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Thursday, May 13, 2004

International Response to Abu Ghraib

Yesterday, members of Congress were invited to see the still-secret photos and videos from Abu Ghraib. What did they see? Pretty clearly, as Taguba and others have emphasized, they saw prisoners who were not treated with the respect due under the Geneva Conventions:
They saw Iraqi women forced to bare their breasts, forced homosexual sex, sex between U.S. troops, hooded Iraqi prisoners forced to masturbate in front of their captors, another forced to sodomize himself.

They also reported viewing pictures of dead bodies, badly wounded soldiers and untrained soldiers stitching up injured detainees. A couple of Congress members were struck by pictures they said showed a detainee forced to smash his head against a wall at Abu Ghraib until his skull appeared to split.
In all, there were about 1000 new photos and around 300 showed abuse or sexual activity. In the words of Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN), the photos were "worse and more graphic" than those seen to-date.

I've taken these quotes from the Toronto Star, because I'm trying to gauge the international response to the prison abuse. Of course, I'll let experts like Abu Aardvark handle the Arab reaction (though the Aardvark has been thoroughly disgusted and has not found it easy to discuss this particular episode). I will note the reaction from Turkey:
"Ordinary Turks were appalled at the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners and later by the murder of the American businessman," said Omer Madra, founder of Open Radio, an Istanbul station. "But they are not surprised. The Turkish population is aware of a certain double standard . . . that while the U.S. preaches democracy and human rights, it does not always practice them."
Having one's foreign policy perceived as complete hypocrisy is never good -- especially if the current main justification for war is democratic transformation of the Middle East.

Indeed, that's a good reason for right-leaning politicians and analysts to stop comparing American behavior to the criminal acts of al-Qaeda or Saddam Hussein. As Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said, "The American people need to realize we are talking about rape and murder charges here. We are not just talking about people giving a humiliating experience."

What are America's long-time friends and allies in Europe saying? Here's something widely quoted from Portugal's leader (a member of the "coalition of the willing."):
Portuguese Prime Minister José Durão Barroso, whose country's contribution to the occupation consists of 128 police officers, said: "You cannot, in the name of the struggle against terrorism and for the sake of freedom, contravene the very values and principles on which that struggle is based."
Not good. As Bush officials might say, they could be losing their will.

The news is worse from the unwilling....who, um, had no "will" to lose:
The brutality has "confirmed everyone's worst fears, and confirmed feelings, in France and Germany especially, that they were right to stay out of this mess," said William Drozdiak, director of the German Marshall Fund's Transatlantic Center in Brussels, Belgium. "More and more Europeans are openly expressing their fear of getting too involved with the U.S.... ," he said. "They are questioning whether a security relationship with the U.S. is becoming a negative instead of a positive."
The implications for policy are obvious. And bad. Potentially, very bad.

NATO is not going into Iraq anytime soon. The US better not want anything in particular from the UN for awhile. For example, this is yet another reason that the Bush Doctrine is dead:
Imagine that, in the next few months, Iran continues to defy UN inspectors and to build nuclear weapons, something that virtually all of the partners in the Atlantic alliance say it would be essential to stop, and, in response, the Bush administration proposes leading a military action aimed at seizing the Iranian nuclear installations.

Perhaps some would agree, but it seems virtually axiomatic that in the wake of the Iraqi fiasco it would be vastly more difficult to persuade most of them, as they were persuaded in the Gulf in 1991, Bosnia in 1995, Kosovo in 1999 and Afghanistan in 2001.

"Even countries that supported the U.S. without a UN resolution in Iraq would find it difficult to do so again without a UN mandate," said Jiri Pehe, a Czech political commentator and the director of New York University in Prague. "If a new war should take place it would be subjected to much closer scrutiny."
Not that the Doctrine had much life anyway.

The Germans, in particular, are now more convinced than ever that they were right and the US/UK were wrong:
To be sure, the prisoner scandal has produced no public gloating, not even in countries like Germany that opposed the Iraq war vociferously from the beginning. Still, the Social Democratic Party of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has, literally, turned itself into the poster boy of opposition to the Iraq war, using the phrase "Power for Peace" as its campaign slogan for the elections for the European Parliament next month. The slogan expresses what the rising crescendo of bad news from Iraq has led the Germans to believe, namely that all of the German government's warnings about the war have proved true: that it was unnecessary in the first place, that it would be difficult to win the peace, and - most relevant to the Abu Ghraib matter - that it would cause Arab public opinion to be inflamed against the West. The conservative opposition parties in Germany, many of whose leaders supported the war and criticized Schröder for not supporting it, are on the defensive.

"It will be much more difficult for any party in Germany to go on a course of clear-cut support for any American position in the future," said Berthold Kohler, a commentator for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "Any American policy that would ask for the support of Europe in another crisis would have to be very good, very strong and based on provable arguments."
I guess we already knew that.

Update: Reuters had a story this morning, "France Raises Alarm Over Iraq Chaos." Foreign Minister Michel Barnier told Le Monde newspaper: "What strikes me is the spiral of horror, of blood, of inhumanity that one sees on all fronts, from Falluja to Gaza and in the terrible pictures of the assassination of the unfortunate American hostage."

His warning:
"The fully sovereign government which emerges from the 2005 elections should be able to decide what becomes of this force, and if need be, its departure," he [Barnier] said.

French officials see the chaos in Iraq strengthening their hand in the Security Council negotiations over the future of Iraq and as a justification of their stance against the war, which they said flouted international law.

Barnier said the difficulties of the U.S.-led coalition only demonstrated the importance of adhering to international law, respecting human rights and seeing armed force as a last resort.

"This is all the more reason to reaffirm (those principles) as guides in these moments of trouble and doubt," he said.
So the French are still with the Germans.

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