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More Abu Ghraib, more dehumanisation

By Joseph Wakim - posted Wednesday, 1 March 2006

With the new images of the Abu Ghraib meat market, which is the lesser of two evils - to broadcast or not to broadcast?

Dateline producer Mike Carey argued that the corpse photos added a “quantum leap of seriousness that deserves further investigation”.

US State Department legal adviser John Bellinger argued that the new images “simply fans the flames at a time that sentiments on these issues are raw around the world”.


Both imply that they care for the feelings of the dehumanised Iraqi victims and their sympathisers. But their respective rationales perpetuate the dehumanisation process and hence they share a common perspective.

Within 24 hours of the broadcast, Dateline was trumpeting about its claim to fame through new television advertisements on SBS TV, quoting reputable media compliments. Clearly, this “world exclusive” had put the program on the global map for having the courage to expose these “atrocious” images.

What was so urgent that this broadcast of photos that were taken in 2003 could not wait until the current reactions to the blasphemous Danish cartoons subsided?

If these photos were indeed in the hands of other news media, then I can only imagine that Dateline was after the trophy for being the first. Congratulations - you are now on the world stage for presenting a museum of dehumanised Arabs.

When asked whether these new photos could endanger the lives of Coalition soldiers in Iraq, Carey replied that “I think they’re already at risk” and that it would “not make much difference”. This is akin to saying that others have had their free kick to capitalise on the conflict in Iraq, so why can’t I join the queue?

But when Arabs are killed during anti-American protests that may ensue, do you tip toe off the stage, tucking the trophy under your jacket and close the curtains behind you?


This threat of violence does not justify the language used by Bellinger who epitomises the references to Arabs and Muslims as flammable fluids. This is not the first time that political leaders have resorted to these metaphors to describe and indeed differentiate “them” from “us”.

Arabs have been reduced to an oil well that is easily ignited. A cursory perusal of the choice of words used to describe Arabs depicts them as always exploding with anger, inflamed by cartoons, reaching boiling point, erupting with violence, spilling over into the streets, stirring up anger, spreading terror cells and sparking new waves of terror.

On the one hand, the US led Coalition of the Willing is endeavouring to win the hearts and minds of the “Muslim moderates” by promising to deliver democracy and free speech to their homelands.

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About the Author

Joseph Wakim founded the Australian Arabic Council and is a former multicultural affairs commissioner.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Joseph Wakim

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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