[Ppnews] John Howard' Does Abu Ghraib

Political Prisoner News PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Feb 21 08:51:29 EST 2006

February 20, 2006

The Bigoted Wombat

John Howard' Does Abu Ghraib


I was startled to hear Prime Minister John Howard 
of Australia exclaim in a BBC interview last 
night that he could not understand why pictures 
of starving Jewish interns of Bergen Belsen, 
Dachau, and Aushwitz had been aired, yet again, 
by an Australian TV station a few days ago. "I 
don't understand what news value there is any 
longer in showing more pictures of starving Jews, 
tortured in these prison camps." He added that 
the airing at this time was all the more 
disturbing that "people involved in abusing the 
Jewish concentration camp interns had been 
prosecuted and some had even gone to jail" and 
wondered who benefited from the re-airing of 
photos that had shocked the civilized world. Mr. 
Howard was also shocked, but shocked that the 
photos had been published "unnecessarily", not 
revolted at the humiliating, disgraceful, vile acts that they depicted.

This is the same John Howard who ordered his 
armed forces to abuse Iraqi and Afghan refugees, 
including young children and old people, and 
locked them up in the heat of the Australian 
desert in a jail run by a private American 
company. The same John Howard who is prime 
minister of the only Western country which 
automatically jails all political refugees that 
land on its shore, a policy he instituted. To be 
fair to Mr. Howard though, one must state that he 
did not personally abuse the poor, starving 
refugees. He let his Army, Navy and police forces 
do his dirty deeds. Which helped him win the last 
general election on a wave of xenophobia that did 
not do those who rode it, nor those who voted for 
Mr. Howard because of it, any honor. The Howard 
team's shameful, casuistic argument against 
giving shelter to starving refugees was of course 
that they were nothing but "illegal immigrants" 
trying to sneak into Australia through the back 
door, i.e. that they were jumping the line while 
thousands of "legal" candidates were going 
through proper channels. Naturally, Mr. Howard 
has not heard of the international UN conventions 
on refugees. Indeed, the fourth item in a list 
returned by a Web search engine reads: "Detention 
Camps: Australia's Shameful Breach of The UN 
Convention." (www.safecom.org.au/detention.htm)

To think that voters in one of the richest 
"Western" countries bought Howard's argumentation 
lock, stock and barrel, is disheartening. To 
think that they were so frightened by a few dozen 
refugees that they cheered when the cynical, 
immoral Howard team used the might of Australian 
frigates bedecked with heavy guns and rocket 
launchers to block access to their shores to a 
bunch of men, women, and mostly children fleeing 
death and persecution in a rickety boat that 
eventually faltered, is distressing. To think 
that Australia, a country that boasts one of the 
highest standards of living in the world, could 
not find it in its heart to open its arms to a 
few dozen haggard people who were running out of 
food and water, is offensive to the civilized mind.

Doubtless, Mr. Howard would have approved turning 
back even the "Exodus" if it suited his election 
campaign. Imagine the propaganda value he would 
have derived from turning back a ship carrying 
more than 4,500 wretched refugees, not merely two 
or three dozen. Back in 1947, the "Exodus" was 
prevented from docking in a Palestinian port by 
the British authorities after they boarded the 
ship, bludgeoning to death 3 innocent Jewish men, 
and injuring several dozen in the act of taking 
control of it. "Exodus" was eventually forced to 
return to its point of origin near Marseilles 
before it was taken to Germany where its 
passengers were forcibly removed. The ordeal 
suffered by those suffering refugees, facing 
dwindling supplies of food and water, proved to 
be one of the most defining iconic images that 
helped in the establishment of the state of 
Israel a year later. Of course, had the refugees 
stood in front of the Australian embassy in 
Berlin, in a long line stretching from the 
Brandenburgh Gate to the Reichstag, Mr. Howard 
might have provided "legal" passage to Australia 
to a few dozen of them, but only so he could 
later claim that he too had saved Jews from 
annihilation. You can imagine him dreaming of 
being the subject of a film directed by Steven 
Spielberg, entitled "Howard's List."

But to be fair yet again to Mr. Howard, he was 
neither alone, nor the first, in bemoaning the 
publication of the heretofore unpublished Abu 
Ghraib torture photos, further documenting the 
abuse, abasement, and inhumane treatment of Iraqi 
detainees by their American jailers. A U.S. State 
Department spokesman joined the chorus of those 
who termed the publication of the photos 
"unfortunate", though not the acts that the 
photos depicted. As for his and Mr. Howard's 
argument that people (a few lowly scape-goats) 
had been prosecuted and sent to jail (for a few 
years) which in their eyes ought to be enough for 
the world to forget about this affair, this same 
argument would have seen Himler, Goebles and 
Goering go scot free for the crimes against 
humanity that they visited upon innocent Jews, 
while a handful of SS and Gestapo murderers would 
have been sent to the "Western Front" for 
actually carrying out the Nazi genocidal policy.

Now I know that none of you were fooled by the 
artifice that I used in the first paragraph 
above: substituting the word "Jewish" for 
"Iraqi." Funny, isn't it, how starkly revealing 
can be the transposition of a single word. Mr. 
Howard was of course criticizing the decision of 
an Australian paper to publish newly leaked 
photos of the criminal torture that Iraqi 
detainees were subjected to in Abu Ghraib prison 
on the hands of their American jailers. The world 
knows well by now that this torture was 
officially sanctioned at the highest levels of 
the American government and military command. 
People have often wondered why the Wehrmacht's 
high-command never rebelled en-masse against 
Hitler's illegitimate, murderous orders. The 
policy of torture that the U.S. army command 
ordered and instituted at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and 
other infamous locations gives us valuable 
insights into how politicians can utilize 
propaganda effectively to corrupt the very soul 
of otherwise honorable people, even in a country 
like the U.S. where the majority of the people 
are appalled at what their government is doing to 
other descent people around the world. By the by, 
of course not "all" Danes, Norwegians or Dutch 
are as insensitive, fascist, or right-wing as the 
editors of Jyllands-Posten or the current Danish 
Government. The artifice of painting "all" Danes, 
Dutch and other Scandinavians with the same broad 
brush was designed to generate the very howls of 
protests that peppered the 175 responses that I 
received in response to my article on the 
Jyllands-Posten's cartoons. That, folks, is how 
decent, ordinary, law-abiding, non-violent 
Muslims (the vast majority of them) feel when 
they are collectively painted as "potential 
terrorists." And, yes, of course not all Danes or 
Dutch are mindless right-wingers intent on 
"confronting radical Islam," an asinine endeavor if ever there was one.

And before I am submerged with further howls of 
protest, if not worse, at the "unconscionable" 
juxtaposition of what took place in the Nazi 
death camps with what happened at Abu Ghraib and 
other torture centers like Guantanamo Bay, let me 
be perfectly clear: there is no comparison 
possible between the two. The Holocaust was a 
barbaric, horrendous event on a historical scale. 
Meanwhile, the death, suffering and destruction 
that the Anglo-American led "International 
Community" has visited upon Iraq through 
ill-conceived, inhumane, collective punishment 
euphemistically described as "sanctions" that 
killed upward of a million Iraqis, half of them 
children, and the torture and humiliation of 
Iraqi men, women and teenagers on the hands of 
American and British jailers and "interrogators," 
are described as an "anomaly" by British prime minister Tony Blair.

I have news for Mr. Blair: an anomaly is when the 
weather suddenly and unexpectedly changes from 
bright sunlit sky to thunderous raining clouds, 
ruining his open-air tea party at Checkers; an 
anomaly is when fluid traffic on the M1 suddenly 
turns into a 4 hour long complete traffic 
stoppage that causes thousands of commuters to 
miss both dinner with the family and the 10 
o'clock news on BBC2; an anomaly is when his 
government is returned to power with a majority 
of seats in parliament on the strength of a mere 
25% of the popular vote. Those are indeed 
anomalies. What happened in Dachau and Treblinka 
were not anomalies but crimes against History 
itself. What happened in Abu Ghraib and Bagram 
and other undisclosed locations were not 
anomalies but crimes ordered and sanctioned at 
the highest levels of the political and military 
command of a country that is full of descent, 
honest, hardworking people who are horrified at 
the "anomalies" that their government is 
committing in their name. As for the claim that 
British forces do not behave as egregiously as 
their American counterparts, well, the recent 
video showing the brutal beating of Iraqi 
teen-agers by British troops lays that argument 
to rest. Imagine how many more similar incidents 
took place that were not filmed, or were filmed 
but the images have not been leaked yet. The 
British emperor truly hath no clothes, and Mr. 
Blair must take people the world over for idiots 
incapable of critical, independent thought.

What I truly do not understand however, is the 
absence of one particular image, in view of the 
ignominies suffered by Jews in recent history, 
and in view of "Never Again, Never Forget." 
What's missing is a video showing all members of 
the Israeli Knesset, led by the President of 
Israel, filing in to sign a petition for the 
world never to forget what's happening to 
innocent Iraqis in Abu Ghraib, and demanding that 
such practices stop immediately. I once wrote a 
hypothetical letter to President Katsav inviting 
him to lead the world in declaring: "We are all 
Iraqis now." A friend sent it to two well-known 
and highly respected Israeli journalists, hoping, 
I guess, that they would do the same: urge their 
president to recite what must amount to the most 
moral words that an Israeli president could utter 
today: "We are all Iraqis Now." Imagine the 
effect of such a declaration on Middle East 
politics. Of course, though my recommendation was 
meant sincerely, I never expected President 
Katsav to ever make such a declaration. And the 
point of my letter was exactly that: to prove 
that for the political leadership of a people 
whom Edward Saïd described as "amongst the most 
moral people in the world," there's one standard 
for them, and another for the "dirty Arabs."

Too much fantasy? If I had apologized to wombats 
down under for having described John Howard as 
one of theirs, now that could have been called a 
"fantasy." For the record therefore: Mr. Howard 
is not a wombat. Personally, I can declare 
unequivocally that I don't know and have never 
read about, met, or heard of, a single bigoted wombat. Cuddly creatures, they.

Rachard Itani can be reached at: 
<mailto:racharitani at yahoo.com>racharitani at yahoo.com

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