Over the past week, the world has seen images of atrocious prisoner abuse in Iraq. There was outrage in Western Europe and the Arab world; France, Russia, and secular Arabs were particularly vocal in their condemnation of America. There were murmurs too from the United Nations.
#ad#Were it not for their hypocrisy, these condemnations would be quite stirring. But just a decade or two ago, the same groups stood by while hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were dumped into mass graves. They even supplied Saddam with lethal chemicals subsequently used against the local population. Where were those great humanitarian voices when Saddam was carrying out his atrocities?
The same Arabs and Muslims who today decry the behavior of a few American servicemen for years turned a blind eye to the mass murder, torture, and gassing of their fellow Muslims. They watched–and condemned America for–the suffering of the Iraqi people, all the while supporting the torturer himself and literally stealing food and medicine from the mouths of starving men, women, and children.
This hypocrisy speaks volumes about the people who rejected the liberation of Iraq for there own greed. Saddam’s orphans are guilty participants in his most serious crimes.
If we are to ask for an apology on behalf of the Iraqi people, then we must begin closer to the source of their agony. That means getting at the underlying reasons for why the Coalition is in Iraq today and what can be done to keep the American promise of a democratic Iraq. We must find out why these governments, organizations, and individuals so vehemently opposed helping the oppressed Iraqis.
Americans will certainly look deeper into what happened and why. America must find a new level of honesty in its introspection. We must get the facts straight before we can recommend a solution; Bush has promised as much. The facts will lead us to those who committed and facilitated the torture. It is wrong to prematurely blame Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for what we see on television, and it is absurd to reach a conclusion before all the facts are out. The battle against terror demands that we correct our errors and continue moving ahead.
As for the Iraqi people, this will be one more step toward obtaining a sovereign democratic state. It would be just for them to be included in the process of decision-making regarding this atrocity. The greatest justice would be for the Iraqi people to come out of this ordeal with a truly democratic secular state.
Bush, members of his cabinet, and the American people must hold true to the promise they made to the Iraqi people of freedom, democracy, and the chance for a better life. The president should make the bureaucracy implement his vision, and this atrocity should be turned to further strengthen the growing bond between the American and Iraqi people in their joint aspirations for peace and democracy.
–Dr. Mahdi al-Bassam, a physician in Texas, is a founding member of the Iraqi National Congress.