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Bush in Ottawa, Criminality in Fallujah

- by Samer Elatrash

The video footage, which a news cameraman shot in Fallujah, Iraq, showed wounded Iraqi prisoners spread on the rubble-strewn floor of a mosque. American marines had captured the mosque a few days before, but the soldiers who were inspecting the prisoners had just entered the mosque. One prisoner lay flat on his stomach, his face turned from the camera. He would have looked like a corpse, but he convulsed as he hopelessly sucked air and dust into his dying body. A marine walked to him. "He's fucking faking he's dead", said the marine, who now stood at the dying man's feet. He aimed his assault rifle and pressed the trigger, sending a bullet into the prisoner's head and splattering the wall of the mosque with blood. Another marine consoled the murderer: "He's dead now."

When told that the American television station NBC had the footage, the American army disclosed that it had launched an investigation into the murder. Iraqis who stayed in Fallujah--males between the ages of sixteen and seventy weren't allowed to leave the city in the days before the American assault--say that the execution was not an isolated act.

This marine will be investigated, like Lyndie England and a few guards at Abu Ghraib prison, once an infamous torture house during Saddam Hussein's rule, then the place where, after they had liberated Iraqis from Saddam, American soldiers videotaped and photographed their colleagues as they tortured Iraqi prisoners.

The murderer in the mosque and the festive torturers in Abu Ghraib were investigated after evidence of their crimes was handed to the media. The British cartoonist, Steve Bell, summed it nicely in a cartoon of one soldier's sentencing: the judge finds the soldier "guilty of crimes against photography", and has the soldier's camera broken.

There is more evidence of crimes, many times crueler than the pictures that were published by the media. Seymour Hersh, the journalist who first uncovered the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, saw the footage. "The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling," he said in a talk at the annual convention of the American Civil Liberties Union.

When the Abu Ghraib photos were released, George Bush's administration responded that torture was not widespread in Abu Ghraib and other US run jails in Iraq. But the findings of several investigations conducted by the Pentagon and the army show that torture is an accepted practice. Torture was approved by the Defense Department, which is headed by Donald Rumsfield. After the publication of the Abu Ghraib photos in the American media, Rumsfeld, supported by President George Bush, regretted calls for his resignation. Bush averred: "[Rumsfeld's] doing a superb job… our nation owes [him] a debt of gratitude."

In his decades of war correspondence, Seymour Hersh had seen it all. But when describing the footage of American troops raping Iraqi captives, he couldn't control his fury. "The worst part is the soundtrack, of the boys shrieking."

"And this is your government at war."

America at war

To the chagrin of the world, a majority of American voters this month put on a fulsome display of gratitude; Bush, the self described "war president", got his four more years.

Bush and Rumsfeld certainly have put Americans in debt. A shameful, wicked debt that is hidden from that frightened nation. The eminent Sufi and scholar, Hasan Al Basri, once said that humanity's predilection for forgetting their sins is a blessing from God to His elect creation. America is a country where the majority of citizen's believe that they are favoured and blessed by God.

It is a country endowed with the faculty for palliating past, present and future crimes against humanity; a national conscience that is oiled smooth by an intellectual culture that produces the likes of the unctuous Dan Rather, who recently offered his audience a close up picture of a soldier in Fallujah: "This is a warrior. Study [the picture]; take a deep breath of pride, and if your eyes don't dampen you're a better man or woman than I. Where do such men come from?" Many Iraqis would like to know.

Americans might never know the scale of the crime committed by these men and their President. The prestigious British medical journal, Lancet, published a study that estimated that 100,000 Iraqis have been killed, most by aerial bombardment, in the 21 months since the US and its epigones invaded Iraq.

Bush says that he takes his orders from God: "[God] instructed me to strike at Saddam, and I did". This is the speech of a grotesque fanatic, a cruel coward, a man who, had he faced trial at Nuremberg, would have died a despised tyrant at the gallows. The invasion of Iraq was an act of state aggression. This is "an essentially evil thing", stated the International Military Tribunal that was set up to try Axis war criminals at Nuremberg. "It is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

Bush got four more years earlier this week. He will end his triumphant month with a state visit to Canada on November 30 and December 1st. Canada is the country that led the campaign to establish an International Criminal Court, which Bush has refused to ratify.

There is a dissonance in the attempt to create a "culture of accountability", as our government describes the International Criminal Court, while welcoming a prime opponent of humanity on a state visit. They will give Bush the honours, and, judging by Ottawa police's track record (they've tasered handcuffed protestors in the neck, to mention one nicety) those who will take to the streets on November 29, 30 and December 1 can expect the brutal treatment.

Tyranny is ensconced in the absence of resistance. Bush must be stopped; cowering before this man can only normalize a malevolent arrogance that devalues humanity and hates truth. The truth is that those who will take to Ottawa's streets while our government honours Bush are an expression of why we have reason to hope. And don't let the red carpet that will be unfurled for Bush distract you; in these four years, a human can attain no higher honour than in resisting America's Moloch.

Samer Elatrash, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights activist living in Montreal.
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