A Comic Apology

"There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren't necessarily -- are a different color than white can self-govern."

George Bush, April 30, 2004 [1]

This happens rarely - very rarely. An apology from the President of the United States, not for personal lapses, but for the rare slippage in the workings of America's virtuous, divinely blessed, civilizing mission to the benighted world.

Most Americans truly believe - take this to be self-evident - that the United States is not only the world's greatest country, but it has always been the last great hope of earth, that Americans have always been willing, more than any other Western power, to take on the White Man's burden, to bring life, liberty and happiness to the rest of mankind. This is a testament to the power of American media: that it can claim to be the world's freest media and yet control - like no other 'free' media - what an overwhelming majority of Americans know and believe about their country. And what they know and believe is America the free, pure and virtuous.

Day after day, the mandarins and media in this country work tirelessly, cleverly, to project an image of an America that protects freedoms at home and abroad; an America that has time and again shed its blood to rid foreign lands of murderous tyrannies; an America that cares, that responds with alacrity to famines and calamities abroad; an American that contributes men, money and ideas to bring prosperity to the backward races; an America that has patiently served as an honest broker in the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.

As a result, year after year, most Americans are kept in the dark, unaware of the actual, the real America - the only kind seen by much of the rest of the world. This is the America that daily employs its might to mangle the lives of hundreds of millions, that pushes a globalization that devastates the economies of the Third World, that instructs and arms foreign tyrannies to terrorize their own people, that aids and abets an Israeli machine that is determined to extirpate the Palestinians. This America acts in the name of freedom, in any way that it sees fit and necessary, to keep the world safe for American capital. However, this dark side of America is nearly completely, nearly always, whitewashed by the myth-making powers of America's elites.

Occasionally, this myth-making machine will let slip a few snapshots of the real, the actual America. In fact, such slippages are functional; they serve to validate the trust of the duped and faithful in our 'free' media. Generally, these revelations appear long after the fact. They are also quickly explained away. Americans are told that this is for their own good: they serve higher American values. When they cannot be explained away, they are described as unavoidable lapses, human failings of a few. These lapses remind the faithful to be thankful that the system works well nearly all the time. No apology is tendered. None is demanded.

Yet the matter of the torture of Iraqi prisoners has quickly produced a storm of indignation from the mandarins and the media. It has led to calls for investigations, demands for the resignation of the Secretary of Defense, two television appearances by the President before Arab audiences, and, incredibly, even a feeble Presidential apology. In the words of Scott McClellan, the White House Press Secretary, "The President is sorry for what occurred and the pain it has caused." 

I am assuming that the "pain" in question is the one inflicted by Americans on the Iraqis, as well as anyone who can feel the pain of the Iraqi victims. Or is the President talking of America's pain over the actual, the real America, now irrevocably, unforgettably, caught on camera? For the history books. For posterity.

In any case, that's quite decent for starters. Incredibly, the name of a sitting American President has been linked to the subject of Arab pain, a pain that has an acknowledged American provenance. It must be a first, for any American President - perhaps, any Western leader. We are speaking of the pain of the "natives" - inferior sand niggers, in this case - the pain of whose miserable lives could never earn our sympathy. We do not share in the pain of the natives.

Has the President undergone another conversion? If he has, and now, he, truly and sincerely, feels the pain inflicted by a few Americans on their Iraqi victims, will he follow up by acknowledging the Iraqis who were killed and maimed to advance the interests of Zionists and Oil Corporations? Will he also set up museums to commemorate the deaths of a million and a half Iraqi civilians killed in a previous American war that targeted their civilian infrastructure and followed it up with death-dealing sanctions? Is it just possible that at last the President will begin to recognize the Palestinians as humans, and atone for the pain that he and his predecessors have inflicted upon them for more than fifty years?

Apart from the faithful, no one believes that the President's apology is sincere. In fact, it looks comical - comical because it is based on false premises. We are behaving as if the sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners is the first outrage inflicted by the United States on the Muslims. It is unlikely that the Muslims have forgotten, or will soon forget, the hundred lacerations inflicted upon them by America's conjugal embrace of the Israeli Occupation, by its support for corrupt monarchies and dictatorships in the Islamicate world, by the genocidal first Gulf War, by the strangulating sanctions against Iraq that took the lives of three-quarters of a million Iraqi children, and by the routine demonization of Islam by preachers close to this White House. It is comical when a tormentor inflicts a hundred wounds on his victim and then starts apologizing for stepping on his toes.

The apology is comical because the United States has hitherto acted on the premise that the Arabs only respect a stout stick. This is the advice that the Zionists have regularly dished out to their American pupils. In part, this was the advice on which President Bush launched his invasion of Iraq. Topple Saddam, the Arab strongman, and all the Arabs will instantly acknowledge US-Israeli hegemony as the greatest gift to them since the descent of the Quran. So, isn't it a bit comical so soon after the invasion to come apologizing to the Arabs? Actually, it is worse than comical. It has to be stupid. It will surely be read by many Muslims - not least, those who are in the Islamist resistance - as a sign of weakness, an admission that America's belligerent approach isn't paying off, that the world's only super power is afraid of Arab outrage.

The President's apology is also targeted at domestic audiences. The pictures of American liberators sexually torturing Iraqis do not make the best commercials for America's high civilizing mission. They might just undermine America's faith in its civilizing mission, the principal ideological prop for its formidable military machine. Some quick action was necessary. Americans were assured that the cases of torture were local, not systemic, and their perpetrators are being punished. There was nothing to worry. America's civilizing mission could not be derailed by the actions of a few rogue elements. It must continue to march forward through the jungles, swamps and deserts of the Third World, bringing freedom, hope and prosperity to the inferior breeds who cannot yet manage their own affairs. The civilizing mission is the sacred trust of the White Man.

Still, we must ask, if there isn't an element of panic in the White House response to the scandal of Iraqi prison torture. The whole administration is apologizing, and doing so repeatedly, promptly and with little urging from anyone. The sight of the United States - swaggering, contemptuous of others, unilateralist - apologizing, somehow, makes an eerie sight. Does this suggest that after all the damned lies to cover for the war, after all the blustering as these lies were exposed, this Administration is finally losing its nerve, losing its cool? Could it be that they too know better than what they put out? Could it be that they too fear that the game they started in Iraq - at the cost of American and Iraqi lives - is over? 


[1] George Will, "Time for Bush to See The Realities of Iraq," Washington Post, May 4, 2004).

M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University. His last book, Poverty from the Wealth of Nations, was published by Palgrave in 2000. Visit his webpage at http://msalam.net. M. Shahid Alam

Related Suggestions

The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Older Comments:
Dear samir bolous, The urge for peace, respect and security in the South Asian Muslim community helped to make Pakistan in 1947. The endless political games of the parties and the greed of military generals as well as the petty influence of Calcutta based intellectual community played the major role of its broke up in 1971. Islam was a minor issue here.

I was pointing that Islamic Empire was non-racist as opposed to British Empire or others and it treated the people equally. Furthermore, the empire soon became emerged with the local community cutting off from the root base. Nationalism was not at all an issue here. It leads to some general confusion if you extend the term 'occupation' too much. The entire North American community is an occupier of Red Indian Territories. The entire South America or Australia as we know today is nothing more than occupied lands. So brother, political jargons have their limitations. I was simply pointing that Islam is the religious identity that insured equal treatment and justice in the conquered land and that did not carry any false pride of nationalism or racism.

Thnaks for your very constructive and well argued posting.

I am a Christian from Nigeria. Growing up at home, i lived next to people of all faiths. My Best friend is Islamic and the Islam i know is one of Peace and Love.
It pains me to see how this religion is reflected in the media. I do not know how we can stop this cycle of violence but it must be stopped. For the sake of peace, for the sake our children and for the sake of the world. We must learn to educate people through our actions, learn to see each other as family and not as enemy. I know sometimes after one has been hurt numerous times by the same person/thing, the eye and the heart start to see through veils of hurt, hunger, and revenge but we must always remember that "one bad turn does not deserve another."
I ask that everyone hold anger at bay and peace close to the heart for the sake of humanity. May we all learn to live and let live> My heart goes ot to all the fathers, mothers, sons, dauthers, wives, brothers, sisters, and children who have lost their loved ones in a war that makes no sense and had no reasons. May we learn from this mistakes "that the friut never falls far from the tree". Vote Americans and let your voice be heard. Do not stand for injustice and greed. Do not Stand for INJUSTICE NOR GREED.

To Usmam Ali Hannan
Why go that far to ancient Egypt, let's only go back say to 1947 with the creation of Pakistan as a Muslim country to shield Muslims from Hindus in India, in the mid 80 the two parts of the Muslim Pakistan(east Pakistan & West Pakistan) were seperated into what is now known as Pakistan & Bangladesh being of the same religion did not help much, it was the intrest of east & west Pakistan that governed not the common religion, so where is that peace, respect & equality you are talking about?.
Trying to figuire out what brought Spain into the equation, well your Muslim brothers were occupiers for 400 years, they may have introduced knowledge but the fact remain the same. In addition to Spain there is the southern of france, big chunck of the Ottoman empire in Greece, big chunk of the Balkans & Austria.

To Shawn Madis
I have attached Mr. Ahmed comments at the bottom of my comments and I could not find a word or a hint to what you suggested that Mr. ahmed said that Americans are foolish.
From your comments & his I now know who is the real Fxxxish.
You remind me of Bush Jr. who met the Russian president Putin & said "I LOOKED IN HIS EYES & SAW HIS SOUL!"
I suppose you read Ahmed's soul too!

Posted By:Ahmed
5/21/2004 - 10:08:16 AM - A Comic Apology - Ref: 24468

This behaviour is not merely representative of a handful of deviant loose cannons within the military. The instruction to degrading the people whose land they have invaded came right from the top. Before the start of hostilities in Iraq George W Bush used the phrase "lets go over there and kick some ass." This is really appropriate wording, because this is quite literally what the Americans thought they were supposed to do. That is, capture unarmed innocent citizens strip them naked and brutalise them.
We need to regard the photos coming out of Iraq not as "deviant" or one-offs, but as the genuine sentiments from the heart of America. This is from the heart of the system


I agree with Idris!

Although I cannot disagree with many of the valid points in the article, I was a bit surprised that the two-page-long text did not address the glaring issue of Mr. Bush aparently thinking that Muslims are people "of a different skin color", of apparently radically confusing religious faith with phenotypical melatonin content.

Another American, El Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X) began to embrace the fullness of Islam [and disavow racism in any form)after making hajj and eating with Muslims [in his own words] "whose eyes were blue, whose hair was blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white" (as well as all other hues, of course).

Perhaps Bush's greatest slip in this statement was to confuse Islam with skin tone, whatever the other mistakes of this President or the United States as a whole.


Poor Shawn, that was quite a reflexive reply in the standard American knee jerk fashion. Since you cant defend your leader's utter incompetence you fall back on lazy rhetoric.
Citing supposedly liberal immigration policy is laughable since whithout this influx of foreigners you wouldnt be so " powerful and strong." As if that justifies terrorism against dozens of countries over the last 60 years.
I'm not at all jealous of maurading thugs and gangsters who rape, pillage and destroy innocent lives, you my dear demented yank need to get reacquanted with reality, and fast.

So... has General Boykin been pointing at anything in those Abu Ghraib photos? No! No! Like a demonic presence - that sort of thing!

A "demonic presence" in photos from Abu Ghraib would seem extremely more likely to be apparent than in a picture of a smudge on the Mogadishu skyline. I am still not convinced that Gerry Boykin's god is any bigger than mine. If however Boykin insists that I do not worship the same god he worships, God willing, I will be satisfied to take his word for it.

"McCain and Gore in Twenty-Oh-Four!" McCain, of course, is simply a guess. Gore was intended to make it rhyme.

Praise be to Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) - and peace be unto you.

When the text of Bush's apology was first printed, I was aghast. I said to myself the press would really have a field day with this gratuitous, racist, feel good, pat-our-selves-in-the-back ignorant presidential slop. I was wrong the American press completely ignored this outrageous garbage, coming from the President of the US. Why I ask? Is it because the US media is so entrenched in supporting this homicidal, crusading, John Wayne wanna-be maniac that nothing this mad-man will say or do will shake their support for him? Or is it that the US media itself is a flagrantly racist institution hostile to anyone who is not White, Christian and completely in agreement with American Bolshevik policies. This mind set is ok in Russia, North Korea and Yugoslavia - but the USA? Paragons of justice, freedom, and goodwill? I once thought that Bush was a mere acid hiccup in a developing American national psyche and character, but I have been proven alarmingly wrong. The entire US media, much like the WWII German and Japanese news propaganda centers is on God's mission to help at all costs, their government dominate the world and control all of the earth's vital resources for "God's Chosen" - the Christians and Jews. This dear reader is the real Evil Empire. Even my Kids can see right through this as they see America live up to the image portrayed as the Death Star in Star Wars or the Evil Wizards Empire in the Lord of the Rings. This friends is the Evil in its purest form, which thrives on the blood and guts of children, women and men - victims of America's Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, South America. The list goes on and on. It is obvious that Syria is only the next tasty morsel for this monstrous and unholy alliance of USA and Israel.

Skin color??? Muslim faith???? Are they not
two different things???
Only a racist would refer to a persons skin
color. As a muslim, one does not refer to
their brother or sister by the color of their
skin. As a muslim one does not refer to their
enemy by the color of their skin. It could be
that the little bush needs a psychiatric
evaluation to determine whether or not he
has the intelligence to ............okay, so lack of
intelligence has already been proven; but the
president needs some type of examination--
or operation to remove that hot dog, apple pie,
baseball and old glory from his business end.
He needs a reality check, at least have a
reality check explained to him. Talk is cheap.
The little bush has been talking since he's
been in office as has a bad habit of repeating
himself with cliches & lies.
Forgive me for the venom-sounding speech.
I pray that Allah forgives me.
I really don't find the apology comical at all. In
a sarcastic way, the article is comical because
of the lack of sincerity the little bush has.
Peace and Blessings

This is a .. inaccurate article that is typical of professor Alam. I wholeheartedly agree with his assessment of Bush, and his take on a lot of what the US government has done. The whole harangue about the media is a crock - has he never heard of PBS - Frontline for instance? Time magazine, New Yorker, etc. How about "60 Minutes", come on! How does he get his information at Northeastern University - by secret telexes or emails? The real information is available to anyone who is really looking for it, and there are millions of Americans who know this. Say whatever about the government, but every day, in places all over America, millions of people give of their time and money to help other people, here and around the world. Here we have the KKK, skinheads, and all sorts of racist bigots. Here we also have organizations and churches by the thousands whose only goal is to help their brothers & sisters - of all cultures. I am so angry at the Bush administration for dragging this beautiful country, and the millions of Americans who do care about what happens around the world - through the mud and slime. Yes, I am on the defensive, but articles like these, and the comments about Americans that this type of article generates are wrong. They are as wrong as the ignorant ranting of people like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, George Bush, et al. Americans - make sure you get all the news, keep an open mind, and for heavens sake, register and vote!!! For all others, don't give up hope on us yet.


I agree wholeheartedly with the article. As a American abused by American politics/media/machine, the guise that the media portrays is all to real for me. I believe that the 'pain' referred to by Bush, is the pain felt by Americans for the release of the images. There isn't much to say; words don't erase the memories neither do they stop those who will continue to violate human rights. I pray for divine intervention.

This behaviour is not merely representative of a handful of deviant loose cannons within the military. The instruction to degrading the people whose land they have invaded came right from the top. Before the start of hostilities in Iraq George W Bush used the phrase "lets go over there and kick some ass." This is really appropriate wording, because this is quite literally what the Americans thought they were supposed to do. That is, capture unarmed innocent citizens strip them naked and brutalise them.
We need to regard the photos coming out of Iraq not as "deviant" or one-offs, but as the genuine sentiments from the heart of America. This is from the heart of the system that is seeking control of the globe.


What the US is doing now is nothing new. The ancient Egyptians did the same, so did the ancient Mesopotamians (modern day Iraq). The British Empire followed the same path. This path is to follow a racial and superior attitude from the rest of the world and based on such assumptions, rule 'the others' with hypocrisy by benefiting the 'home land'. The domestic media or propaganda machine always portrayed them as angels. It is very easy to ride a hypocritical chariot that benefits oneself. All these empires fell into this trap. US is only the last one in the long list. These hypocritical empires collapsed sooner or later and people look at their hegemony with disrespect. The last such fallen empire is the British Empire and the entire South Asian subcontinent (with some exceptions of course; this is understandable) looks at their rule as a period of tyranny and oppression. It is because their foreign racist hypocrite rulers did not treat the people as an equal human being.

Did the Muslim Empire follow the same path? Apparently no!! There the rulers mingled with the locals and Islamic brotherhood of equality shunned the doors of racism. The empire seldom took a racial tone. So we see the centers of authority shifting from Arabs to Persians to Afghans to Central Asians. Surprisingly, many of these so-called authorities are nothing else but conquered lands and the rulers were at best-converted Muslims. So the empire lasted for thousands of years and it fell from the push of the outside force and local political games, not from the domestic descent of common mass. Surprisingly, people in these lands still longs for a united Muslim empire and they look at the Muslim empire with respect and as an era of peace and prosperity. The only exception is Spain from where Muslims were forcefully eliminated. This is not the case for the British Empire that was ousted from South Asia by popular movement. Such is the power of brotherhood and equality that Islam had guaranteed.

I totally agree with this article. One thing that is not in the article that there are already elements in Republican party who think that it is an outrage to be outraged by these deceptions and actions. The administration has been very successful in convincing american public that it was just an isolated few; or may be the american public just wanted to hear that.

ahmed, how can you call americans foolish when america is the strongest and most powerful nation on earth and is only getting stronger because of the talents and ingenuity of the american people. Oh, wait, that's right- we have everything we have partly because of the foreign individuals that want to come to the United States to live the american dream. what a terrible country it is-are you jealous. Jealousy isnt becoming. take care.....

Mr. shahid
I agrre whole heartly with you in every single word however the victims in Iraq wre not only Muslims as you wanted to say, in Iraq there is a minority of Christians who suffered with the rest of their Iraqi citizens being Muslim or Christians makes no difference. When the bombs fell they could not have targted Muslims only, every one is a victim. The majority of casualities fell on Muslims by virtue of being majority no more no less.
In WWII The USA, Britan the Christians fuoght with the Russian the communist againest Germany the Christian, it was not said that this is some sort of Jihad but it was aknowledged for what it was as a fight over dominance.
The war againest was a lie for the oil & Israel.
it boggles the mind that when ever a Muslim gets involved in any sort of struggle it turns out to be againest Islam. Where were you when a Muslim country Iraq attacked another Muslim country Iran, would you have summerized that Islam is collapsing or would you have seen it for what ever it is as a srtuggle for dominance, same goes for the Iraqi-Kuwaiti war.
It is our expectation from the intellectuals among us to refrain from bigotry so we may learn the straight way.
I realize you may be writing for a Muslim audience
and I suppose they can handle a dose of truth with out much pain unless it is your intention to stir contraversy.
I bid you peace.

Speaking of comedy, are Arabs now racing to assist Israel's best friend in Iraq? Now, THATS funny.

Only Bush jr. could come up with such a patronizing and transparently lame quote. Too bad Americans in general arent much different in their foolishness.