Arab News Team
Saturday 1 May 2004
Last Update 1 May 2004 12:00 am
RIYADH/DAMMAM/JEDDAH, 1 May 2004 — Citizens and expatriates across Saudi Arabia unanimously condemned the torture of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers.
The CBS News program “60 Minutes II” on Wednesday broadcast photos taken at the Abu Gharib prison late last year showing American troops abusing Iraqi prisoners of war.
The pictures showed US troops smiling, posing, laughing or giving the thumbs-up sign as naked male Iraqi prisoners were stacked in a pyramid or positioned to simulate sex acts with one another.
“Outrageous”, “alarming” and “unpardonable” were some of the words used by people here, angrily reacting to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers.
A British Embassy spokesperson in Riyadh told Arab News: “As the US Army spokesperson Gen. Kenneth said, we are appalled by these pictures. It is right that they are investigated and those involved face disciplinary procedures,” the diplomat said. “Gen. Kenneth added that he hopes that the investigation will not only look at those who committed these acts but also those who encouraged them. There is no excuse.”
The spokesperson added that, from the British point of view, “We cannot comment on detainees under US responsibility but the coalition provisional authority has made every effort to ensure good standards for those detained and that they are certainly better than those under Saddam.”
Aqeel Al-Onaizi, a media adviser with Maaden, expressed his shock and indignation over the TV images and said they would shatter the US image in the Arab world and its commitment to bring freedom to Iraq, and the US would lose all credibility whenever it talked of freedom and democracy.
“It is also against all international laws and especially the Geneva Convention. The US soldiers should be held accountable for their actions in Iraq.
“The US government owes the international community an explanation over the conduct of its soldiers. This is clear evidence that the US forces are behaving like invaders rather than saviors of the Iraqis. This will provoke anger throughout the Arab world and will further encourage the Iraqis to step up their resistance to the Americans,” he said.
Describing the American soldiers’ conduct as disgusting, Saifudeen Thassim, assistant general manager of the SAMBA Financial Group, said it was a barbaric act from a country which claims to speak for democracy in the world.
“No one can deny the fact that prisoners of war should be treated according to the Geneva Conventions,” he said and recalled that the US soldiers entered the Iraqi soil under the guise of liberators.
“These actions cannot be accepted by any right thinking individual or by any peace-loving nation.”
“This is a situation where there is no rule of law,” said young Saudi journalist Mohammed Al Ameer. He said the UN had to become involved for the sake of the Iraqi people. Otherwise there would be more chaos in the country. “One year has elapsed and still there is no law and order in Iraq. This reflects the maladministration of the US government,” he said.
Nasser Al-Salti, a company executive, said the US actions in Iraq are fueling hatred toward the US. “Americans by nature are good people, but I cannot understand the ruthless behavior of these US soldiers. If Saddam Hussein was described as a tyrant, how could we call Bush an angel?” he said. “The whole world should rise up against this humiliation of POWs,” he added. “This is unbecoming of a civilized country which claims to be the world leader.”
Mohammed Al-Saqqa, a prominent Saudi TV commentator, said the waste of human life, both on the side of the Iraqis and American soldiers, is in sharp contrast to the promise of democracy, liberty and dignity of human life that the Americans gave to the Iraqis. “Is it the kind of freedom and democracy that we wish to see in Iraq?” he asked.
In Dammam, video clippings of torture and humiliation of Iraqis by the American occupation force shocked and angered people who said the images showed the true face of America. Many people wanted the UN to try the US forces for war crimes.
Some, however, had a word of praise for the American TV station, which brought the real face of America before the entire world.
Saleh Al-Humaidan, managing director of Al-Youm Group of publications, found the video clippings appalling and repulsive. “The clippings show the true character of the American army. It also reflects their true intention in Iraq.”
Al-Humaidan said that the United Nations should take up the issue and the entire world must put more pressure on the United States.
Khaled Bouali, a prominent journalist said that it was not just the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners shown, but of every Arab. “I am sure they are perpetrating the same torture and humiliation on the prisoners at Guantanamo.”
Jeffery, an American working at Saudi Aramco, said he was ashamed of the American forces involved in such gruesome acts. “It is absolutely barbaric and inhuman. How can we ever justify our global fight for human rights, when we ourselves are involved in such acts? What kind of example we are leaving for our younger generation,” he said.
In Jeddah, watch dealer Abdul Rahman Saggaf said: “We’re not prepared to take any more excuses. It’s certainly not a one-off incident. This is something the so-called Coalition Forces should be ashamed of and they should be severely punished.
“The graphic details emerging from TV pictures show how low they can stoop. They have put in practice some of the worst forms of torture in history,” said Ronald Thomas, an executive with a courier company in Jeddah.
“Merely dismissing it as an isolated incident or issuing statements of condemnation is not enough. World leaders must rise to the occasion and take stringent measures to see that such ugly incidents do not recur,” said a Jeddah-based diplomat.
“The liberators have turned out to be worse than the dictator,” said Helmi Aiden, a retired Turkish construction engineer in Jeddah. “Coalition forces must leave Iraq and allow the Iraqis to decide their own fate.
“What happened is the worst atrocity in human history and the perpetrators must be brought to justice,” said Uwe Preini, a visiting German travel industry executive.
“The sexual humiliation seen in the pictures is shocking. The entire world should unite and condemn it in one voice,” said Bashar Awad, a 65-year-old Yemeni trader.
“They could have as well killed them rather than subjecting them to inhuman sufferings. They’ve been playing with the lives of poor Iraqis instead of fulfilling the promise of turning their land into one of peace and tranquility.”
(Input from Javid Hassan and Mohammed Rasooldeen in Riyadh, Saeed Haider in Dammam and K.S. Ramkumar in Jeddah.)