- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2004

The rush to “apologize” and sound contrite about the alleged brutalities at Abu Ghraib prison, starting with President George W. Bush’s rush to Arab television and followed by congressional hearings, has primarily elevated the scandal into what the world now considers a national policy.

Ideological critics cannot be appeased, they must be confronted and beaten back. Attempts to appease only result in more demands, which now run from firing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to reparations for the Abu Ghraib detainees.

Of course, what the critics really want is for the United States to cut and run from Iraq, while acknowledging the moral superiority of the United Nations.

That media outlets, partisan politicians and left-wing activists here and overseas would twist whatever was said by the administration so as to undermine support for the war should have been expected. Much of what President Bush said was never reported, and there has been a steady evolution in press terminology from the “mistreatment” and “abuse” of prisoners toward “torture” and “atrocities.”

The scandalous behavior seems to be what Army investigators discovered months ago; the aberrant antics of a few undisciplined, half-trained reservists thrown into the pressure cooker of a prison filled with enemy combatants.

Antiwar critics, however, are eager to expand the scope of the investigation to cover all interrogation techniques. There has long been a steady drumbeat from the left about how al Qaeda terrorists have been treated at Guantanamo Bay. Only Mr. Rumsfeld has had the courage to defend the need to extract information from prisoners.

A variety of pressure techniques are needed against hard-core fanatics who will not willingly cooperate, but who know things upon which the lives of hundreds, even thousands, of Americans depend. The enemy has pledged to stage attacks that kill and main the maximum number of people, whether it by car bombs in Iraq or airliners slamming into the World Trade Center. Didn’t the last “firestorm” of criticism and public hearing aimed at the White House involve the charge not enough had been done to uncover and prevent the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed 3,000 people?

The intelligence community has opted for “humiliation” and miserable living conditions as more humane alternatives to the kind of physical torture commonly used by most governments — including those in the Middle East.

The French used electric shock followed by summary executions to break urban terrorism in Algeria in the 1950s. North Vietnam inflicted savage beatings on American pilots, hundreds of whom then “disappeared.” There were the “rape rooms,” wood chippers, and other true atrocities committed in Iraq to suppress dissent under Saddam Hussein.

During their joint press conference on May 6, President Bush apologized to King Abdullah II of Jordan for “the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners.” There was a surreal quality about this encounter. In April, Jordanian authorities smashed a plot to set off a massive toxic-laced bomb at the General Intelligence building in the capital of Amman that could have killed up to 80,000 people, virtually all Muslims. Such an attack would have been the largest use of a chemical weapon of mass destruction in history. The militants reportedly also planned to strike other buildings in Amman, including the U.S. Embassy.

On April 30, Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi released an audiotape on which he claimed responsibility for hatching the plot. Al-Zarqawi is the same terrorist whom the CIA has identified as having personally decapitated American civilian Nick Berg in Iraq.

Al-Zarqawi said on his taped message the Jordanian intelligence HQ had been targeted because it was the “Arabs’ Guantanamo.” He said the HQ housed a “big database used by the enemy of Islam to track down holy warriors,” and that his captured agents had been tortured into revealing the details of the plot. One can only imagine the methods of the Jordan secret police in their interrogations. It is safe to assume they far exceeded the methods used by U.S. intelligence or military police officers at Abu Ghraib, even the unauthorized “mistreatment” of prisoners by the miscreants who have so embarrassed the United States.

Do the ends justify the means? That’s the question that must always be asked. In the Jordanian case, the answer is yes. In Saddam’s case, the answer is no. Making the proper distinctions is essential, as is keeping events in perspective. Unfortunately, the American media-political culture is not good at either task.

In his appearances on Al Arabiya television, President Bush tried to remind the audience what had brought U.S. troops to Iraq. “Saddam Hussein had constantly defied the world and had threatened his neighbors, had used weapons of mass destruction, had terrorist ties, had torture chambers inside his country, had mass graves.” Unfortunately, Mr. Bush did not go further and connect the dots. The prisoners in Abu Ghraib are war criminals and terrorists with the blood of Iraqi women and children as well as coalition personnel on their hands.

A few humiliating photos cannot turn these monsters into martyrs. It should be noted the outcry over the scandal is far louder among the usual anti-American crowd in “world opinion” than it is inside Iraq where most people understand what is really at stake in the current struggle.

War always has been and remains a dirty business, but defeat is worse.

William R. Hawkins is senior fellow for National Security Studies at the U.S. Business and Industry Council.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide