Yemen joins condemning voicesPhoto shocker! [Archives:2004/734/Front Page]

May 3 2004

By Peter Willems
Yemen Times Staff

The Yemeni government has formally condemned the alleged abuses carried out by US soldiers on prisoners in Iraq.
“We are with the general view held by many governments and officials, including the US and the British governments, which have condemned these atrocities,” Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi said on Saturday.
Al-Qirbi told the Yemen Times. “We feel that it is unfortunate for the Iraqis who were hoping for a better future after Saddam Hussein, but it ended up with the same atrocities under the coalition forces.”
In the United States, the CBS News program “60 Minutes II” showed last Wednesday pictures taken late last year of US troops abusing prisoners. They were broadcasted by Arab television networks on Friday.
The British military is also investigating allegations against British troops. Photographs of British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners have also been released.
The “60 Minutes II” pictures depicted naked male prisoners posing in different positions – including prisoners simulating sex acts – while some had US soldiers ridiculing the naked prisoners, including one female soldier.
The photos were taken at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad which was once known as the place of torture and execution under the Saddam regime.
US President George Bush condemned the abuses on Friday.
“I share a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated,” said Bush. “Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people. That's not the way we do things in America.”
But deep animosity towards America has spread across the Arab world after seeing the photos, including among Yemenis.
“Americans are acting like barbarians, animals,” said a Yemeni shop owner. “There is nothing worse than sexual abuse. It has dishonored the Muslims. Not only are the Americans occupying Iraq, but they are now torturing the Iraqis.”
Concern is also expressed that US soldiers committing such crimes could ignite acts of terrorism.
“This will certainly inflame idealistic feelings, and there is no question that terrorist groups will take advantage of this,” said Al-Qirbi. “They always try to justify their acts of terrorism by injustices that Arabs and Muslims receive. So there is no question they will take advantage of these acts.”
The US military has brought charges against six soldiers on abuses carried out in November and December last year. Seven other soldiers have been suspended from their duties at the prison.
An army report, written by Major General Antonio Taguba in February and obtained by The New Yorker magazine, said that some Iraqi prisoners were subject to “sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses.”
“These acts could not have come from the orders of the US government,” said Nashwan Azzabeedi, a Yemeni financial manager. “It's probably just the individual soldiers themselves who did it.”
But the credibility of the US war in Iraq may be deteriorating. The Bush Administration was in a precarious position when many countries around the world opposed the US attack on Iraq a little over a year ago. During occupation, Iraq has been unstable, and intense conflicts erupted last month when both Sunni and Shiite groups battled with US troops.
“There is a loss of credibility and confidence coming from these atrocities, and it makes the future of the Iraqis more uncertain,” said Al-Qirbi. “This is at a time when people were hoping that the UN would play a role in restoring order in Iraq and the formation of an Iraqi government, which would lead the country towards general elections. This has come at a very unfortunate time.”
At a conference of local leaders in Sana'a on April 25, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh demanded the immediate withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. He said that Iraqi people were not living in freedom or democracy, they should choose their leaders and that the United States did not find weapons of mass destruction it had claimed as the reason for its invasion.
Since prisoners being abused has been broadcasted, many have been criticizing the United States for claiming that it brought liberty to Iraq. Some argue that even though Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, the crimes carried out by US soldiers are viewed very much the same.
“I believe that life is worse in Iraq than it was under Saddam,” said a Yemeni businessman. “He was a dictator, but after him there has been nothing but fighting and killing. And now we see humiliation and torture. Life was better before the war began.”