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George Bush as Saddam Hussein
Abuse Photos Prompt Comparison to Former Iraqi Leader

By Jefferson Morley Staff Writer
Monday, May 3, 2004; 2:06 PM

Comparing George Bush to Saddam Hussein is an increasingly common theme in the international online media's outraged reaction to photographs showing U.S. military police humiliating Iraqi prisoners. The anger generated by the photographs, first shown on CBS's "60 Minutes II" last week, was compounded by additional photographs published Friday in the Daily Mirror, a London tabloid, which showed a British guard urinating on an Iraqi prisoner and jabbing him in the groin with a rifle butt.

After British military officials questioned the authenticity of the photos, the Daily Mirror ran another story quoting two unnamed soldiers who said, "We stand by every word of our story."

While U.S. and British coverage has focused on President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair's denunciations of the abuses, many foreign commentators are starting to compare the U.S.-led occupation to Hussein's tyranny.

The oft-published picture of the hooded Iraqi prisoner standing on a box, electrodes attached to fingers and genitals, is "an image that would do Saddam proud," said the Sunday Herald in Glasgow, Scotland.

Many observers emphasized the fact that the abuses occurred in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison where Iraqis were tortured under Hussein's regime.

The English language Web site of Al Jazeera quotes Saudi commentator Dawud Shiryan as saying, "Abu Ghraib prison was used for torture in Saddam's time. People will ask now: 'What's the difference between Saddam and Bush?' Nothing!" Shiryan said the photographs "will increase the hatred of America, not just in Iraq but abroad."

In a front page story, the Yemen Times reports that many Yemenis "argue that even though Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, the crimes carried out by US soldiers are viewed very much the same."

The Bahrain Tribune, a daily newspaper in the oil-rich Persian Gulf emirate, says: "Bush seized all Saddam's properties and inherited everything Saddam had, including his torturing tools and methods."

"The cells, which were criticized by Bush and his mouthpieces, are now used by Bush for jailing Iraqis who oppose the plundering and looting of the wealth of their country. The torturing rooms, which were exposed to the whole world to highlight Saddam's barbaric behavior are now used by Bush and his soldiers to exercise their sick, sadistic and inhuman behavior."

The paper said the scenes in the photographs cannot be treated as "rare incidents."

"We are talking about the nature of an imperialist, immoral, racist and crusader President who should be driven out of Iraq and a corrupted, immoral, barbaric and impure army that should be forced to end its occupation of a sacred Islamic territory," the paper said.

But Musa Keilani, writing in the Jordan Times, sees an element of hypocrisy in the Arab reaction.

When Hussein was in the power, he writes, "the overriding feeling among the Arabs" was that the "the Arab world needed a leader like Saddam to challenge the West, particularly the US, and, of course, Israel. In the bargain, we all simply forgot that Saddam's continued survival in power in Iraq was at the expense of the basic human rights and well-being of the people of Iraq -- or most of the people of Iraq. Therefore, few wanted to focus attention on what was going on in Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq."

The photos of U.S. prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib "brought back memories of the Saddam era to many, and thus the basic question was immediately raised: Is this the way the US, the country which boasts of a great record of respect for human rights and dignity, treats its prisoners?"

Keilani says yes.

"The US, having invaded Iraq in the name of non-existent weapons of mass destruction and connections with international terrorism and then having shifted the argument to 'democracy' and human rights, is now kicking around the people of Iraq, whether in prison or otherwise. They have no respect for the people of Iraq and they consider every Iraqi as an enemy until proven otherwise."

Ehsan Ahrari, columnist for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times, says the photos of Abu Ghraib undermine the Bush administration's only remaining justification for the war.

"Once it could not find weapons of mass destruction to justify its invasion of Iraq, the administration of U.S. President George W Bush claimed that the liberation of Iraqis from the most inhumane rule of a dictator was a good enough reason for taking military action against that country. Now reports of the U.S. military's abuse of Iraqi prisoners in that notorious prison threaten to deprive the United States of even that wobbly claim."

© 2004 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive