Late Sunday night Sunni insurgents raided the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. 500 convicted, high-level al Qaeda militants, most of whom were sentenced to execution, fled. Al Qaeda without a doubt is on the run.
The name Abu Ghraib, synonymous with torturous brutalization in the eyes of the international community, conjures up images of maltreated al-Qaeda detainees being paraded in their under-sheaths by their American jailers. Images, as seen on the cover of Time and Newsweek, further amplified the international community’s prejudiced vilification of the U.S. as “occupiers” and “human rights violators”. For them, the images proved Bush and his senior administration and military officials to be war criminals; images that in their opinion should have been entered into evidence against Bush, making him answer for war crimes and face the Hague.
This outcry is coming from the same international community that bizarrely dismissed the massacre and systematic torture of the Iraqi people and political enemies at the same location under Saddam Hussein’s regime.
What made the Abu Ghraib abuses so egregious was that the captors suffered sexual humiliation, primarily at the hands of female military guards (namely Army Reservist, Spc. Lynndie England – who infamously gave the thumbs up while pointing at a captor’s genitalia).
These al Qaeda captors were made the victims in a twist of irony—suffering great “mental injuries” by being “tortured” by female U.S. soldiers who lacked cultural sensitivity, apparently not knowing a woman’s place in the Arab world is one of being subjugated to a life of silence and passivity behind a burqa.
In a futile attempt to salvage the U.S. image of being the world’s foremost example of human rights advocacy, the low-ranking offenders and their superiors were tried, judged accordingly and punished. Spc. England, among others, served time in military prison and were dishonorably discharged.
To further absolve themselves and improve their standing in the world, the U.S. military went so far as to treat al Qaeda captors at Guantanamo Bay to meals that catered to their dietary restrictions. Activities were scheduled to accommodate prayer times and a $744,000 outdoor soccer facility was built to ensure their fitness goals.
But now, to be fair, let’s contrast Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay with al Qaeda-run prisons for coalition forces.
Important to note: there are no al Qaeda-run prisons. Our soldiers do not get the opportunity to be detained or mistreated. They are simply beheaded, having their lifeless bodies dragged through the Arab street.
The removal of coalition forces marked an end to America’s combat role in Iraq and marked an upsurge in sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite factions. In further deteriorating the hopes of a stable sharing of power, the lack of coalition presence revived hostilities that date back to the 7th century – hostilities stemming from the question of who and how the Muslim world should be governed in place of the prophet Mohammed.
Ten years after Shock and Awe, even going back further than the 2003 Iraq invasion, is Iraq (the entire Middle Eastern region for that matter) better off?
Which foreign policy initiative has been most effective: the policy of supporting pro-Western autocrats who rule with iron fists, the policy of deferring to the authority of the U.N. Security Council to issue endless sanctions without consequence or the doctrine of deposing oppressive regimes that threaten our national security interests while establishing an infrastructure of democracy?
Is the objective of U.S. foreign policy one of containment, or freedom for failed states and repressed regions?
The killing of Osama bin Laden ushered in a policy of an assumed elimination of the threat of terrorism in the form of a global terrorist network. It was declared that the nature of the threat had changed and post-OBL security efforts would now focus on adjudicating localized pockets of extremist groups and homegrown terrorists.
The escape of 500 senior-level al Qaeda militants from Abu Ghraib shatters post-OBL policy and exposes Obama’s “smart power” antidote to Bush’s alleged misty-eyed idealism as being in need of a remedy itself.