|News and opinions on situation in Iraq|
|29/04/04||Racism at Core of Iraq Invasion by Firas Al-Atraqchi|
2004-04-29 | The popular perception in the US is that Iraq is a country of uncivilized criminals and terrorists raised to hate America because common people hate freedom and liberty, “ragheads” and “sand niggers” who brought down the Twin Towers in New York City and attacked the Pentagon. US-based columnists have taken to calling Iraqis lazy and ungrateful. A few days ago, in a prime-time press conference, US President George Bush said the Iraqis must take control of their own destinies come June 30th.
The fact that many of the kidnapped foreign workers were Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and other Asians who used to drive cars and trucks should get the message across that everyone is allowed a job in Iraq – except the Iraqis. Take Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul Bremer who issued Order 39 (September 19), which declares that 100 percent ownership of Iraqi banks, mines and factories is allowed to be foreign-owned and 100 percent of profits from these Iraqi institutions is allowed to be moved out of the country. Where do Iraqis fit in? Is it any surprise they feel cheated and robbed? Does a robbed man stand by and watch his possessions dwindle?
This is the ignorance that is supported, endorsed, encouraged and tolerated by everyone from the Bush administration down to every major news outlet in the US.
Take for example the handling of the four Americans who were killed in Fallujah, had their corpses burned, dismembered and then hanged on a bridge. Every news outlet in the US spoke of the four heroic American “civilians.” Iraqis butchered four decent, law-abiding civilians. Civilians who left their families in helping to rebuild Iraq . That is the version the American public is given.
However, the truth is that the four were former US soldiers in various capacities working as security agents for North Carolina-based Blackwater Corp, which – among other things – is charged with protecting L. Paul Bremer. Secondly, it is no secret that many of the operations the US military used to undertake have now been slated for private security firms like Blackwater. Effectively, they are hired help – mercenaries. One of them was a Navy Seal, one of the most decorated and highly-trained outfits in the US Military.
Missing from the national (and international) discussion are the reports which cited weapons found on the four slain men. Anyone who has seen news footage of the private security firms running about in Iraq will immediately recognize that they are armed to the teeth, wearing flak jackets. Initial reports said that the corpses were wearing blue-colored flak jackets.
The “civilians” theory doesn't hold much water.
In fact, and unreported to US audiences, private security firms in Iraq, much like Blackwater, are taking over major tasks and operations primarily assigned to US forces. The hope is that US forces remain in barracks, avoid improvised explosive devices and ambushes, reduce the body count, and keep the US public firmly behind the war. In effect, private security firms have become the de facto military presence in Iraq – vastly outnumbering the official count of Coalition forces.
If the US Military is considered the occupying force in Iraq and is replaced by what can be considered a mercenary force – bought and paid for to undertake military duties – then the private security firms become legitimate targets for a populace that feels itself occupied and bound to resist.
And that is precisely what several dozen clerics in Iraq and the Arab world said. They did not condemn the right to attack the four armed men – remember, they were armed – but did strongly condemn in unmistakable terms the mutilations and public hangings that occurred later. Islamic law strictly prohibits the maiming or disrespecting of any dead body, even that of an animal. According to the Prophet Mohammed, even spitting at a dead body – whether it is of an enemy or ally, Jew, Christian, or Muslim is irrelevant – is considered sacreligious. The Prophet routinely stood up in respect as the funeral procession of Jews and Christians passed by his domicile. However, this little tidbit about what is permissible and prohibited in Islam was left out of US reporting.
A full week after the killing of the four Blackwater employees, more than 700 people have been killed in Fallujah. There are more than 2,000 wounded civilians. More than 147 houses have been entirely destroyed. Four mosques have been damaged. Doctors are running out of vital supplies. The city is under siege, cut off from food, water, and medicine supplies. “We are resorting to collective punishment,” Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria told Chris Matthews on Hardball recently. He denied the official US position that fighters in the “Sunni Triangle” are dead-enders. He also claimed uneven-handedness in Iraq was feeding the “insurgency.”
Punitive collective punishment of this kind is reminiscent of German Nazi policies during the occupation of France . Take for example the German Nazi response in the French town of Tulle in 1944. History shows that French Resistance had seized the town of Tulle from the German 3rd Battalion and 95th Security Regiment. When the Das Reich Panzer Division retook the town, they found 64 badly-mutilated German bodies. Revenge would come swiftly: The SS-Panzer Aufklarungs Abteilung 2 platoon seized 99 men and promptly executed them, later hanging their bodies as a sign to others. Some 100 civilians who were deported to concentration camps would die in Germany.
To the Germans, the civilians were “insurgents and terrorist sympathizers”; to the rest of the world, they were civilians. For its part, the French resistance fighters were not called terrorists; they were called La Resistance (the resistance) and adopted a near mythical, if not legendary, status in European history.
As civilian casualties escalate into the hundreds, US Military commanders, hoping to save face in Iraq and the Arab World, have started to accuse the defenders of Fallujah of hiding behind women and children. That statement flies in the face of video footage shot by Al Jazeera and carried on ABC, CBS, MSNBC, and NBC clearly showing Iraqi fighters running between streets, in trenches, atop buildings, firing their RPGs and automatic weapons. No women and children in sight.
When a large convoy of aid supplies carrying blood for hospital transfusions, food, and water managed to break through a US military roadblock, the media called it a delivery of aid to Sunni rebels. Missing from the report were mentions of doctors feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped to deal with the growing death toll and the number of civilians facing a humanitarian crisis due to lack of drinkable water and unspoiled food (Fallujah was dependent on shipments from the rest of Iraq).
On April 12, as Arab journalists (including Iraqi journalists) pressed the Coalition to comment on civilian deaths in Fallujah , US General Mark Kimmit refused to acknowledge that it was civilians who were killed. US Media swallowed it hook, line and sinker with MSNBC reporting “U.S. officials say about 700 insurgents and 70 coalition troops have been killed since April 1, but Iraqi civilian toll is unclear.” Despite persistent reports from Al Jazeera and other Arab media, despite the graphic pictures of women and children cut to pieces, despite the angry wails of hospital staff and appeals for humanitarian assistance, US media is refusing to toe anything but the official government line.
Isn’t that how the fabrications, reliance on unreliable defectors, and other misconceptions about Iraq ’s WMD were propagated in the first place? What of the Iraq-Al Qaeda link, which has since been debunked? Was it not US media that reported every “official” word coming out of the Bush administration and various Washington think-tanks as gospel?
Racism is the answer. There is an arrogance in the West that everything Western is superior, exemplary and ideal for all cultures. In 2002, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Belusconi said that Islamic culture was inferior to the advanced Western civilization. This school of thought is prevalent throughout every sector of US society and has been nudged on by the various “hate-films” that Hollywood churns every year. Arabs are portrayed as stupid, animalistic, ammoral, sex-starved, abusing, wife-battering terrorists who seek to kill themselves – and their children – so that they can languish with 72 virgins in heaven. That Arabs saved Western civilization by translating the Greek philosophies and complementing them, introducing algebra, geometry and astronomy to Europe is left out. That the first medical institute in world history was established in – wait for it – southern Iraq by the Muslims is also lost on the US public.
It is no surprise then when we hear that British commanders in Iraq were condemning the Americans’ heavy-handed and disproportionate military tactics in Iraq . According to The Telegraph's Sean Rayment, a British officer, “who agreed to the interview on the condition of anonymity, said that part of the problem was that American troops viewed Iraqis as 'untermenschen' – the Nazi expression for ‘sub-humans’.
“They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are. Their attitude towards the Iraqis is tragic, it's awful.” The British officer accused the US Military of targeting “terrorists” even if they are located in densely-populated civilian areas: “They may well kill the terrorists in the barrage but they will also kill and maim innocent civilians. That has been their response on a number of occasions. It is trite, but American troops do shoot first and ask questions later. They are very concerned about taking casualties and have even trained their guns on British troops, which has led to some confrontations between soldiers,” The Telegraph reported.
By the way, if you weren’t around during the Nazi purging of Europe’s Jews, “untermenschen” is the popular term a certain Adolf Hitler used to express his disdain for what he termed the “inferior” Jews in Mein Kamp.
Consequently, if the US Military, which can be considered the military hand of the US government, considers Iraqis as inferior beings, it is then academic to extrapolate that US lawmakers view Iraqis as lesser peoples. Perhaps that helps explain why the Bush administration is so irked by news reports showing dead Iraqi women and children. Perhaps it helps explain why he accuses Arab media – including Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya – of being propagandists and liars. Perhaps it also explains why every Iraqi protestation in the last few years about lack of WMDs was shot down by US media and Iraqi officials were branded expert liars.
Perhaps, it also explains why “the axis of evil” slogan was so popular with Washington neocons. Inferior people are considered satanic and evil. After all, was this not how slavery was maintained and thrived in the continental US in the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries? Were not the slaves considered by white (supremacist) landowners to be cursed by God, soulless and would never see the gates of heaven? Was this not how Apartheid was allowed to survive in the heart of black Africa ?
Racism. The same racism that allowed 800,000 Rwandan Hutus and Tutsis to die exactly 10 years ago while the so-called compassionate superpower focused on twiddling their thumbs. The same racism that refused to apologize for centuries of slavery at the Durban Conferences in South Africa on September 8, 2001.
Zakaria put it best when he told Matthews how Iraqis must feel: “We lost four on our side and they lost 700. What do you think that tells them? That their lives are not nearly as important?”
Firas Al-Atraqchi is a Canadian journalist of Iraqi heritage. Holding an MA in Journalism and Mass Communication, he has eleven years of experience covering Middle East issues, oil and gas markets, and the telecom industry. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: IslamOnline www.islamonline.net/english/In_Depth/Iraq_Aftermath/2004/04/article_1 1.shtml and Islamic Awakening.com www.as-sahwah.com/