A reckless assertion


Almost daily, more revelations surface of alleged abuse of prisoners by American soldiers, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most recently, four American soldiers have been charged in the drowning death of an Iraqi detainee pushed off a bridge in January, according to the Army on July 2. Investigators have concluded that the soldiers, after stopping two Iraqi men for late-night curfew violation on January 3, transported the two Iraqis to a bridge over the Tigris river in the city of Samarra and pushed them off. 

In addition, the U.S. military is investigating new claims of abuse in secretive American jails where at least four captives have died, according to officials on July 3. This after the ever-widening Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal and the controversy over whether the Bush Administration did or did not sanction the use of torture against detainees in the war on terrorism. 

Reflecting on the entire phenomenon of the abuse of prisoners in American custody, the question of why invariably arises. Why would American soldiers physically and sexually abuse prisoners in their custody? Why would American soldiers push two Iraqi detainees off a bridge, killing one? Speculations abound. Officials claim that such abuse was at the hands of a "few bad apples" in the Armed Forces. Yet, what would provoke such hostility toward the Iraqi and Afghan detainees? Is it the stress of combat? The anger at having to stay longer in on active duty than initially promised? Excess fatigue? Revenge for the attacks of September 11?

This last speculation concerns me the most. The bipartisan 9/11 Commission has declared that there is no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated in attacks against the United States. Although there have been contacts between Bin Laden and Iraq, the commission stated, "they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship." Furthermore, the staff statement stated, "Two senior Bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq." The Butler Commission in the United Kingdom has made similar conclusions about the Iraq-Al Qaeda connection. Yet, the Administration has not backed off its assertion of "long-established ties" between Iraq and Al Qaeda. 

As recently as July 1, Vice President Dick Cheney repeated his assertion that Saddam Hussein had "long-established ties" to Al Qaeda. Speaking to Republican supporters at a National D-Day Museum, Cheney insisted that Iraq had "senior-level contacts [with terrorists, including Al Qaeda,] going back a decade." He also claimed that Saddam Hussein had sent a brigadier general from the Iraqi intelligence service to Sudan in the early 1990s to train Al Qaeda in bomb-making and document forgery. This revelation, as well as others, has prompted the co-chairs of the 9/11 commission two weeks ago to urge the vice president to turn over any additional information that the panel did not have. A spokesperson for the commission said on July 1 that the staff had not reviewed any new material that had let it to revise its findings. 

This is in addition to other statements made by President Bush that, while not directly saying there was a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, strongly hint at such a link. For instance, in his speech aboard an aircraft carrier on May 1, 2003, President Bush asserted: "The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda and cut off a source of terrorist funding." In September 2003, Cheney, on NBC's "Meet the Press," connected Iraq to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing by saying that newly found Iraqi intelligence files in Baghdad showed that a participant in the bombing returned to Iraq and "probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven." Soon after these remarks, the President denied Saddam Hussein was involved with September 11, but said: "There's no question that Saddam Hussein had al Qaeda ties." 

I fear that these recent and not-so-recent assertions by the Administration has helped cement the link between Iraq and Al Qaeda in the minds of Americans. As early as August of last year, a Washington Post poll found 69 percent of Americans said they thought it at least likely that Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks on 9/11. In addition, 80 percent of Americans said it was likely that Hussein had provided assistance to Al Qaeda. More recently, a Harris poll in late April found that 49 percent believe "clear evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda has been found," and a Fox News poll conducted in June showed 56 percent of Americans believe that there was a partnership between Iraq and Al Qaeda when Saddam was in power. 

If this perception is so pervasive among the general American public, it is not unreasonable to think that this perception also exists among American soldiers. If this is in fact true, that this might help explain why American soldiers would abuse Iraqi detainees in their custody. If, in their minds, Iraq and Al Qaeda were partners in the attacks on 9/11, then the beatings, humiliations, sexual abuse, and even murder of Iraqi detainees may have been committed in revenge for the murder of 3,000 Americans on September 11. 

The soldiers committing the abuse claim they were told to do so by superiors. Yet, who told the four American soldiers to push two Iraqis off a bridge? Furthermore, no one, to my knowledge, has asked the soldiers implicated in the prisoner abuse scandal whether they were also acting out in revenge for September 11. The answers to these questions may never be revealed, but it is an intriguing possibility. And if eventually confirmed to be true, another dangerous outcome of the incessant connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda that the Bush Administration has recklessly made since soon after the attacks of September 11.

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and writer. He is author of "Why I Love the Ten Commandments," published in the book Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith (Rodale Press), winner of the prestigious Wilbur Award for 2003 Best Religion Book of the Year by the Religion Communicators Council.


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Older Comments:
SAM FROM USA said:
I feel bad for all oppressed and those who have lost loved ones. The USA should cut ties to Israel, they don't listen to us anyway, they are arrogant and ignorant. In my opinion their land was a seizure. They have no right to do what they do. Israel was created as a state for soviet and nazi oppressed Jews and was stolen from a people who earned their right to this land. It is because of our attachment to Israel that the world hates the USa, i SAY LET THEM GO AND FEND FOR THEMSELVES.
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AKBAR KHAN FROM CANADA said:
Assalaamu'Alaiykum,

H.A., brother America is not the enemy of Islam, Israeli Zionism is the enemy of Islam, because this big evil demon machine uses its influence over media conglomerates and the perception dished out through these zionist so called think tanks who constantly spew venom at Muslims and Islam....thus America and her citizens are used as tools to the advantage of the Zionist deception machine. If Israel and its Zionist affiliates inside and outside of America were to lose their grip over the minds of American people, America would suddenly start to shine with beauty and most importantly, the TRUTH!

I also think that it is fair to say that the Zionist are done using George W. Bush, and now endorse John Kerry simply because the zionists in America realize that the masses of American people no longer trust Bush and the likelihood of Bush winning the upcoming election is very low...thus in order for the Zionist and Pro-Israel lobbies to maintain their stranglehold over Americans, they are giving their backing to John Kerry. If they didn't, they would no longer remain the dominant force in American politics. This is common sense, but it also easy to prove, and because of that, anyone who claims that I my understanding of the current Zionist infiltration into American society is my own personal perception is just working to protect the superiority of these groups strangling America. As the old saying goes, keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer - you can see the Zionists are keeping the President of the United States very close, closer than their friends in Israel...because the moment they don't keep their enemies close, then their enemy will wake up to the truth and no longer support these neo-nazi's/Zionists...and then lobbies such as AIPAC will no longer have a purpose for existence except to turn around and point fingers at the American president for being anti-semitic if he stops obeying their orders.
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YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
Insha'Allah I hope to encourage a belief in the Unseen and also to encourage honesty. As for efforts to encourage good works and patience - jazak Allahu khair.

For what it might be worth, I personally do not put much trust in conspiracy theories - other than perhaps the prospect of actually getting something done must at times seem rather tempting (in theory). Regarding reported Israeli involvement, at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, perhaps some neo-conservatives somewhere simply wanted to assure that Iraqis treated Americans with suspicion - perhaps to lessen the chance of America's military going native. Also, it seems that the Supreme Court of Israel prohibited the use of such tactics (by the State of Israel) some two years or so before 9/11. Perhaps some displaced interrogators were seeking opportunities elsewhere, which preferably involved familiar enemies. For the sake of sincerity, perhaps greed might be a poor and unreliable servant to inspiration - who knows?

On a possibly related note, with respect to photos of flag-draped caskets, I consider the contents of those caskets to be the earthly remains of martyrs. Among other things, I would fully imagine that those men and women were hoping to secure someone else's freedom. It also warms my heart to see them being attended to with the respect that is due them. If their loved ones don't wish the images to be shown then of course their wishes ought to be honored. However - attempting to merely "sweep the self-sacrificing under the rug" might seem extremely insulting to their memory. Admittedly, I am not quite sure why anyone would wish to command those whose personal sacrifices seemed an embarrassment to those in command. I apologize if I have offended anyone (but that is simply how I see it).
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YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
I think it is safe to say, if 9/11 victims' families had not relentlessly demanded answers from their servants in government there would never have been a 9/11 Commission. As for "Abu Ghraib" style depravities, I think it is reasonable to suppose that someone in uniform is going to pay for the stories Americans have been hearing and stories Americans have not been hearing - whether made to pay by (for example) improvised explosive devices or by military justice. As would usually seem to be the case, it appears to be up to the American people to decide, for a government paralyzed by denial and immobilized by politics, the sort of "apples" to be sacrificed - and the sort to be returning, hopefully, to American neighborhoods (if not somewhere better).

If Americans are having difficulty finding their voice perhaps they might wish to consider the sort of outrage they seem unlikely to hear on the nightly news. At the following location is an example of such outrage. Oh - and rest assured - whatever the typical American might happen to find humorous, in the typical foreign news report, could easily be at the expense of the good apples - could it not?

www.islam-online.net/English/News/2004-07/21/article06.shtml
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H.A. FROM YATHRIB said:
Belive it or not, America is the the enemies of Islam and Muslims. Today such hatred toward Muslims has been further fueled by zinoist Jews and evangelists in the current administration;

Remember!!!....Ariel sharon says"...Israel owns America..." What gives someone the courage to say that?
Well..
The current U.S. administration is full of zionists Jews who are eating away the "crusade-boy", Bush Jr's, brain.The "Crusade-Boy", Bush jr., is incompetent and has become a theocrat and a crusader.

Besides..
Don't forget that the Europeans and Americans' history is full of hate: Slavery in Africa, Australia, Asia, South America, North America; invasion of Middle East in early 1900s; creation of the illegitimate state Israel by driving Muslims away; driving away and raping Native Americans from their homes; cutting of fingers (by British) of South and East Asian people who refused to grow opium during 1500s-1900s and the list goes on and on....

Although majority of Americans and Europeans (especially the WHITES) have grown up. (Thanks to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X)
Still a large number are hate-mongers and racist (just ask the Blacks in America- they know it best).

They (American Christians) preach hatred toward Muslims in their Churches, and thus filling countless innocent minds with hatred toward the religion of Islam.

They (Americans) claim to be Christian country but starts WAR and support state-sponsored terrorism for no reasons except killing and abusing Muslims, i.e.- Iraq, Palestine etc.... and ,of course, GRABBING WEALTH.

To summarize: H.A. is NOT surprised how Iraqis are treated by the American soldiers. It's the same old facts.

Solution: Don't hate them. Love them, cuddle them, and squeeze the "harted-chips" out of their systems with your Muslim-style hugs. After all, we all can't be UNCIVLIZED and be LIVING IN DARK. It is time we spread some "noors" to the lost creatures of the West.
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MIKE FROM USA said:
Why no one mentions the role of the Israeli intellegence in the abuse and the killings of the Muslims of Iraq?
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AKBAR KHAN FROM CANADA said:
Salaam,
There is certaintly more to Abu Ghraib than what we're being told by mass media. Refer to the account of a sister known as Nadia, being a virgin entering the prison, was repeatidly raped and tortured by U.S. Soldiers - male and female. The soldiers forced her into sexual acts while she was taking a shower; was fondled and told by a female U.S. Soldier, that she was born to serve their desires; was also forced to have group sex with many soldiers at once, or else was told that she would be killed.

If this information is not being exposed, then I believe that the covering up of the truth, dajjala, will grow and grow, unless people start to speak openly about the crimes committed against so-called criminals that were held in Abu Ghraib.

This is the type of "unveiling" being undertaken by U.S. soldiers? We Muslims have every right to feel disgust, betrayal, anger, and the feeling that justice be sought against such ANIMALS! For the sake of humanity...how can anyone justify this?! There is much more than what we have been told besides well-known reported incidents.

Sister Nadia was freed, by being dumped onto the side of a road, and is too ashamed to go back to her family, and is now working as a housemaid in another Iraqi family's home!

Ya Ummatun, What morals, ethics, and liberty the US Soldiers are teaching the world.

Many people as of recent keep talking about how Muslims do not condemn terrorism enough, while they contently sit by as abuses are taking place against Iraqi's and Afhgani's on a daily basis even NOW, whether in prisons or outside of them. How can a soldier in his or her right mind, even if he/she did receive an order from a superior to treat prisoners like dogs, how could they themselves sexually abuse and deface the dignity of people in such a way, by telling them that they were born to serve them sexually?

La hawla wa la quwwuta illah billah.

Allah will bring justice swiftly, Wassalaam.
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YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
I am Yahya Bergum and I approve of these kinds of messages.
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KHADIJAH AMATULLAH FROM USA said:
I agree that this is part of the reason, but not the complete picture. It is the ethnocentricity in the US also. We are raised here to believe that we are better, our way of living is better, and our values are better. I am a Muslimah, so I know this is not true.
When you look back at American History, the way the government looked at people that are different was apparent. The Census Bureau labeled African American slaves as two-thirds of a whole person. This way of thinking has spilled over into the American population and the armed services. Ropes and chains have been used for centuries. People of different colors or races are deemed as less than a person, they are the equal of animals. The term 'race' is even demeaning in its origin. Today scientists know that there is more diversity within so-called races than there is between them. There is only the human race for humans. We all bleed red, we all reproduce the same way. This is another scientific issue that discredits race. Any fertile man can reproduce with any fertile woman no matter where he/she is from. Thus, we are all from the same race or species.
In the US, this mindset of enthnocentricity was created centuries ago. Once the US starts looking at all people as being equal and not as animals, then maybe the world will have some peace.
I grew up in American schools and I heard the talk of hate, and saw the cruelty to people that were considered different. Here, different means not human.
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ZIYAAD FROM SOUTH AFRICA said:
Racism
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YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich, wrote of driving a Nazi staff car hundreds of miles - unescorted - through the newly conquered Ukraine. After a year of Gestapo tactics the country was crawling with partisans. Sound familiar?

I am left wondering if hundreds or even thousands of good apples have somehow paid for the depravity of a few bad apples. If that were in fact the case, I suppose that very few Americans would ever hear it mentioned by their nation's leaders - a silence which itself seems a little tragic.

I have been admonished elsewhere to feel compassion for these bad apples. Mercy is indeed admirable. All the same, might mercy in these cases be expected to result in a spread of mischief throughout the land?

With apologies to the bad apples' families and friends, perhaps a "series of spectacles" would ultimately prove to be in the best interests of "the empire" - as well as in the best interests of the people of Iraq. Try to envision the future. For the Iraqis' sake, give it a try. My guess would be that sometime before the Republican National Convention might serve the aforementioned best interests a little better. I can hear it already: But what about due process! (Do what?)

May our Lord ultimately have mercy on us all. And peace.
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