The Key Quotes from Last Night’s Charlie Rose on the Abuses at Abu Ghraib Prison (Part 2)

May 4, 2004

Continuing my personal transcribing efforts begun in this post of the best quotes from last night’s Charlie Rose show (necessary since Mr. Rose doesn’t offer free transcripts, only audio files, on his website)…

In this installment, here’s a quote echoing a point made many times already, I’m sure, within the blogosphere (e.g., this post by Billmon and this one by John Quiggen at that philosophers’ collective Crooked Timber). In it, former CIA officer Robert Baer (author of the bestselling books See No Evil, his memoir of his CIA years, and Sleeping with the Enemy, his critique of the US-Saudi relationship) offers the following excellent bit of historical/symbolic awareness:

CHARLIE ROSE: Robert Baer, you’ve been to this prison. Tell me about it—before, you saw it right after Saddam—right after the—you had access to it.

ROBERT BAER: I saw it a couple days—of course, I had known about the prison for years, it was a symbol of Saddam’s regime, a symbol of the torture he used for years and years. And I went there shortly after Baghdad fell, probably the 12th or the 13th of April. And it was horrific what I saw. It was before US troops had gotten inside the prison. There were bodies—buried up to their waist—and half-eaten by dogs, torture chambers, electrodes, hanging rooms—a lot of these cells people went into and never came out alive, they were stood up all night in the heat—130 degrees—would die overnight. And really you–we–have to consider with Abu Gharib and the fact that what went on here. This prison was notorious for its torture. If you went in, you rarely came out alive. And so the fact that this went on with American troops puts us on par with Saddam, and that’s really the problem this Administration is going to have.

CHARLIE ROSE: Tell me more.

ROBERT BAER: Well, I mean you have to look at the symbolism of prisons—of corrupt regimes. Look at the Bastille in France during the French Revolution. I mean the first thing they did was tear that thing down, and it was never replaced. What we’re doing—the problem with these pictures is it’s all about humiliation. These people were—were degraded in the worst possible way, and what feeds Bin Laden’s movement is humiliation, perception of it or real humiliation.

CHARLIE ROSE: That the West and America are humiliating us by a whole range of activities.

ROBERT BAER: Or their local regimes, like Saddam’s regime.

CHARLIE ROSE: Right.

ROBERT BAER: And this is going to add to the pool of recruits for Bin Laden. No question about it.

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