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Signs of the Times for Wed, 01 Mar 2006

Signs Editorial:

Tunis Hebdo
Translated By Kate Brumback
February 14 - February 19 Issue

The broadcast of new images of torture by the American army at the Iraqi Abu Ghraib prison in 2003 and the publication February 16 of a report by five independent U.N. experts on conditions at the Guantanamo camp have tarnished the West's image a bit more in the Arab world - which was already suffering from the cartoon affair. It has also discredited the United States in matters of democracy.

In effect, the report in question, which is very critical of Washington, was - as expected - denigrated by the American administration, which has no intention of judging the 490 alleged al-Qaeda members held at the base, or of freeing them or even closing Guantanamo, despite numerous repeated appeals made by human rights organizations.

For Washington, the "war on terrorism," undertaken since the September 11, 2001 attacks, remains the top priority; even above the international legal framework.

Since then, the Guantanamo camp has been turned into a veritable bunker, where every kind of abuse has been and continues to be committed. According to the report by the five U.N. experts, "the general conditions at Guantanamo equate the prisoners' health condition to inhuman and violent treatment. In certain cases, the treatment goes so far as to be torture. … Certain interrogation methods are based on religious discrimination and aim to offend the detainees' religious beliefs," the text says.

In the same vein, the scandal of the Abu Ghraib prison, the revelation of which provoked the furor of Arabs in 2004, has surfaced again with the broadcast of new, even crueler images.

The reactions were unanimous that these images diminish the credibility of the campaign to promote democracy in the Middle East that the United States claims to be leading. In fact, they place America in an untenable situation. Would Washington have authorized torture in circumstances that don't concern Iraqis, for example, or Muslims in general?

We are correct to assume that, with what is happening at Guantanamo or what happened at Abu Ghraib, America has never taken into consideration the humanitarian aspect insofar as the tortured prisoners are, according to the United States, presumed terrorists.

"The war against terrorism" being the number one objective, Washington is ready to do anything to keep its program from waning.

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