Arabs inflamed by Iraq photos.

Photos of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners has inflamed Arab sentiment, sparking rage, hatred and a grim comparison that U.S. liberators were no better than ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

"They keep asking why we hate them? Why we detest them? Maybe they should look well in the mirror and then they will hate themselves," said Khadija Mousa from Syria. "What I saw is very very humiliating. The Americans are showing their true image."

"The liberators are worse than the dictators. This is the straw that broke the camel's back for America," said Abdel-Bari Atwan on Friday, editor of the Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

The CBS News programme "60 Minutes II" on Wednesday broadcast photos taken at the Abu Ghraib prison late last year showing U.S. troops abusing some Iraqis held at what was once a notorious centre of torture and executions under Saddam.

The pictures showed U.S. troops smiling, posing, laughing or giving the thumbs-up sign as naked, male prisoners were stacked in a pyramid or positioned to simulate sex acts with one another.

The U.S. military has brought criminal charges against six soldiers relating to accusations of abuses from November and December 2003 on some 20 detainees, including indecent acts with another person, maltreatment, battery, dereliction of duty and aggravated assault.

"This will increase the hatred of America, not just in Iraq but abroad. Even those who sympathised with the Americans before will stop. It is not just a picture of torture, it is degrading. It touches on morals and religion."

"Abu Ghraib prison was used for torture in Saddam's time. People will ask now what's the difference between Saddam and Bush. Nothing!," added Saudi commentator Dawoud al-Shiryan.

The pictures drew world condemnation by America's staunchest allies, including Britain. U.S. President George W. Bush said he "shared a deep disgust". U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was "deeply disturbed".

"Deep contempt"

Jamal Khashoggi, media advisor to Saudi Arabia's ambassador in London, said U.S. officials responsible for policy in Iraq should be held responsible for such acts which he said reflected "deep contempt" for Arabs.

The publicity could not have been worse for Muslims with the sexual humiliation depicted in the photos particularly shocking.

"That really, really is the worst atrocity," Atwan said. "It affects the honour and pride of Muslim people. It is better to kill them than sexually abuse them."

"What it does is inflame the feelings of the masses about coalition forces...and it gives more reason for hatred of American policy in Iraq," said Egyptian Ahmed Sherif, 49.

Arab satellite televisions, seen by millions of Arabs and Muslims, began their news bulletins with the pictures, which they said showed the "savagery" of U.S. troops.

"The pictures reflect the brutality of occupation and the absence of values and ethics which Americans said they came to Iraq to promote. They have shown the world how much malice and hatred they carry against Arabs," added Ali Mohsen Obadi.

Arabs said the photos would only fuel growing animosity and attacks against the United States by Muslims, already angered by its occupation of Iraq and its "unlimited support" of Israel.

"I was saddened. This was not just the humiliation of those poor Iraqis. I felt humiliated too and so all Muslims and their leaders should feel," said Palestinian Mahmoud Shaker, 20.

Driver Hatem Ali, 30, said: "Americans are racists and cowards, that's what I understood from these pictures."

Most Arabs said Washington's credibility as the world's leader of democracy and human rights was exposed.

"These soldiers are being touted as the saviours of the Iraqi people and America claims to be the moral leader of the world, but they have been caught with their pants down, they have been exposed, the whole world sees them as they really are," said Mahmoud Walid, a 28-year-old Egyptian writer.

[Source: By Samia Nakhoul, Reuters, Dubai, 30Apr04]

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