I’m not sure we will ever recover from the public-relations damage that has been done by the mistreatment of the Iraqi prisoners by American (and now, British) troops.
We all believe that these were isolated incidents perpetrated by renegade soldiers whose actions do not reflect the values or intentions of their nations at large. But the Arab street doesn’t believe that, and it’s hard to imagine that they ever will. Every anti-American diatribe and every conspiracy theory has just been proven right, in their eyes. And can you blame them? Why should they trust us, now?
We cannot win the war in Iraq — nor, more broadly, the war on terrorism — unless we win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi and Arab people. That was always an uphill battle, and I fear this may be the last straw that makes it utterly impossible.
And it’s our own soldiers’ damn fault. Just a handful of soldiers, yes. But ours.