This week's editor

Mariam Ali

Mariam Ali is Associate Editor for openDemocracy's Arab Awakening page.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

From the visceral shock of their first impact, to the deep analysis of what the Abu Ghraib prison images say, openDemocracy writers examine the intersection between power, pain, pornography, race and the recording impulse.

Bush's axis of failure

The neo-conservative dogma that has ruined Iraq is now being applied to the Lebanon war. The result could be a regional conflagration with untold consequences, writes Sidney Blumenthal.

Abu Ghraib in the Arab mirror

Arab citizens see Abu Ghraib through the prism of a century of dehumanisation: by western powers, Israel and their own rulers. Only the application of universal principles of law, justice and accountability can ensure a better future, says Rami Khouri.

Abu Ghraib: ceremonies of nostalgia

Abu Ghraib is the visual counterpart of military “shock and awe” – and a mirror of what the United States in Iraq has become, says Allen Feldman.

Abu Ghraib: postcards from the edge

The intimate embrace between photography, racism and violence revealed in the Abu Ghraib pictures reminds this New York writer of America’s shadow history, from lynching postcards to pornography. Can America find the courage to face its dark, secretive obsession with the dehumanising gaze?

Empire's mockery

When news first began to emerge that Arab prisoners had been abused in a gruesome manner by their American guards at Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison, the initial reaction of the Bush administration followed three stages: first, present the events as the kind of freak occurrence that can take place in any walk of life, and should not therefore occasion surprise; second, reaffirm endless tributes to the valour and nobility of the vast majority of America’s soldiers in Iraq; third, defensively acknowledge the existence of a few shockingly bad apples in an otherwise wholesome apple cart.

A strange and bitter crop: the spectacle of torture

Do the terrible images from Abu Ghraib represent break or continuity in American tradition? Hazel Carby excavates the history of lynching in the United States and finds disturbing parallels between Mississippi's past and Iraq's present

Abu Ghraib: origins and future of a scandal

The images of American soldiers abusing prisoners have made Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad notorious around the world. But the latest violations would not have occurred if those responsible had known the building's history. John Packer, who inspected Abu Ghraib for the United Nations in 1992, reflects on lessons unlearned.

Who is serious?

A true response to the cruelty and humiliation of Abu Ghraib requires not dismissal or evasion but recognition of its disturbing human reality.

Bad seeds in a good war

The “scandal” of Abu Ghraib made Maï Ghoussoub choke, Marcus Raskin protest, and Charles Pena demand America withdraw from Iraq without delay. Misjudgment, wrong diagnosis, worse solution, says Douglas Murray.

America after 9/11: victims turning perpetrators

By launching a “war on terror” after 11 September 2001, America made a tragic mistake, says George Soros. The country must now learn a different lesson: fighting terror by creating more innocent victims perpetuates the cycle of violence, creates a permanent state of war, and corrodes the open society that wages it.

Torture: who gives the orders?

“Torture thrives when those who make the policy are convinced that they possess a moral superiority that should not be constrained by regulation.” From Argentina to Iran and Central America, Isabel Hilton excavates the logic as well as the gruesome precedents of America’s moral collapse at Abu Ghraib.


A Pakistani-American writer registers the shock of the Abu Ghraib torture photos as a wound to her identity as a United States citizen of immigrant origin.

Abu Ghraib: I do not know where to look for hope

All I can do is scream through my keyboard.

Do the soldiers-torturers act with such abject cruelty out of racism? Racism is not enough to explain their behaviour, their abuse, the joy on their faces while they are attacking the prisoners in their flesh and their dignity.

Are they aware that the only justification left to their leaders was to save the poor Iraqi people from a regime that behaved incessantly like they do in the pictures that make me want to throw up? Have they studied Saddam’s methods of abuse and felt their efficiency, so they re-enacted them?

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