Friday, May 20, 2005

I see London, I see France, I see Saddam's underpants

As you may already well know, the Sun and NY Post have published photos of a whitey tighty clad Saddam. (Go here for the news story.) So much to talk about, the least of which is all the blatant hypocrisy, ranging from al-Jazeera to Saddam's lawyers.

Anyway, first point is that its nice to see the U.S. military has apparently learned its lesson from the Abu Ghraib scandal. The Pentagon was very slow about getting its side of the story out and making it be known that the perpetrators were already under investigation and were going to be punished. Granted, the investigation had been going on for months before the story broke, but the Army was still slow in telling its side of the story. This lack of visible action was a major cause in the assertions that the whole investigation was a major cover-up. This time around, the Pentagon must have realized that this has the makings of another major scandal; as such, there are already public promises of an investigation and punishment for those responsible.

That said, what's the big deal? I understand that this is a violation of the Geneva Convention, and I understand that we must play by the rules, even if the other side never has and never will. But I was under the impression that Saddam was being held in U.S. custody for trial in an IRAQI court, which would make him a civil prisoner, not a POW. I know that its a technicality (if I'm even correct), but the law is all about technicalities. Anyway, for Christ's sake, someone, acting on their own without government consent or approval, took pictures of a guy in his UNDERWEAR. This isn't exactly a high level of pain we're talking about here. Besides, Saddam is just getting what has been coming to him for his behavior during the Gulf War. Numerous American and British pilots who had been captured were beaten and then paraded before television cameras to read coerced statements.

Now for the hypocrisy. First, we have Saddam's chief lawyer, who said that they would be suing the Sun because the photos represent "an insult to humanity, Arabs, and the Iraqi people."

Rather strong words coming from a man responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions. A man responsible for the gassing of tens of thousands of Kurds in a single day. A man whose sons got their rocks off of throwing people into woodchippers. A man who would walk down a line of Shi'ites and summarily execute them, just for kicks. Somehow I think a man like that is more of an insult to humanity, Arabs, and, most of all, the Iraqi people.

Then we have the interviews from "people on the street." First we have a Baghdad businessman, who had this to say: "This is an insult to show the former president in such a condition. Saddam is from the past now, so what is the reason for this?"

Spoken like a Sunni who never had a family member imprisoned in Saddam's Abu Ghraib. After all, for him, Saddam would truly be in the past. There would be no demons to haunt you as a result of his actions.

Next we have a civil servant from Kirkuk, who said that the pictures were a "humiliation for a man who in the near past was the leader of Iraq and a top Arab leader in the region."

Only a former Ba'ath Party member would say, with reverence, that Saddam used to be the "leader of Iraq." Only a Sunni crony of his would say that the Butcher of Baghdad was a "top Arab leader."

There was a voice of reason from a Kurd, who said, in short, that this is the "least that Saddam deserves." But the first two responses reveal a larger problem in our dealings with the Arab and Islamic world. We expect them to say things like this. We expect them to hero worship a mass murderer. We expect them to riot in the streets at the mere mention of anything "against Islam" (like defacing a Koran). Why do we, as a country, treat the Arab world like children? To digress for a moment, I was watching Tucker Carlson's show on PBS tonight. He had Peter Beinart and Jonah Goldberg on to discuss a variety of issues, one of which were the recent riots. Peter made some attacks on the White House, while Jonah criticized Newsweek. Tucker made the point that neither of them, and very few in the meda (Andy McCarthy being a notable exception) had made it a point to criticize Arab culture for being so condusive for this kind of emotional overreaction. It's a subtle type of racism similar to the push for affirmative action in this country. Blacks need help getting jobs and into college, ergo they must be too stupid to do it on their own. We expect Arabs to riot at the drop of a hat when their religion is insulted, ergo we assume they are no more sophisticated than an angst-ridden 14 year old. Until we, as a country and a society, expect the Arab world to grow up and start acting more like a modern, liberal society, there will be no chance for victory in the War against Islamic Extremism.

Now that I'm off my soapbox, time for one last example of hypocrisy from this story. Al-Jazeera did not run any coverage of the pictures, stating that "the photo is demeaning to Iraqis...from the professional side, it is not news."

So, I guess all those videos of Westerners getting their heads sawed off were not demeaning to the victim's country, and that the videos definitely were news. As were the videos, seemingly played non-stop, that detail attacks on Coalition forces in Iraq.

Forget Fox News, I know "fair and balanced" when I see it