ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Unpacking Abu Ghraib: A Reading List on the Torture of Iraqi Civilians by the US Military

In 2004, images of the torture of Iraqi prisoners in the notorious prison of Abu Ghraib by American soldiers sent shockwaves through the world that such an exercise was carried out by the United States. A decade later, a detailed report on the exact techniques used to extract “intelligence” from Iraqi detainees was made public. Who is responsible for the torture? How did America get off the hook? And 17 years later, who remembers Abu Ghraib?

South Asian Imperatives

In a follow-through that has taken the world by surprise, and contrary to the apprehensions raised initially, the US has shown growing restraint in its pronouncements and its apparent intentions in the pursuit of its war against terrorism. Whatever the internal and geopolitical compulsions that have moderated the early rhetoric, this in retrospect makes the Indian government’s response to the World Trade Centre disaster appear notably naïve.

Afghan Armageddon?

Short of the Taliban graciously handing over Osama bin Laden and his rabble no imaginable act of appeasement can stay the hand of the US military. But pure retaliation will not suffice. Ample ploughshares must accompany the shiny high tech swords if the hatreds that steered the fatal airliners are to be stemmed rather than stoked.

Terrorism: Eliminating the Sources

As the world moves to a new sensibility on terrorism in the wake of saturation coverage of the terrorist strikes on America and their aftermath, it has become fashionable in quite a few circles to characterise terrorism as the result of a clash of cultures. The cultures in question are identified, implicitly at least, as Islam and the west, the latter standing for modernity and the former cast as offender against reason and progress. The transparent irrationality of such an interpretation is not reason enough, in the Indian context, to dismiss it lightly. This is so because of the attraction such a characterisation of terrorism holds for sectarian ideologies that seek to target and isolate minority communities.

A Different War

No words can possibly reflect the horror of Tuesday’s mass murder of men, women and children – ordinary airline passengers and workers in commercial and government offices – by terrorists using hijacked planes to blow up the World Trade Centre in New York and a part of the Pentagon complex in Washington. Nor the psychopathic inhumanity of those who over weeks and months went about cold-bloodedly planning and executing this crime against all humankind. What has sent shock waves round the world, even more than the actual human and physical devastation, terrible as it has been, is the realisation how vulnerable even a country as powerful and as well defended against external attacks as the US is to the sort of invisible enemy who struck on Tuesday. And the next time round the enemy might choose to arm himself with chemical or biological weapons or even a crude nuclear device.

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