Iraqi Cops

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    Captured Iraqi terrorist Baha'a Nasser demonstrates how he slaughtered Iraqi policeman. Al-Iraqiya TV. Iraq, March 2, 2005. Courtesy of Memri TV

    Bored in Baghdad? Need an adrenaline rush? Tired of the nightly news recounting the gains of the insurgents? Care to know where American dollars are being invested in occupied Iraq? Tune into Terrorism in the Hands of Justice, an Iraqi television program featuring captured insurgents being interrogated and, most compellingly, humiliated—prime-time style. Since its inception last February, the program has been a resounding hit, running twice daily and six times a week on the new US-funded Al-Iraqiya television station.

    In a typical episode, Terrorism opens with a view of Jihadists about to execute an American hostage, a bloodied corpse and, finally, two smiling boys holding a placard that reads, “No to terrorism.” How’s that for subtlety? Captured insurgents are questioned on camera by an interrogator off screen while an enormous Iraqi flag sits as backdrop. Tales of bombings, rape and beheadings are de rigeur. Profiles of insurgents on the show fit the official line; these are the acts of isolated thugs and foreigners. Nevermind that confessions seem neatly pre-packaged to suit the mandates of the Iraqi and US forces, or the fact that close-ups of the suspects reveal clear signs of abuse (at least one participant on the show has died after his appearance), this is just TV! And it’s fun! Whether justice, lynch-mob-style, is compatible with the New Iraq or core American values is for you to decide. The program does manage to bring the US-backed program in line with Iran and Saudi Arabia, two nations with great traditions of televising public confessions. Geneva conventions are for wimps anyway, says the Florida-based Harris Corporation that runs Al-Iraqiya.