George Bush apologised for all the abuses, tortures, rapes and murders in Abu-Ghraib and expected the Islamic world to forgive. Imagine if the Al-Qaeda leadership issued an apology for the execution of Paul Johnson and then went on to explain that the perpetrators acted on their own initiatives. They lacked training, and were not aware of the rules of the Geneva Convention. Would the Americans be prepared to accept such an explanation and a similar apology to the one that was issued by George Bush with regards to the heinous crimes committed in Abu-Ghraib?
In describing the execution of Paul Johnson, the media deployed terms like ‘barbaric’, savage’, ‘and evil’ but not a ‘scandal’ like Abu Ghraib. So, why do the murders of prisoners in Abu-Ghraib, Bagram and elsewhere qualify only to be a ‘scandal’? Would it have been accepted as a ‘scandal’ if one of the Al-Qaeda members posed smiling with his thumbs up in front of the dead body and the severed head? Similarly, the world leaders rushed to condemn the execution but such swift words and strong emotions could not be heard for the thousands of civilians including women and children that have perished in Iraq.
In theory, if we genuinely believe that all human lives have the same value then the reaction should be identical to the killing of any innocent person. However, the killing of Paul Johnson and Nick Berg has aroused a lot of anger amongst the Americans whilst the killings of the thousands of innocent Iraqis did not even raise an eyebrow. It seems that the killing of the Iraqis or America’s enemies can always be justified whilst only the killing of Americans constitutes a crime. The justification can range from ‘self-defence’ to gaining personal enjoyment. As an example, CNN televised the entire incident where the US marine bragged about how good it felt and he described it as ‘awesome’ after he murdered a wounded Iraqi who was crying in agony on the floor. One of the US Senators said the boys were letting off some steam in describing the activities in Abu Ghraib.
If Paul Johnson were subjected to similar treatment given by the US soldiers towards the Iraqi prisoners, would that have led the media coverage and the reaction from the Western world to be any different? The answer is unlikely as Paul Johnson like Nick Berg was projected as a human being by the mass media; they had names, faces, families and friends. This is why their killings have evoked so much emotion.
However, the thousands of faceless and nameless Iraqis who have been killed by the US forces have ended up as background statistics, in the books of Colin Powell as collateral damage. The dead bodies, severed limbs and decapitated heads of babies are not aired, so that the Americans can continue to support the sanitised version of the war. Not a single family from the victims of Fallujah, Abu-Ghraib, Najaf and elsewhere was given any kind of coverage by the mass media. No reporters went out to the town to interview their family members and air how they felt about the loss of their loved ones.
What is good and evil, barbaric and civilised, justice and retribution is a matter of perspective. No one can claim that the beheading of a person is any more barbaric than torturing someone to death or incinerating defenceless civilians or bombing women and children at wedding parties. In fact, for many people a quick death is preferable than to be tortured, abused or humiliated in front of their family members. Nick Berg’s father also pointed this very point out after his son was executed.
When the anger has subsided perhaps, the American masses will reflect on the entire episode of Iraq from 1991 onwards and not just from 9/11/2001. This requires acknowledging the sequence of events and certain indisputable facts with regards to the entire conflict. A clear fact is Iraq has never attacked the US in the past nor did it ever have the capability to do so. The Iraqi threat to the US interests was only in terms of the possibility of denying the US companies and consumers the oil at a cheap price.
The justification given to the world by the US regime for the recent war was disarming Saddam of his alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) apparently authorised by the UN resolution. This was disputed by other members of the Security Council like Russia and France, as did most of the international legal experts. In any case, with the unfolding of events the facts clearly showed that the pretext of WMD was a total fabrication, which any fair-minded person cannot fail to conclude.
At home, Bush used the pretext of the link between Saddam and 9/11, which has also turned out to be false from their investigations and denials. Then what excuse is there for the war? If none, then surely America has killed thousands of Paul Johnsons, Nick Bergs and committed acts that are far worse. Yet, the US continues to argue that the Iraqis like the Native Americans and Palestinians are terrorists on their own lands! The absurd logic is that any retaliation from the Muslims is ‘terrorism’ but not the terror dispensed from the US war machine is something else!
The issuing of an apology by the US government as suggested by the New York Times would be a good start, followed by assessing war reparations for Iraq and then put the neo-cons on trial before the American masses. As many Americans have begun to understand that, this was a war for Israel and the big businesses.
Unfortunately, many of the Americans view the attack on Iraq as some sort of revenge for 9/11 regardless of the facts. That is the mindset of its soldiers as many openly boasted that they got their revenge in Iraq and the world got a glimpse of that in Abu-Ghraib, Fallujah and Najaf. They cite 9/11 as a first strike on the US. If we go back to the first gulf war in 1991, the attack launched by the US was clearly unprovoked, driven by corporate greed. They used the fig leaf of the UN as cover for their initial aggression against Iraq. It was not the soldiers in blue helmets but in US uniform, that launched the war under the American command. If the UN was a genuine neutral international organisation, why was it not mobilised to address the invasion of the Falkland Islands or Afghanistan prior to the invasion of Kuwait?
The dispute between Kuwait and Iraq was an internal matter for the Arabs, historically Kuwait was always a part of Iraq (Walayah of Basra); moreover none of these borders within the Arab world has real legitimacy, as they were the creation of colonialists (Sykes-Picot). They carved up the land to suit their interests, which have been the real cause of instability and disputes in the region. Unfortunately, many Americans do not even know a page of history pertaining to these regions. The right of Iraq over Kuwait is far greater than the right of the US over the Hispanic territories.
Even if the Kuwaitis asked for the US for help, the US should have declined this on the basis that Kuwait government is an undemocratic illegitimate regime that was never elected by its masses. This should have been expected from a country that promotes itself as the bastion of democracy. Secondly, the conflict was between Iraq and Kuwait. America was not party to the conflict in anyway and she was never attacked by Iraq. Hence, the US allying with the illegitimate Kuwaiti regime to attack Iraq had committed an unprovoked aggression against the Iraqi population with the UN being a rubber stamp.
After the Iraqi forces were expelled from Kuwait in 1991, the American forces went beyond the UN mandate as they slaughtered the retreating Iraqi civilians and armies going towards Basra at the behest of the criminal Kuwaiti regime. This was a real war crime. Those Americans feeling angry today should try and imagine that these thousands of Iraqis including women and children were beheaded like Paul Johnson and even worse.
Then, a decade of sanctions and bombings continued the subjugation. According to UN, figures about a million Iraqi children had perished due to the sanctions. The situation in Palestine continued to deteriorate with the constant killing and uprooting of the Palestinians by the Israelis with full support from the US. So, now perhaps the Americans should understand why people flew those planes into the WTC buildings on 9/11. This is no doubt a direct consequence of the US foreign policy.
Many Americans due to their lack of knowledge and the propaganda that is continuously being fed through the superficial media coverage are under the delusion that Iraq had attacked or was planning to attack the US at some point in the future. Both points are incorrect - a country ravaged by sanctions and war could not even defend itself how can it attack a superpower. Likewise, 9/11 was not a first strike. The killing of Nick Berg, Paul Johnson and the four mercenaries in Fallujah was in response to Abu-Ghraib if you simply examine the sequence of events and the reasons stated by those who carried out the execution. Only the dishonest and the hypocrites examine the events with one eye open.
If the US citizens recognised the causes, and the sequence of events in this conflict that would be the first step towards peace, it would clear the misinformation constantly dispensed by the mass media. There can never be real peace without justice for the victim and America is far from being the innocent victim.
Published in April 2004