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Published in the 16-31 May 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

The Ugly face of Imperialism in Iraq

By Karamatullah K. Ghori

The Milli Gazette Online

The 'collapse' of the military trial of Private Lynndie England-whose smirking face, with a cigarette dangling from her lips while she was seen dragging an Iraqi prisoner like a dog on a leash at the notorious Abu Ghuraib Prison outside Baghdad last year, became the poster face of America's ugly imperialism in Iraq-has not surprised political pundits. It is yet another blatant example of the U.S. military establishment not being prepared to hold anyone in its command structure responsible for crimes against their subjugated Iraqis.
The prodigal and profligate military judge supposedly trying Pvt. England declared her prosecution as a 'mistrial' on the plea that she wasn't aware that in torturing and humiliating the Iraqi prisoners she was doing anything illegal. The judge was convinced beyond any shade of doubt about the veracity of England's boy friend-also party to the crimes at Abu Ghuraib-that she thought it was all for fun.

Close on the heels of England's mistrial, another military judge has exonerated another soldier who was caught, red-handed, on camera by a photographer embedded with the U.S. mi.litary, shooting a cowering, injured and unarmed Iraqi man inside a mosque in last year's razing to the ground of the city of Falluja by hordes of American soldiers. The judge accepted the evidence of the accused soldier's buddies that he was only 'simulating' to shoot his victim but didn't, actually.

What to talk of the hapless Iraqis who are seen as fair game by their conquerors from across the seas, the American military establishment is in such a state of hubris that it isn't even ready to admit any wrongdoing in the day light murder of an Italian intelligence agent, Nicola Calipari, who was driving to Baghdad Airport after securing the release of an Italian female journalist earlier kidnapped in Iraq. 

A recent investigation into the incident, which opened raw nerves in Italy-a coalition partner of U.S. in Iraq-concluded that American soldiers had broken no law, or deviated from military discipline in shooting down Calipari, in cold blood, in his car on Baghdad's 'highway of death', the road to Baghdad Airport The temerity of Pentagon-epitomized by Rumsfeld-has unleashed a storm of national protest across Italy and threatens to topple Prime Minister Berlusconni, a loyal friend of George W. Bush.

The ugly face of American imperialism in Iraq is not prepared to admit that it is scarred with so many black spots as to have blanketed the entire face itself; it simply refuses to see its image in the mirror.

This is despite the fact that photographic evidence of violent, horrible and sickening, crimes against Iraqi prisoners, and even ordinary civilians, is surfacing in U.S. with the force of a blizzard. Apparently, almost every American serviceman sent to fight 21st century's first real imperialist war, went armed with a camera and used his or her lens with relish to collect thousands of photos of their 'victims' and 'captives' in Iraq as souvenirs, or 'war trophies' for posterity. These photographs-some horrendous and barbaric beyond description-are now finding their way to newspaper columnists and tele-journalists in spades. 

Indeed not very many journalists have the journalistic integrity, or moral gumption, to share their 'treasure trove' with their readers or viewers. But those with the dare to do so, are going out on a limb to expose the atrocities of American soldiers in Iraq in sufficient and graphic details, in contradiction of the strict censorship and code of sanitization imposed by the Pentagon on the news from Iraq from the first moment of American invasion of that hapless land.

Bob Herbert, a syndicated columnist of the New York Times, is not only a gutsy critic of Bush and his neo con cabal in Washington but he has also the courage to bring to light the atrocities power-drunk U.S. soldiers have committed in Iraq. In his column on May 5, Herbert wrote about the impressions of a former soldier in Iraq who got so sick and traumatized witnessing the humiliations and torture routinely meted out by his colleagues to Iraqi prisoners and civilians that he asked for release from military service on the basis of being a conscientious objector.

Aidan Delgado's account, reported by Herbert, is a hair-raising tally of American soldiers not even sparing children and sick Iraqis from torture and humiliation. Delgado brought back photographs from Iraq of his service colleagues getting photographed with the dead bodies of Iraqis, or with sick children lying unconscious, or, in one case, of a soldier posing with the severed leg of a dead Iraqi.

According to Herbert, some of these photographs were so gruesome and horrible as to make anybody looking at them sick to their core. These horrible pictures showed American GIs and marines opening the body bags of corpses and exposing gruesome wounds on the body. In one particularly ugly and repellent photograph, a soldier was seen leaning over an exposed corpse with a spoon in his hand as if ready to scoop out a portion of its still festering wound.
Delgado told Herbert that such sickening pictures were passed around and " circulated like trophies" among the soldiers.

Herbert concluded in his column that if these photographs were brought to the knowledge of the American people, their perception of war would change dramatically. Of course this isn't what Rumsfeld and others of his ilk want. Therefore, the Pentagon has been rigorously enforcing a regime of strict censorship on every bit of news and scrap of documented or photographed evidence coming out of Iraq. The goal of keeping the Americans in the dark on the shenanigans of their soldiers in Iraq is being well served by the veil of secrecy shrouding all the military activities in Iraq.

But the veil is, somehow, being lifted, if not yet torn, bit- by- bit, exposing a very ugly face of neo-imperialism infatuated with raw power and blatant exercise of it, indiscriminately. 

A former CIA agent, who was tasked to kill Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, recently told the national Public Radio (NPR) how he was ordered to bring Osama's head 'in ice' from Afghanistan. Gary Schroen, whose memoirs of his days as a CIA sleuth is coming out soon, was given responsibility to topple the hated Taliban regime and kill Osama and his lieutenants, on the heels of the tragedy of 9/11. However, what surprised him was the imperialist manner of the command handed down to him before his departure from Washington for Afghanistan.

Schroen revealed in his radio interview how he was given themarching orders by his superior, Cofer Black, then CIA's Director for counter-terrorism. Schroen was shocked when Black hectored him in these words: "When we break the Taliban, your job is to capture bin Laden, kill him and bring his head back in a box full of dry ice."

Little surprise that the neo-imperialism of George W. Bush is not only reviving the archaic practice of severing the enemy's head and carrying it aloft on a spike. But Bush seems to be also putting a typically Wild West gloss on it by mandating, in so many words, that the enemy, once overpowered, be summarily executed-just the way they used to do in the Wild West with their outgunned Red Indians. The world cannot forget Bush's public vow, within a week of 9/11, to get America's Public Enemy No. 1, Osama bin Laden, "dead or alive."

The policy of imperialism in occupied Iraq is not only confined to administering regular doses of mass humiliations to the Iraqis, lest they forget that the world's mightiest military power is suzerain over them. In a typical rehash of the 19th century British and French imperialism, the American version of it is also trying to spawn a small coterie and class of loyal Iraqis who would be prepared to do their bidding whenever and howsoever required.

The propaganda about the alleged 'incompetence' of the Prime-Minister-designate, Ibrahim Al Jaffari, to complete his cabinet formation and get into stride is focused on the 'in-fighting' between the Shiias and the Sunnis for the prized posts, notably those of oil and defence. But what the outside world is not being given is the real story of the Americans pulling the strings from behind the façade and turning all sorts of screws on the Shiia Alliance led by Jaffari.

The Americans are not only insistent that the Saddam-era intelligence apparatus and agents, who sent tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis to their graves, are kept in their place. This is a typically colonial and imperialist tool of controlling the colony or imperialist possession with the help of natives beholden to the alien masters. The Americans have reinvented and revived Saddam's dreaded intelligence outfit because they think it can serve their purpose far more effectively than any politician, no matter how trustworthy.

That Jaffari has not been able to fill the Defence portfolio is not surprising. The Americans want some former Saddam-era general to be brought in because now they think that only a seasoned-veteran, in their jargon-hand used to wielding authority with a draconian determination would measure up to their needs in the occupied country. It doesn't matter to them whether the new democratic leaders would want to have such a man sharing power with them, or what the Iraqi people, who opted for democracy in place of autocracy, would think of a Saddam-vintage tyrant getting into the democratic ranks from the back door.

The Oil Ministry is even more important and precious to the American long- term interest in Iraq. Hence the intense pressure from the occupiers on the new Iraqi PM to allocate this extra-sensitive portfolio to an American loyalist and figure of extreme confidence to Washington.

For the moment, the Oil Ministry has been, temporarily, allocated to Ahmed Chalabi who was, until not too long ago, the point man of the neo cons in Iraq. Challabi, for the record, then fell out of favour because of his suspected hobnobbing with the Iranians. 

However, imperialism has its own ways of digging its feet deep into the culture of the target-country. It sometimes opts to lend the garb of an adversary to a prized agent in order to make its serviceability more time-tested and longevity-prone. Chalabi could well have been designated to fit into that closet. But even if he is not that kind of an American 'faithful' any longer, his close ties with the U.S. corporate culture and his friendship with oil barons should serve the American interests well. It cannot, therefore, be ruled out that Chalabi may, eventually, become Iraq's Oil Minister, in fact, and deliver to the dictates of his old mentors and masters.

But no imperialism goes unchallenged; that's an immutable lesson of history. The neo-imperialism of U.S. in Iraq cannot, by this measure, and will not, go unchallenged, even if the resulting popular backlash spawns a nightmare for the occupied land. What is happening in Iraq, day in and day out, is mayhem and carnage revolting enough for those sympathetic to the survivability of Iraq as a sovereign and free state, in its present geographical shape. One can well imagine how enervating and unpalatable it should be to the Iraqis paying a horrendous price for the imperialist lust and hubris of the world's newest imperialist power.

The immediate challenge-a formidable one at that-is for the newly baptized democratic order in Iraq, and the government supposedly of the people's choice it has engendered. The new Iraqi government has not to keep its sanity intact in the face of its double jeopardy-U.S. imperialist demands and an insurgency that has not abated at all in the face of the new democratic system-but also to deliver to the expectations of the Iraqi people hankering for an end to their nightmare. It should, by the sheer breadth of it, be a daunting task for any new government. But it's more so for a government poised on the edge of a precipice from its first day in office.

But the imperialists are not only brazen but also without shame that what they have hammered out in Iraq, at the cost of more than a hundred thousand Iraqi lives, is a paradigm for others in the Arab and Islamic world. The victory of an arch Bush neophyte like Tony Blair at the polls in Britain must give further grist to the propaganda mills of the neo-imperialists that their 'vision' for the 'uncivilised' world is, indeed, the best for it.
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