Gwnewch y pethau bychain

Here there be wisdom…

Ronniecat on rec.arts.comics.strips, on the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal.

The lack of cultural interpretation or advice the administration seems to be receiving is appalling. I remember when the statue of Saddam was pulled down, and all the men were beating it with their shoes and slippers. Commentators on the news were laughing at this (the slipper thing). Anyone with the smallest knowledge of Arabic culture understands the very strong significance of what they were doing – and it wasn’t funny to them. (It is, for example, the traditional way one punishes a servant [or daughter-in-law] who one is displeased with; it is laden with class ramifications. It is in the domestic sense an ultimate act of disrespect.) It was a political statement. (One which a President getting good advice would’ve worked into a message to the population and capitalized on: “Now, the Iraqi people have beaten their former master with a slipper, as he deserves; now the Iraqi people are masters in their own house…”)

The fact that several of a pathetically small pool of US military Arabic translators were fired shortly after September 11 because they were gay speaks volumes about the administration’s priorities as they prepared for their “war on terror”.

The bottom line is, it doesn’t make one single bit of difference what Jed in Ohio thinks of the prison abuse scandal in the long run (Bush can, after all, only serve two terms); it matters what Ahmed in Basra and Hussein in
Riyaad think; and Ahmed in Basra wept with shame in his living room when he saw those pictures of his fellow Iraqis before he went out onto the street in his dirty soccer jersey and sign scrawled in Magic Marker on a torn piece
of cardboard that said, “Amercans are TORTRERS worse than SADAM!” And he and his son will hate America forever and will never, *never* forgive them; and Hussein will send his two sons to a secret training camp and write a cheque
that will eventually end up in Al Qaida’s hands; and Jed in Ohio will snicker at Ahmed’s dirty soccer jersey and stupid misspelled sign on CNN tonight and call Hussein, who he knows only in the abstract, a fucking raghead.

THAT’s the problem with the apologists’ reaction to Abu Ghraib.

(Posted with permission from the author)


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  1. To be fair, some of the news commentators at the time (and not just those on NPR) did explain that being beaten with the sole of someone’s shoe is a powerful insult in that culture.

    But he’s right about President Bush committing a severe tactical error by failing to capitalize on it. At least his father had enough clue to creatively mispronounce “Saddam” in an insulting way.

  2. Of course, not all people from Ohio are named Jed, or act like them.

    Unfortunately, I’ve had the displeasure of meeting a few of these “Jed from Ohio” type of people. Most of them live out in the boonies — away from the big cities and their suburbs. They don’t care what’s going on outside our country; they’ll even look at you funny if you dare suggest to drink a Canadian beer. And of course, they’re gonna vote for Bush because their preacher told them to do so, and their buddies are gonna vote for him.

    Jingoistic, moronic twits. (Yeah, my bias is showing.)

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