As more details have emerged on abuse by American soldiers against Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, Christian commentators have largely focused on the pornographic nature of the images, speculating that the pervasiveness of pornography is at least partly responsible for the outrageous behavior. When Christian leaders have spoken directly on how religion and the abuse intersect, the focus has largely been on recognizing the sinful nature of each human being. Each of us is capable of great evil, several writers have noted.
In the next few days, however, expect writers both in the mainstream and Christian press to pick up a slightly different angle to the abuse story. That's because new revelations have a somewhat religious bent to them.
The first item comes from Spec. Joseph M. Darby, who reportedly confronted Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr.—apparent ringleader of the prison abuse—about the activities. Darby later told investigators that Graner told him, "The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself.'"
That the Christian in Graner lost out (in fact, it wasn't just the prisoner's own urine that Graner reportedly liked to see prisoners soaked in) is ripe for much commentary.
But far more troubling is an allegation that guards deliberately attacked the prisoners' faith. Details on this matter have largely surfaced from prisoner Ameed Saeed al-Sheikh, who, in the words of The New York Times, said that "a hostility toward Islam coursed through much of the abuse." We've already heard of many abuses that would have been particularly offensive to Muslims, but it now appears that the guards may have deliberately chosen some of these methods because they're so offensive to Muslims. Some prisoners, press reports say, were "forced to renounce their religion."
Particuarly disconcerting is this testimony from al-Sheikh: "Someone else asked me, 'Do you believe in anything?' I said to him, 'I believe in Allah.' So he said, 'But I believe in torture, and I will torture you.'"
There's no word on whether this line came from Graner, but if it did, it's clear that "the Christian in him" was not calling the shots.
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