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Published in the 16-31 Dec 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Neo-Barbarians on the loose in Iraq and Palestine

By Karamatullah K. Ghori

If anybody entertained any doubts or reservations that George W. Bush's second term would be more of the same as his first term need only look at the gallery of rogues he is assembling around him. The second term is yet to be inaugurated but Bush's choice of people to partake of his agenda is a categorical proclamation that the world should be prepared to stomach even more of a religious 'crusader's' war-mongering and disdain for international law and order.

Bush has asked the number two warmonger after him, Donal Rumsfeld, to stay on as his Defence Secretary and Rumsfeld has agreed, without so much as losing a breath. Earlier, the choice of another ultra-hawk and warmonger, Condoleezza Rice, to succeed Colin Powell as Secretary of State betrayed Bush's agenda of doom for the world. With the likes of Rumsfeld and Rice present upfront, and with that notorious eminence grise Dick Cheney calling the shots from behind the scene, Bush has his 'ideal' team already in place to lend more bite and venom to his next 4 years as arch torturer of the Arab and Muslim world.

To all indications, terror and torture would be the twin prime weapon in the armoury of the Bush team to sow fear in the hearts of their quarries. Fallujah has been made a horrible example of this strategy. Although the city of valiant fighters hasn't been completely subdued by the 15,000 strong American invading army, backed up by fearsome fire power from the air and on the ground, the 'city of a thousand mosques', as Fallujah was known to the Iraqis, has been so brutally bombed and butchered as to render it a giant mound of rubble. It resembles the surface of the moon in its ruined landscape.

Photographs of American soldiers and mercenaries lounging in the ruins of Fallujah's historic mosques are shocking enough to grate the collective conscience and memory of Muslims all over the world. The information high ways of cyber-space, if not exactly the pages of U.S. establishment media, are packed with images and stories of American soldiers violating the sanctity of mosques with contempt and shooting wounded and unarmed Iraqis the way their forefathers hunted down the Red Indians. 

Torturing their hapless Iraqi victims and captives seems to have become an every day sport with the inebriated American soldiers in Iraq. They seem to indulge in this new 'entertainment' with an abandon that could easily put Ghenghiz Khan's and Helagu's marauding armies to shame, as far as bestiality against their victims is concerned.

The Associated Press (AP) has broken a story, quick on the heels of the cold blooded murders of innocent civilians in Fallujah, about the US Navy's much-touted Navy SEALs torturing their prisoners with similar cruelty and relishing the exercise. Photographs released with the story show the SEALs sitting arrogantly over handcuffed and hooded Iraqi civilian detainees. Some of the captives appear mangled and bloodied, with at least one of them shown with a gun held to his head.

An AP reporter found at least forty of such photographs on the web site of a woman who said these were brought home by her husband from Iraq as 'war trophies.' The photographs contain graphic substance of civilians being mocked and tortured. They are shaming enough to have forced the US Navy to order an enquiry into the behaviour of the SEALs. But a number of such enquiries have been ordered in the past only to be, later, quietly buried in blind alleyways of bureaucracy.

However, the culture of arrogance and contempt for their victims has taken such a firm hold in Bush's America that not even a gross violation of the Iraqis' human rights now seem to adversely affect experts and laymen alike. AP made a reference about these photographs to several so-called experts on the laws of war but they, unsurprisingly, weren't inclined to regard the antics of their soldiers as constituting war crimes.

Gary D. Solis, a former Marine Corps prosecutor and judge now teaching at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was dismissive of American soldiers' revolting conduct and morality and would only call it " stupid" and "juvenile behavior". AP found only one man of conscience in a whole lot, Retired Rear Admiral John T. Hutson, who served as navy's judge advocate general from 1997 to 2000, and said the photographs suggested "possible" violation of the Geneva Conventions.

That there should be so much tongue- tied foot-dragging on calling a spade a spade, as far as torture is concerned, is understandable given Bush's new assembly line for his next team of advisors. He has chosen Alberto Gonzales to replace an arch conservative and religious fundamentalist like Ashcroft to become the next Attorney general. As his principal legal beaver in the White House, Gonzales had advised Bush that the provisions of the Geneva Conventions had become 'quaint" and " irrelevant" to the challenge of the war on terrorism. That opened the door for Rumsfeld to give a green light to the torturers at Guantanamo and Abu Guraib to violate all known moral codes in their treatment of the hapless prisoners in their custody.

By now it is a well-established fact that Iraq was invaded as much for the convenience of Israel as to make US the suzerain in that part of the world. Therefore Israeli methods and tactics of torture are occupying a place of pride in the US handling of its Iraqi victims. The humiliating practice of hooding the prisoners and parading them naked has been honed by " the only democracy" in the ME. Because of the preponderance of Israel-friendly neo cons in the Bush administration, the Israeli 'art' of torture and repression is regarded most suitable for US policy to subdue and conquer the Iraqis in the real sense of the term. 

But the Israeli complicity with US in Iraq is not restricted to the Americans copying the Israeli techniques of torture and repression. It is now an open secret that the Israeli intelligence operatives, soldiers and military advisors are actively engaged with the American forces in all stages of military operations in Iraq-from planning to actual execution of plans. Their presence in the still- ongoing battle of Fallujah has been confirmed by the influential Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz, that reported that at least 1000 Israeli soldiers and advisors were involved with the American marauders in Fallujah. In additon to them, scores of Rabbis were also actively engaged. Doing what, has been left to the imagination of the readers and political analysts. 

The Israelis are determined to carve out their own niche in Iraq now that it is under the boots of their American friends. They have already dug themselves quite deep in the Kurdish areas of Iraq as advisors and arms suppliers; their American friends and mentors (although it's now difficult to say who is the mentor and who is the protégé) are making it convenient for them to penetrate the rest of the troubled Iraq.

It may not be entirely incidental that scandals of the Israeli soldiers meting out a similar regime of physical torture and psychological humiliation to its own legions of Palestinians-prisoners and civilians living in the occupied territories-are making the headlines in the Israeli news media. The fact that the Jewish and Zionist media not known for according status of civility, let alone being friendly, to the Palestinians has been forced to lend credence to reports of Israeli soldiers torturing and humiliating their victims speaks volumes for the extent of barbarity of crimes. 

The most sensational and ugly of these crime-laced scandals is the one focused on the brutal killing of an innocent, unarmed, 13- year -old Palestinian girl in broad day light in Gaza's Rafah area by a captain of the Israeli occupation army. Iman Hams was on her way to school when she was savagely murdered by a power-drunk Israeli captain whose name has been given only as Captain R. The inebriated captain emptied his revolver, at point blank range, in the girl while she was lying on ground in front of her. 

According to the highly conservative and right- wing Jerusalem Post, Captain R. after he had quenched his blood lust with the blood of the 13 year old girl, ordered his men on a mega-phone "Anyone who moves in this zone-even if it is a 3-year-old child-must be killed. Over."

How fair to the Palestinian victims of Israeli brutality the Israeli justice is, is borne out by the foot- note to the story. According to it, the assassin captain has only been charged with 'unlawful use of a weapon', and not with the cold- blooded murder of an innocent child. As it is the Israeli scales of justice have never tilted in favour of the Palestinian victims. The Israeli Supreme Court has given legal sanction to the use of torture against prisoners as a legitimate means of pre-empting 'terror' against Israel. In the rare case of conviction of an Israeli soldier or officer, the 'revolving-door' justice is applied: in from one door, out from another.

Another story of Israeli brutality has been reported by the mass circulating Hebrew daily, Yedioth Aronoth. It says scores of Israeli soldiers have been found taking 'trophy' snaps sitting over the bodies of slain Palestinians. In one especially gruesome account a soldier took a photograph of himself with the decapitated head of his victim strung on a pike with a cigarette placed in its mouth.

But even for these appalling atrocities and desecration of human dignity of the victims the Israeli and American spin-doctors and intellectual apologists are, indirectly, blaming the Palestinians.

Canada's largest newspaper, The Toronto Star, had its ME correspondent ask Professor Martin Van Creveld, a military historian at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, how he interpreted these heinous actions of the Israeli soldiers. In reply the professor came up with his own warped and convoluted logic holding the victims indirectly responsible for prompting these brutalities. He said: " This is a dirty war, it always has been, and it comes with a peculiar mix of sadism and self- pity. Soldiers have developed an attitude where (sic): 'We hate the Palestinians because they are forcing us to kill them' cannot be both strong and moral. Either you are one or the other. Choose." Apparently, the soldiers of a proven terrorist like Ariel Sharon couldn't have chosen to be moralists.

The American commentators and columnists, even some well-meaning amongst them, are also using similar, twisted, logic to justify not only the use of force by their soldiers to 'flush out' the 'insurgents' but also the need for America to keep its military presence in Iraq indefinitely.

What they are saying goes something like this: the invasion of Iraq by Bush and the neo cons was wrong and it has triggered a human tragedy of epic proportions in Iraq. According to the London-based medical journal, The Lancet, as also by an independent study of Johns Hopkins University of Baltimore, at least 100,000 Iraqis, perhaps even a larger number, have been killed in the course of the last 21 months. It has also spawned untold suffering for the Iraqi men, women and children. According to the Washington Post, acute malnutrition among Iraqi children under 5 has climbed steeply to 7.7 per cent during the American occupation as compared to just 4 per cent before. At least 400,000 Iraqi children are chronically malnourished and exposed, in some cases, to irreversible physical and mental stunting.

Therefore, the warped logic goes on, it is incumbent on U.S. to maintain its military presence in Iraq in the interest of Iraqi children and adults suffering because of anarchy in the country. If the U.S. pulled out hastily, the argument goes on, there is real possibility of either a civil war or a three-way division of Iraq into an independent Kurdistan, a Shiia-ruled state in Southern Iraq and a chaotic, anarchical, truncated Sunni state in Central Iraq.

George W. Bush couldn't have hoped to be served in his imperial ambitions by a better pack of 'enlightened' and 'moderate' American intellectuals and pundits arguing on his behalf and insisting that he stay put in Iraq, for as long as necessary.«

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