Tuesday, January 31, 2006
If we only could see just a glimpse of what actually happened in the same prison for decades during the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein...
I have seen more than a glimpse.
An Iraqi man recently stated that for years he never could sleep at night because he was afraid that Saddam's henchmen may at any time break into his home and take him away for a midnight torture session. Now that Saddam is no longer in power? He "sleep[s] like a baby". (See My Year in Iraq by L Paul Bremer III)
Saddam was such a connessieur of terror that he had his villains videotape torture sessions for him. Shortly after the Americans rolled into Baghdad, the Ba'ath party offices were searched, and many of these videos were found. I watched 5 minutes of one such video the other day. I saw things unspeakable, against which death would be more dignified and more welcomed by the victims. Grown men were stripped to nearly nothing and then chased about a walled compound by Ba'athist thugs carrying clubs, rubber hoses, and metal pipes. They were beat mercilessly about the abdomen, about the kidneys, about the genitalia, about the legs, and about the head, all the while screaming relentlessly for a mercy that would not come. Those party officers not involved in the torture were clearly entertained by the fare before their eyes. On and on the full-grown victims wailed and screamed, usually not until the beating stopped, but until they had no more the ability to cry out.
No one should ever condone what the Americans did to Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. But why has the American media been so complicit in creating a false dichotomy of torture by chastisting America, while at the same time not revealing or even discussing publicly available videos of what Ba'athist Iraqis did to their fellow countrymen within those same walls?
Anyone who has seen what I recently saw would know that the victims of Saddam's torture, many of whom died of their wounds, would gladly to a man, had they been given the chance, have opted for the torture given out by the Americans at Saddam's favorite prison.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
So many wonderful things have happened while I've been here. When we landed in the U.S. there was a very large greeting party waiting for us. It was gratifying to know that these people would take time out of their busy schedules to welcome us back home. On the airplane, we soldiers were allowed to board first and exit the plane first at our final destination; upon exiting nearly everyone in the plane gave us a continuous ovation.
I put together a computer slide presentation of the things that I have been involved with so far, thinking that perhaps my family might be interested in seeing pictures of Iraq. I had no idea how interested so many people would be about my presentation. The most common comment from adults who have spoken with me and seen the slide show is something like "I had no idea things were so upbeat in Iraq. I knew the news media is very negative, but I had no idea just how negative they are. It's so interesting to meet someone who has actually been there."
I went back to my work for an afternoon to see how things were going since I left, and I suggested that I could show my slide show. About 50 people showed up, to my exciting surprise. Several friends came over the other night to see the pictures, and I hope to have one more chance before I go back to Iraq to invite some more to our home. I went to my daughter's fifth grade class yesterday, and found that all the 5th grade classes came to watch--about 70 kids. The teachers had to end the presentation after an hour and a half, although the kids had several more questions that they still wanted to ask. I'm making a similar presentation to my son's 3rd grade class today and to the junior high on Monday. Tomorrow I will go back to my elementary school of 35 years ago and talk to all the kids there. And then that night, I will present to my side of the family and a whole bunch of their friends. A snow storm postponed our visit to my wife's side of the family last weekend, but nearly everyone came the next night to see the presentation when we were finally able to arrive.
We soldiers are grateful for the opportunity to serve, to make friends with the people of Iraq, and to help stabilize their country as they transition to a democratic republic. But we are equally grateful for the support of so many of you back home for what we are trying to accomplish. One of the best reasons for coming home on leave is to see just how excellent and widespread is that support. And it has been a wonderful opportunity to share with you what is really taking place in Iraq, something that very seldom the American news media seems willing to share.
Monday, January 02, 2006
Why is it that there was such a public outcry when the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted in Iraq, but there was little similar dismay at the torture that was a routine part of the Saddam Hussein regime? Why has there been such anger recently over the relatively non-violent means of torture used by the American CIA to elicit information from the insurgency, when governments such as
An Iraqi recently told me that much propaganda was being spread by the Hussein regime and the Al Jazeera television channel about the Americans before they came to overthrow Saddam. Americans are, they were told, mean, strong, hateful, and willing to kill all Iraqis. (How interesting it is that this same belief is still currently held by many Americans regarding Muslims.) But when the Americans arrived, Iraqis discovered that they are strong, but that they are friendly, that they love liberty and wish to share it with others, and that they feel sincere guilt when aberrant behavior is committed by Americans, such as occurred at Abu Ghraib.
Those countries with the greatest hatred for
In 1979, the Iranian populace despised
A news reporter (I believe this to have been Thomas Friedman of the New York Times) in the last couple of years visited
In The Case for Democracy Natan Sharansky quotes a former Soviet official who recently visited
Sharansky goes on to explain that
Even those who do hate
In his book, After Jihad, Noah Feldman reminds us that
[i]n the wake of the September attacks on the
…But nearly every other undemocratic regime in the Muslim world has benefited from
American foreign policy for too long has been that it is better to deal with the known quantity of a dictator than to gamble on the unpredictability of a democratic regime. No wonder many in the Middle East were or still are skeptical that President George W. Bush sincerely wants to see democracy flourish in
We westerners don’t have a very solid grasp of why this is. Case in point: a recently released book entitled The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades recites all manner of innuendo about Muhammad being a whoremonger and a pathological murderer. (I admit I have not read the book, rather I have only read a such statements regarding its contents from a web site that is marketing the book.) The book makes the blanket claim that Islam is pure and simple a religion of violence.
A friend of mine who is a Shi’a Muslim explained to me why there may be some reason for westerners to become confused on this concept, especially because the insurgents trying to destroy
In the early days of Islam, the pace of conversion to Islam began to increase in and around the city of
><>Following the death of Muhammad, Abu Bakr, Umar, and then Uthman came to power as caliphs (secular rulers). During their reigns, the three caliphs adulterated Muhammad’s teachings, spreading the belief that it was appropriate to spread Islam with the sword. This they did rather effectively, as in many cases those people being conquered found it in their best interest to choose Islam rather than being killed.
><>Ali, who was Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, eventually came to power as the forth caliph, although many felt that because of blood relationship, which the three caliphs did not have with Muhammad, that Ali should have been the direct successor to Muhammad. After a short time, Mu’awiya, who was of the persuasion of the first three caliphs, gave battle to Ali, and ultimately the Umayyad dynasty, the precursor to Sunni Islam, split from Shi’at Ali or the party of Ali, which became Shi’a Islam.
><>While the Ummayad Sunnis felt it was their destiny to convert the world to Islam by force, Ali and his subsequent followers (called imams) eschewed violence in the name of religion, as this was not according to the teachings of Muhammad. That version of Shi’a Islam has an unbroken line of succession to this day and is based mainly in the holy Iraqi cities of
><>The Ayatollah Sistani, the leader of the Iraqi Shi’a, has been an influential figure since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, frequently reminding the majority Shi’a that only in self-defense is violence justified. (In another article I will explain where most of the perpeatrators of apparent Shi’a revenge killings of Sunni are coming from, and it isn’t
Another concept that I don’t yet completely understand is the difference between usually peaceful Shi’a Islam and the aberration that is Iranian Shi’a. This I will research and try to explain at a later date. Needless to say, Ayatollah Sistani was very dismayed by the vitriolic rhetoric of the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran when he was still alive, and he still vehemently disagrees with the calls for violence currently coming from the new Iranian leader, Ahmadi-nejad, such as the incitement to wipe the country of
This is not true, even when we confine our examination of Islam to the Muslim Arabs and Persians of the
Sunday, January 01, 2006
Still we see a predominance in the news of reporting only the negative. I seldom see the negative, and wonder why more of the positive is not being reported (although the trend does seem to be improving).
More Iraqis seem happy these days. More of them honk and wave as they go by. They are optimistic, for the most part, about their new future. It will be difficult, as they struggle to create and sustain the foundations of a democratic republic, such as strong industry and a strong middle class, but I believe it will continue to happen, as the seed has germinated and begun to sprout.
Seeds are sprouting in other areas of the Middle East as well. Syria is feeling some pressure from its populace, and it is being reported that the government is making modifications amicable to freedom. Egypt seems ready to cooperate more economically with the United States and the west. Most remarkably, however, is the groundswell of support for liberty in Lebanon, including from people who at first disdained the American presence in Iraq, but are now starting to see its benefits.
For an example of what's happening in Lebanon, see the following article:
I, like probably every soldier here, miss my family dearly. But I am confident that some day I will look back on this time away from them with gratitude. Gratitude that I was a part of a new day of liberty in Iraq and the Middle East.
Although certainly with a dear price, freedom will continue to flourish here, because those who have tasted and learned to love it are in quantity far more than those who realize that their autonomy of power over all the rest is slipping from their fingers.