Abu Ghraib

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Iraq War

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Abu Ghraib was one small group of U.S. Soldiers who got out of hand and did something bad things (without authorization) and were caught and punished quickly. There was also a group of marines that did less, and the Brits that did about the same. Bad stuff. All caught and dealt with. The rational ask themselves, "How often does this happen? This compared to what?" The ideologically aligned media and the terrorists, want to avoid discussing that.

Understanding Scale

The European press (and American liberal press) makes it a huge deal and talked about it constantly. Once again, that demonstrates their ignorance and their bias. Saddam was killing tens of thousands in purges in many prisons (including Abu Ghraib) with frequent summary executions, including:

  • 4,000 prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in 1984
  • 3,000 prisoners at the Mahjar prison from 1993-1998
  • 2,500 prisoners were executed between 1997-1999 in a "prison cleansing campaign"

He had a campaign of real torture, not just humiliation. There’s a huge difference between putting Muslims in embarrassing situations and pulling off limbs, electrodes, and exterminating 10,000 of them which was the normal mode of operation in these prisons before we took over. The mass graves found were non-story in the European press compared to Abu Ghraib and getting to make us look bad. But does that reflect worse on us or them?

No excuses, but context

That doesn’t mean that we should ignore what happened, or that things didn’t go too far. The American and British stuff will not be tolerated by their people -- and it wasn’t! It was newsworthy because it would not be tolerated. But Abu-Graib is the exception, not the norm. While on the other side, the norm was torture and executions, not the exception. And which does our media focus on? The one that will inflame the ignorant to commit more acts of violence, and will help destabilize a region that we're trying to calm down. Good for them, undermining the interests of peace, while pretending to take the moral high ground.


In war, bad stuff happens. But at our worst, we weren’t a fraction as bad as things were daily under Saddam (and his sons). The fanatics that hate us offer no context, no counter-balance, they hardly make a peep when Saddam does 1,000 times as much (and worse), for much longer. They offer no balance that we acted quickly and caught and punished the perpetrators of this, they instead make up conspiracy stories about how this came from the top, and so on. (As if someone being framed wouldn’t blow the whistle or the military wouldn’t have paperwork to trace the problem — no one does anything without written orders). They don’t remind people the 500 ways the glorious insurgents break every rule of law and war (hiding out in Mosques, disguising as people, beheading people, torture, trying to maximize colatoral damage and so on) and in fact, they make excuses (America is bigger and more powerful so this is their only defense against the big bad Americans).

To a few, anything is justified to do to Americans, and anything we do is wrong because they disagree with us or hate us. If a few Americans or Brits do stupid things, or get too trigger happy, and are punished for it, it is proof of a conspiracy, and proof that we were wrong and they were right all along. The media would rather take the terrorists side, than the American one. Which might be great for readership amongst the least informed, but is going to cost them in trust and drive off the more informed and balanced readers over time.

Written: 2005.08.04