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Iraqi Abuse and the "Arab Street"


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I'll admit, I don't have a great deal of understanding or time spent studying the mindset of the "Arab street". Frankly, in many ways, these people baffle me. I don't understand many of the things that offend them. I don't understand their outlook. So this article brings up some things that seem very foreign to me. I was wondering what others thought. Is this :bs: , or does the guy have a point?

Iraqi Abuse and the "Arab Street"

By Larry Schweikart

FrontPageMagazine.com | May 10, 2004

...The POW photos are having an unintended effect on the Arab "Street" and the "resistance."

By now, everyone pretty well knows that Arab societies base everything on power and perceptions of power. In part, that is why so many Freepers and conservatives got their panties in a bunch because it appeared in public like "apologizing" was a sign of weakness.

Ah, my friends. You aren't thinking like an Arab. The "street" and, indeed, the leadership doesn't trust much of what we say---they only look at what we do. It would have made no difference if Bush formally apologized and sent each detainee a bouquet of flowers---the "street" would see that as a sham, a pretense, a distraction from the "real" policy.

No, I suggest something else. That the Arab "street" and especially the "resistance" has taken from those photos a message we didn't intend to send, but one that strikes fear into the very heart of them---a message of pure power and dominance. The submissive positions of these "tough" Iraqi men under the heels and attached to the leashes of WOMEN (and relatively small women, at that) sends a very powerful message to the "street."

Don't screw with the Americans. Oh, they'll "apologize," be we know that when the hearings are over, and the attention is off, they can do what they want...

...Consider the following:

*Norway's Nettavision reported that a comedienne caused an outrage from her "stand-up stunt" where she demanded that a local fundamentalist Mullah be "tested" to see if he was really a "fundamentalist."

*One of the abused prisoners said "he will go home to his family in Nasiriyah but his shame will not allow him to stay." ("The Humiliated Man Beneath the Hood") He said through a translator that the sexual humilation was the worst part of the interrogation.

*Right after the fall of Baghdad, reporters went into the Egyptian street to find outrage. They found it . . . at Saddam, for being so humiliated. Those interviewed were distraught they had believed Baghdad Bob and were ashamed of the ease with which American forces overthrew the "strong man of Iraq."

*MSNBC reported in "The Secret War" that "as American armored columns pushed down the road to Baghdad, 400-watt loudspeakers mounted on Humvees would, from time to time, blare out in Arabic that Iraqi men are impotent." The Feyadeen, the article reported, could not bear to be taunted (especially about their manhood) and rushed out to attack . . . and be killed. “What you say is many times more important than what you do in this part of the world,” says a senior U.S. psy-warrior. 

The prison photos spoke volumes, but to the Arab resistance, it was a totally different message than the one heard on Capitol Hill on Friday.

Whether intentional or not, the prison photos have sent a message about strength, dominance, and especially the power of women over men in a society that cannot bear such an inversion of "the proper order." It is a profound message...

...Of course, for many reasons, some good and some bad, this episode will be investigated, and some heads will roll. But the Arab street will not take that as a sign of American or western-style "justice," rather it will interpret this as another psy-op campaign designed to conceal the real message---that American women are "stronger" than Middle Eastern men.


And before someone takes this in to some side issue...I'm not posting this to somehow legitimize what was done. It was still wrong. And I don't believe the author has that intention either. His article is about what happened having unintended consequences or repercussions. So save your, "so I suppose this makes prisoner abuse alright" diatribe. This issue up for discussion here is whether the author is correct in his assessment of how the "Arab street" reads situations like this.

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We could pave their streets in gold and pay each of them money for being an arab and they still, and never will like us. They will always have a negative view of america and americans in general. They are taught that by their leaders and their mullas each and every day. So we are never going to win public opinion. Look at how each and every government in that region rule their people. By force! Get out of line and off with your head. We took on a noble cause to bring democracy to an area who has never had it and will not appreciate it once it is established. So our mission should be do the job and get out. The arab street will never accept us.

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But my question is...did these abuse photos and such have unintended consequence of actually causing them to fear (and thus, in weird way, respect us...take us more seriously) more than almost anything we've done since the fall of Baghdad? Is power the only language that the "Arab street" really understands?

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TT, this is exactly what I was trying to talk about on the thread 'Winning Hearts and Minds.' I didn't understand how people could be so hate-filled toward people who are opposed to our going into Iraq under the guise of it undermining 'the mission', and yet were so nonchalant about the impact the Abu Ghraib scandal was going to have over there. Either my past or my poor execution of the thread failed to get that discussion going, but this was my concern about what is going on.

I think that if you look back into the writings of the Old Testament we can get a better grasp of the Middle Eastern mindset as it relates to your article. It seems that to them 'pride' and 'honor' have different meanings than they do to us. It is much the same, but one of the main caveats of Christianity is to try to overcome our distorted sense of self-importance and grandiosity so we can become humble servants of God to each other. Remember how the Jews were expecting a great David-like king to come and destroy the Romans and what they ended up with was a guy on a donkey talking about loving each other and your enemies and turning the other cheek! Getting the people to 'buy in' to a completely different mentality was the trick and I don't know if Islam stresses 'doing unto others' the way Christianity does.

Also, living in a democracy (or republic or whatever) where fair play for all is written into law sooner or later furthers that kind of thinking.

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