Our man in Cairo


Meryl Yourish links to no-holds-barred interview with U. S. Ambassador to Egypt David Welch by a panel of Egyptian journalists. Welch not only defended U.S. policy in the region but politely challenged the assertions of the Egyptians. At one point in the interview, a journalist brings up the "humiliating" video of Saddam Hussein getting a dental exam:

[Welch:] With respect to the display of Saddam Hussein, can I be honest with you here? I am stunned that you would say this. I did not see any problem with his treatment whatsoever. What is wrong with a medical examination?

Shukrallah: But why the medical examination on TV?

Welch: Give me a break, folks -- this guy is an unbelievable war criminal. He did not deserve dignified treatment; he did not give any of his victims dignified treatment.

Shukrallah: Torture torturers and assassinate assassins...

Welch: He was not tortured. He is receiving medical examinations. Look at the facts. That was a DNA test. Had he not been put on TV, it would have been said that we did not have him... There was a prominent Al-Jazeera journalist who was on TV yesterday saying it was not Saddam Hussein.

Shukrallah: Still, this does not prove anything. The object seemed to be to just humiliate him.

Welch: He is now a prisoner and he will be dealt with as a prisoner.

Khalil: Then why were the Americans up in arms when the Iraqis showed US POWs on TV? You said POWs should not be treated this way. Why are you doing that now -- isn't he a POW?

Welch: Yes, there is a difference. Look at Saddam Hussein. I cannot believe you guys are defending this guy.

Shukrallah: We don't accept it, and if you've been reading the Weekly carefully, you'd have found out that we never found it justifiable that someone who is arrested for the most heinous terrorist acts in this country should be mistreated or tortured. And if you've read the Weekly you would have seen how much the Weekly has exposed and given coverage to a whole range of mistreatment and abuse.

Human rights conventions are very clear on this. The criminality of a criminal does not justify his abuse and mistreatment by a state, or this would mean that we would say goodbye to all human rights and all due process of law. Americans should hear themselves talking -- you are flaunting the very principles on which the American Revolution was based.

Welch: There is a basic difference in the facts. Implicitly, your position is that we are abusing this person, and I say we are not. So we have a difference of views. You interpret videoing while he's getting his teeth checked as abuse, and I don't.

Nyier Abdou: Whether or not you want to call it abuse, there certainly is a distinction between showing somebody in this manner and showing them in a more dignified way. I think what makes people angry is that the US fails to see how this kind of imagery will inflame people, and that they do it anyway, and that's what really makes people angry. It is a misunderstanding of what is going to convince people.

Welch: I think your moral compass has gone crazy. I think you should be looking at the Iraqi people and their reaction to this. Your reaction puzzles me to be honest. Can we move on because this is boring...

There are several more exchanges just as lively. It's good to know that the US is represented by someone who isn't inclined to diplomatic weasel words.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 20, 2003 12:32 PM.

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