Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Torture Fable

Posted on Knoxviews:
Today is the International Day Of Peace, established by the UN in 1981. On this day of peace, we learn that torture in Iraq is now worse than it was under Saddam.

Happy Peace Day.

The article linked to says, in part:
[The UN's chief anti-torture expert] Manfred Nowak said the situation in Iraq was "out of control", with abuses being committed by security forces, militia groups and anti-US insurgents.

Bodies found in the Baghdad morgue "often bear signs of severe torture", said the human rights office of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq in a report.

The wounds confirmed reports given by refugees from Iraq, Mr Nowak said.

He told journalists at a briefing in Geneva that he had yet to visit Iraq, but he was able to base his information on autopsies and interviews with Iraqis in neighbouring Jordan.

"What most people tell you is that the situation as far as torture is concerned now in Iraq is totally out of hand," the Austrian law professor said.

"The situation is so bad many people say it is worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein," he added.

Um, no. We learn that an UN anti-terrorist expert has interviewed Iraqi refugees in Jordan, who bore scars from torture inflicted on them by their own peoples' militia groups, security forces and anti-US insurgents. These reports apparently coincide with the conditions of bodies in the Baghdad morgue.

You also find out the refugees are the one's reporting that the torture is "worse than under Saddam", which of course would be a subjective argument based on people who've been subjected to trauma. There's no data to back this up, just stories. Obviously it's bad, but to rely on Iraqi refugees to form such a definitive, reportable conclusion is not very responsible journalism.

The bottom line is the Iraqis are either doing this to each other in sectarian, racial and religious bigotry-fueled hatred, or the foreign insurgents are doing it. These are the ones we are either trying to bring together into a cohesive unit to govern a new, free, Iraq that respects its people and its traditions or they're the ones we're fighting against that are sponsored by Al Qaeda, Iran, Syria, etc.

Seems to me this has much less to do with the US or the coalition and more to do with the kind of cultural norms we're struggling to overcome and lead to peace.

Reporting and commentary like the one at Knoxviews above obviously tell a small section of the story, don't elaborate on the details and come to the conclusions that your readers want to see. If I thought I could believe the premise stated above that torture was now worse than under Saddam, I'd need to see documented proof and statistics that show a) the US, the Coalition or the new, legitimate Iraqi government are performing these horrific acts, and b) that they were demonstrably more numerous and worse than say, gassing thousands of Kurds, putting people in giant shredders, raping and murdering young women at the pleasure of Udaq and Qusay, etc.

The report itself doesn't even allege the US or its allies were part of the tortures. However, we're apparently supposed to take responsibility for all atrocities committed all throughout the country by our enemies and those willing to betray their own countrymen.

But then why should facts and statistics get in the way of an good inflammatory headline?

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