We have received the permission of the Aspen Institute Berlin to publish this gem of an analysis by Jeffrey Gedmin about the Saddam underwear pictures. The article first appeared in German in the daily WELT.
Poor Saddam Hussein
By Jeffrey Gedmin
Last weekend someone, presumably from the U.S. military, leaked to the tabloid press photos of Saddam Hussein in his underwear. It was a stupid thing to do. It almost certainly is a violation of the Geneva Convention. I was starting to get angry. That was until I heard Saddam's lawyer call it "an insult to humanity." Then Arab media begin to screech about human rights violations and American savagery. Al Jazeera, the popular, independent television station based in Qatar, called the photos of the former Iraqi dictator "demeaning to the people of Iraq." An Al Jazeera spokesman says the station has refrained from airing the photos because of ethical and professional concerns. This gave me pause for thought.
Of course, blaming America has become a number one international sport. Last week, Reuters reported that a Russian village, from the Nizhegorodskaya on the Volga river, woke up to find that its lake had disappeared overnight. Experts are working to try to find explanations for what sucked the water away, but some villagers have already figured it out. A woman sitting on the ground outside her house said, "I am thinking, well, America has finally got to us."
This may sound crazy, but still, this lovely lady cannot hold a candle to the absurdity and cynicism you can experience in the Arab world. Let's review. Saddam Hussein attacked neighbours, gassed his own people, threatened Israel, supported terrorism, murdered more muslims than any
human being on earth--the last mass grave discovered in Iraq earlier this month contained 1,500 bodies, most of them women and children. To get lectures about journalistic ethics from Al Jazeera is especially rich. The group that gives air time to Osama Bin Laden to makes his case for global Jihad has scruples about showing Saddam in his underwear?
The record of Al Jazeera in Iraq has hardly been a model of journalistic ethics or caring for the honor of the Iraqi people. When Al Jazeera first opened its office in Baghdad in 1997, it hired the head of Saddam's national television station to run the shop. According to documents obtained by the London Sunday Times, three Al Jazeera reporters worked for Saddam's intelligence service between 1999 and 2002. According to documents obtained by Der Spiegel, Al Jazeera's Director General back in Qatar, Muhammed Jassim Al-Ali, was among a list of Al Jazeera journalists and other employees who had been paid bribes by Iraqi intelligence. Al-Ali was later fired. In any case, coindidentally, Al Jazeera was the only media group that Saddam allowed to move around Iraq before the war without minders.
Since the war Al Jazeera has sought to offer "balanced" coverage of the "insurgency." Note that these "insurgents," Iraq's freedom fighters, are the ones who murdered a distinguished UN diplomat, kidnapped and executed Care aid worker Margaret Hassan, and slaughter innocent Iraqis day after day. The Iraqi daily Al-Sabah has even accused Al Jazeera of permitting one of its offices to be used to coordinate terrorist attacks. In one recent incident, local Iraqis harassed an Al Jazeera camera team on the street, accusing them of being sympathisers of the old regime. I feel bad about the photos of Saddam. But like a number of Iraqis, I feel worse about one or two other things. (emphasis added)
Jeffrey Gedmin is director of the Aspen Institute Berlin.