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May 1, 2004

The Great Satan


by Paul Craig Roberts

The current issue of National Review advocates that the US adopt Saddam Hussein’s policies toward Iraqis. Nothing less will subdue them, says the conservative publication. To beat them, National Review says, we must become like them.

No sooner said than done. The US has appointed Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard General, Jasim Muhammed Saleh to deal with the Fallajuh insurgency. And, judging from news reports and photographs of tortured Iraqis, the US has put Saddam Hussein himself back in charge of the notorious prison, Abu Ghraib.

US prestige will never recover from the photos of Americans abusing Iraqi detainees. With no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, with no terrorist link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, President Bush’s last remaining excuse for his invasion of Iraq was his boast that the torture prisons have been closed.

In his war propaganda, President Bush portrays America as a morally superior country whose innate virtue is the reason we are in Iraq. America alone is willing to tax its citizens and send its sons to die in order to bring freedom and democracy to other lands. Bush describes our mission as one in which our troops are dying and we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars not to acquire a colony or to control the oil, but to liberate Iraqi women and to make Iraqis safe from torture.

With the US now guilty of war crimes as defined by Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, our sanctimonious president will never again be able to wear American virtue on his sleeve without the entire world laughing in his face.

The US military is making a big show of dealing with the Saddam Hussein imitators in its ranks, but the sickening fact is that both the US government and the American media sat on the story for one month, keeping it a secret until the photos began circulating independently.

The neocons, whose war this is, were quick to say that the US should be judged by what it proclaims, not by what it does. What’s a little torture after all, compared to building freedom and democracy?

It was ten minutes into the news hour on the day the story broke before the Ministry of Propaganda, a.k.a. Fox News, could bring itself to mention, fleetingly, the torture story. Americans who rely on Fox News for their understanding of the war must be scratching their heads.

By showing the true nature of the US occupation, the photos may have broken the rush to wider war and the return to military conscription. Polls released at the end of April show that a majority of Americans had soured on the war prior to the torture story. The photographic evidence that US troops are committing atrocities will further reduce support for the war.

The impact on the Muslim world will be different. For decades extremists have called the US "the Great Satan." The US invasion and violent occupation of Iraq have given credibility to this characterization of America. Our Middle Eastern puppets are sending us frantic signals that unprecedented hatred of America is endangering the stability of their countries. One thing is certain: the photographs showing a female US soldier laughing at the sexual humiliation of Muslim men will not make Americans safer.


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    Paul Craig Roberts wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review. He is author or co-author of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon chair in political economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and senior research fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury's Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell.

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