The right to respond granted:Change your boring tune, Haifi [Archives:2004/747/Opinion]

June 17 2004

By Jordon A.
[email protected]
For the Yemen Times

I have an advice that I want to convey to Mr. Hassan Al-Haifi, the Yemen Times Columnist who writes 'Common Sense' on every edition. I want to urge him to try to be more objective in his reporting. He does know what the word objective means? Or does he have such limited talent and creativity that he can only sing one boring tune.
In an editorial, in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa, editor-in-chief Ahmad Jarallah wrote: “Dr. Buthayna Sha'ban, who is 'revolted' by the torture of the Iraqis, should be the last to express her revulsion – because the kinds of torture carried out in the prisons of the regime of which she is a part and in whose services she acts are too numerous to count. No atrocity surpasses the kinds of torment and torture [in the Syrian regime] except those that the former East German ruler [Erich] Honecker [used] against his political rivals, and those by [Nicolae] Ceausescu against his citizens in Romania…
“We have gone overboard in our talk of the Abu Ghureib torture scandal… We tried to unite the world against the perpetrators of the torture at Abu Ghureib. None has dared acknowledge that the U.S. behaved properly in uncovering [this] scandal, for having sufficient courage to apologize. It could have remained silent, or denied it – as is the custom of some Arab regimes that torture, assassinate, bury alive, rip out fingernails, and dissolve [people] in pits of acid, and appear before the world like innocent children with angels' wings, using denial and falsehood.”(9)
'A Crime is Not a Crime Unless it is Committed by a Foreigner'
Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, former editor-in-chief of the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote: “The names of all the thieves of the Oil for Food [Program], who took the oil money while the food never reached the Iraqi people, were documented [in a list] of perk recipients, and no one in the Arab media asked that they be punished or show their shame. Their crimes are much more serious than the Abu Ghureib prison scandals, because for years they stole medicine for the sick and for hospitals in Iraq and sold it on the Jordanian and Gulf markets.
“Now U.N. investigations are uncovering the scandal of the violations of the Oil for Food contracts. Kofi Annan is acknowledging it, expressing his revulsion, and promising to punish the perpetrators. But the Arab media are preoccupied only with the scandals of the Americans…
“A crime is not a crime unless it is committed by a foreigner. Torture is [carried out] by the Arabs with the consent of the Arab press, which is always silent about it. When someone tries to bring this up, he is accused of damaging the Arabs' good name, and of acting for the Zionist camp!
“No one is acquitting the Americans of what a group of jailers did to Iraqi prisoners. It is a crime… But it is inconceivable that the bribery of the Iraqi regime and the crimes of its adherents are exposed to the eyes of all, and we see the list of those who stole food and medicines – yet they walk with their heads high, because they know how we treat crimes…
“Ten [American] jailers photographed 100 naked [Iraqi] prisoners. [But] our criminals ate the food of millions of the poor, and stole the medicines of thousands of the sick. Our media raised a ruckus about a hate-filled [American] soldier who urinated on an [Iraqi] prisoner. [But] the thieves of [our] food and medicines urinated on an entire nation, and the [Arab] media doesn't care about their crimes; it awarded medals to some, and kept silent about the others.”(10)
Al-Rashed's article provoked a wave of strong reactions in the Arab world; he then published another article further explaining his position: “The intention of the [previous] article was to condemn the torture and also [to criticize] the double standard of the Arab media, which close their eyes on the issue of hundreds of Arab prisons and the actions of thousands of Arab jailers over many years – and exclusively focus on the Abu Ghureib case because the jailer was American…

“This reminds me of a sight that shocked me during a visit in Tunis with my colleague Mr. Salleh Al-Qallab.(11) We visited the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, which was situated there at that time. In the office of one official sat a Palestinian with a sad face. During a conversation [with him], he said he had recently been released from an Arab prison, after years of living in one of the dark basements through which sewage flows.
“The man stood and showed us his foot with a defect. He related that the [jailers] used to chain him tightly, which wore away his flesh and broke the bone. I asked him, 'Why don't you sue for this crime, or why aren't you exposing it to the media?' He answered: 'We don't want to make the situation worse.'”(12)
'Thank You to the American ABC Television Station'
Columnist Ahmad Al-Rab'i wrote in the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al Awsat: “Since the Abu Ghureib prison crime was exposed, the biggest discussion group in the Arab world has been [discussing] human rights, and this is a fine thing. The subject of human rights, freedom, and the state of the prisons has taken over every conversation [in the Arab world], after many years when the Arabs talked little about the value of the individual and the severity of the torture and killing. The Arabs became accustomed to not dwelling on things that do not concern them.
“Accordingly, millions of Arabs do not know about the mass graves of Saddam's Iraq, and about the state of the prisons and detention centers in their countries. Only rarely do we hear of an Arab group demanding the release of prisoners arrested for expressing an opinion, or of an association that wants to visit an [Arab] prison. Furthermore, this is the first time that the Arabs have seen television cameras inside the prisons.
“Thank you to the American ABC television station that exposed the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghureib. The Arab television stations are busy at the battle of Al-Fallujah, following Al-Sadr's militias, and with bin Laden's and Al-Zarqawi's films…
“The one who built Abu Ghureib prison is the dictatorship of the Arab leader named Saddam Hussein; the one who exposed this prison is an American television station. Had [these secrets] been exposed, we could [also] have known about the thousands tortured and killed in Abu Ghureib over the past 30 years, about whom no one knew or asked.
“I remember that after the liberation of Kuwait [in 1991], the torture instruments used by Saddam's army were collected in one place and pictures of them were published. We tried to cry to some of the Arabs: 'Look, [this is] a serious crime!' But no one listened. It would be interesting to know how many Abu Ghureibs exist the length and breadth of the Arab world. [It would also be] interesting to know the number of people tortured and killed in secret, and the number of those who left prison with the marks of torture on every corner of their bodies, but who preferred to hold their tongues out of fear of death.”(13)
Syrian columnist Hayan Nayouf wrote in the liberal Internet daily Elaph: “After the scandal of the torture of Iraqi prisoners by American and British soldiers, the Arab media handled this affair in a way arousing ridicule, proving that the Arab media and intellectuals possess everything but objectivity, transparency, and disclosure of the truth and the facts.
“There is no one who does not condemn this damage to prisoners' rights. There are international agreements that the Americans and others must honor. But in this article, I want to talk about the American president's apology, and about how this apology was treated by the Arab media and intellectuals.
“The American president, the president of the most powerful country in the world and the most developed with regard to science, art, culture, and democracy, apologized for the deeds of the American soldiers, and all the Americans also apologized for this shameful deed. And then the Arab intellectuals came, with their mocking, idiotic, and illogical media, and ridiculed this apology.
“The question arises whether Saddam or any other Arab leader [ever] apologized. Did Saddam apologize to the Iraqi people for burying a million Iraqis in the ground, for expelling millions of Iraqis, for murdering innocents in his prisons, for his crimes in neighboring countries, for invading Kuwait, and for murdering the Kuwaiti prisoners?
“Enough of your foolishness, Arabs! Hundreds of Kuwaiti prisoners fell victim to Saddam's crimes. Where were the Arab satellite channels, and why did no Iraqi official apologize?…
“Anyone who reads the Arab media [can get] an attack of madness. Had it not been for American democracy and the uncovering of the torture scandal by the American media, would the Arab media [ever] had heard about it? [Why?] Because [the Arab media] is preoccupied [with encouraging] ethnic [discord] and incitement to violence and terrorism!”(14)