Friday, April 01, 2005

Second conviction of Maynulet offers more hope, April 1, 2005

Arab World can find some hope in American justice
April 1, 2005
By Ray Hanania
American justice manages to prevail even despite itself, and that might open the door to Democracy in the Middle East.
This week, a military court convicted a 30-year old US Army Tank Commander from Chicago, Capt. Rogelio Maynulet, of murdering a wounded Iraqi prisoner last year.
Maynulet claimed he killed the prisoner to "put him out of his misery." He was convicted of a lesser charge of "assault with intent to commit voluntary manslaughter" which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, half what he deserved under tougher, more deserving charges.
Despite the leniency of our system to our own soldiers engaged in such crimes, people in the Middle East should see the conviction as a glimmer of hope.
In the face of the brutal manner in which Americans abuse, torture and even kill prisoners at Abu Gharib, Guantanamo and in conflicts around the globe, Arabs hope America will someday become the Democracy it seeks to impose elsewhere.
Arabs know their governments abuse civil rights. They know the Muslim World mistreats women. They know the Muslim World is governed by tyrants cloaked in religious fervor that promote ignorance as a societal tranquilizer.
But we, in America, pretend everything is perfect here when it’s really not. Before Americans preach to the Arab or Muslim Worlds about Democracy, shouldn’t we practice it first?
How about truly freeing American women from the institutional discrimination that continues to deny women their full rights?
Wouldn’t it be nice if America really eliminated racism in our cities and schools and in the way we fight crime, rather than accepting a status quo where the primary victims of abuse are African Americans?
How about doing more than pretend we mean what we say when our leaders denounce post-Sept. 11 violence against Arab Americans?
Since Sept. 11, more than 14 people "who looked" Middle Eastern were the victims of hate crimes, yet those crimes have never been recognized as hate crimes and were treated as "isolated" incidents of murder where the victim happened to be different and the killer happened to utter racist threats in the killings.
All this talk about bringing Democracy to the Middle East is encouraging, but how about bringing Democracy to the American media first, the place where the message begins and drives American attitudes.
The truth is most Americans don’t spend a lot of time understanding the complex realities of the Middle East. They have no idea what is really accurate history or what even is fair. What they do know is what they see in hundreds of Hollywood movies that portray Arabs in a vicious and racist manner, or from popular fiction like Exodus which is built on the compost of anti-Arab hatred.
The conviction of Maynulet and the few others who have been charged since the illegal Iraq war began is a good start toward sending the right messages about Democracy to the Middle East.
How much more torture at Abu Gharib has been covered up? How many Iraqi civilians have been murdered in Iraq that our media doesn’t report but that the Arab media reports constantly?
But Americans still have a long and difficult way to go.
If there is one real character in being an American, it’s that we rarely ever admit that we are wrong, even when it’s so apparent to others.

No comments: