When the words Abu Ghraib pop up in the news, liberal media antennas go on instant alert, sensing a renewed opportunity to negatively portray the Bush administration. But when the Iraqi government announced last week it was going to reopen the notorious prison, turning a section into a museum that will honor the victims of the horrors committed there in years past, a collective yawn greeted the statement.
What caused the unusual lack of interest was that the Iraqis intend to portray only Saddam Hussein’s crimes and nothing about the 2004 scandal concerning abuse detainees endured at the hands of American military personnel. News outlets that did carry the museum announcement used mostly wire stories, to which negative titles were often attached, showing their displeasure. One example is MSNBC.com’s Abu Ghraib museum to ignore U.S. abuse. Others simply mentioned the initiative in low-level news flashes.
“That (the American scandal) was nothing compared to what Saddam Hussein has done,” explained Busho Ibrahim, Iraq’s deputy justice minister, about the decision to exhibit only Saddam-era horrors, such as execution chambers, torture tools and an iron chain that bound prisoners.
The Nation magazine, which led the charge in blaming the Bush administration for the detainees’ mistreatment, appears to have missed the Iraqi government announcement altogether. A search of the New York Times and Los Angeles Times web sites produced no Abu Ghraib museum stories either, but rather only accounts of the American scandal.
The most recent story in the New York Times dates to only last May and concerns an artist exhibiting 48 paintings and sketches that show his “indignation” at America’s “Great Crime.” Last July, the LA Times printed a similar Abu Ghraib painting story, proving the liberal media’s ongoing obsession of tarring the Bush administration with the incident. The single work, titled “Bush At Abu Ghraib”, naturally came with a large photo.
The only time the liberal media portrayed the brutality of the Saddam regime accurately was in the run-up to the 2003 invasion. But in the post-war difficulties, they and most of their Democratic allies tired of supporting the American war effort, and wound up championing the politics of defeatism.
The abuse and humiliation of Iraqi detainees was, obviously, wrong, and the conviction of seven American soldiers and their sentencing to jail time settled the matter. The liberal media, however, exploited the incident, using it to camouflage their animosity towards President Bush and to launch attacks against his administration and the American military, while feigning moral outrage and sympathy for the victims.
In doing so, all-out efforts were made to give the scandal as high a profile as possible for as long as possible. They interviewed prisoners involved; wrote innumerable newspaper and magazine articles; published books; staged plays; made films; and painted pictures, often implying a moral equivalency between President Bush and Saddam Hussein.
But if the liberal media truly empathized with the Abu Ghraib prisoners under American control and were morally outraged at their treatment, then one has to ask: where was their empathy for the Abu Ghraib prisoners during the 23 years Saddam Hussein was in power? Why were they not using their formidable media skills to expose to the world the rape rooms; acid baths; the gouging out of eyes; torture of children; electric shock treatments; mass executions etc…in Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi prisons preceding the American invasion?
The facts were always available to mount such a media campaign. One liberal news organization, CNN, had first-hand experience of Saddam’s brutality, as one of its cameramen was tortured with electroshocks for weeks by Iraqi secret police in the mid-1990s. But it chose to say nothing.
Human rights organizations had also been documenting Saddam’s crimes for years, proving Ibrahim correct. The proof still even exists in the prison today. Ibrahim said: “There is evidence of the crimes (Saddam committed) such as the hooks used to dangle prisoners …the execution chambers in which 50 or 100 people were killed at once.”
But the eyes of the liberal media have already shifted to Guantanamo.
One American authoress, Jean Sasson, did make an effort to portray the dark side of Saddam’s rule and produced an impressive book called: Mayada, Daughter of Iraq: One Woman’s Survival Under Saddam Hussein. Sasson’s subject is a former female prisoner, Mayada al-Askri, who was imprisoned and tortured in Baladiyat prison, Saddam’s secret police headquarters.
Al-Askri relates the torture and terror she and her 17 cellmates, the “shadow women” of cell 52, experienced. These women, all living under the threat of execution, told stores to each other, to block out the screams of torture nearby. In one, a cellmate recounts to al-Askri how they beat her daughter before her eyes so badly that “… her belly button flipped inside out.” Seeing this, the torturers “howled with laughter.”
Through connections, Al-Askri managed to get out of Baladiyat and miraculously was allowed to leave Iraq. Just before leaving, she experienced one more bizarre and sadistic scene at the bus station, symbolic of Saddam’s rule.
Saddam’s psychotic son, Uday, burst into the bus depot with a huge tiger on a leash, screaming and spitting on people, calling them traitors for leaving Iraq. Thankfully, he did not set the tiger on anyone, as was his habit. A terrified Al-Askri recalled he simply “spat until he exhausted himself and left the building.”
Those who are morally outraged at the American invasion of Iraq, might consider taking a look at Sasson’s book and, aside from reading it, look up the photos of the mass graves and killing fields American troops discovered, and consider the even greater nightmare Iraq would have posed to her citizens, and to America, in Uday’s hands.
The fact that tens of thousands of Saddam’s Abu Ghraib victims are finally getting their sufferings recognized causes no joy among liberal media outlets. So perhaps it is time they get their own museum -- this one dedicated to the victims of their heartless hypocrisy.