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Iraqi abuse revelations deepen distrust of US

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The Abu Ghraib prison, once the stage for atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein, has been turned into a symbol of brutal occupation by a foreign force. The story of abuse by American soldiers broke at the worst possible time for the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, writes Middle East specialist Fawaz A. Gerges, in the second installment of a multi-authored, three-part series on US nation-building efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gerges places blame for further deterioration in security and order on the discovery of Abu Ghraib prison abuse by Iraqis who were already angry about high unemployment and continuing civilian casualties. The timing and scope of the scandal puts another hurdle in the way of the struggling reconstruction effort. Irrespective of the small number of US soldiers who were involved in torturing and humiliating detainees at Abu Ghraib, and despite the White House's best attempts to quell the uproar, the general perception in Iraq now is of a domineering, oppressive American presence with little respect for the Iraqi culture. Public opinion surveys place majority opinion in Iraq firmly against the US and United Kingdom, and the lack of trust is spreading. In the face of mounting ill will, “the potential for armed escalation is very real,” Gerges writes. The US can lessen, if not avert, Sunni and Shiite insurgency and more chaos through immediate and transparent investigations, he argues. These investigations should not focus on just the handful who committed the abuse, but also on the higher-ups who remain in the penumbra of the scandal. Ultimately, Gerges concludes, placing sovereign governing power in the hands of Iraqis as soon as possible will smooth the road to repaired feelings and renewed trust.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/26211/

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