Hard News by Russell Brown

A tragedy for everyone

It appears that we may not have seen the half yet of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal. The Washington Post has taken possession of more than 1000 disturbing digital images ("a soldier holding a leash tied around a man's neck in an Iraqi prison. He is naked, grimacing and lying on the floor") from the occupation. The paper's editorial pots Rumsfeld as the author of the culture of abuse.

Sy Hersh, whose New Yorker story helped lift the lid, told Bill O'Reilly that it's going to get much worse:

This kind of stuff was much more widespread. I can tell you just from the phone calls I've had in the last 24 hours, even more, there are other photos out there. There are many more photos even inside that unit. There are videotapes of stuff that you wouldn't want to mention on national television that was done. There was a lot of problems.

There was a special women's section. There were young boys in there. There were things done to young boys that were videotaped. It's much worse.

Bright spot, of sorts: Hersh praises the hard-nosed pursuit conducted by US Major General Antonio Taguba, author of the lacerating report on abuses at Abu Ghraib. There is clearly still decency in the US military, but something has gone horribly wrong with the conduct and culture of the occupation; something for which its architects will ultimately have to answer, if only because it is shaping up as a tragedy for America itself.

Electronic Iraq has a lacerating commentary on the latest photos:

And these bright-eyed young Americans are war criminals. They did not achieve such infamy overnight or on their own, however. Rather, they, like the Americans they represent back home in Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Texas, gradually lost their bearings as a result of a media- and policy-induced trance asserting that Americans and the United States constitute a special class of humanity: privileged, above the law, stronger, better, and more deserving than others.

From the evident joy they experienced while violating Iraqis arrested and imprisoned in a murky political and legal twilight zone of Iraq/Guantanamo/Afghanistan spawned by the "War on Terror," it is clear that they have not actually violated human rights or international humanitarian law: These young Americans, and their superiors, do not consider Iraqis to be human beings. From the photos, it seems they have mistaken Iraqis for dogs.

Remember the "untermenschen" story?

America's right-wing attack media has responded not with reflection on the moral mire, but by going further into denial. Rush Limbaugh told his listeners this week that the guards who abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib were just "having a good time" and that their actions served as an "emotional release." It was the second time this week that sexual torture has been compared by a commentator to "frat hazing".

Meanwhile, the floodgates crank open. British Labour MP Ann Clwyd, Tony Blair's personal human rights envoy to Iraq spoke this week about a case in which US soldiers detained an elderly Iraqi woman last year placed a harness on her, made her crawl on all fours and rode her like a donkey.

The head of a US military police unit at Abu Ghraib prison is under investigation following charges he secretly photographed naked female American soldiers. He was their commanding officer.

Amer al-Saadi, the former Saddam weapons scientist who approached US forces and turned himself in for questioning only three days after the fall of Baghdad has been held in solitary confinement ever since. His wife has been unable to see him for a year. Apparently "there were no weapons" is still not regarded as the correct answer.

GQ magazine's story on Colin Powell's battles in the White House says much that you've heard unattributed before: the difference is that his top aides and confidants are unabashedly on the record.

Indymedia New Zealand has blogger Raed Jarrar reading out his roadmap for Iraq.

FightingTalk's Patrick Crewdson has an extremely funny post (Helen - one of the junior members of staff should be able to explain it) - with a serious conclusion - on this week's assembly at Parliament. See: Clark to hikoi: why you buggin'?

Peter Rees had a comment on yesterday's hikoi post:

I just want to express my uneducated fug of confusion about this issue. It first started coming on when I was in Harvest Wholefoods and a mohawked young pakeha guy came in with a poster for the hikoi. It occurred to me, perhaps unfairly, that I spent much of the 80s and 90s protesting against privatisation in this country and here was this spotty youth, who in appearance might have stepped straight out of any of those marches, standing up for the exact opposite.

Although I'm proud to live in a country that has made some effort to fixing past wrongs, I've always felt a little queasy about alienating public land for any reason. Perhaps it's a sign of ageing. And now the right-wing are opposing private property rights ... I feel as if the political goalposts have been repositioned Hone Heke-style. I'm just so very confused. Perhaps I should read the proposed legislation, but I rely on the media for that. There. That helped.

Yes, I know what you mean. I wonder if some of the people swinging in behind the hikoi have quite thought through it all. It's not clear-cut, and I certainly don't know exactly what implications the awarding of another form of title in what had been regarded as public property - had it happened - would have had. The Herald's editorial today, Government between a rock and a hard place, is fairly on the money, especially in its conclusion that "the hikoi suggested a deep-seated grievance that transcends one issue." Quite. Things might have been different had emotions not been cranked up so far in the past 10 months. Ironically, Labour is reaping Brash's whirlwind.

Anyway, that enough gloom. It's Fiona's birthday (wish her many happy returns here) and we're off out for some lunch. Thanks to Murray Hewitt for the feedback on the Old Faithful Chops recipe (told you it was good) and thanks especially to our kind and judicious sometime advertisers Festival Mushroom Records for a hell of a good party last night (those folks have some contacts list), at which I bumped into a chap called Michael, who told me a story.

In the late 90s, Michael was tour-managing the British band Bush, and in 1997, their travels took them to Brazil for a big outdoor show in a bullring, with No Doubt and David Bowie. As was his habit, Michael connected over the Internet to 95bFM to listen to Hard News, back when it was a weekly radio rant. And there he was, backstage, and he saw the opportunity to do something: he connected his laptop to the desk, and sent my dulcet tones booming out, live from Auckland, through the PA to 50,000 - doubtless puzzled - Brazilian pop fans as they waited for the main acts. Briefly, I was world famous in Brazil, and I never even knew it. That has made my week …