in WorldAffairs

Apologies Galore

Sorry does not seem to be the hardest word in Washington these days.

First we had Mr Bush apologise, then Gen. Kimmet. Next in line Donald Rumsfeld sat before a Senate Committee and apologised too. Over here, the line was full too. Mr Straw – the Foreign Secretary said he was sorry as did Mr Blair.

Geoff Hoon – UK Defence Secretary – rather than come out humbly and apologise, did it with characteristic arrogance and had to be summoned before Parliament to give an account, he ultimately apologised – – although he added a caveat – ‘…if the allegations prove to be true’.

This festival of apologising is all because of the publication of some very disturbing pictures of abuse by US forces in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Abu Ghraib is used to detain suspected insurgents but who are the insurgents? It would appear from reports that every male (and some females) of fighting age and health is an insurgent. Independent reports estimate that ninety percent of detainees are wrongly detained.

Are they apologising because they are deeply sorry for the perpetration of these horrible acts by ‘professional’ soldiers, representatives of their nations; OR are they apologetic because the revelations came to light?

The cynic in me favours the latter – some reports from independent sources (Amnesty International and the Red Cross) suggest that the UK and US governments had been formally notified of concerns about abuse by the nations’ forces against Iraqis in both areas they control. In some cases the notification was months ago. If they knew so long ago, why did they not go public with it? The people MUST know this. Why did they not launch an investigation immediately?

The sadness that we should all feel about this abuse cannot be overstated. The anger unquantifiable. Fellow human beings violated and humiliated for the perverse pleasure of these soldiers. Whether they were ‘simply following orders’ is irrelevant. There are no circumstances I can think of that make this abuse of innocents acceptable. Simply saying ‘its war, bad things happen in war’ just won’t cut it. The fact that we are cognisant of the wrongness of the abuse means that we can prevent it, that we can correct it – those who do not feel are lost.

Upon analysis, it seems to me that this abuse is beyond simple personal perversion, it seemed designed to humiliate not just the individual; but also their deeply held religious beliefs. If this is the case, it must have taken organisation and thought, intent and purpose. It must have taken authority.

Saying ‘Sorry’ simply will not do. There are 8,000 prisoners in Abu Ghraib, thousands more in other holding facilities in Iraq. The detention of these individuals may be unlawful – if law was anything remotely respected by the Occupation Forces.

Whilst every individual connected with directly inflicting this abuse must be brought to justice – under International Human Rights Law; those indirectly implicated must also be brought to account. None of this abuse would now be occurring if these disturbed personnel were never sent to Iraq in the first instance.

Perhaps this is the ‘liberty’ that America feels divinely appointed to deliver to the world. Is this the ‘freedom’ they want to be the keystone of the New American Century – unquestioned dominance, unchecked power?

What do you think?