I've spent the morning poring over Iraqi blogs to see what some ordinary people there think about the abuses of prisoners by U.S. personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison. The bloggers are all disgusted, but some of them are considerably less outraged about what happened than, for example, I am. They consider it just a passing incident in Iraq's bloody reality. This attitude strikes me as interesting both as an indicator of how prolonged violence can dull the senses and also of how very badly the people who hold this view want the U.S. occupation to ultimately succeed in establishing a stable Iraqi government.
Others, however, are as thoroughly outraged as you would expect.
Here are some of their comments, and links to their sites.
'Like a small black dot on a white paper'
"There are tens of thousands of coalition soldiers in Iraq, and of course not all of them are pure angels; they’re tough warriors among whom we can find the good and the evil, and the evil are always less but unfortunately, they draw more attention just like a small black point on a white paper and this applies to any group of human beings anywhere on this planet."
"I can say that at least some Iraqis seemed to have understood the situation and were satisfied with the reaction of the American officials and their promises that the offenders will be punished. While a wide segment of Iraqis seemed indifferent with the issue and only showed their disapproval when they are asked about it, but rarely with what one can call an angry tone, and I’m talking about my personal experience here, as I tried to ask the largest number of people about their feelings before I write about it."
– From two posts at Iraq the Model, the joint blog of three brothers, Mohammad (a dentist), Ali (a doctor) and Omar (a dentist)
'I hope they are made to suffer ... somehow I know they won’t be punished'
"All anyone can talk about today are those pictures... those terrible pictures. There is so much rage and frustration. I know the dozens of emails I’m going to get claiming that this is an ‘isolated incident’ and that they are ‘ashamed of the people who did this’ but does it matter? What about those people in Abu Ghraib? What about their families and the lives that have been forever damaged by the experience in Abu Ghraib? I know the messages that I’m going to get -- the ones that say, 'But this happened under Saddam...' Like somehow, that makes what happens now OK... like whatever was suffered in the past should make any mass graves, detentions and torture only minor inconveniences now.
"It’s beyond depressing and humiliating ... my blood boils at the thought of what must be happening to the female prisoners. To see those smiling soldiers with the Iraqi prisoners is horrible. I hope they are made to suffer... somehow I know they won’t be punished. They’ll be discharged from the army, at best, and made to go back home and join families and cronies who will drink to the pictures and the way “America’s finest” treated those “Dumb I-raki terrorists”. That horrible excuse of a human, Janis Karpinski [who was in charge of U.S. prisons in Iraq], will then write a book about how her father molested her as a child and her mother drank herself into an early death- that’s why she did what she did in Abu Ghraib. It makes me sick."
– By River, the nom de blog of the Iraqi woman who posts at Baghdad Burning
'Like a drop in the ocean'
"Well I am an Iraqi, and hate what I saw, but I would like to say in all honesty that compared to the practices of the old Baathists, this is a drop in an ocean. The terrors of Saddam torture houses make this isolated condemned practice by a small group of perverted individuals seem nothing, awful as it is. And more important, the outrages of the Saddam regime were sanctioned and perfectly well known and approved from the highest levels of the state and there was no question of any criminal investigations of the practices, the victims simply buried in any convenient ditch near by. But we never heard any righteous and noisy protests from Any Jazeera or Arabiya, nor did we witness much 'Arab' anger during many years when torture, rape and murder were going on a regular basis and massive scale."
-- Alaa at The Messopotamian, "a fairly typical middle class professional Baghdadi"
'You wrecked down houses, markets, schools and mosques … Why?'
"Americans apologize; they say those are nothing but a small bad minority.
"Iraqis are angry and they wonder: why didn't you believe us when we said that the people who committed the mutilation [of four U.S. contractors] in Falluja are a small bad minority. You filled your media with poisonous comments and you said: 'that's just how Iraqis are' and then you got a green light from your people to attack Falluja and kill hundreds of men, women and children.
"You wrecked down houses, markets, schools and mosques. You spread devastation and tyranny and you still do that? Why???"
-- By Faisa at A Family in Baghdad. Her sons, Raed, Khaled and Majid, also post there
'I now find it very difficult to argue that the US presence in Iraq is a liberation'
"The US administration should bring those soldiers to justice in order to protect its liberation honour."
-- Kurdo's World, an anonymous blog by an Iraqi Kurd