In case anyone missed this, there is a detailed article on the torture at Abu Ghraib in The New Yorker. Unlike the sniper rumor, this one is pretty much documented fact. I realize that this is obviously not standard behavior, but it is not a single wacko, but a group of soldiers. It's really quite appalling. How can something like this happen? What is the mood like among American soldiers in Iraq? Is there a general hatred or is it really isolated behavior? I can't imagine an occupying force being very successful without some basic respect for the local citizens.
I remember hearing that the occupying forces in post-war Japan were selected from soldiers who had not served in combat against the Japanese. Most of the stories you hear about the soldiers occupying Japan are good stories. I suppose it's easier to be nice when there is no resistance, but still... (My sister has a nice post about the story of our family's first interaction with the US occupation of Japan.)
I also heard from a Spanish friend of mine that there is very little if no hatred towards Muslims after the 3/11 attack in Madrid. People realize that it is a splinter group and are not blaming the Muslims.
I don't want to over-generalize, but trying to link Al Qaeda to Iraq and the increased racism directed at Muslims in the US really highlights the lack of racial sympathy or understanding on the US's part. I think the US really needs to figure out how to deal with this racial intolerance and ignorance if it's going to try do any kind of nation building.
Before someone else says it, I think racism in Japan is also very bad, but we're not toppling regimes and trying to rebuild them. I wouldn't trust Japan with that either.