Commentary: It Takes a Lot of Nerve!

By Ken Joseph Jr.

New York - May 16, 2004 - On a brief stopover on the way back to Baghdad the story of the terrible treatment of Iraqi Prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison broke. Having been by there many times and having a family member who was actually forced to work their during the time of Sadaam Hussein I look at it from a very different perspective.

While looking at the pictures and reading the descriptions of the unacceptable way the Iraqi prisoners were treated something began to feel very strange.

As a wave of condemnation began to rise, proper of course,  for those of us who were in Iraq during the time of Sadaam and have been throughout the Middle East it all began to ring very hollow.

While we must rightly condemn by all means possible and prosecute each one who violated the rights of the Iraqis put in their charge,  it seems so very strange that the loud cries of outrage ring out so strong and true when the crime is on the side of the United States,  but those same voices were completely silent for 35 years during the terror that was Sadaam Hussein and to this day are silent on the `thug rulers` throught the Middle East and throughout the world who must have all had a good laugh as they looked at the pictures and read the descriptions of the terrible abuse of the Prisoners under US control.

Sadaam himself, must have smiled at the `Childs play` in comparison to what he did on a daily basis and what occurs throughout the region even as I write.

The UN itself, currently being considered for a role in the future of Iraq according to the Iraqis who despise it so intently never lifted a finger of opposition to Sadaam and his daily terror.

Ask anyone living in countries in the region what happens if you are picked up by the `Amin` or secret police! They all live in holy fear of crossing the secret police . . . today! This is the reason they never speak put and appear to be so docile and anti-American.

Ask the Iraqis why they do not rise to the challenge given them by their liberation by America! It is because they are afraid, and rightly so that after the US hands over power on June 30th the `thugs` will be back and will as they always do `take care of` all who spoke the truth!

I was in Iraq during the time of Sadaam Hussein and can testify to the sheer terror of my family members at the horror of Sadaam Hussein.

I remember the way the whole house would stiffen at an unexpected telephone call, an unexpected visitor or anything out of the ordinary.

Ask any Iraqi what happened on a daily basis with Sadaam Hussein and his two sons. The story in Iraq to this day is of the absolute evil they were. They were said to end each day with a call to the Prison - the same prison that the current outrage has happened - to ask for a couple prisoners to be sent over.

Sadaam, Uday and Qusay his two sons were said to have ended the day by torturing one or more prisoners while they drank and laughed.

Many were the stories of those who simply disappeared never to come back again. Travel throught Iraq and look on the walls of just about every family for the telltale black and white pictures of one or more family members who died at the hands of Sadaam Hussein or in one of his `stupid` wars as they call them.

My own cousin, a wonderful, sweet Assyrian Christian woman endured the unspeakable when she was sent to Prison to be abused not once or twice but for 15 years for the simple crime of refusing to sleep with one of Sadaams cronies.

Another relative to this day with huge scars on his face and body where he was tortured over and over and over during the many years of imprisonment  for simply saying he was an Assyrian and a Christian.

While we must condemn in the strongest terms the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US Troops, at the same time we must bring the discussion back to reality - a reality where as terrible as it is the action by US Troops it is Childs play in relationship to what occurred every single day under the terror regieme of Sadaam Hussein and occurs right now in `thug regimes` throughout the Middle East - the same people in many cases who are so loudly and vociferously attacking the crimes by US troops.

With all its faults, the US has the honesty to admit she is wrong and as Condoleezza Rice did to apologize, say Sorry and do all it can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

While they rally against the unacceptable actions of the US troops, those in the middle east quietly and always in private admire a system where such misdeeds actually see the light of day, are apologized for and changes made.

The silent majority while outwardly in the `politically correct` atmosphere in nearly every Middle East country will demonstrate against the abuse, quietly they express astonishment because they all know that the `thug rulers` do many times more horrible things to their fellow citizens on a daily basis.

The question to ask is `When will those in other Middle Eastern nations who so loudly cry out against the American abuse be able to do the same for abuse in their own country?`

The `thug rulers` of the Middle East and the poor, longsuffering people under their unfortunate rule are closely watching what happens in Iraq.

Will the US stand up against `thug rule` or will she cave in, cut and run.

As one who has been there, while so intimidated and in fear that they will never publicly acknowledge it,  every Iraqi with the exception of the 20% who worked for Sadaam in some form or another hopes and prays that the US will cancel the June 30th handover and keep charge of the government until a secular, normal constitution can be written, free and fair elections held and a `normal` government in place.

The `thugs` cry out for an American departure and Islamic rule for one very simply reason - they want to take turns with Sadaam Hussein and continue his rule of terror themselves.

While the `thugs` will cry foul at a cancellation of the June 30 handover until a normal government can be in place, the `silent majority` of Iraqis will welcome it with relief and with the assurance of American control will slowly but surely begin to speak out and express what they really feel.

`June is too soon` is the private rallying cry of the silent majority of Iraqis. Instead of caving in as they did in Fallujah, the US should make it clear that the future of Iraq and the Middle East is one in which government, as it has shown by example is accountable to its citizens and should use the terrible occurrence at Abu Ghalid prison to show how a free and open society based on the rule of law operates.

Can good come out of the terrible things done against Iraqi prisoners? You bet! As one Iraqi told me the other day - we need the Americans to stay until we can have `normal government` again! We cannot have one group of thugs replace another one!`

Will his prayer be answered? The occurrences at Abu Ghalid Prison and the response of the American People and its government have served as an example of how a free society works and done more to advance the cause o liberty than a hundred good deeds.

It is precisely how a free society handles the tragic that shows its greatness!


Rev. Ken Joseph Jr. is an Assyrian and has been in Iraq since March, directs and is writing a book about his experience in Iraq entitled `I Was Wrong!`

would lHOME