Abu Ghraib and Insaniyat

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Abu Ghraib and Insaniyat
Article by: Arshin Adib-Moghaddam

“We have met the enemy, and he is us”

Iraq is a different world than where we live in North America. Canadian values and culture of North America are vastly different from those of the Middle Eastern country that is the subject of an-article by Arshin Adib-Moghaddam titled Abu Gharib and Insaniyat. Following the terrorist attacks in New York in 2001 the differences between these two cultures seemed immense. The stories and images that were beamed into our houses by television and other media were unreal to our eyes. From our perspective we feel fortunate to live in a different place and wonder how the world got to a point where things can be so different in two places, which in the large scheme of things are relatively close. This article discusses these differences and the results that arise from each perspective based upon the American treatment of Prisoners at Abu-Ghraib.

Abu Ghraib is a prison in Baghdad, Iraq. The prison is run by the American military, and in 2001, following the terrorist attacks of Muslim terrorists Abu Ghriab became the site of vicious treatment of Iraqis who were humiliated and tortured by their American captors. The article by Arshin Adib-Moghaddam discusses the various issues around the mistreatment and torture of these captives by the Americans and the impact that behaviour has created in the Muslim world, he looks at the reasons for it and comes to the conclusion that the gap between bashariya and insaniyat is the cause. Adib-Moghaddam defines these words as Ali Shariati had; Bashar “is that particular being that contains physiological characteristics which are share by all humans, regardless of whether they are black, white, yellow, western, religious, or non religious” and Insan differs as it is “a becoming while Bashar is a being”. He explains the evolution from being bashariya to insaniyat, how inherently everyone is a bashar and some are in the process of becoming insan, and some have attained insanyat. The reason for these terms in the context of torture is that the two cultures of the Americas and the Eastern countries like Iraq are in different stages of bashariya and insaniyat.

In Abu-Ghraib the feelings of dislike for terrorist actions, and a wish for revenge caused the American captors to abuse their detainees and in doing so create a feeling throughout the Muslim world that the American non believers were bigoted and prejudiced toward all Muslims. The published treatments and acts of torture were felt to be inconsistent with the ideals that Americans preached to the world, and which were held up as a standard of behaviour that was expected of themselves and of others. The common definition of torture is the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty. This is exactly what went on within the gates of Abu Ghraib. Although authorities from the prison claim the torture was in order to gain information, the behaviour went well beyond that simple objective, and in the eyes of the world’s media this distinction was apparent. In many cases the eyes of the world identified sheer cruelty as a motive. In the aftermath of the revelations of the American behaviour it was argued that when faced with the cultural and language barriers it was extremely difficult to get a definite confession, and harsher measures were warranted. Though such acts are prohibited by international law, and are considered unacceptable even when seemingly required by military necessity (Lee: 2007: 221). The combination of cultural and language differences and the anger directed indiscriminately toward an entire group of people, most of whom were innocent of any ill will and certainly unaware of the cause of 9/11 were targeted out of nothing more than frustration and anger towards their people.

The war on terrorism and the war against Iraq was a long...
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