. The U.S. obsession with Islam as a fundamentalist religion against democracy is used as a weapon of mass distortion, so that fear and frenzy pervade the American collective consciousness. I came to this conclusion after I read Gilles Kepel’s “Jihad The Trail of Political Islam.” The U.S. and Europe have demonstrated that the lives of the Arab people are secondary to the West’s control of the region. A decade of UN and U.S. sanctions in Iraq has left millions of Iraqis dead; or they live their lives in a slow death. If the Iraqis were not allowed to have chlorine for water purification, how could they prevent the death of their children?

Senator Byrd asked the question: how can we make the Iraqi people see we are not conquerors but liberators after the scandal? If the Iraqi people do not have stable electricity, what liberation has entered their lives? The U.S. unilateral invasion of Iraq alienated it from the global community. Soon after the war broke out, a reliable source stated that in Amman, Jordanian police caught Fox News journalists smuggling crates of museum artifacts out of Iraq. Why should Iraqis believe in just punishment when nothing happened to the people who robbed them of their culture?

Furthermore, the U.S.-support of Israel in the Israel-Palestine conflict has further humiliated the people in the region. Naseer H. Aruri’s “Dishonest Broker,” explains every nuance of the U.S.-Israel relationship over time. The phrase “now the desert has bloomed,” resonates with terror…amnesia-via-Zionism erases from the collective memory millions of olive trees nurtured for centuries by the indigenous people of land, the Palestinians. Israel’s hand razes away trees and people with bulldozers. The Palestine Monitor reports some of them (the trees) have been auctioned off to Israeli settlers. Now Israel builds a concrete wall, 25-ft high with limited gates and keys to lock away the indigenous people in canton prisons.

What would make the Arab people ever think the U.S. does not value Palestinian lives when they are murdered every day?

If the hearings are about the scandal’s resolution, then expose all aspects of scandalous, egregious behavior in the region. The U.S. wants security and so do the people of the Middle East. Americans have more shared values than differences with the people of Middle East. The U.S. South is the heart of the Christian belt. If Christianity promotes dignity and respect, then Christians should have a series of interfaith dialogs with the diverse people who are the Middle East. The conversations should not be about “textualization,” which denotes religious conversion in the U.S. Christian belt. The objective should be discourse for global awareness, because the desire for peace is overwhelming.

The policies developed by U.S.-funded think tanks must abandon the mindset of the tank. The citizens of the world are the source for change. Peace bridges the rift between people – “herstory” is the heart of world preservation.

The reality is the bridge is on fire.


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