18 November 2004

Capturing terrorists in Iraq

I was going to maintain my silence over the recent video clips showing U.S. Marines killing unarmed civilians in Iraq (at least one, in a Mosque). Not that this isn't upsetting--it certainly is--but to focus on such incidents can, I think, trivialize the destruction and tragedy of war. In addition to this killing of several innocent people caught on camera, there were, after all, countless murders of young children as housing complexes and "hot" areas of Falluja were targeted and bombed.

The killings do, however, bring up an interesting question regarding the term "terrorism." We have been told that the current occupation of Iraq is part of a more general "War on Terrorism." And we are told that we shouldn't mince words: those who kill innocent people, even if they do so for the sake of some coherent political or religious objective, are "terrorists." My question is this: Will any news organization in the West ever refer to the Marine in the video as a "terrorist"? If he is arrested, will a news organization say that the U.S. has "arrested a terrorist" in Falluja?

Of course, we all know such a question is ridiculous. No U.S. person fighting for U.S. hegemony could ever be a terrorist under any possible scenario imaginable. Evidence might conclusively establish that innocent people have been tortured or killed, but such actions are always justifiable under the notion of American exceptionalism. Americans are intrinsically moral, ipso facto any perceived wrong-doing is a mistake--a momentary lapse in discipline. Of course, the whole argument breaks down if we simply remove a few adjectives and replace a few nouns with their equivalents. Can you imagine, for example, an news article reading, "Today a group of Iraqis stormed into a U.S. town in their drive to prevent the U.S. from developing more WMDs. Occupying a church, soldiers began executing unarmed civilians, including an unarmed elderly man who was lying down in the sanctuary of a church."

The Arab press is fuming over the incident. (The Bush administration seems to publish another Al Qaeda recruitment poster on a monthly basis.) What would our reaction be if the tables were turned?

A Relative Path has a good write up on this with links and there's also an article on this over on Al Jazeera. Truth Out informs us that "Top United Nations human rights official Louise Arbour has called for an investigation of alleged abuses in Falluja including disproportionate use of force and the targeting of civilians." See also Tom Dispatch's post on the "Carthaginian solution," a call to wait for the facts before commenting on this issue at A Texas Native, and a defensive apologia via Power Line.


Anonymous said...

It is seriously disturbing the blatant indifference with which most news media and its consuming Americans view the acts of our military in contrast to the way that the acts of "terrorists" are viewed. It is endlessly galling to me to see news media and its regular consumers paying not one lick of attention to the deaths and tortures of innocent people in Iraq (and all over the world) by U.S. forces while every beheading or kidnapping perpetrated by "the enemy" is publicized ad nauseum and without the least bit of self scrutiny over what makes one particularly worse than the other or that the killing of innocents by U.S. forces is occurring at all, in Iraq or elsewhere. It is this arrogance that astounds me.

I had an argument recently on a republican site about the CIA's covert operations and secret wars throughout the world where any wrongdoing on behalf of the U.S. was adamantly denied by my adversary. I simply cannot stomach the belief of so many Americans that our country and our military are to be forever left blameless and unexposed. The same occurred at my site the other day when I posted an article my dad had written about the encouraged use of methamphetamines by both ground troops and pilots in the military. My rabid republican readers could not abide by the characterization of the U.S. government and military doctors as pushers and many soldiers as addicts who will suffer immeasurably from the continuous use of this drug.

It seems to be an inherent quality in our society to ignore and excuse the misdeeds of our own while we point the blame at everyone else. Never wanting to believe that we have brought every last hour of war upon ourselves, one way or another.

Cosa Nostradamus said...

CUL'S take on this, and mine:

Anonymous said...

One man's terrorist is another man's fredom fighter.

What the right fails to acknowledge is that there was not an insurgency problem, or any AL-Qaida affiliates until after we invaded them. We made the bed we now lay in.

Cosa Nostradamus said...


Yeah. They're like crazed fire-bugs: They go running out into the night, yelling "FIRE!" Then when they can't find one, they start one. Then they go, "SEE! I TOLDJA there was a FIRE!" And we're supposed to go along.

Don't go along. Goddamn arsonists.

Anonymous said...

I've been caught up in thinking about this conflict in Star Wars terms. I grew up watching the first three movies, as did a lot of folks. Of course, everyone rooted for the rebellion.

I look at this video, I look at this situation we have in Fallujah (and Ramadi, and Mosul and...) and I'm pretty sure we're playing the role of the Galactic Empire this time around.

I'm really conflicted, because I know some people fighting in Iraq right now, and I can't not support my countrymen, when it comes down to it.

But I think that we may be supporting our *storm troopers*, in addition to supporting our troops. They are responsible for their actions of course, and in this case swift punishment is called for.

But you're right--this is just a drop of tragedy in a bucket of avoidable slaughter. The root of the problem lies at the right hand of the Emperor himself--Darth Cheney.

Salon has a good article about Cheney and Bremer's colossal mistake in not finding something for the ex-Iraqi Army folks to do.


jonathan (www.relativepath.org)