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Iraqi Abuse and the "Arab Street" By: Larry Schweikart
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, May 10, 2004


Amidst all the apologies, I want to suggest we all (Hillary Clinton here) take a deep breath and consider something that no one in the administration or Congress has (publicly) considered:

The POW photos are having an unintended effect on the Arab "Street" and the "resistance."

By now, everyone pretty well knows that Arab societies base everything on power and perceptions of power. In part, that is why so many Freepers and conservatives got their panties in a bunch because it appeared in public like "apologizing" was a sign of weakness.

Ah, my friends. You aren't thinking like an Arab. The "street" and, indeed, the leadership doesn't trust much of what we say---they only look at what we do. It would have made no difference if Bush formally apologized and sent each detainee a bouquet of flowers---the "street" would see that as a sham, a pretense, a distraction from the "real" policy.

No, I suggest something else. That the Arab "street" and especially the "resistance" has taken from those photos a message we didn't intend to send, but one that strikes fear into the very heart of them---a message of pure power and dominance. The submissive positions of these "tough" Iraqi men under the heels and attached to the leashes of WOMEN (and relatively small women, at that) sends a very powerful message to the "street."

Don't screw with the Americans. Oh, they'll "apologize," be we know that when the hearings are over, and the attention is off, they can do what they want.

I want to reiterate: this is foreign to our way of thinking. Unless you're a hard-core Democrat, you don't pathologically lie to achieve your objectives. But we must start thinking like the enemy.

Consider the following:

*Norway's Nettavision reported that a comedienne caused an outrage from her "stand-up stunt" where she demanded that a local fundamentalist Mullah be "tested" to see if he was really a "fundamentalist."

*One of the abused prisoners said "he will go home to his family in Nasiriyah but his shame will not allow him to stay." ("The Humiliated Man Beneath the Hood") He said through a translator that the sexual humilation was the worst part of the interrogation.

*Right after the fall of Baghdad, reporters went into the Egyptian street to find outrage. They found it . . . at Saddam, for being so humiliated. Those interviewed were distraught they had believed Baghdad Bob and were ashamed of the ease with which American forces overthrew the "strong man of Iraq."

*MSNBC reported in "The Secret War" that "as American armored columns pushed down the road to Baghdad, 400-watt loudspeakers mounted on Humvees would, from time to time, blare out in Arabic that Iraqi men are impotent." The Feyadeen, the article reported, could not bear to be taunted (especially about their manhood) and rushed out to attack . . . and be killed. “What you say is many times more important than what you do in this part of the world,” says a senior U.S. psy-warrior. 

The prison photos spoke volumes, but to the Arab resistance, it was a totally different message than the one heard on Capitol Hill on Friday.

Whether intentional or not, the prison photos have sent a message about strength, dominance, and especially the power of women over men in a society that cannot bear such an inversion of "the proper order." It is a profound message.

Has anyone noticed that we virtually walked into Najaf this week, unopposed? Al-Sadr did nothing---in fact, he moved his operations into the British zone, after all his bluster! Has anyone noticed that Fallujah is quiet? Very few roadside bombs/suicide bombs in the last couple of days. This could all change, but it is eerie that when a message of power is sent out all over the Middle East---unintentionally on our part---it resonates. Big time.

Of course, for many reasons, some good and some bad, this episode will be investigated, and some heads will roll. But the Arab street will not take that as a sign of American or western-style "justice," rather it will interpret this as another psy-op campaign designed to conceal the real message---that American women are "stronger" than Middle Eastern men.




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