US credibility in overdraft

As the photographs from Abu Ghraib make clear, these detentions have had enormous consequences: for the imprisoned civilian Iraqis, many of whom had nothing to do with the growing insurgency; for the integrity of the Army; and for the United States’ reputation in the world. [Seymour Hersch, New Yorker]

These pictures are going to haunt the United States for a long time to come – and may even become the defining images of this war. The British have piddled away their reputation too.

The role of mercenaries (‘private military companies’) needs to be put under a microscope as there is evidence that they were involved in the Abu Ghraib atrocities too.

Meanwhile a muzzle is being prepared for Al Jazeera, the Arab world’s most vocal source as it is too provocative to western ears.

This is not the finest hour for the United States and Britain. Unless the US and Britain honestly and comprehensively address the political, moral and legal questions these images have raised, they will have no credibility left. On Jivha’s blog, I commented that soldiers are trained fighters and cannot be expected to be squeamish about violence in the battlefield and that their involvement in counter-insurgency operations invariably leads to allegations of human-rights abuses; but what happened and was allowed to happen in Abu Ghraib prison shows a level of callous depravity that no wartime exigency can justify.

Related Links: Bloggers from the Arab world make their point – The Angry Arab and Mahmoud’s Den. The New York Times and Washington Post on the official enquiry.

America’s greatest disadvantage now is that it has almost entirely lost the political authority and public tolerance it enjoyed in Iraq a year ago. A poll released last week by CNN and USA Today showed that 71 percent of Iraqis regard coalition troops as occupiers. Fifty-seven percent say they would like the foreign forces to leave immediately, even though a majority also say that a pullout would make the situation worse. The many errors of the U.S.-led occupation, ranging from failure to create a more international administration to the slowness of reconstruction and, most recently, the shocking reports of mistreatment of prisoners have helped create a situation in which no U.S. political initiative is likely to be accepted by Iraqis. Unilateral military actions, even against extremists with little support, risk touching off a national uprising.[Washington Post]