Thursday, May 13, 2004


The Expectation of Torture

An interesting article in The Guardian about the Orientalist expectations of Iraqis and the US policy-makers and soldiers sent to invade and occupy Iraq and confine and interrogate Iraqis. The main point being that from US policy makers down to the privates who were charged with "loosening up" Iraqi prisoners, Americans went into Iraq with the Orientalist mindset of feminizing and infantilizing the Iraqi people. And Iraqis, no strangers to being on the receiving side of Western constructs about what the Middle East is all about, were hardly shocked to find these attitudes played out in Abu Ghraib. As either an addition or a counter-argument, in a lecture by Dr. Rashid Khalidi I attended yesterday, Dr. Khalidi pointed out that one reason that the Iraqis were not shocked by the news of abuses in Abu Ghraib was not because they expected it, but by the time it was leaked to the US news media it was old news in Iraq. They had experienced it, or witnessed it, or had a brother, uncle, cousin, son, friend that had experienced it or witnessed it first hand.

I believe Jonathan Raban's evaluation can very clearly be seen manifested in the current outcry against "making a big deal" over these abuses. After all, if the US is only doing what is natural, what makes sense for us to do to the Iraqis, then what is everybody yapping about? A letter in the Washington Post today said that the reader was "outraged" by President Bush's apology. After all, nobody apologized for desecrating the bodies of Americans in Fallujah; nobody is going to apologize for the brutal killing of Nick Berg. An apology is needed when the Orientalist roles are reversed, not when the US is acting them out in Iraq.

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